When Your Parents Age and You Start to Fear

Estate SaleFive-minutes Friday – where we’re given a prompt and a whole gang writes about that word in five minutes. This week the word is fear—cutting right to the heart of my week.

Because yeah. I’m afraid. I’m not too proud to admit it.

It’s the second year in a row that I am spending my summer “vacation” cleaning out a parent home. Last year, I cleaned out my mom and dad’s home after they lived 57 years in the same house. They spent 59 years married—one living in his new Alzheimer’s world and the other caregiving. I wrote about that experience last year at about this same time of year.

This year, I’m spending my summer “vacation” clearing out my in-laws’ house. They lived 12 years in this house, and spent 54 years married. One of them passed away and the other has moved into an independent living facility.
Am I afraid of Alzheimer’s, caregiving, dying or moving into assisted living? I should probably say no, but that wouldn’t be completely truthful. But honestly, that’s not what I’m most afraid of this week.

I’ve been cleaning, packing, sorting and organizing until I drop exhausted at night. I’m going through “stuff” again. Stuff that signifies lives well-lived. Stuff that declares priorities and fun, budgets and extravagances, the secular and the spiritual. Stuff that triggers memories and giggles and a few hard swallows.

And I cannot help but pause…

What will my “stuff” show? Will my children clean out my house and giggle at the things mom hung onto all those years? Will my kids wonder why I kept something “worthless” and why I didn’t have much of monetary value? Will my offspring sigh with fondness over my quirks and remember with love the times we spent together? Will all my “stuff” show my true priorities?

And, in these quiet moments where I ponder my life and realize once again that my stuff merely becomes a souvenir. Its then, between sorting and organizing and going about the business of remembering, the fear creeps through and whispers—Will they miss me?