I was visiting with my dad yesterday, helping him with a few things and dropping off some groceries. We sat together and I recapped the few days I spent at the shore with my brother, sister-in-law and kids. We talked about the fun we had, the laughs, the food, the sun and water. As per usual, we morphed into many different discussions including my dad and his living alone. It is a hard discussion, as his brain is still sharp, and he really doesn’t need constant care, he needs help getting around. He has lived in his house for about 57 years, something he has no desire to give up. As he put it, “I like my freedom here.” Freedom. I asked him why he thought he wouldn’t have freedom at my house. He paused, and just said, “it’s different. This is mine.”
Many people in my age group grapple with this issue, do you force your parent to move, do you keep them in their house with help? What do you do? Are there other options that we haven’t thought of yet? The freedom versus loneliness is an issue that he deals with, as do I. I’m alone in this world. I have no spouse or significant other and no children of my own. My greatest fear in life is dying alone and being dead for days before I’m found because nobody checks on me. My other great fear is living out my days alone, in sadness and loneliness because I don’t have a person, someone to live life with, to learn and grow from and enjoy the fruits of our labor. I don’t have someone like me who calls dad daily, goes to see him a few times a week and is there for whatever he needs.
My dad’s words about freedom and independence rung in my head as I was driving home. I fully understood the importance of that not just for me him but for me. I like that my time is mine. I like that if I want to do something, I have nobody I need to explain myself to. I like that there are days that nobody knows what I am doing, where I am and if feels freeing. I understand that feeling of not having to answer to anyone and at times I revel in it. Other times I miss having someone care about me, wonder if I got home safely, want to be with me, spend time with me. The loneliness takes over, the feeling of not being cared about takes over.
I have become acutely aware that my own behavior of not wanting to be the 5th or 7th wheel has now changed some of my friendships where I am no longer included or invited because they either assume I will say no or want just couples out. To watch people change towards you is always hard, especially when you know your behavior probably created some of that change. The couples now hang out a lot more and you aren’t asked to join, even when the hang out is at someone’s house. It gets lonely. It gets isolating. It creates the conundrum of being alone versus lonely; of letting go of the feeling of inadequacy versus realizing you created a lot of this.
All of these feelings are what I know my dad struggles with. He would like the friendships, someone to shoot the breeze with and someone who is there to take care of his needs. He also wants his independence and freedom. Is there a way to have both? Is there a way to change the feelings of inadequacy to get over being the 5th or 7th wheel? Is there a way to have your own personal freedom without isolating yourself? I struggle with my wants and my needs as does my dad. These are hard questions no matter the age, no matter the circumstance. I blame only me for being here at this point in my life, and I have only me to rely on and figure it out.Free