Monthly Archives: February 2019

Driving in old age – how do you cope with a parent’s reluctance to stop?

A certain royal person, in his late 90s, was in the news recently in the UK. He had had a car accident – the car he was driving had ended up on its side – and it was reported that he was a bit “shaken up.” As one would be, even if you were much younger.

It started some conversations about old people and driving.

Old People and Cars

This is a serious issue – and one which affects a lot of us these days.

In my case, it was my father. I lived an ocean away from my parents and kept in touch by telephone but went to visit a couple of times a year or more. My dad would always meet me at the airport – driving, of course.

At some point, when he was in his mid-80s and his eyesight was failing, I began to worry for his safety. And that of other people, including myself.

Not surprisingly, he loved the sense of freedom that owning and driving a car brought.

So, understandably, it was a hard subject to broach.

“Don’t bother to meet me at the airport,” I said breezily a few days before I was due to travel. But he wasn’t fooled.

“You’re worried about my driving,” he replied, “but really, I’m just fine.” I asked him to get his friend, who was a lot younger, to drive him to the airport. Which he did.

Later, I raised the subject again. I stressed that I was worried because of his eyes: there might be a small child in front of the car. Without missing a beat but with a slight smile, he answered that there probably won’t be.

He knew he was beaten and knew that he shouldn’t be driving. But he had loved his car for as long as I could remember – indeed, from before I was born. And now, in his old age, it gave him independence, and he liked the fact that it allowed him to be helpful to others.

My father did decide to stop. Perhaps he was relieved, but he never indicated any such emotion. And at dinner, a number of his friends, who had already been told of my audacity, thanked me. They had tried hints, they had tried reason, but he wouldn’t listen. But they were pleased he listened to me.

A Global Problem

Soon after this happened, I spoke to a friend in Germany who’d had the same problem with her father. Another friend in the UK had it with her mother.

I realised that this was a problem all over the world – how to tell an otherwise independent parent that they should stop driving. You are embarrassed, they are defensive – and it is altogether difficult for everyone.

I wonder how many people as they grow into their 60s and beyond face this issue – with their very elderly parents or with a spouse or, indeed, with themselves.

We love our cars, we love the freedom driving brings, and it can be a real question whether our minor frailties have grown too large for us to cope.

Flowers for Forgiveness

But let me tell you the end of my story. Immediately after that trip from the airport when my dad was not driving for the first time, I found a bowl of flowers on the table in my room.

This was not at all usual and I was taken aback. With them, he had left a note: “With love and forgiveness.” I asked him, of course, what he was forgiving me for. “For telling me not to drive,” he said.

We all do things in our own way. He was a constant surprise.

 

This was initially published with a different title by SixtyandMe (see http://sixtyandme.com/driving-a-right-or-a-privilege-in-old-age/)

How does it feel when your children become middle aged?

My daughter turned 50 this week. Yes, 50. How did that happen? I was 50 myself only a few months ago – or so it seems.

Children and Time

When it comes to our children, time seems to work at a different pace. We do what we do, go about our business and, in the background, we vaguely know we are growing older. We tend not to notice – or, in some cases, try our best not to notice – that we are ageing, too.

But how do our children age so fast? It was only a few years ago, surely, when we were chasing them around the park or helping them tiptoe through the minefield of adolescence.

And not that long ago at all that we were watching them seek to find themselves in their 20s and 30s. They tried out jobs, quit, and tried again. Often the same with boyfriends or girlfriends. And that was OK. We worried, of course, but it was what they were supposed to do at that age.

But you suddenly notice they are getting even older. Settling down, setting up house with a partner or even spouse ­­– and gosh, even having kids themselves. I have written a lot about grandmothers, including a book about how it feels to be a grandmother, so I know well about that.

But how in the world did that happen?

Feelings Towards Middle Aged Children

My father used to say that he didn’t mind getting old, but he couldn’t bear having middle aged children. I now know what he meant. In many ways, it is the biggest indicator of your own age. He always said I was 31.

And there is no terminology for it. The word ‘children’ implies people who are young, although your children remain your children whatever age they are. We can talk about our sons and daughters, but there is no ready collective term for these very adult adults.

Their Choices

But once you accept the fact, there is something pleasing about your children getting older. Especially if they have settled into a good life and have a strong sense of themselves.

There is a fair chance that they are not doing what you imagined when you were chasing them around the playground. But is it good for them? Are they happy in themselves?

And they probably didn’t marry exactly the person you imagined all those years ago. But are their marriages (or partnerships) strong? Are they successful as parents? These are the important issues – not the actual age that has suddenly come to your attention.

The Problem Crops Up at All Ages

Perhaps you are a bit younger than me. Your youngest son has just turned 25 or your daughter has turned 40. The numbers are different, but the feelings are the same. You still ask yourself, where has the time gone?

And it continues right on up. I have a friend in her mid-90s whose children are all retired or in the process of retiring. We certainly agreed that was strange. But it will happen more and more as we live longer and longer.

So, enjoy what you have, each and every day. Your children are, indeed, growing older. So are you. So, for that matter, are your grandchildren if you have them.

There are, undoubtedly, bumps along the way. I am told that there is a Chinese proverb to the effect that mothers are as happy as their least happy child. So true.

I hope that means you are happy enough.

 

To purchase my book on grandmothers, go to https://amzn.to/2OulTEI

This was originally published on Sixtyandme.com (http://sixtyandme.com/what-is-the-best-thing-about-seeing-your-adult-children-grow-older/)