I find myself alone in my home for the first time in months, the house is clean with little left to do but sit in the present moment and think on the last week. With the beginning of November, we are reminded of Thanksgiving and are called to reflect on things that we are grateful for. This November, I am grateful for my mother; that I am born of a woman full of strength, courage, and love. I don’t believe I have ever appreciated her more than I do at this moment in time. I stand in awe and am so humbled by the sacrifices she makes on a daily basis.
When my mom retired from her job so that she could take care of my dad, she was given a free airline pass, how did she choose to spend it? I can tell you that I would have chosen a sandy beach, a tropical climate, and a warm pool. Not my mom, she flew to Colorado to take care of my grandmother for two weeks. She went from caring for my dad, to caring for her mother, and will fly back in a few days to take care of dad again. I don’t know how she does it; on second thought, yes I do. I know because she told me the secret, the secret is, LOVE. Love makes you strong and gives you courage to face that which seems impossible.
For the last week I have had the honor of taking over the care of my dad for my mom. I don’t think that I fully appreciated all that she does on a day to day basis before this week. It isn’t that taking care of my dad is physically hard, though at times it is; it is that there is a slow breaking of one’s heart and a shattering of illusions. There were two events this last week that really brought home to me all that we are losing as my father’s disease progresses.
The first occurred during an outing for ice cream. My dad loves ice cream and was willing to risk a fall just to get some. So off we went my dad and I, going out for ice cream just like we did when I was little. The conversation was great, he was witty and funny, this was the dad I remember as a child. I was having great time, until he brought up his dying. The conversation didn’t start that way, we were talking about college baseball scholarships and how I was surprised to find out that recruiters start looking when they are in 7th grade.
“You know what makes me sad about dying?”
This is not the direction I thought the conversation was headed.
“No dad what?”
“I won’t be alive to see Eli play ball in high school, I won’t be here when he signs a college scholarship or when he plays for the big leagues.”
I don’t know how you would respond but I go with denial, because this conversation just took a turn that my heart isn’t ready for so I tell him,
“Yes you will, if you think I am letting you leave you are crazy.”
We laugh it off but we both know it is true. He brings up his death a lot, I didn’t understand why at first but I think I do now; he does this to help me with the process. He has always helped me deal with all of life’s challenges and this is no different. Just like on the day I got married he let go of my elbow, looked me in the eyes, took my hand in his and said, “We do this together.” He is holding my hand, for as long as he can and we are going to do this last walk together. So, he brings up his death as a way to make sure I am as prepared as he can help me be.
The second occurred when I took him to his PT. He doesn’t like going it is hard getting him in and out of the house, the car, and the doctor’s office. The last time he went the physical therapist worked him a little too hard and he had been in a lot of pain in the days after so I went in with him to talk with her about it, thinking we would just have an easier session. Nope, time to face facts; it is time for dad to start home health. So for 20 minutes I got to hear all the reasons why we needed to start this and for 20 minutes I smiled while trying to hold back the tears and the bile rising out of my throat. Knowing that I was going to have to leave and call my mom and tell her that they think it is time to take the next step.
How she does this day after day and with so much love and hope inspires me. I never realized what a gift she gives to Iain and I day in and day out by taking care of dad. How much more must it break her heart to see him fading away, after all this is the man she has spent the last 41 years loving, raising a family with, and dreaming of a future that didn’t look like this.
What I have come to realize over the last week is this is what my mom does every day. I get to call and talk to them and pretend that everything is okay. A couple times a week I go over there but I do so on days that I know he is doing okay. I get to pretend the majority of the time, my mom does not. My mom stays, she fixes his meals, helps him get up, ties his shoes, picks him up when he falls, makes doctors’ appointments, gets the needed medical supplies, all while smiling and making sure he feels loved and appreciated.
Joe rented the Avengers to watch with his Papa during his sleepover, so we had a lot of talk of superheroes in our house this week. What this week has taught me is we have a Superhero in our midst and we didn’t realize it. She doesn’t wear a cape; she wears smart shoes so that she can run when needed. Her super powers come in the ability to help without making my dad feel like a burden. She can shift from silly grandma, to fierce protector in a matter of seconds. She carries the weight of the world on her shoulders but makes it look easy. Her eyes are holding a thousand tears but when we look into them all we see is the refection of the love she has for us. She turns the ugly into something beautiful and the painful into something funny. She takes the bad situation and can turn it into an adventure. I think the next time I see her I will hug her just a little tighter and for a little longer for not all little girls are so lucky to have a Superhero for a mom, and maybe I will make her that cape after all.