We are ALL caregivers.

It’s been over a year since my mother passed away, and in that time, I have rarely written a blog because I am ‘in-between causes.’ As I wrote about caregiving for my mother, it all seemed so easy to imagine that I would simply set aside my life and dreams for a time, and then pursue them with a vengeance when my responsibilities of family and career were over.

But that’s not what happened. Amidst the hard and soft grieving-time, I found that I had somehow lost my way. So many, many things beckoned – my desire to travel, my need to clear my home of superficial belongings, my drive to write the books I always said I would, a desire to reconnect with friends and family I had lost touch with, and most insistently…the need to take care of old business.

That last one was the ‘kicker.’ As I looked around my home and sifted through papers I saw that there was more left undone and uncompleted than I had realized.  I came face-to-face with my younger self who must have thought she had all the time and all the money in the world to spend on courses that were never completed, fabric that was never used, hobbies that were started and fizzled out leaving in their wake unused sheet music, half-done needlepoint and embroidery, photographs and memorabilia originally destined for albums purchased and still in cellophane.  Dare I say that my bookshelves were groaning with volumes that I always meant to read, but never actually got to start (or finish)?  But most distressing were the journals that sat in boxes that conveyed hope and promise for a future that never quite materialized.

Recently, I have begun to think about my own ‘third act.’ My high school class is having it’s 50th reunion next Spring; my youngest son just turned 46 yesterday; I reached full Social Security age a few months ago. I seem to be rolling head-first into a time of my life that I really haven’t prepared myself for.

I didn’t plan on having problems walking because my knees (one at a time) troubled me so. I didn’t plan on the lack of energy I experience, or the inability to read for very long unless under a very bright light. I didn’t realize that I’d have such attachment to belongings because they represent memories I’ve enjoyed or hopes for my future.  I didn’t know I’d still worry about my sons.

I’ll never forget watching ‘Romancing the Stone’ back in 1984.  There’s a scene where Michael Douglas is telling Kathleen Turner about how he traveled to South America on a coffee boat and collected rare birds, and it suddenly dawned on me that he (the character) probably had a mother somewhere who would be worried about him. And at that moment, I realized, perhaps for the very first time, that your children are your children for the rest of your life!

That hit me like a ton of bricks. Sounds ludicrous, but it’s true. And I never thought, at that tender age of 33, that thirty years later I would be taking care of my own mother.  Had I known, I would have asked, “When is it going to be MY turn?”

I’ve met so many wonderful people that are the primary caregivers to family members who are not always elderly. There are the parents who have children with Autism, ADD/ADHD, Tourette’s and other mental and physical disabilities. There are families who agonize about relatives who have mental illnesses and parents who wring their hands over their sons and daughters who are hooked on drugs or alcohol. I empathize with people whose spouses and significant others have serious health concerns. Whereas the issues confronting people I knew in the past were divorce, financial challenges, wrinkles and fat, their concerns have now morphed into grief about children who have died as a result of suicide and drug overdose, and family members who cannot be found.

Sometimes I think to myself (one of my mother’s favorite expressions when she spoke aloud) that I am glad that I am as old as I am. I don’t know whether I could handle all the chaos in the world and in life if I were only in my twenties. Then again, every generation seems to be equipped to handle the problems of their time.

And when I worry about all the mistakes I’ve made, the wrong turns I’ve taken, I’m reminded of the lines in the Eagle’s song from the album, “Hotel California:”

And maybe someday we will find,
That it wasn’t really wasted time.

So, I’ll just take my challenges one at a time, and share my thoughts on whatever it is that I’m studying and researching at the moment.  No one can put a value on Life Experience. You can’t learn it all in school, and even when you think it’s pointless, in the end, it’s like the commercial by American Express: “Priceless!”

All this is a very long way of saying that although my blog, “The Caregiver’s Corner” was initially intended to be about natural health with regard to senior caregiving, it seems to be evolving into a generalized site about people caring for others – and not forgetting how important it is to take care of ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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