Of course, my relationships with my parents are the source of my tension behind my headaches. I love them a great deal, and it's starting to look like my Dad is hell-bent on repeating the mistakes in closing out his life that *his* Dad made 30 to 40 years ago.
Murray (my Dad) is 77, at which age Fred (his Dad) had had Parkinsons for just over a decade, at a time when the prognosis for Parkinsons was "dead in six months." Fred simply decided not to die, and by sheer stubborn force of will succeeded in not doing so for a bit over a dozen years after the diagnosis. I was the one driving him around to his doctor's appointments, listening to his stories, and dragging him out and getting him to talk when he was bent on disappearing into his bellybutton, and while doing so was sometimes a pain in the ass, it was in part the fact that I was never *asked* to perform this service that made it my job to do so. The Family needed this done, I was here to do it; I did it. Minimum stress on the communications system.
Murray does not have Parkinsons, and while my sister believes he may have Altzheimer's (based on her having been the patent examiner on one of the medications he was taking for a while, and her knowledge that Altzheimer's was all it was certified to treat), most of the time his brain is firing on most of its cylinders, and "most" is still "pretty damned good." But there are two "mosts" in that sentence; rarely is *all* of him there, and on some bad days most of him is elsewhere.
*I* don't have a problem with that. He's old, has profoundly earned his rest, and it's an expected part of life that people wear out and, eventually, stop working. The end-state of the procedure is called "dying," which for some reason is considered a mystery.
Murray isn't dead yet; at a guess, he's got a good twenty years to go. It might be all downhill from here, but I'm a quarter-century younger, and *my* life might well be all downhill from here too, and I'm not worried about that either. I have every reason to believe it will be a very long and scenic hill, and I can still pedal as hard as I feel like and feel the wind in my hair (though the hair is becoming a bit sparse in places).
But Murray comes from an era in which Weakness was Not Discussed. What Brad Hicks called "the Man of Concrete" in his own father; if a particular activity comes up that he (Murray) knows he no longer has the capacity to do, he will regretfully and very specifically admit to the incapacity that keeps him from performing the activity, and no further -- *if* he is aware of his limitation; I had a major problem with a couple of limitations he wasn't aware of between six and eight years ago. And of course, not being aware of them he had several different layers of unwillingness to admitting to them, even after the fact.
A major challenge that I accepted as a small child was the idea that children are *supposed* to do better than their parents; we get to decide for ourselves in what particulars, but the concept of progress is that things are supposed to get better over time, and generations are a good interval-of-measure. (Note that while my own sons are free to accept this measure if it's useful to them, I don't require it of them; part of my model of parenting is that the purpose of having children is to create adults worth interacting with, and adults are by definition not only capable of but assumed to be making their own decisions.)
Since I got that value *from* Murray, it's upsetting to me that he's now not following it himself. There are a number of Fred's mistakes that he seems to be repeating without considering them, and "use your brain" was one of the most fundamental values I learned from him.
The quandary I'm dancing with is balancing compassion with mercy. I've been lousy at mercy for as long as I remember, in part due to a description I once read in my single-digit years of "angelic compassion leaves little room for mercy," and the description associated with it pointing out that what was being *called* mercy generally consisted of cowardice on the part of the person granting it; they didn't have the guts to make the difficult decision in front of them. (And yes, I know I'm not an angel. But I'm going to leave the rest of theology for later, too.)
But because that is true in *some* cases doesn't mean it's true in all, or even most. Mercy can also mean cutting people some slack when they wouldn't be *able* to perform as they'd like, and that sounds like a fairly accurate description of tired 77-year-old men. Quite possibly denying any lack of capacity he has and glorying in any bit that still works is the best coping mechanism he could now have, and if that is so it would be an act of cruelty to catalog his problems for him, even if doing so would make *my* life easier. Which it would; getting an ACK that some circuit of his no longer functions would make things a lot more reliable for me.
But the balance with compassion is tough. He *wants* to be Strong, and that can also mean having the strength to face his own limitations if that's useful to the Family social-entity in the long run. Looked at in that light, by what right do I make his decision for him, by *not* confronting him with the problems I observe? If they're not brought to his attention, he has no *opportunity* to deal with them.
And as commented above, I've always been much better at compassion than mercy.
And while I have a lot more to say, that's a pretty big chunk already, so I'll shut up for a few minutes.