Many of the details regarding my generation category fit the majority of people born in the era called Baby Boomer, with some exceptions for myself and my cohorts who were raised in a conservative atmosphere. I am at the tail end of this generation, sandwiched between the Mature/Silents of The Great Depression and Generation Y, also known as Millennials. I am watching a child mature into adulthood and an adult decline in health and awareness simultaneously. One is taking on more responsibility, making decisions for her future, and another is finding the need to release independence, which must be heartbreaking and uncomfortable. One is not 100% clear about a career choice, while the other spent 35 years working for one organization.
This sandwiched feeling is proving to be uncomfortable at best and stressful as well. Making choices regarding where time is spent, while trying to manage a relatively new career, is a nerve-wracking, hair-graying, exhausting experience. (That hair-graying thing is for a friend, okay.) I’m not saying I desire to be free of the responsibility of caring for a parent. I’m just saying that it is not only physically exhausting, but also a very emotionally-draining experience.
In 2001, my father passed away after a stroke that left him unable to do anything for himself for 14 months. It was excruciating, watching a man, who had survived many health problems and the loss of his only son, who had spent his entire adult life showing and preaching God’s Love, who never met a stranger, not be able to speak or sing. I could see in his eyes how painful it was, and in his last week felt it necessary to tell him it was okay to let go and receive his heavenly reward. I promised him I would take care of Mom and I will keep my promise.
Since then, Mom has been diagnosed with rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. Her hands that once held a paint brush, pen, or wood-burning tool to create beautiful artwork are now gnarled. She struggles to put on any shoes because her toes are crisscrossed. Walking, standing, or sitting in a hard chair can last only minutes, and she sighs often in pain and frustration as her body fails. She feels like she is only a burden to me. And in an effort to simplify my life and be less stressed to handle the caregiving role, a downsizing move and purging of things caused a reliving of memories that felt somewhat like I imagine an airbag deployment might feel.
In addition to the immediate reality of pain and weariness, the news of my parents’ peers having significant health issues and passing from this world are ever present reminders of my mortality. I see the look of “when will it be me?” in my mother’s eyes. Since I’ve already lost one parent, I feel for my own peers when I hear they have lost theirs. And I wonder how long before I’m without my remaining parent. I also ponder why two people who used their talents for God would have the ability for sharing those talents taken away. That’s when I remember a quote from Erma Bombeck. She said, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me’.” My parents certainly used all of theirs. It’s the only thought that comforts me when I am aware of my mother’s pain and remember my dad’s.
I realize that parent-child relationships can be challenging and that aging and pain can increase those challenges dramatically. I only pray that God gives me wisdom and helps me show a gracious spirit in whatever time my mom has left. I certainly don’t have what it takes to fulfill this responsibility on my own.
Erma Bombeck. (n.d.). BrainyQuote.com. Retrieved April 13, 2015, from BrainyQuote.com Web site: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/e/ermabombec106409.html