To be a caregiver to my parents is a lot like when I first became a parent. Before Will came home I thought that I would have a baby and just go on with my life. I had NO idea, and no one could adequately prepare me for how my life was going to change. No one knows.
It is the same with moving home to be with my parents.
I didn't know how heartbreaking it would be to watch my dad have to be assisted to get in and out of his chair, or watch him shuffle, bent over while slowly make his way across the room or around their apartment. I didn't realize that when I see him asleep at the table that I would find myself wanting to do ANYTHING it took to wake him up so he would eat. The times that he wakes up, is alert and talking is such a relief and a joy. Never mind that half the time he can hardly put a sentence together that makes sense, and other times he is wry and funny. He is my dad and I love him.
There are days when I think I just can't do this any more, it is too hard watching my dad slowly fade away into a shell of himself. But this is something I really don't want to miss out on. This learning how to love in a whole new way.
When we were kids growing up I was afraid of his temper and when he would lash out in frustration - but that changed and I learned how to push back when he would be mean and thoughtless. What I learned was that if I challenged him and said I didn't like the way he talked to me or my sons - he always backed down and apologized.
So we all grow up - no matter how old we become.
When I think of my dad now, it is of him sleeping in his chair with his face in his hand, or shuffling down the hall with his walker.
I've seen the faces of some of the other residents when I sit with dad or help him get around. They usually give me smiles of encouragement. They can see his struggle and mine, as I try to help him keep his dignity as long as possible.
This is a long haul ride, watching him slowly lose his balance and his memory, and I wrote earlier, it take heart to keep supporting him. My brother Gale helps so much with keeping Dad's dignity intact. He comes to shave dad almost every day and helps him get up and walking about. I think that Dad will eventually forget who the rest of us are, but he will remember Gale, and Gale's tenderness and loyalty far longer than anyone else. Lucky Gale.
At some point the dementia/Alzheimers will erase his memory completely, but for now, he is still grateful for every day and every person who cares for him. I'm trying to learn from him the same kind of thankfulness.
And so I'm the lucky one now.
I'll write about my mother some other time. But not now.