After completing my fifth twelve-hour shift in a row (as an in-home caregiver), I drive through rumbling booms of fireworks to get home. I walk in the door, greeted by my meowing cats, and fill out intake paperwork for my doctors appointment in the morning (hopefully to figure out why I feel like a pile of walking shit all the time). I go upstairs to my mother’s domain (I moved in last year to care for my father with dementia before he passed away December 1st) to get a burrito to take with me for lunch tomorrow. As I ask her where she put them, I get yelled at for no logical reason, as usual. “Why are you so angry?” I ask. “I’m sick! Like you give a shit anyway!” Okay, wait. “Mom, I just got home a couple minutes ago and you know I care; why are you mad?” She replies telling me to just go downstairs and try to get some sleep through all the noise outside (she knows I can sleep through nearly anything). If you don’t know me, then you have no idea the amount of shits I give about my mother. If you do know me, you know that I would do anything in the world for my parents (God knows, and everyone else, that I did for my precious father before he left us). If you know my mother, you may ask yourself why in the world I try and make the most miserable woman on the planet happy; I ask myself the same question. I cancel plans with friends (most importantly my amazing other half) because she likes to dominate my time. Note that I always work 50 hours a week, often more. I still live here because she’s codependent and I’m not sure she would be okay living alone. I refuse to move or go to school somewhere out of town because I refuse to leave her. I refuse to live my life the way I’d like because I try to appease her, because I can’t stand the thoughts of upsetting her. So like I give a shit, right? I bring her flowers to brighten her day, and I always fix the flowers in a vase. Why? Because if I don’t, she gripes that I shouldn’t buy her flowers that she has to fix. Apparently cutting fresh cut flowers that are given to you is a burden. Who knew. But no, I don’t give a shit. I took care of her when she’s had surgery. I cooked, cleaned, ran errands, everything, all while also taking care of my bed-ridden father. I spend my days taking care of sick and elderly people. I spend my days cleaning out potty chairs or changing dirty adult diapers. I clean, cook, and do laundry for people who can no longer do it anymore. I listen to adults, with fear in their eyes, as they talk about their next round of cancer treatment. I have the same conversation over and over again with people who have dementia. I clean wounds, wipe bottoms, wash hair, and dress people for a living. I’m in school pursuing a degree in social work, focusing on geriatric and memory care. But no, I don’t give a shit about how people feel. I want to spend the rest of my life making people feel safe, loved, warm, clean, healthy, and worthy all because I don’t give a shit. I go to bed often crying myself to sleep because of how devalued my mother makes me feel. I go to bed feeling like I’m a terrible person, even though I know I’m not. I go to bed wondering if she realizes that no matter how she treats me, I’ll always take care of her. So, no, mom.. I don’t give a shit. You’re right. I give a lot of shits about you and I always will.
My father passed away on December 1, 2015 at 1:38pm only a moment after I had read “My sweet father,” aloud; my mother was holding his left hand, and I was holding his right. He went peacefully with the two people who meant the most to him, his “girls.”
Over a week later.. This still isn’t real. I built a very strong emotional wall while caring for my father the last month and a half of his life; I had to focus 100% on his needs and had no time or energy to deal with my emotions on the matter. That wall is refusing to come down. Saying “your father is dead” is no different than saying “the sky is purple;” it isn’t real. I don’t believe you. My dad can’t be dead, because I’m only 24. I need him. He has to give the guy of my dreams permission to ask my hand in marriage. He has to walk me down the isle. He has to see me graduate from college. He has to see me be successful. He has to remind me to rotate my tires and change fluids that I don’t even know exist. He has to meet his future grandchild. He has to tell me that he loves me and that he’s proud of me. He has to fuss at me for being stubborn. He has to tell me not to get anymore tattoos. He has too much left to do.. He can’t be gone.
I need you, daddy.
As I’m sitting here with my sleeping father, the smells coming out of the kitchen are almost too much for me to bear. This Thanksgiving, it’s just my father, my mother, and myself. Although I’d prefer a full house full of those that are close to my heart, I’m thankful that I can spend this holiday with my father. Does he understand that today is a holiday? I’m not sure. I am sure that he knows how loved he is and that my mom and I are always right here.
My dad woke up in a good mood today, although he isn’t feeling the best (he’s recovering from some sort of respiratory infection). He’s always very cooperative when I give him a bath and change his bedding. If you’ve ever bathed, dressed, and changed linens on someone completely bed ridden, you know how difficult it can be. When he is able to help turn himself, it makes my job a lot easier.
He ate a good breakfast of whole wheat pita, spread with peanut butter, and a side of lightly salted tomatoes. He loves to drink milk or apple juice with his breakfast; unsweetened tea, grape juice, sugar free fruit punch, and the occasional Coke Zero are his favorites throughout the day. On rare days, he is able to give himself something to drink and feed himself small handheld snacks. I know that him being able to do something for himself makes him feel proud, so I always encourage him. If someone is able to do something for themselves, even slowly, let them. Let them hold onto what independence they have.
This Thanksgiving, I will be enjoying my meal standing by my fathers bed while I feed him. I’m thankful that my mom feels up to cooking today, as she’s been recovering from surgery. I’m thankful that I can spend this holiday with my dad, because I don’t know how many more we have together. I’m thankful to have plenty of food to eat (delicious food, at that). I’m also thankful that my mom makes sure to prepare everything vegetarian so I can enjoy it all (except the turkey, cluck cluck). Today, I am just thankful. Although, I wish I had a big loving family, I don’t; I have a small loving one that is unconditional, and they mean the world to me.
I encourage us all to focus on the positives in our life, not only today, but every day. If we focus on the negatives (which can often be overwhelming in my life), then we are only going to bring ourselves down. Find something, or someone, that gives you hope for a better tomorrow and hold onto whatever that may be. Appreciate and love the ones around you, because you never know how much a simple gesture can mean to someone. Reach out to someone and let them know that you care. Smile at a stranger. Take a deep breath and be thankful for everything that you have lost because what’s lost has given you what you have today; what we have today is the only thing that we know for sure, so be grateful. Be grateful for today and hopeful for tomorrow.
As of recent, my life has took a turn towards my worst fear: my father getting old and sick.
I am twenty-three years old; my parents have been together for over thirty years. My mother is twenty-five years younger than my dad; my mom is fifty-three and my dad is seventy-eight. Growing up, my dad was not young and playful like all of the other dads I saw with my friends. He was in the prime of his business career, busy working in the garage, always running about- things any healthy fifty-something-year-old would enjoy doing. Up until less than a year ago, my father has had no significant health issues; he was still active, his mind was sharp. Then, all of the sudden.. things changed. Things changed drastically. My mother and I, scared and confused, avoided showing any fear. My father, for a long time, denied anything was wrong. The reality of the situation was obvious to everyone except for him.
My worst fear, as a child and as an adult, was this happening. It was seeing my dad go downhill. It was seeing him using a cane or a walker. It was seeing him forget how to form sentences. It was seeing him forget things that he has always known. It was seeing him forget how to add up money to pay the cashier. It was seeing him lose the ability to drive. It was seeing him in diapers. It was seeing him old.
I am reaching out for help. Tons of adults face going through this with one or both of their parents, just not at my age. In the beginning of my adult life, trying to figure out who I am and make my place in the world, I just cannot seem to grasp what is happening. I need more time to pass before I can deal with this, but sadly, I do not have time on my side. Anyone, regardless of age (although it would be nice to communicate with someone around my age about this), please.. let me know how to cope. Give me tips on how to process this. Help me accept this as reality. Any kind words, stories, advice, prayers, thoughts, etc. are more than welcome.
It isn’t getting easier.
The tears don’t drown the pain.
Praying, wishing, begging, and pleading doesn’t make any of this go away.
I look in your eyes and the person that raised me isn’t there anymore; you sit with your hollow stare, only God knows what is happening in your deteriorating mind. Although you are here, I feel as though I have lost my father. A fear I’ve known as long as I can remember is happening, slowly, each and every day. Suddenly, you aren’t just gone. It’s gradual. Losing you is a clock; the more you stare and think about the time, the slower it goes. My days drag on in constant worry that something is about to happen; something that I’m not in any way prepared for.
My once strong, smart, business-oriented father can no longer do any of the things that made him the happiest. He’s a victim of the world around him; simple tasks are impossible, forming sentences in conversation requires excessive thought, and even bathing is a two hour task that requires help. My hero, my father, is falling apart. I am falling apart. My mother is falling apart. There’s nothing we can do to stop what is happening. My dad is loved, comfortable, and cared for as much as he can be. I don’t know what goes on in his mind, but I at least hope he’s happy. I hope he knows that he means the world to me and that he always will.
I am not prepared for this journey. I am lost and scared and confused.
God bless my father.