“Where are you?” I’m fighting not to scream. “I’ve been worried sick!”

When people ask how old my parents are, I always say “In their 70’s.” This year I got a bit of sticker shock. I realized they are in their 80’s. And have been for a few years.

70’s don’t feel old to me.

80’s does.

So when my parents pile into their car and begin their 4 day trek to drive to California, I get a bit wigged out.

After a few days of silence, I begin to imagine them flipped upside down on the freeway on some long, forgotten mountain pass. Medi-vac copters swarming about. Snow has nearly buried their car.

I ask Siri for the phone number for the National Guard.

Finally, my phone chirps. “Oh we’re eating dinner at Denny’s in Phoenix. They have a wonderful senior menu.”

OK National Guard. You can stand down.

When they visit, I try to take them to see things they haven’t seen before. They love playing tourist.

Last weekend, I took them up to Phillippe’s in DTLA. We walk down the sidewalk. My parents sail right on by the front door.

“Hey guys,” I yell out. “Here we go. Everyone inside.”

Then they stop, turn about almost looking confused. Then they come back and into the restaurant.

I show them how to eat a french dip sandwich. Something they have never done before. After 80 years, how can you not have ever eaten a French dip sandwich?

Mom lost most of her vision. She goes through the motion of dunking her sandwich into the “au jus”.

“Did I get any juice on it?” she asks.

My heart breaks. “Yes mom. You did great.”

Our next stop: Olvera Street. Before we leave Phillippe’s, I ask “Does anyone have to go to the bathroom?”

Mom and dad nod their head.

OK, let’s find the bathroom.

The older my parents get, the more our relationship changes. I feel myself becoming the parent and they becoming the children.

Every time they venture out into the world, I always get a bit nervous. Soon, they’ll begin their four day trek back to Michigan. And of course, they won’t call from the road.

“Where are you?” I say, when they finally call. “I’ve been worried sick!”

There’s that parental protective streak.

And that’s ok.

Because I cherish these moments.

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