It’s just two little words. I promise. You say those words so easily, usually without thinking of the depth of commitment they might entail. You might promise you won’t flake out on your friends the next time they invite you to go somewhere. Maybe you make promises to yourself that you’ll stop eating junk food or that you will exercise every day. Most promises are easily broken or forgotten. But, there are some promises that when made, weighs heavy in your heart, like a thick mire that continues to grow until it consumes all of you. It’s a promise you know you can’t break. A promise made to someone on their dying bed is that sort of devout pledge.
Four and a half years ago I made a promise to my dad that I would take care of mom, which meant not putting her in a nursing home. It was the last thing I would say to him before he took his final breath, other than how much I loved him. I promise. Those two little words would be the start of an undertaking that has been like nothing I’ve ever imagined. To say I was completely unprepared and naïve would be an understatement.
Both of my parents have always had an abnormal fear of being put into a nursing home. Years ago they made a pact with each other that if either of them ever had to go to a nursing home, they would commit some horrible act so that they could die together. I would always get furious whenever they started talking about this, and would leave the room because I didn’t want to hear this insane talk from them. But, not before I would tell them I would take care of them when they got older so they didn’t have to worry about it, anyway. It’s the kind of thing you say when you can’t imagine it will ever happen.
Mom and dad had been married for sixty-six years when dad unexpectedly passed away from congestive heart failure. I thought he was superman and he would live to be a hundred years old. Mom, who had always been the frail one, and was several years older than dad, was the first one I expected to lose. They had always taken care of each other, but after mom had a stoke fifteen years ago, Dad took over most of the household responsibilities. In retrospective, I know that had mom gone before dad, he would have executed his plan to be with her. So, I guess it was a blessing he went first.
The heartbreaking day dad passed away was also the day I became a caregiver. Friends and family are constantly telling me what a saint I am for taking care of my elderly mom, or else they tell me I’m crazy not to put her in a nursing home. Well, I’m definitely not a saint, and although, I do feel little crazy most of the time, I’m not certifiable…yet. I am just a daughter who made a promise to my dying dad that I would take care of mom.
To be continued…
For my amazing dad. I miss him so much.
Being a caregiver has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. When it’s over, I have no doubts I will look back and know it was also the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. But, the day to day reality of caring for a ninety-five year old senior is overwhelming at times…most times. For a while, I’m going to write about those intense feelings in this blog.
Even though I started this blog to promote my book writing, I feel that writing about this difficult period in my life will be therapeutic for me in all aspects of my life. I’m not going to sugar-coat the struggles mom and I have on a regular basis. But, I am NOT looking for sympathy here, even though I’m sure there will be some poor-pitiful-me posts in this series. However, if you’ve ever been a caretaker for someone, whether old or disabled, and you have advice for me, that is always greatly appreciated. Thank you for sharing this challenging journey with me.
4 thoughts on “THE PROMISE”
My Sister. I have walked in your shoes. My promise was to my Mom, that I would never put her in a nursing home…I have learned a hard lesson, NEVER SAY NEVER! because we are not in control even though we think we are…my precious Mother passed away May 27th, 2019 in the nursing home where I put her and she stayed four and a half years there…I love you and I walk with you on your journey….
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Thank you, Donna. You know that I’m learning it the hard way, and your support and love is so precious to me. Love you.
My parents I know did not want to go to a nursing home. My dad was the first one to be in a nursing home and it makes me sad to see pictures of him taken while he was there – he looks so very unhappy. At that time I worked at the nursing home and I let the work override the daughter. I know he could not go home, but I still feel guilty knowing he was there because I convinced Mom there was no way she could take care of him. Within a year of Dad passing my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She was moved to an assisted living facility because no one in the family alone or collectively provide her care. Caregiving is heartbreaking in so many ways. God bless you Veronica.
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Thank you, Janet. I understand that there are so many situations where elderly can’t be kept at home. I feel that if my mom gets much worse I won’t be able to take care of her. It weighs heavily on me because of my promise to dad. But, mom’s safety has to come first, so it’s going to be a tough decision. I’m so sorry you had to go through this with both of your parents. God bless you, too.