The idea for this website came to me last year after a month of coffees, lunches, dinners, tennis games and hikes with many friends and acquaintances where I realized I kept on having the same conversation. We were pretty much all going crazy from the emotional and sometimes physical exhaustion of taking care of parents and grown or almost grown children at a time in our lives when we thought we would have more, not less, time for ourselves and our spouses and close friends. Some, like me, had pictured this time as one of greater wisdom and serenity–in other words, receiving the gifts of getting older without, at least yet, feeling OLD. This was clearly not happening.
So then I spread it out and made of point of asking casual or new acquaintances about their experiences and it seemed to me that everyone had a story. Most people, unless they had had a lot of therapy, or had been Buddhist for years and meditated daily and were way more evolved than most of us, were clearly needing to share these stories, to make some sense of this confusing and difficult time. And I realized that we all had so much in common, so many ideas and resources to share, and that we, many of us, if not all, desperately needed to know we weren’t alone.
During the most dramatic time for me, when both parents were going down (but refusing the help they clearly needed) and my kids were still under my wing and my husband was sick, I was very alone in all of it, and it wasn’t good. I looked in vain for resources on the internet to help me with different problems and while I found important information about one issue or another, I never found a website that was both helpful and all-encompassing. There are sites for caregivers, sites for empty nesters, sites for over fifty, but I was looking to find people like me, in my situation, to help me figure things out. And, to be honest, I have to mention again, to feel less alone. While, as I discovered later, a lot of people were going through this, for various reasons I was kind of ahead of a lot of my friends. While some had, indeed, lost a parent years ago or dealt with a family member’s long term, debilitating illness, this process of witnessing your mother and father deteriorate as you are supporting your children’s “launch” (this is the newish term I keep hearing) was a challenge for which most of us were ill prepared.
Decades ago, those of us who became parents read all those books about babies and toddlers as we readied ourselves for that stage of life. And, of course, that was an exciting phase, it was all about beginnings. But there are no what-to-expect-when-your-parents-decline books. Or if there are, why on earth would we want to read them? Nobody looks forward to this chapter with giddy anticipation, even those among us who are dying to hold grandchildren on their laps. The world is starting to figure out that parenting changes but doesn’t stop when your child turns twenty-one, or twenty-five or thirty, so you can be pretty busy as a parent, grand-parent and daughter or son all at the same time. I am envisioning this website as a place to share, vent, get information, laugh, cry and hopefully make connections with other people in this same phase of life, what I call the Panini Press.