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.