Oh, the roller coaster of aging parents. One moment, you can’t imagine life without them. The next, you’re ready to tear your hair out. Then, you hit the curve of overwhelming guilt from having had those negative feelings. And on and on it goes.
One day, the frustrations will be over. Your parents will be gone and you’ll long to hear that same story for the 373rd time. You’ll wish you had cherished the time more, gotten frustrated less and listened a little better. I certainly do.
Are you fortunate enough to still have a living parent? Step outside of your normal routines, and start asking some important questions, such as:
What was the hardest decision you ever made?
What was the biggest risk you ever took?
What do you wish you’d done more of? Less of?
What was the best piece of advice you ever received?
Describe your parents’ greatest strengths.
Why did you choose the career that you did?
Other than your parents, who had the greatest influence on your life?
What attracted you to Mom/Dad?
How did you meet?
What are some of your happiest memories?
What was the best trip you ever took?
What do you wish you had known at my age?
I don’t suggest firing all of these questions at a parent in one sitting. Instead, just ask one question at a time. If you’re in a parent’s physical presence regularly, try posing one of these questions each time you get together. If you’re on an errand together, use your phone to record their answers. Or if you live a distance away, ask a question each time you have a phone conversation. Take notes. Keep a file. You’ll be creating an invaluable treasure chest of memories and wisdom for you and for future generations.
Even if parents start to battle dementia, they tend to lose short term memory first. Ask the historical questions now while they are still able to access their long term memory.
And if your parent is still blessed with good health, please don’t take that for granted. Life can change in the blink of an eye. One slip on the ice, a car accident or an unexpected stroke can permanently and rapidly change things.
Listening to another person’s story is one of the greatest ways to make them feel valued. Even more so when it’s your own parents. But these questions aren’t just for your parents’ benefit. Their wisdom, their life experiences and the history that is shared will benefit you and future generations. Carpe Diem. Enjoy the roller coaster ride. It will be over before you know it.