Dionne Warwick's hit tune from the sixties has absolutely nothing to do with what I am about to write, yet it is the inspiration for the thoughts that keep threading through my brain today.
Five years ago today, my mother died. So, five years ago, today, my life changed and I traded in my adult and independent self for the "responsible child" persona that I wear every hour of every day.
My parents were always independent, a good couple who did pretty much what they wanted most of the time. They relocated to the Cape, leaving family behind, including a brand new first grandchild. A beautiful home overlooking the bay, a swimming pool for low-tides. Lots of friends visiting, and, until my mother's illnesses, a seemingly care-free life, free of guilt. My mother's mother died during those years and her aging father remained alone in his home until his death. It was my mother's sister who looked after his welfare while my mother enjoyed her life. Stinks, doesn't it?
My grandfather and aunt died. My parents aged, moved from the home on the beach, bought another one and spent Winters in Florida, carefree and far away from children and grandchildren.
As the years went by, my mother took on one health challenge after another, bravely and without complaining. She overcame obstacles but knew that one day, in the not-too-distant-future, she would lose the battle. It was during that time that we returned to the Cape and soon after, I finally retired from work forever. Way too soon, I might add.
Five years ago, Mom died. Five years ago, my independence died with her. Five years ago, I became my father's child again. And nobody asked if there was any way in which they could help, nor do they today. My family members take vacations, lots of them. They feel "entitled" to their "rest", to their escapes. Were I to list all the places everyone has been in the past five years, I would fill this page. Sure, we've been to Italy, I spent a nice chunk of time there after my mother passed away. It was the last time I would enjoy an "escape" from reality. My family appreciated that the months before had taken their toll and that I needed time to grieve, without burdening them mind you. My grieving time. Even in grief, I had to consider others. Go away, lest you drag them down. Ha!
Vacations are not on our horizon. My father will not submit to "outside" care so I'm it. He'd starve without me and his dementia blocks out any emotional response he might otherwise have to that dilemma.
Please, do not think that I am a "good daughter", that the Good Lord will reward me for all of this stuff. In fact, I probably will be punished for the resentment that I harbor, for the ways in which I have approached all of this. Real saints go about their business without complaining or writing blogs. They accept and perform duties with love, kindness and selflessness. I don't. I still silently curse my parents for never making plans for who was going to go first and what was going to happen. I still resent everybody else in the family for assuming that I would be "the one".....and only. I still get angry at my father, despite the fact that his advanced age of nearly 96 does not allow him to understand the need for help, helpers. People who I can rely upon to fill in for me, to tell him to change his clothes if nothing else. People who would not be scared children, unable to get to the heart of important matters. People who would be on the payroll!!
Oh, I am not alone in this. My husband also suffers. And, we have a small group of friends who also have been put into the role of caring for elderly parents on their own. For that, we are grateful. It's good to know that we are not the only ones who will be old people, caring for very old parents; who may very well die before we get a chance to live without heavy guilt and g.d. responsibility coming before all else. It's a comfort in knowing that other siblings have fled the proverbial coop, but will one day return like vultures to split inheritances right down the middle. As my father believes, "it's the law". Of course it isn't but that generation is hard-wired to believe it is and there's nothing morally we can do to change it.
And all I keep thinking is how everyone else in my little family just walks on by.
You lucky bastards.