For their summer vacation my parents have been visiting me in Toronto from Saint John, N.B., and so far I’ve had a lovely time taking them to restaurants, touring museums, and preparing their eulogies.
My parents are only 54, which is young for parents, but 54 is also the average temperature difference between the two cities. In Saint John, a beautiful morning is one where the fog will burn off in time for the evening commute, while in Toronto I’ve been known to chase refreshing breezes down the street, screaming at them to come back.
So my parents have been attempting to have a good time, largely successfully, despite melting like plastic army men under a magnifying glass. Dad, in particular, looks like he could do that body-shake dogs do when they’ve just crawled out of a lake – except instead of laughing playfully the people nearby would run like they were fleeing a nuclear meltdown.
Aside from the risk of Mom and Dad spontaneously combusting, there’s also the fact I rarely see them, meaning new ailments they’ve acquired during the past year come as a mild shock. My mother has a new knee problem that makes stairs seem like the equivalent of a military rope climb, and my dad’s so farsighted now he holds menus out in front of him like he’s driving a go-kart.
They’ve become my canaries in the coal mine, essentially, telling me which things are going to fall apart on me first.
So I watch Mom and Dad with a blend of admiration and worry, the beginning of that role reversal families go through where eventually the kids are looking after the parents. I fret after every parental wince, as they did for me when I was a kid (presumably).
And as I write this sentence, I haven’t heard from them in seven hours and don’t understand why they haven’t called. Don’t they know I’m worried sick? What if they’re lost on the streets of Toronto? They won’t know what to do.
After all I’ve done for them.
When the switch to caretaker is complete, I fully plan to make them eat their vegetables and play outside on sunny days, even if their favourite show is on.
But before the role reversal happens, I also want to say thank you to them, not only because they’ve been my guides, my support, and my friends, but also because I fully expect them to be dead by the end of the week.
Just remember, readers, that they were kind people, they were good people…