I went to visit family in my home town over Thanksgiving weekend. I took the kids and we stayed in my parents house. My parents are now living in an assisted living community and my sister lives in the house by herself. Some things have changed (air conditioning!) and some haven't changed since I was a kid (same old upright freezer in the basement that makes the lights flicker).
The house that used to contain two parents, five kids, one dog and various rotating pet rodents seems to have shrunk. The rooms are smaller than I remember, the yard seems hardly big enough to toss a football in (though I know many were tossed in that yard with no harmful effects), and how did five kids share the one bathroom? It's not like I am that much bigger physically than when I lived at home, and my current home is hardly the Taj Mahal. Perhaps it's like when you get a bigger purse because your stuff won't fit in the old one and suddenly the bigger purse has just as much crap spilling out of it. Apparently I don't fit in this space anymore.
While we were there, I slept in my parents old bedroom. This is the same room they slept in since before I was born. Same bedroom furniture, same clay hand prints from all us kids hanging on the wall, same fancy nightie belonging to my mom hanging in the closet. Yeah, let that one sink in for a minute.
I finally came to the very obvious and real conclusion that my parents are mortal. Dad's poor health is the reason they are in assisted living, but Mom can't do what she once could, either. Someday in the not-too-far future my parents will be gone and I will be left with just my siblings as a connection to my past. Scary thought when you consider I was an annoying little sister--they might not remember my childhood quite so fondly.
While we were in town we took my mother out to lunch and I drove. Although I am a middle aged mother of three who drives a minivan, Mom still grabs on to the armrest like I'm doing 80 mph in a school zone. It almost made me feel like a thoughtless teenager again.
Being in that space that once seemed so large but now seems to have shrunk made me realize that my kids are growing up at an alarming rate. I remember visiting my parents with my newborn baby boy and how proud I was to be responsible for this tiny human being. Now that baby boy has his learner's permit and is a good seven inches taller than me. My kids aren't little anymore. They seem to be hurtling toward independence and adulthood. And someday I will be some body's aging mother who needs help moving into assisted living.