Rambling Over Coffee: Checking up on elderly parents

Regular readers know that although my parents were 'young' parents - their goal was to have all their children by the time they were 30 - by comparison, my husband's parents were quite older by the time they met, married and had kids. They were in their 40's by the time my husband came along.

This is how I ended up with a father-in-law who will be turning 92 this year.  He's in good health and lives alone in the country, about 1,000 miles from us, 1800 miles from another adult child and about 200 miles from the third.

A couple days ago I was suggesting my husband call his Dad just to check in.  Make sure he's fine, see how the frigid weather up there is treating him.  Yesterday morning on his way to work my husband tried to call but didn't get an answer.  He tried again later that afternoon while he was sitting on a conference call at work - on mute - as it was a listening in kind of call. No answer.  He tried a third time last night during his commute home.  No answer.

Odd.  Because it's the middle of winter up there, they have a few feet of snow on the ground, ice on the roads, frigid temperatures and his Dad doesn't tend to drive much anymore, but certainly not in the winter time until the roads are clear, the sun is out and he has a doctor's appointment "in town" or needs a few groceries.

So I followed up with an email last night...  which he normally answers fairly quickly.  But as of this morning there was still no response.

The text-brigade began.

So I texted my sister-in-law at 7:45 am to ask if by chance she had planned a visit for him to her home, or if she knew if he was at the other siblings home?  She's an hour ahead of us, and she was up and texted back immediately that no, he wasn't visiting either of them and that she would try to give him a call.

About 30 minutes later she let me know that she called him and he had picked up on the first ring.  He sounded great, and was up looking out at the snow and watching the birds on the bird feeder this morning.

All was well.

And this is part of what we do now.

There isn't a schedule of any sort, but we all tend to email or call on a regular basis.  If one of us can't get him on the phone or email, then we check with another.  The text brigade starts and usually someone knows that he is away at a doctor's appointment that day, or is at a church function or visiting a relative.  If none of us know where he might be or why he hasn't answered an email or phone call, then I can call my parents to check on him.  They live about 20 miles away from him but will give a call and if he doesn't pick up, my Dad will drive over to his place and make sure all is well.  There is also a neighbor who has always kept an eye on him and checked in every now and then; and comes over with the tractor to plow the driveway after it drifts shut with snow. 

There is a regular little army of people in the background, quietly keeping tabs and making sure he is ok while at the same time, giving him his privacy and letting him live in his own home, out in the country where he wants (and needs) to be. 

I'm not really sure where I was going with this post.
Nowhere really, I suppose.

It's just that as I opened up the text editor on my site this morning, I was in the middle of texting my sister-in-law to check in with her on the status of my father-in-law... so it was on my mind and I started to chit-chat about it over coffee with you.

.... don't mind me.  It's just the coffee talking again.


An 80 year old couple were having problems remembering things, so they decided to go to their doctor to get checked out to make sure nothing was wrong with them.

When they arrived at the doctors, they explained to the doctor about the problems they were having with their memory. After checking the couple out, the doc’ said they were physically OK but might want to start writing things down and make notes to help them to remember things. They thanked the doctor and left.

Later that night, while watching TV, the man got up from his chair and his wife asked, ‘Where are you going?’

He replied, ‘To the kitchen.’

She asked, ‘Will you get me a bowl of ice-cream?’

He replied, ‘Sure.’

She then asked him, ‘Don’t you think you should write it down so that you can remember it?’
He said, ‘No, I can remember that.’

She then said, ‘Well I would also like some strawberries. You had better write it down because I know you’ll forget that.’

He said, ‘I can remember that. You want a bowl of ice-cream with strawberries.’

She replied, ‘I would also like some whipped cream on the top. I know you’ll forget that, so you had better write it down.’

With irritation in his voice, he said, ‘I don’t need to write that down! I can remember that!’
He then stormed off into the kitchen.

After about 20 minutes, he returned from the kitchen and handed her a plate of bacon and eggs. She stared at the plate for a moment and said angrily:

‘I TOLD you to write it down! You forgot my toast!’


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