How do you know that you’re too old to take a trip far away from home? How much trouble it is worth to see new places and have new experiences in a foreign land? What if you love going places, and you still have the money and the will to travel, but you don’t get around as well as you used to? What if other people in your life would worry about your leaving home, but you still want to go somewhere, and are able to go?
Yesterday I did some volunteer work for our local Humane Society, and during our “down time,” another volunteer and I got talking about something that’s really ticked her off. She and I are both in our 40’s and we live in the upper midwest of the USA. The conversation went like this:
Megan: I can’t believe it, my parents just took off and flew to Ireland the other day, just the two of them!
Me: Oh? Wow, good for them.
Megan: No, no, they’ve already been there like 8 times, there’s no reason for them to go now!
Me: Why not?
Megan: They are just so selfish. It’s always been ALL ABOUT THEM. They have never been able to think of anybody but themselves.
Me: OK, wait, why is it bad that your parents are taking a trip to Ireland?
Megan: They are 80 and 81 years old! They have been to Ireland like 8 times! Now they are just causing me and my sister all this worry. What if something should happen to them while they’re over there? Are my sister and I supposed to just put our lives on hold and fly over to Ireland to take care of things?
Me: I don’t understand. Are they too old to drive or something, and they’re renting a car? Or what could happen?
Megan: No, they will take buses and taxis and the train. But they could have signed over power of attorney to me and my sister before they left, so that if something were to happen, we could manage their affairs.
Me: Well, just to play devil’s advocate, maybe they just figure that they wanted to travel some more before they get too old to travel anymore, and they figured now was their chance. I mean, they’re not getting any younger, they won’t always be able to travel.
Megan: No, no, they have been unwise with their money their entire lives, they are always spending money on things they don’t need and can’t afford, and pretty soon they won’t have any money left!
—The conversation went on like this for awhile. I don’t know Megan well and I have never met her parents, and I know nothing about their family dynamics or economic circumstances. But I did learn that Megan’s mom was recently diagnosed as being in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s. Hearing this, I actually smiled. Here’s a woman who knows where her future is going. Someday she will not remember things and won’t be able to live a normal life. Her brain is disintegrating. Can you blame a couple in their 80s for flying to Ireland to enjoy some more of their lives together, over staying home in an apartment and listening to the traffic in the streets below?
What are they supposed to do, sit at home and wait to die?
To me, it sounds like these people have a good idea of how to live life.