Switching to parent mode

After spending most of my time here talking about caring for my disabled son and my late wife, I’m starting to switch to parent mode.

My parents are in their late 80s. Still doing quite well, but not as well as, say, 5 years ago.

Some background - back in the 1970s, my father founded a local car club, then followed that up founding an annual West coast version of a car gathering that was happening on the East coast. Those gatherings were a focal point of my youth. Over the years, they’ve been up and down the coast, and as far inland as Colorado. I attended every year from the first through the time I got married. My wife and I went on our own to a couple of them, but I haven’t been in over 30 years.

So dad is fixing up his first car (now vintage, then just kind of old) to take it to this year’s gathering, which is in San Diego County. Not far at all.

About 3 weeks ago, he had an incident while working on the car. He had towed it to a shop to get an exhaust system made and was returning it home. It does not yet run, so he and a neighbor were pushing it up the last bit of the driveway to get it into the garage. Another neighbor - a big, young and strong guy - saw what was going on and jumped in to help. As soon as he started pushing, it caught my dad off guard. Dad fell and sprained his knee in the process.

That is close to my worst nightmare. Some kind of injury that affects mobility and leads to a downward spiral. The good news is that he seems to be recovering well. He [mostly] followed doctor’s and mom’s orders and rested it, and started using a cane while getting around the house. And the recuperation has gone pretty well. He’s comfortable without the cane around the house now, except for the stairs. This is the week the Dr wanted to see him for a follow up and will likely start some physical therapy. So that’s all about as good as the news can get.

But I still have some concerns. While he’s been resting, I’ve gone over to help him with the work on the car. He shouldn’t be crawling around and doing too much physical work, so I am helping with that bit. And I enjoy the work. He doesn’t have the stamina of a 70 year old any more, so I can get started on something and work it while he sits and rests.

My concern is the cognitive end of things. It can’t be too bad, fortunately. I was over to their house on Sunday, and they were bragging a bit that they had the high scores in their bridge club round robin last week. But when working on the car, he seems to forget where the issues are and can get overly focused on certain details while ignoring the more significant problems. (For anyone car oriented, he put a Chevy engine in his 1954 MG back in the late 1960s. That’s the car he’s restoring, and it requires a bunch of custom work because of the engine transplant. We’re having trouble getting the clutch to release. He keeps focusing on the hydraulic parts when the issue is that the clutch fork itself isn’t moving to release the clutch. Until that is solved, the hydraulics - which move the clutch fork when you press on the clutch pedal - don’t matter.) After spending Saturday afternoon working to take things apart to get to the clutch, he was back discussing the leverage issues with the hydraulics this morning.

He’s also having a bit of trouble organizing information - particularly in determining what information is important and what is useless. In his customization work back in the original engine swap, he used some parts from a Triumph. (You use whatever you can find that will work!) Now when fiddling with hydraulic leverage and similar work, he’s trying to gather the sizes of every Triumph clutch system ever built instead of just the one he used back then.

The hard part is handling my own reactions. I don’t want to get him mad at me. But I also have limited time to spend helping him with this project and he has limited stamina to do the physical part of the work. It’s hard finding a balance between getting the job done and letting him run down various rabbit holes. I’m sure a balance is in there somewhere. Hopefully I can find it.

In the mean time, I’ve scheduled a bit more time with him on Friday. He’s busy with Dr appointments and bridge club, while I’ve got to balance taking care of my own house and my son and my job (which is admittedly pretty part time this time of year). Lots of juggling to do.



Not an easy process , do the best you can while maintaining your own health and well-being


It’s a process of figuring out what you need to do and what you can let go of.

It’s hard.


Not an easy process. Not easy to detect, either. In hindsight, my mom was leaving sticky notes everywhere. I didn’t think much about it at the time. She was never tech-savvy, but was suddenly concerned that her computer was haywire because the “lines” screensaver kicked on. And then she didn’t know how to type, although she had done it (at 90+ words per minute) for decades. I was getting an inkling at that point, but it was her fall that landed her in the hospital. After they assessed her hip, they called for neurology. I should have seen it coming, but I didn’t. The neurologist said she should never drive again, and never live alone.

She didn’t accept that even after we moved her to an adult community. Fortunately she didn’t fight it hard either, since everyone she trusted was telling her she had to move and sell her beloved house, and give up her car. I was psyching myself up to go to court to have her declared unable to make decisions for herself (at least one friend volunteered to testify to that). It wasn’t necessary, but I tell you this as a warning that if the parent isn’t cooperative, you’ll have to make some hard decisions that you (and they) won’t like.

With both parents alive, I’m not sure how that will work. Likely it complicates things.

If you can, have neurology evaluate the parent(s). Someone who doesn’t know them, and hasn’t seem them frequently for years. If you see them all the time, it’s amazing what you don’t notice. The slow decline. A pair of fresh eyes seeing them for the first time (like in my mother’s case) will likely see more clearly.

I don’t envy you. Mom died a few weeks ago, but witnessing the deterioration was not fun. I think her stroke last month was a mercy. The week before she was talking to me for almost an hour before she realized who I was. In the hospital right before her stroke, she didn’t know me.

Not trying to scare you. But I would be doing no kindness if I tried to put a pretty bow on it. It’s a cruel thing to lose cognition.