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When Parents Age (Un)Gracefully

When Parents Age (Un)Gracefully

Over the last year, I’ve focused more and more of my time on education and parenting.  The news that Pat Summitt has been diagnosed with early dementia was startling.  This Tennessee women’s basketball coach has achieved accolades that no other college basketball coach has.  Coach Summitt has racked up more wins than any other Division I basketball coach, both men and women.  A seemingly healthy woman in her late 50’s has already started to see the early signs of Alzheimer’s.

Insiders say that Coach Summitt was showing minor signs and has already started doing puzzles to hopefully help keep her mind sharp.  Her doctor suggested that she might consider retiring from coaching.  Coach Summitt, in true form, piped back at him, “Do you know who you are dealing with?”  It’s no secret that this is one of the most determined women I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.  That said, I met her once, and this is the kind of impression she made on me.  She truly is a superstar in more ways than can be measured by wins and losses.

"Her doctor suggested that she might consider retiring from coaching. Coach Summitt, in true form, piped back at him, "Do you know who you are dealing with??""

With that in mind, I normally discuss parenting in terms of me being the parent but this time; this is about my own parents.  As I dreadfully marked the 23 years since I lost my father earlier this week, I watch and listen as my mother starts to make statements that at one time she quipped about when her own parents started to lose control of her memory.  Not only that, she makes statements about my children and my ability to parent them more and more often now.  Then, when confronted, she insists that she didn’t say it or at least didn’t mean it the way I took it.

She continuously wonders aloud where she put something, why she can’t remember someone’s name or exactly when an event took place.  She has never been a super organized woman but in the last 20 years, she was much better than in previous years.  She was a bit scattered when I was young but with young children of my own now, I can see exactly where she burned some of her energy.  Now she has gone full circle in the memory department. 

It’s painful to watch as she gets frustrated with her own abilities, her energy levels are lower, her desire to get out and go and do has changed and her memory is simply starting to suffer.  My mom is older than Pat Summit but she never had the memory that Coach Summit had in the first place.  However, I’m years away from both of them and my lack of organization and memory skills are already suffering. 

This can only mean one thing; my kids are in for the ride of their life.  In the meantime, I’m trying to watch and learn and hopefully give my own kids many more years with the woman they know as mom, without the ailments that simply come with age.

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