I originally posted this during my mom’s battle with cancer 4 years ago but I was taken back to this place watching my sister-in-law care for her mother, my mother-in-law. We lost her this past Sunday. This post is to all of the daughters and sons who become caregivers for their parents.
I used to read this book and cry. It was so sad and lovely and scary.
Have you ever read this book? Love You Forever by Robert Munsch? You know, the one where the mommy takes care of her son, nurturing him through childhood and supporting him through the transition to adulthood? And then he has his own family and loves his child as she loved him? And then his mom gets old and she gets weak and she needs him in the same ways he needed her for so long? Remember? Well, it occurred to me today that this is my life now. Me and my sisters and my mom.
I used to read this book and cry. It was so sad and lovely and scary. My sisters and I actually bought it for our mom years ago for Mother’s Day to show her how much we loved her and how we would always, no matter what, be there for her just as she had always, no matter what, been there for us. But I never thought I would be living it. Especially now. Now as we raise our own babies who still need us. Now as we plan a wedding that should be nothing but joyous but is, understandably, bittersweet.
Just as she held us, we hold her. Just as she soothed us, we soothe her.
When you read the book, as I did, it is sad but it is still someone else’s story. But now it is my story and it is not nearly as simple as the book makes it seem. It starts with the physical. Just as she held us, we hold her. Just as she soothed us, we soothe her. However, these changes do not occur overnight. They can not be predicted or assumed. One day is different than the next and what she needs changes from day to day and moment to moment. I’m scared. Scared because I’m losing her but also scared because I don’t always know what to do. And scared too because if I think too hard about this reversal of roles, my mom – strong and independent and pragmatic – needing us the way she does, I am overwhelmed by grief.
It is not as simple as surrendering to the natural progression of things. I can’t just accept it and switch to being her caregiver because I have spent a lifetime with her caring for me. It is too sad to think this is gone forever. I will take this on willingly and lovingly and do everything I can but it is not simple. It is not straightforward. It is not like it was in the book.
Have you been the caregiver for you parent?