My Dad

dad2 This is my dad.

summer-funAnd this…camping3And this…

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This is my dad and me at my first communion.

me-dad3
This is my dad and me at my college graduation.

me-dad4

And here we are again.

This is my dad in his later years.

me-dad2
And, this is how I will always remember him…
Laughing, strong, wonderfully feisty, a fighter
and
a man of God.

I miss you Dad.
But I know the love we had is still alive.
I just wish you were here to share it.

Annie

Revelation Awakened

Yesterday, at work, my girlfriend started our day pondering why we both have the need to be there for our parents day in and day out. Her dad is in a nursing home and my mom is in rehab. What really resonated with me was when she mentioned something a friend of hers had said. This friend mentioned, ‘C, you are living the life of an 85 year old. Your dad has lived his life. You don’t need to be there 7 days a week. You need to take time for you.’

Throughout the morning, I really thought about why I felt obligated to be the caregiver of my mom and also my dad. At lunch, I started writing down thoughts, based on the conversation with my friend, such as

  • Am I doing myself a favor?
  • Am I a martyr? And if so, what am I gaining?
  • Who is benefiting?
  • What’s missing in my life I am trying to grasp or resurrect?
  • Why is it necessary to be ‘the one’ all the time?
  • What is likely to happen if I put my needs first?

And then this thought occurred…

  • Am I justified in feeling resentment and anger towards my siblings or are these feelings being directed towards them because I really feel resentful and angry because of the situation I have put myself in by being the ‘main’ caregiver?

In a flash, the angst, the anger, the resentment, the turmoil I have allowed vanished. It was then I realized I did feel resentful. I did feel anger. Not towards my parents but definitely towards the situation.

When I got divorced, my parents were still healthy, very independent and didn’t require a lot of extra care. Being single again, I had plans. Grand plans! Plans to take some college classes, engage in some art classes, volunteer, write more in my blog, finally get up off the couch and get back into exercising, travel on a whim, etc. But in choosing to help my parents, those plans were put on hold. So why did I choose to stop my life to help my parents?

I realize now, when I got divorced I felt abandoned. Instead of communicating to fix the issues we had, my ex went out and found himself another love. Ten months after the divorce was final, he was engaged. A year later, he was married. His life continued. I thought mine was continuing too but subconsciously, I had more than a broken heart. I had a hole that needed to be filled.

As a result, I stepped in to help my mom and dad. In the beginning it was awesome! I was gaining the love I hadn’t experienced in a long time while married. Instead of saving myself, I turned the tables into saving my parents. Anytime they needed something, my mom would call. Eventually, my dad plowed through his pride and would call me as well. My life was back on track again!  I had purpose. I had self worth. I was being recognized because once again I was the good daughter coming to the rescue. Sometimes resentment would creep but I would wave it away, telling myself, it was my duty to care for my parents, payback for what they had given me growing up. Yet, just when I believed life was hunky dory and my hole was full, life took a turn. And death took my dad.

It was when death stepped in, the resentment began. And it grew and grew and grew. Till anger also joined the dance. When my dad died, I once again felt abandoned. Except this time, it was by the one male who accepted me as I was with unconditional love, who understand me more than I did myself and who could always tell when I needed a hug or a shoulder to lean on.

For 7 months, my conscious made me believe I was doing great. But my subconscious kept poking me, slowly at first and then as the months crept by, harder and harder till it woke me up to face the truth.

I wasn’t doing okay. Every morning I was smothering my grief with my daily makeup of a smile, a laugh and a positive attitude. You see, the root of the problem wasn’t and isn’t with my siblings. They are living their lives, just like my ex. I was living the life of a 89 year old not of a 50+ person who had wished for a brand new start and gotten it.

It’s funny how finding the root cause of my resentment and anger  made the weight I have been carrying instantly disappear. Hindsight can be a bitch but it can also provide the lessons we need to learn, when the subconscious knows deep down, life is not all roses.

I’m not saying I’m ready to rush to my siblings and reestablish a relationship. There is a whole history of not being close with them. A history I am not sure I am ready to fix right now, especially after the past two days of ruminating.

The main thing is fixing myself, which I believe starts with

  • not feeling guilty when I put myself first.
  • being more open with my mom in letting her know I need time for me.
  • taking time for me to do the things I desire. Even if that means putting them on a calendar so I actually do them.
  • living the life of a 50+ gal, instead of the life of an 89 year old. That time will come soon enough.

And finally, listening to my subconscious self. Like my intuition, it knows what my heart and my spirit are singing, despite anything I do to quiet them. And it won’t stop persisting till I learn what I need to be taught in order to move forward with the life I was meant to have.

Blessings,
Annie

P.S. Thank you C for being the friend who is more like a sister. I am honored to be a part of your life and grateful you are in mine.

 

 

 

 

 

Ridden With Guilt

Since Tuesday, I have been living with terrible, haunting guilt. Last weekend, my mom was in the hospital for a few days due to a bout of pneumonia. The doctor was recommending rehab instead of a direct ticket home. So was my brother. Throughout her life, my mom has never been unreasonable or a complainer. However, this time, my mom was adamant about going home, to the point that no amount of persuading was going to change her mind. I knew, for her peace of mind, I needed to support her. So, I convinced the doctor to discharge her, with the stimulation that I would be responsible for whatever happened as a result. I also texted my siblings, of which neither responded. The result? My mom ended up falling resulting in a cracked rib and a partial collapsed lung. Once again she is in the hospital, this time in the trauma unit. Thankfully, she is doing well and slowly getting better. And, this time she has agreed, when she is released, to go to rehab. Yesterday she told me, ‘I was a stupid woman.’ I told her, she was not the only one.

The most disturbing part of all this? Not only is the guilt eating me alive, but when I texted my siblings about what happened, I received dead air as a response. On Wednesday, when I visited my mom, she relayed that my siblings had come to not only see her but to meet with the doctor about her condition. I was totally shocked and taken aback that I was not included. My mom also mentioned my brother was going to call me.

Now I am not making excuses for the decision I made to take my mom home, which in hindsight, was not the best thing to do.However, right before Christmas, my mom was in the hospital again because she believed she was having another stroke. It was found that she had a torn artery so more effective blood thinner and high blood pressure meds were given. When the doctor was ready to release her, rehab was also recommended. I asked if it would be okay if I took her home with me as I had the week off. The doctor agreed. During her stay with me, my sister texted twice to wish us a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and my brother called three times. Neither of them made any effort to visit her. Which really shouldn’t have been a surprise because when my mom was in rehab for three weeks, after her stroke, my sister didn’t visit at all and my brother came once.

Anyway, on January 3rd, my mom’s physical therapist said she could be returned home. That night, I sent my siblings an email, with a calendar, requesting them to sign up for the days they were available to help my mom. Then I would make a master calendar, send it back to them and give my mom a copy. Not surprisingly, dead air was a response.

Since the my mom has fallen, my relationship with my her has not taken a hit. Needless to say, I have heard nil from my siblings. And I don’t expect to.

So not only is the guilt tearing me apart but I also have fear of retaliation from my siblings. Yes, I admit I was wrong. Yes, my mom should have gone to rehab. But I can’t change the fact I felt, at the time, what she was requesting was not unreasonable. I have been her primary caregiver for the last 10+ years which has allowed me to really get to know her.

I admit. I fucked up BIG TIME!!! I keep telling myself and hearing my friends telling me what I did was right for my mom regardless of the outcome. I don’t care if this causes estrangement from my siblings. It was coming to that point anyway. What I fear is them suing me for neglect or getting a court order banning me from seeing her. This, despite the fact my mom doesn’t, in any way shape or form, believe I ever did anything to cause her negligence. And I would NEVER, no matter how much frustration I have sometimes experienced in my years as a caregiver, EVER think about doing anything to harm her or my dad when he was alive.

What I have decided is to cut all communication from my siblings. I need to in order to direct the guilt, that is tearing me apart, into a more positive mindset so I can help my mom recover. Besides, my siblings only show up when it’s convenient for them or when something major happens. Then, they dance right back out to go about their lives.

I can’t take back my decision. I can’t fix the fact my mom fell. I can’t change the fact my siblings are who they are. The only relief I can get is to place all my trust in God, try to let go of the guilt and fear and be thankful for the family of friends I have who believe I am not a bad person.

I don’t want to smooth over the circumstance because every time I see my mom, the guilt rears itself up even harder. However, I know, looking in her eyes, that she has forgiven me. I just wish I could forgive myself.

 

 

 

Family of Friends

Being a caregiver is not only tiring but at times it can seem like a never ending uphill battle. It can bring sparks of resentment, doubts and anger. It can also bring joy in the knowledge that after a loved one dies, there will be no guilt or regrets because of the sacrifices made to ensure they were lovingly taken care of.

Since my dad died I have become more engaged in helping and caring for my mom. My days can frequently be long, especially since I also have a full time job. I help out so often I consider myself the primary caregiver, despite having two siblings, who rarely lend a hand.

Regardless, I have been blessed with support from many people who have taken the time to ask about my mom, listen to me vent about my unsupportive family members, offer advice full of wisdom, pray and even enveloped me in a strong hug.

Every day I am in awe by the many who have entered my life acting like what I always believed a family should be. It has really made a huge impact knowing I finally have the support I have been longing for, for many years.

I have allowed myself to open up and share my story. As a result I have learned I am not alone. How reassuring it is to know those who were once strangers have grown into substitute siblings.  It is because of these siblings I have come to the painful but inevitable conclusion it is way past time to let go of the hope filled notion that those related by blood are never going to be what I would like them to be.

There are days when I have nothing left to give. And even though they are far and few between, it would be nice if I could depend on my siblings. Instead, I am learning to keep on ticking like the Energizer Bunny, making sure I designate one day a week as mine to do whatever I want. Even if that means I spend a large portion of it lounging in bed.

Being a caregiver is not what I figured I would be. Especially since I was looking forward to finally being an empty nester and having time to do things I wanted. I will say, despite this, I have wholeheartedly embraced the journey of giving care. It does have rewards and has opened my eyes to what my life will eventually become.

So I’d like to thank my circle of friends for giving me support in my time of need, for being there with a shoulder and for being the family I always hoped for. Thank you as well to my dad who recognized the sacrifices I was making to ensure he received loving care and timely help. And to my mom too. She knows I have her best interests at heart and will honor her wishes till the end of her days.

Annie