A military child remains one all her life, for good or ill, right into senior citizenship. Those who follow this blog know I am usually upbeat and content with my life, and for good reason – I’ve been blessed with health, enough prosperity to retire from my former career to become a successful (as defined by my own standard of “it’s a great retirement career”) author, and a growing family (Yes, I became a grandmother this month!)
But life is two-edged for everyone, and I recently was introduced to a serious downside of my military upbringing that has or will affect many others like me in our golden years: the complications of caring for our elderly loved ones.
Again, everyone can have problems with this. What makes it unique for us military “kids” (I’m in my sixties!) is that many, most of us live far away from our parents. I live in Quebec. I have brothers in British Columbia and Ontario. My parents, not military brats themselves, retired back near their hometown in Manitoba. My mother passed away young and without fuss rather quickly of cancer 20 years ago. We all made it to her funeral, but we didn’t have to do any elderly care for her.
My father has always been as healthy as a former PERI (military Physical Education and Recreation Instructor) can be. He’s quit smoking and drinking. He’s slim. He still golfs and walks, although he’s had his issues with age – a lifetime of hard sports living has left him with a new knee and needing more replacement joint relief than he can get. So it was an unexpected worry when on a routine physical it was discovered that he needed a serious operation to repair his aorta – life-saving surgery.
A dutiful and loving daughter, I made the trip to Winnipeg and stayed for his surgery and for as many days after as I could. But one cannot live in a hotel forever and I had to come home while he still recovers in the hospital. This has been one of the most trying times of my life. I realize today, despite all the benefits and happiness of my military upbringing, I can’t in all honesty say that I have no regrets about it. I regret that my father is so far away now that he is elderly and needs more family attention. But I must have subconciously known about this looming regret, because I chose to remain in Quebec, where my own children are from and where my first grandchild has recently been born. I hope when my turn comes, my family is closer to me than my father’s is to him.