Caring for Our Parents

… a Sandwich Generationer's perspective

Archive for the month “April, 2012”

On the road again…

Life had gone back to the usual chaotic routine. It’s funny how quickly times flies and you realize you’ve done so much and haven’t had time for anything. All at the same time. I did make time to be appreciative and to enjoy the little moments life has had to offer me.

I feel so blessed every day to be able to spend so much time with my kids. As a previously working mom, I have a particular appreciation for being able to pick up the kids after school and the opportunity to sit down with them to do homework. I’ve always loved school so having a chance to see them excited to want to learn and being able to help them make it fun is so special to me. I love doing homework with them!

In the midst of this normalcy, I’ve had an unusually ‘quiet’ relationship with my parents this month. They have also settled into their own routine and all is… ‘uneventful’.

Not surprising, this steady state is unsustainable in my family (I often mention that my life is a sitcom) and, sure enough… I got the call. “Things are going great. We are feeling rested and recharged and your mom is doing wonderfully. Her memory seems to be good, her mood swings have diminished and the routine is doing wonders for her. We think it’s great that you and your brothers are coming to see us this summer but we are bored so we thought it would be great if we got on a plane again and repeat what we did less than 3 months ago and we went to see you again…No, I don’t think that another 3 month tour of seeing ‘The Kids’, spending two weeks in each place across time zones, then doing some sightseeing, then come back for another two weeks at each of your homes before we head back home to collapse from exhaustion and recover from all the issues that stem from traveling like we were in our 20s with no medical issues when you are in our 70s and caring Alzheimer’s patient, is a big deal at all. It will be fun, no?…”

OK, so those weren’t exactly the words that my dad used when we spoke but that’s certainly the words I heard in my head. What is he thinking?! Sometimes I think it’s like childbirth… your body has an amazing ability to block out the pain or you wouldn’t be caught dead having a second, let alone a third, child!

Does he not remember the emotional roller-coaster that gets set off when my mom doesn’t have a routine? Does he not remember her sleepless nights, her waking up not knowing where she is, disoriented, scared and most of all, angry? Does he not remember he can’t handle when she is abusive and dismissive to him when she’s in this state? Do I have to remind him of all the crises we had to manage through just a few months ago? Does he not remember how beaten up and defeated he felt? How broken hearted he was? I am just now healing the scars from all those battles and he wants to start again?!

I touch my index finger to my nose and yell “Not it!”. Then I realize I’m home alone and the dog is wondering why I’m talking to myself again. I realize the futility of trying to get out of it.  Of course I’ll be there to help them. Of course I’ll be excited to see them. Of course I know that while we want to believe it will be different this time and that things will be better, they won’t be.  We’ll find ourselves having the same conversations and doing the same things again when things fall apart.

I start plotting how to manage this and minimize the unintended consequences of his mad plan. “That sounds great dad! Glad you guys are feeling up to traveling again and that neither of you remember that you both swore never to do it again.  Glad that you forgot that you finally realized that what mom really needed was to be home, peacefully, relaxed and most importantly with a routine.” Again, not what I said but how it played in my head.

Why did I not hit him over the head with a 2×4? Well, most obviously because he’s thousands of miles away and I can’t reach him physically but also because I get it.  I understand that my mother’s needs are completely opposite to my dad’s deepest desires. She is weak and fragile and needs routine. He feels young and wants to travel and see the world. I feel for him and I want him to get a little taste of what he deserves but can’t have. Suddenly all the complexity hits me like a ton of bricks.  The scars that I thought were starting to heal unexpectedly open up again and gush out with a steady flow of raw emotion.

The swirl of feelings start pouring out like a damn had broken.

Anger – at my mom for getting sick and not wanting to do anything about it. At my dad for not being strong enough to make the tough choices. At myself for not having the emotional strength to cut them off and save my family the pain that is inevitable.

Selfishness – for wanting to protect my family from the pain and for wanting my parents to make different choices

Sadness – for mourning the loss of my mother and for understanding that my dad is putting his life on hold to care for her.

Shame – for not being able to handle this in a more ‘mature’ and appropriate way. If only…

Guilt – for feeling all the above.

And so it starts again…

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