“When you try to control everything, you enjoy nothing.
Sometimes you just need to relax, breathe and let go.”

I remember the hypervigilant mode of early parenthood. That invisible antenna that’s always scanning for signs of trouble. Of course, it never goes away. Your child is always in your heart and on your radar. For me, the parental anxiety intensified when my son started driving and again when he moved away from home. You worry about your children. But you don’t worry about your parents – until they get old. And frail. And befuddled.

Then the inner monitor reactivates and re-calibrates to tune into your geezers. And it’s a different kind of fear. As my son has grown up, his world has expanded, and so has my trust in him. It’s the opposite with aging parents. As my father’s world gets smaller, the risks increase and his capabilities decrease. He is more vulnerable than ever, and he is alone now. And I am afraid for him. Always.

I’m at the beach now, first time I’ve left town for more than a day or two since my mother died.

Although Gmamma was virtually deaf and nearly blind, she was my father’s keeper, his companion, his guardian. When he had his last seizure, she was the one who slo-mo scrambled on her walker into the hall of the Old Folks Home and mewed in her croaky little voice for help. Never mind that there’s a cord around her neck to pull and a phone on the table. Her instinct was to “run” for help.

Years earlier, when my parents still lived independently, she called me and said, “Your father is having a heart attack.”  Or “Your father’s fallen, and they just took him away in the ambulance.” And when I stopped by one Saturday afternoon, “There’s something wrong with him. He’s acting funny.”

Doodaddy never had a heart attack, it was a TIA, but my point is Gmamma had his back.

And now that I’m away, I feel guilty for leaving town. Because what if something happens?

My son is all grown up. He’s on geezer duty this week, but I’m having a hard time un-scrunching my shoulders and un-clinching my jaw. Which is exactly why I needed to get away.

A friend told me she didn’t take a trip for 15 years, because she was worried about something happening to her elderly mother. And then she realized that was ridiculous. Caregivers need a break.

So I’m gonna soak up the sun and watch the water and breathe.

I’m going to try to let go of the fear that constantly grips my heart and knots my stomach. I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten. Or how watching my mother suffer and die had affected me. Being helpless to save someone you love is the worst feeling ever.

Trusting that God holds my father in the palm of his hand brings me some peace. And I’m ashamed to say I had to get out of town to remember that. To focus on letting go of trying to control everything. To stop helicopter-parenting my parent.

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Seagrove Beach