Two years, a void in my life so large the Grand Canyon couldn't fill it, and sits heavy on me even now. Five years, the amount of time I had to watch as our roles reversed and age sat down upon her graying head and the mother became the child. It wasn't always pretty with flowers and roses, memory making and laughter. There were times it was anything but that which we think about in this generation referred to as 'sandwich'.
With medical advances our parents are living longer, which of course we want, we can't envision a day when our parents are not a part of our lives. But this is a different time than the one they grew up in, when family stayed close and worked together because it took the family to survive. Now most children move away from family and relatives to make a better life for their children or themselves, fracturing what was once a tight knit backbone when something went wrong in the family. Today's generation find themselves giving up jobs, homes, lives to move back and care for their parents. At the very least they may move them to be with them in their area. It often finds one child being the bearer of the majority of responsibility even if there are siblings. It puts us in a unique position, one that can be overwhelming and breath taking.
Depending on why your parent comes under your care the truth is life is going to change for everyone involved. Now you are not only responsible for your children and their health but your own and your parent's care as well. Many middle agers already find they have enough of a pharmacy in their bathrooms and adding a parent can amplify that realization. It is also a secret peek into what our future could be, healthwise at least.
While there are many stresses to caring for your parent, especially if they are faced with an illness that can rob them of memory or communication, there are also those moments of surety that arise. It gives your children a glimpse into your childhood, and your parents a chance to make a strong connection with your children that may not have occurred otherwise. When I was caring for my mother it gave her time with my kids, more than prior, they often spent time together watching movies, talking about school or just cooking something for dinner. I also found that they would talk to her , sometimes more easily than they would their father or I. Sometimes age is a mellower and things that would send us through the roof is looked upon more softly by the elder generation.
I would be remiss in saying that is was all a wonderful dance in the rain. My mother had her days when her illness would take over and words would come that would not have been said any other time. Apologies never made because the same illness that gave her the rage also took her memory of short term moments. There were days I sat crying because she had become more stubborn than my children ever were, realizing that for all intents and purposes I had another child on my hands. It was hard to remember that inside that mean spirit lied the heart of my mother.
But on the good days, when she would want to go for a drive and show us where she spent her childhood. Leading me down windy backroads and past old houses as the sun shined through the window on her face, the face that reminded me so much of my grandmother. How she would regale the kids with stories of ice skating in her shoes on frozen creeks and snow so deep it covered a barb wire fence and her father running a team of horses and sleigh over it, never realizing one false move could end his life. The nights when she would just want me to come sit with her, and I would sit by her and her hand would reach over for mine. The feel of her skin like that of a baby's once more, soft but wrinkled now. The bruising so evident from the blood thinners she had to take daily. the grandparent's day lunch at my youngest son's school. The last one she would attend. Those moments are what we hang onto. Because we got to make them and they can wipe away the wounds of a million illness thrown words.
So no caring for your parent will not be easy, nothing in life worth doing ever is in reality. But it will be worth it. Because when they are gone, far sooner than you ever imagined and were prepared for, they are never gone. Their presence surrounds you like a warm blanket on a cold day and for a moment, if you inhale deeply enough with your eyes closed...you can smell the scent of them still lingering in the blanket.
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