Make memories while your parents are alive

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I will long cherish the last real trip we took with my folks and our children together. Mom and Dad had never been to Disneyland and they were in their late 70s. We met them in the Los Angeles airport, and stayed near the park.

My mother had had both knees replaced, but was walking fairly well, so we didn’t need the wheelchair the park would provide.

The first order of business was breakfast with Mickey and Minnie. Dad could be a little picky with his meals, but he was on his best behavior this day, and didn’t complain. Then, it was on to the younger children’s area as our daughter, Ashley, was 7 and son, Jason, was 5.

Mom “jumped” on the teacup with the kids and pictures show a wide smile on the face of each of them. After the obligatory Small World ride, among others, we headed over to the Pirates of the Caribbean. Jason sat close to Grandpa, as he wasn’t too sure about those scary mates.

Perhaps the best memory of the whole trip was the Splash Mountain ride. While Grandma sat with the kids, Grandpa, Monty and I did the ride. With virtually no line that day, we proceeded to go back to the start and ride it again. We had to buy the picture at the end because of the look of pure joy and excitement on my dad’s face. I will always cherish this picture because my father didn’t let down too often, but he sure did this day.

We actually went back to the park a second day to finish what we had missed. I don’t know who was more weary, the kids or the grandparents. But everyone hung in there.

The moral of the story is, don’t let opportunities pass you by to make memories for the grandkids. You don’t have to go to Disneyland. You can go to the local park or take a fishing pole to the pond.

My situation was a little unique in that my parents were old enough to be my grandparents. Thus, they weren’t as spry in their interactions with my younger children. Perhaps your children are teenagers or older. They can be involved in the care of your folks as they grow older. Providing a ride to the doctor, picking up and delivering groceries or medications, just taking Mom or Dad on a drive in the country can bring a moment of relief to you, the caregiver. That’s so important — taking care of yourself, so you can give care.

Patricia Knittel is employed at Walla Walla University’s School of Nursing. An only child, she was caregiver for her aging parents, and writes about caregiving and other aging-related topics.

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