To all my friends who have children.. to all the moms and dads... We get it!
My husband and I were not blessed, and ultimately chose to not have children. Whenever people would ask us if we had kids, which happens very often when you first meet someone, we would respond: "We have cats!" It almost felt like we had to say something to make us feel "OK" about our response. During the years when I struggled with infertility, I would often ask God: "why?" "What is the reason we're going through this?" Like there had to be some rational reason for our life circumstance... life is fair, right?... NOT!
As you may know from reading other blogs, we became the primary caretaker for my mom, who suffers from dementia. Eighteen months later, my mother-in-law has also come to live at the same continuing care community as my mom. We have our family wagon (see prior post), and we are now experiencing what we imagine you parents have experienced for most of your lives. We now get it!
- We get that a planned and orderly day is a day of the past. That we are at the whim of whatever crisis may occur, be it medical, emotional, something lost, something found. At any moment, we give up what was planned for what now is.
- We get that we can no longer judge our moms'/ children's behavior according to "adult standards." Saying: "don't you remember?," or "you should remember..." is pointless. Instead of frustration, we seize the opportunity to be present and "in the moment" with our moms, recognizing that, in physical form, they aren't always going to be with us.
- We get that discussing bodily functions is a frequent occurrence. That hearing in-depth descriptors of bowel movements and incontinence is now considered daily subjects for conversations. We get that sometimes, our trips do need to be planned with bathroom stops as key activities.
- We get that, when they're in pain, we're in pain: That there can be nothing that tears you apart more than seeing people you love suffer and knowing there's little you can do about preventing it from happening.
- We get that there are these precious moments, that if we could only package and keep in some easily retrievable form, would provide us contentment for a lifetime! Like being a silent observer, watching my mom participate in a ballroom dance class; or sharing in her "joy" when she hears a song from "My Fair Lady" for the 100th time, yet seems to enjoy it as if she was hearing it for the first time!; or when she takes my hand and tells me: "you'll always be my youngest daughter and I'll always love you." Funny, it doesn't seem to matter how often I hear that!
- We get that spending money on ourselves without thinking about having "enough" to take care of our moms is now in the past. It's no longer about me/ or us as a couple. We have others who are dependent on us and that impacts our perspective on money, on travel, on with whom we entrust their care, and on our taking care of ourselves. Taking risks is far less of an option.... we need to stay well so that we can take care of our moms.
- We get that there is nothing that can lift us up as quickly as buying something for our moms that cause their eyes to light up, and makes them feel special and loved. And, we also recognize that we don't have to buy them something: it's our making them feel special by being with them; by touching them in a loving, compassionate way; by helping them to know that they matter; they are not invisible, as our society would sometimes prefer our elders to be; and that they still have a purpose on this planet. Our parents are always our parents, just as our children are always our children, regardless of how they may tower over us, or be shrunken by bones compressed due to gravity and weaker muscles.
- And, we get that when they are gone, we will miss them and they will leave a hole in our heart that can never be replaced.