The first time you realize your parents might be getting old, is when they forget the name of their favorite snack.
It’s subtle, and doesn’t bother you that much. It just creeps up a little bit.
“Honey, what is the name of that cheese snack that has the fish on it?” your mom might say.
“Do you mean ‘Goldfish?'”
And she’ll nod and say, “Oh of course that’s what I meant to say.”
Then you quickly forget about it. After all, everybody forgets something.
The realization doesn’t happen again until they forget where Best Buy is located. And you try to mention to your father, “You know dad, its always been here. You’ve been able to find it before, why can’t you remember it now?”
And while you’re in the car, trying to give directions, he’ll complain about how your music is too loud, and it’s distracting him, even though it’s actually his album of ABBA that’s playing from the stereo.
Then as soon as you go into the large blue building that envelopes you in a space that is filled with buzzing gadgets and white noise, the man who used to advise you on technology, is now asking you for help.
It’s okay though. Because really, technology is changing all the time. You think to yourself, “Well, not everyone knows what Android’s are.”
So you push back the idea again. Because it’s a little bit terrifying, and a little bit sad. That maybe, just maybe, they’re not the same person anymore.
But after you’ve been away for a few months, and you come back to visit, it hits hard. Really hard.
Your mom calls you by a different name.
Your dad yells at you for not feeding the cat, when in actuality, you just did.
You have to yell the McDonald’s order out from the passenger seat, because your parents take too long to order and end up forgetting what, “That thing with cheese and tomatoes” is called. Which by the way, is a single cheeseburger.
Probably the worst is when your mom can’t go out and do the one thing that she loves the most: running. She doesn’t mention it to you, because she’s embarrassed and knows you’ll harass her about it, but you can’t help but notice that she’s stopped putting on her florescent Nike tennis shoes early in the morning.
And you don’t want to ask. It’s the very. last. thing. you want to ask. But you have to — it’s not a choice.
“Mom. Why aren’t you running anymore?” you’ll ask when she pours you orange juice for breakfast (which by the way, you’ve told her since elementary school that you despise that stupid citrus drink.)
And she won’t look at you. No, she’ll go back to the kitchen counter and start buttering the toast. But she’ll mutter softly:
“The doctor told me I shouldn’t run anymore.”
Then that’s that. Maybe you’ll ask her to expand, and she’ll say something about a bad hip and maybe needing surgery, and then you have to face reality.
Your friends around you are getting married and having children. You, yourself, are making new relationships and learning more about what you want in life, bit by bit.
And while your life is going on around you and you’re focused on your own thing — the two people that meant the world to you are now changing themselves. They are still the doting people that raised you, but they’re also the people that you’ll someday have to dote on, and someday. Someday, you will have to learn to live without.
But until then. You will hold their hand as you help them up the icy stairs to the shopping mall, and both of you will curse the establishment for being too cheap to put salt on the stairs — completely ignoring the fact that it really isn’t icy.
And you will explain to your parents that yes, times are changing and more people are getting tattoos, and there is such a thing as liking too many Facebook photos in one sitting.
And when you bring your mom to the doctor as she gets ready for her hip surgery, you will whisper in her ear that you love her, and that no amount of time will ever change that.