Freedom, Happy New Year to you too!!!
Your story has a familiar ring to it, as I had an ad agency in San Francisco. I'd make trips out to FL to check on my mid-late 80's parents....eventually in 2008 I was there for three months and several back and forth trips. Then January 2009, they had a serious car accident. Not their fault, but I think that marked the beginning of the end. My dad was a WWII vet and still a tough guy...so he's bleeding, had lacerations and a concussion, but fought with the cop about the hospital...."I'm fine. Just a little bleeding. Nooo, I don't need any damn hospital!" How different from people today, first thoughts are claiming injuries, you know?
Anyway, the day I got the call about the accident, I dropped my car off at the transport facility, and got on a plane....and I haven't left since. The year 2009 was a bitch for me, but much worse for them. Things declined for my mother after the car wreck. She started developing fluid on the brain, and ended up needing brain surgery that July, and then was in the hospital for 3 weeks recovering and then to a rehab center for 3 months for therapy and to get her strength back. My dad insisted on visiting her every day. Unfortunately he caught a bad infection during that time...they say the hospital is the worst place in the world for old people, and I believe it. He never recovered from the infection, and passed away the following October.
I still miss Dad terribly. He was the commensurate salesman and just had one of those memorable personalities. What I miss most is all our inside jokes that went back decades. And by no means was everything all peaches and cream...health problems in the elderly means enough stress, arguments, worry and frustrations for anybody. There is no training for it, and its all you. I took up smoking during the period, and needed a couple of glasses of wine to fall asleep every night.
FIF, as somebody who has lost his father, my thoughts to you are this: Have you ever seen a movie, where at the end of the movie, they show clips from the best scenes, or funny retakes with the actors laughing and goofing around? Well, that happened to me after my dad passed. It was like his final year was a movie, but the best times, often little things, kept replaying in my head...coming back to me and giving me GREAT comfort.
Mostly simple things. Times we went out to Starbucks or to Kilwin's for an ice cream. Then my dad needed to replace his car, so we'd spend hours trolling through dealer lots...we'd spend a whole day and drive 100+ miles doing this. During this time, you can't imagine all the great conversations we had about all the cars we'd had and stories about them. My dad was a big car fanatic, and his favorite car of all time was the Thunderbird, and he had several from 1958 to 1975 before switching to Oldsmobile and Cadillac. You can appreciate this...his favorite car of all time from his teen years was a 1936 Cord. I think he felt this next car was going to be his last, so he wanted to drag it out, which was fine by me....lol. During that time, I think we test drove probably 30 cars. Another favorite was my dad and I loved watching The Sopranos together....but mom left the room because she couldn't stand all the swearing and violence...hehe. And these moments were far from picture perfect...one trip to Costco involved mom knocking over a display of paper towels with the scooter cart. Good thing it wasn't booze! But the best memory was their wedding anniversary. My mom was in the rehab center, but we took her out to Ruth's Chris steakhouse for dinner. It was their 62nd anniversary. Nobody knew it, but this was their last, and was a good one.
Of course, perfect moments like these often include less than perfect family or caregiver circumstances...but believe me, its the good parts that you'll remember. So I guess what I'm saying is...the more times you can hit the "hold" button, and do something not related to care giving or the necessary stuff in life...but just as family..a son and his parents...the better off you'll be. You'll cherish those moments when they're not able to enjoy them anymore.
Give your mom and dad a big hug and tell them you love them. You can't do it often enough. I can still do that with mom...but how I regret not doing it more with dad.