Elderly Care: One Army Brat’s Regret


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.


9 thoughts on “Elderly Care: One Army Brat’s Regret

  1. I, too, am a military brat. I’m in my 60’s and had retired in California. My parents spent 20 years in California before my mother developed Alzheimer’s. My Dad chose to take her back “home”, where they were born and raised, because that’s what she remembered. A couple of years later, my Dad called me to see if I would be willing to move to move to Wisconsin to help take care of my Mother. My husband, who had said he would like to retire there, told me to sell our house (he worked in So. Cal) and go ahead and move. I did, and bought a home in Wisconsin. Four months after I moved there my Mother fell and broke her femur. Her doctor said that she could not go back home. We had to do what I told her and my Dad I would NEVER do. We had to put her in a memory care facility.

    I am the oldest of 4 and was the only one in a position to move closer to my parents. My sister and brother always tell me how grateful they are that I was able to move to be close to them. They are both in their 50’s and still have some years before they can retire, and my sister has her own health issues that prevent her from moving to a cold climate. My parents are both 85 so I don’t know how many years I’ll have to stick close to home.

  2. I’m working on moving to CO to be closer to my parents, I love where I am now: job, area (CLE), but don’t want to wake up and regret not being there. Also the only one that could move to be there.

  3. I agree that long-distance travels make it difficult to care for again parents. but that is true for all families, not just tBRATS. I also agree with your premise that many of us live quite far from our parents. But that also is true for civilians, so I really don’t understand what makes us BRATS unique in that respect.

    1. I know. It’s another one of those things that happen to everyone, as I said. To me, the fact that it’s an issue for more brats percentage-wise compared to the general population due to the more moving percentage-wise, makes it a brat issue. Of course you’re right – every individual has unique experiences. It’s what makes all of us, brats and civvies alike, empathetic to the trials of everyone. I hope.

  4. I’m the daughter who moved “home” to help my mom look after my Nan in 1993. That made me perfectly placed to nurse my mom through her bouts of cancer and her last days. Last summer, my dad got a surprise diagnosis of cancer and died, at home. I now find myself fully on my own with a brother in Alberta and another in Ontario. Somehow, I have become the “bad” sister. The closeness that our immediate family had for all those years moving from base to base has developed into extreme isolation. I live in a place where everyone else has large extended families. It has always seemed like a novelty but now it just hurts. I talked to a retired military couple the other day and had my first sense of “home” in a long time. Mixes a person up!

  5. I’m a military brat as well. My father was a career Marine, retiring as a Major in 1975. Dad is considered 75% disabled by the VA due to Stage III Moderate Kidney disease. He just had his 86th birthday. Basically, he’s a disabled veteran of the Vietnam era. My mother passed away 21 years ago, and my only older brother died six years ago from cancer, so dad and I are the only two left. Dad moved a few hours away after my mother passed but eventually wanted to be closer to me and my brother so he moved back, and ended up in a house about 4 miles from mine. The company I worked at for 17 years went out of business (I had hoped to retire with them) so I went back to school, changing gears completely, and got a Cardiovascular Tech Degree. I was extremely unhappy working in the hospital – it wasn’t what I expected and honestly at 56, working in a Cath Lab was physically more of a challenge than I expected (wearing leads all day killed my back). In the middle of all this, I started writing. Dad noticed how unhappy I was and offered a solution. I quit my pursuit of a medical career, sold my house, and moved in with him. As he’s gotten older he needs help with many things. He’s overweight and his balance isn’t all that great, and he has medical issues (he’s also diabetic on top of the kidney disease). My recent medical education also helps considerably in my ability to help in his care. So we are taking care of each other. We built out an unfinished bonus room in his house for me to live in, and we take care of each other. To make matters even more interesting, I’m gay, and before I moved in I came out to him because the books I’m writing are LBGT (Contemporary Fantasy/Sci-Fi), and if he was going to be supporting my writing I had to be honest with him about the subject matter. He didn’t even bat an eye, telling me many things he believed when he was younger are not true. So he’s supporting me financially while I live with and take care of him, and it’s allowing me time to write and self-publish my books. It’s a win-win for both of us, and we’re closer than ever. He tells me all the time how appreciative he is that I’m around, and my main goal is making him comfortable and happy. We all have our challenges, and sometimes life isn’t easy, but we also have many blessings that offset those challenges. Thanks for sharing your story, and prompting me to share mine.

    1. Thank you for sharing! Have you joined the Facebook group Books by Brats? It’s for readers and writers of, well, books by brats 😁. It’s a very supportive group, hope to see you there!

  6. Being a military family, we really had no home town. My parents ultimately moved near me for their final years. I was able to continue working and look after them, which was a blessing. Good luck to you in caring for your Dad. I totally understand.

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