Thanksgiving is tomorrow. Most people are making posts (facebook, twitter, Instagram, etc) about the things for which they are most thankful. I think that people are being honest; however, the bandwagon has made it feel almost cliché. Last month a group of us ladies went on a cabin retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains and the theme was “Eucharisteo,” which means “Thanksgiving.” We talked all weekend about cultivating a personal culture of gratitude. I believed in it at the time and I still do – but today, I am struggling to feel that warm and fuzzy kumbaya campfire rally in my heart.
I’m struggling today because right now I am sitting at Panera Bread waiting for my dad to finish with his Myelogram and CT Scan. Also, my mom is waiting at a totally separate doctor’s appointment for what seems to be a minor injury to her leg while playing tennis. Because I cannot duplicate myself, I am only with one parent at their doctor’s appointment. Since my dad cannot drive after his procedure, I am with him. Last night I drove to his house, which is about 80 miles from where I live. I am staying for the rest of the week, so I will get to see that side of my family.
The reality of aging parents and the resulting responsibility on the children is weighing heavily on me today. My dad has been disabled for quite some time now (over 10 years). His health is not really getting better. Having had multiple back surgeries, his mobility is weakening, and there are some chronic issues that he has to abate with medications. His mind is still sharp, and there is youth there; he is only 60 years old. But, he is trapped in this unforgiving body that has him shackled to spasmic pain and imbalance. It makes me wonder about my own aging process and what that will feel like.
It’s especially on my mind because I wonder if I will be alone. I don’t have children, and I am not sure about having children, and furthermore, there is no guarantee that your children will even care about you when you’re old (one can only hope). I do not have a spouse, and that’s another large question mark. While I am only 32…time is not waiting on me to get myself together. Time ticks on and has no favoritism toward people, places, animals or things. Time is honest.
Now, I am grateful that I am working a job where I have the flexibility to work remotely so that I can support my family through these challenges. I’m thankful that I am even living in the area now in order to help. I am thankful that I am stable so that I can weather the instability around me. I am thankful that God has made a way for all of this, even though I don’t know what’s next or the specific outcome. Though I know all of this in my heart and head, it doesn’t make this situation any less emotional or difficult.
A couple of years ago when my dad had surgery, he gave me a packet of information that indicated his last wishes, including a notarized living will, and instructions for his burial should anything happen. I am being reminded of all of this again right now because at that time he was in recovery from the same surgery he may need again now. I don’t want to have to deal with this right now. I had a mini breakdown as I left the medical center where the procedure is taking place. I was in Florida during all of the other surgeries and procedures. That distance took away much of the sting of what was happening at the time. Even with my mom – knowing that her injury has stolen time and ability from her is very difficult. Tennis is a big deal in her world, and I know that when she can get away and play, that it helps her deal with all of the other demands that include being a grandparent taking care of her child’s child full-time. Being here and present, being able to see pain on a persons face and in their body language, trying to be stoic and take care of your own emotions quietly so that you can help bear the weight of another’s burden – it’s all quite complicated. It also doesn’t make a lot of sense, but this is part of our purpose this side of heaven.
We all know that our parents won’t be around forever, and that they may become ill. The actual experience is just different than the thought. My mom has talked at length about her experience of caring for her mom who had a lot of complications due to diabetes. She explained about going back and forth to dialysis and doctor’s appointments. It’s all pretty scary. At the end, there is a relief from the drudgery and the suffering, but then you are left with the loss of that person. How does one really deal with this? Is my dad going to die? Yes. Yes he is. I don’t know when that will be, and I feel anxious about it as he goes through these health challenges.
So now my prayer is for strength. That God will help me to remember the joy I have because of him, and that this life – challenges included – will not last forever. My prayer is that my mind stays on heaven, and that everything I do from this point on is to be a witness of what I have waiting for me there.
I made the decision to move back to Georgia to be closer to my family. I didn’t know that it would be this easy and hard at the same time.