First we look like our parents, then we look like our dogs, then we turn into monkeys after seeing what Mom and Dad do. My father was a forklift operator at an electrical engineering factory. My mother was a housewife. I am an only child. My father nicknamed me Monkey Dooley because I always climbed out of the crib, but the endearment turned into something more. As I grew older the monkey in me saw, did, and matured into my parents. When I was a kid I swore I never would, that there was no way I ever could, yet the inevitable happened. I’m sure my mother’s ears will be ringing for all eternity as I give life to her exact words when I yell at my kids about locking the door if they are not in by curfew. Fast forward to rewind.
As a college student I worked in a warehouse packing school supplies in boxes during the summer. My father worked all four seasons in a warehouse for 51 years. Eventually I was a secretary for a machine shop. Within months I gave my notice and moved on to become a homemaker taking care of five kids like my mother took care of me. After the kids were grown the machine shop called me back for a return visit. So I have, and am, walking in my parents shoes and talking in their tongues. Ugh! And now I am subjected to listening to my kids resurrecting their grandparents with a litany about how I take sides, play favorites, and have poor parenting skills. My mother always said I would get mine when my kids turn out just like me.
My parents took care of me. I never gave much thought to taking care of them when I was graduating high school. Then, at 18, I was driving my mother to cancer treatments and visiting her in the hospital. When she passed away it was just me and my father. One day I took him for a haircut with young kids in tow. The next morning I got a call that he had a medical emergency. I was introduced to a crash course in physical therapy and home health care. Thankfully, I was fortunate enough to find a caretaker that my father liked and would listen to. In this role reversal I was a daughter parenting her father. I was the one spoon feeding him and listening to his complaints about doctors. I was in charge of his well-being and signing off on surgeries, while worrying about the outcome of his health. This 80-year-old man was now my child. When my father died I discovered my duties had only just begun.
Now my responsibilities encompass an 80-year-old cousin. Her walking is unsteady and her memory is gradually being erased by Alzheimer’s. She is resistant to change and doesn’t want help. It is up to me to pack up her life, get her finances in order, and decide how to manage her days as well as mine. Another example has been set in motion before my children.
Will they circle the right answer in this lesson and allow the Inevitable transition/metamorphosis of child taking care of adult to take place? Whether it be a monkey or a parrot the repetition of sayings continue from animal crackers to animal house. Paybacks will come due and they will never be too old to be nagged about eating all their vegetables by someone younger than them. It is all relative when you are relatives. The cocoon has been spun and these caterpillars that we call kids are beautiful butterflies that color the world of their elders with a cycle of, “Because I said so” reminiscent of the parent in them that has emerged.