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Man talking on the phone I Antique Design IllustrationsCalls home have become crafty: I have to ferret out from my parents what the hell is going on. Father’s lifelong phone protocol is to tell me the news about what my brothers are all doing, followed by some general pleasantries what he and Mother are doing. My parents are not guarded nor are they ‘deep’. This is their mode of operation for decades. In the past couple of years calls to my brothers let me know our parent’s physical limitations are more than they let on. A typical call home goes along the line Father cheerfully tells me the weather is good, they had a call from the Couks remember them?, your Mother had a fall, and how’s the weather in Arizona? I interrupt and tell him to back up to that item about Mother.  He always sounds a bit surprised I would be interested in that little leaf of news among the pile. Next I play twenty questions with him and slowly extract :

Last week Mother had a fall

While he was away  -for a while

He couldn’t get her up

He had to call 911 to hoist her up

But oh everything is fine now so how about the weather?

It’s not that they are in denial it’s just that my parents are cheerful types who never complain and they don’t see things as ominous.  If I am blunt with my concerns their two leveled house is ‘too much for them’ and they should move they listen politely and never tell me to f-ck off but merely dismiss matters with ‘Well, we are happy where we are and things are OK”. Offers to personally come fetch them and drive them both back AZ to our abode (sans stairs and sans snow) are politely dismissed on the grounds they would be away from the grandchildren. 

As the eldest, I am Time-keeper, Whistle-blower, and Chief of Police. I am glad Brothers #3 and #4 are good sons nearby to watch them better than I can. Mother’s maladies and doctor appointments are run by Brother #2, a radiologist, whom my mother considers a ‘proper doctor’ (although she doesn’t admit this).  

This makes me meditate on my own decline. I am likely to drop dead from a heart attack than waste away. Boy scout like I must be prepared just in case.  I hope I am conscious to to call it quits to independent living when that time is realized. Perhaps I won’t see a problem living among piles of unopened junk and tasks that won’t ever be done and eating directly out of cans.  

I see the parents in a few weeks when we fly home for a wedding. I may tactually forgo my role as the family Thanatos for the sake of the nuptials and the thrill they will have for having all their chicks home. 

All the same I wait for the call from one of the brothers informing me Father’s vision and/or Mother’s decrepitude has gone past the point regardless of their wants and we must do something – now. I have the guest room waiting for my share of the season rotation.  

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