Monday, August 15, 2016

The Long Goodbye

I'm writing this post with severe reservations.  There are just so many emotions involved and, also, a sense that I don't really know exactly what is ahead but, here goes.

My mother turns 88 years old in a couple of days.  She has always been the best mom, just a great person.  She has been my rock but, not anymore.  You see, this has been a tough year for mom and for all of our family.  We lost my little brother (little being a euphemism because, he wasn't so little but, he was the youngest).  This seems to have totally taken the wind out of mom's sails.  I can't say that I know what it is like to lose a child and so I don't know exactly how she feels.  I mean we all are sad but, her level of grief has swept right into anger and we are all caught up in the tidal wave.  She just is not herself and I have had to face the reality that I can no longer turn to her when I am struggling.

But wait, it gets worse.  Right in the midst of all of this grief and anger, I am called to move out of state for six months to assist my own child with health issues.  Mom won't say it as it wouldn't be politically correct but, she doesn't want me to go.  I have to go.  I'm trusting that she'll still be here when I return but, maybe she won't.  I have to get on with my plans in spite of these doubts.  Its a hard place to be.  This seems to be the battle cry of middle aged women everywhere ... caught between two generations.

It is hard watching a loved parent growing older and changing due to old age, illness and grief.  No one enjoys this process.  Least of all the person going through it.  How much are we supposed to sacrifice of our own peace of mind to tend to them?  Who do we choose, our parent or our child?  It certainly doesn't even come into the mix that we choose ourselves.  We jump under those buses and we do the best we can ... and now I can say, when I am very old, its entirely possible that my kids won't be there for me because some other duty calls.  I hope I remember how this feels so that I don't make them feel bad for whatever choice they make.

In the meantime, it is a series of little goodbyes when dealing with an aging parent.  It is goodbye to the strong, independent parent, even as they are still here.  It is saying goodbye to a more frail parent when we have to walk away for a little while.  And, ultimately, there is the final goodbye when they depart this earth.  When the goodbye happens in stages like this, it is long.  I now understand why mom always said she hoped she went quickly with all of her wits about her.  She is not enjoying this long goodbye anymore than the rest of us.  I hope she does know that in spite of the difficulties that I love her very much because loving her is all that I've got right now.

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