There have been so many firsts lately, so many changes. I am sure someone warned me once that growing up wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. I am also sure that in my youthful ignorance, I didn’t hear them. Oh how I wish I would have heeded their warnings and slowed down. I feel as if I blinked and the universe shifted. In reality, I didn’t blink but two of life’s biggest changes happened in just a few short months and it has taken me that long to absorb and accept them.
Ashlin has moved away and my dad’s disease has progressed. Just a few months ago my daughter lived in my home, now she lives in another state. In May, dad got a new recliner, last week we had to get him a Medi-lift because a recliner was no longer safe. Just two weeks ago my dad only needed a walker, and last week we ordered him a motorized wheelchair. Dad’s days of being able to walk have come to a close and any illusions of where this was leading have also vanished. The days of all of my children living under the same roof has come to an end taking with it any childhood fantasies that my parents would live forever.
It is so strange to sit in the middle of this circle, one where I see my daughter living independently and in the same moment I see my father dependent on those around him. Two sides of the same coin both beautiful and both painful each require of me to accept and release, moment by moment. Never in a million years could I have prepared myself for the feelings of watching Ashlin drive away and the depression that came to live in my heart for a time. I am better now, I am happy she is living her dreams and doing it on her terms. While she is gaining independence, my daddy is losing his, he can no longer walk with exception of a few times now and then, and even then it is with great caution and a lot of supervision. It was beautiful to see him use his strength to stand and hug Eric on his birthday. Just a few months I wouldn’t have thought that a standing hug would have been a gift, now I regret not asking for more of them. His speech is not what it used to be, some days are better than others and on the good days we listen and embrace that moment. We are grateful for the glimpse of the dad before the disease.
Leukoencephalopathy, is mean and cruel; it is a disease with more questions than answers. It makes you want to scream at doctors and beg of researcher to find some way to stop it. It is a disease with no cure and no way to slow its progress, it does what it wants when it wants, giving and stealing hope. On top of all of this he has entered end stage renal failure which brings its own complications and decisions that will need to be made. With so many changes, it would be easy to get lost in the grief, to close my eyes to the grace that is present. As my beautiful sister Kayla pointed out during one of the many times I have called to cry on her shoulder, “Sister, the essence of who your dad has always been, is fully realized now. The prides that use to keep him from asking for help is gone, all that is left is love and appreciation for the family that has stayed by his side, loving him through this.” The same dad who rarely said “I love you” now says it all the time, this is a gift I never expected and am incredibly grateful for.
When they handed me my beautiful baby girl never did it cross my mind that life would take her to Haiti and then off to another state. While I was busy raising her I never thought the day would come when the dad who ran to lift a helium tank off me, who was capable of anything, wouldn’t be able to walk. People use to tell me not to be in such a hurry to grow up, now I know why, because growing up means learning to say goodbye and letting people fulfill their destinies, whether it be in this life or the next. Growing up means you fully realize all the mistakes you made and all the time you took for granted. Growing up means you realize that the only thing that never changes is the depth of love a parent has for their child and the child for the parent. This kind of love is something that neither time nor distance, sickness, nor can health, life nor death can change. This kind of realization makes the pain of growing up worth the price.