What It’s Like Having A Much Older Parent
I have a father who is much, much older than myself. He was almost fifty years old when he had me (my mother was his second wife). When I tell people how old my father is I see them do a double take—they’re trying to figure out if I’m much older than I appear. I have to stop them, say that while I wish I was someone who looked twenty years younger than I am, I actually am this young, and my dad is that old. Men can do that, I suppose—stay fertile long past the age that women can. I’m glad my dad is my dad, and I wouldn’t have any other. I wouldn’t be who I am if my dad weren’t who he is. But sometimes, I do feel like I miss out on certain things because he is just so many decades older than myself. When I was a little girl, I didn’t really notice, but now, I’m a young adult and my dad is, well, kind of an old man. That’s not usually how that goes. Here is what it’s like having a much older parent.
There’s pressure to marry sooner
My dad wants to see me get married and we’re dealing with a race against time. My boyfriend and I don’t feel that we will want to get married for at least another five years but my dad will be in his eighties by then, if we are lucky. And we may not even get married for another ten years. Either way, my dad wants to see me walk down the aisle and I can’t promise that will happen.
And have kids sooner
My dad would also love to meet his grandchildren and if my wedding may not be quite a ways away my first child is even further away. And as a millennial, I may not even have kids. But I, also, would love for my kids to know their grandparents.
In ways, we understand each other less
There is a natural disconnect simply because we have nearly fifty years between us. There are a lot of modern trends, technology, and celebrities I talk about that my dad knows nothing about.
But in ways, we understand each other more
Honestly, sometimes it’s a good thing that we can’t talk about technology or celebrities—it forces us to talk about the things that really matter.
Health scares are scarier
Health scares for my dad are very scary for me. It’s never easy when a parent winds up in the hospital but, my dad is past the age where I have the luxury of saying, “It will probably be okay.”
You have conversations you aren’t ready for
My dad initiates conversations that I do not feel ready for—conversations about what to do when he’s gone, or when he’s too sick to care for himself. These conversations feel surreal and premature.
You have a sibling who could be your parent
Since I’m a child from my dad’s second marriage, I have a half sibling who is thirty years older than myself. So….my brother looks old enough to be my dad.
Your parent is mistaken for your grandparent
Sometimes people mistake my dad for my grandfather. I’m fortunate that my dad is not a particularly vain man and doesn’t get insulted by this.
More guilt around not visiting
We never really know how much time we have with anybody but, since my dad is older, if I’m to assume he would live a normal life span, I do still have less time with him than people with younger parents. So I feel extra bad over not visiting more often.
You worry they won’t see you succeed
I want my dad to see me succeed. I want him to be proud of me. I want him to know that all my work has not been for nothing. But I don’t know that my success will come while he’s still here.
And they’ll go, worried about you
Another reason I want my dad to see me succeed is that I don’t want him to leave this earth worried about me. I know that I’ll be fine but, how can he know that if the last thing he sees is me struggling?
They’re retired, with free time
An older parent is a retired parent and a retired parent is a parent with time on their hands. That is time to sit around and worry about all kinds of unlikely scenarios that they call you about throughout the week.
Activities need to be easy
I need to plan activities, taking my dad’s physical abilities into mind. We aren’t going to go on a hike when he visits me, or play a match of tennis.
You see people try to take advantage
I witness people trying to take advantage of my dad because he’s older. Those scam letters start showing up, and I notice people who work for him trying to get things past him.
You worry about being the caregiver
I am aware that I may have the role of caregiver, much earlier than I’m ready to. Most people start to be nurses for their parents when they themselves are at least in their late forties or fifties. I may be facing that role in my thirties.