Keep it Real Wednesday
April 13, 2022
When I started writing these weekly messages, I made a promise to myself (and you) to keep it REAL. I want these messages to be uplifting, light, fun and also a window in the caregiving realm. The good, the bad, the ugly. All the reasons the Blessing Bike was born, to bring joy to caregivers and the people they care for.
In the quietness of our home, I have reflected on the past (gulp) 62 years and realized that most of those years, 42 years exactly, were spent caregiving. As a teenager and young adult, I helped care for my grandmother, Rosemary’s mother, in our home as she struggled with aging and dementia. Caregiving as a teenager during these years were confusing for me. I wanted to help my grandmother and parents, yet, the pull to go live my life was so strong. I decided to leave home to go to college. This left about an 8 year gap of not caregiving for others, as I moved from North Carolina to California and Hawaii and then back to California.
Caregiving took on a different role in 1990 when our daughter Amanda was born. Shortly afterward, Rosemary had a massive heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery and our family rallied to help my dad care for Rosemary. A few years later, my father was diagnosed with Colon cancer that spread through his body. He was placed on hospice at home where again, we all gathered as a family to be his caregivers. A year later, our son Nick was born, and Wade and I set off on an adventurous move to Idaho and asked Rosemary to join our family.
I LOVED my years of being needed as a mom. Wade and I both had careers and we juggled parenting responsibilities with each other in our busy household. In addition to us working full time, Wade and I were very involved in our community. Wade coached soccer and I always seemed to find myself in a team management role coordinating tournaments and travel and fun. Rosemary was our information central and was our “household dispatch”. We joked that she knew where everyone was at all times and provided back up parenting and supervision while also being a playmate for Nick and Amanda. We were a well-oiled machine. Caregiving during those years were joyous.
Our daughter graduated and left home in 2008 and our son did the same in 2015 when we officially became empty nesters (partially), because we had Rosemary. It was at that point that Rosemary started to struggle more physically. She could no longer drive or cook due to her vision but was still fairly independent for a few years. Then, things started to change drastically in her health and independence and in 2018, I fully retired to care for Rosemary fulltime. Caregiving these last 4 years have been full of many emotions ranging from joy to despair at times.
And here I find myself now in 2022 without a caregiving role or a purpose. Our children are grown, Rosemary is dancing in heaven and Wade is back to work and recovering from his Stem Cell transplant and I am home alone. So, what do I do?
I adopt a puppy.
What was I thinking? After 4 years of 24/7 caregiving for Rosemary, freedom was staring me in the face, and I looked away and willingly adopted a 6-month-old handful of a puppy. WHY?
I have thought about this long and hard, and I finally have an answer.
You see, being a caregiver isn’t a journey. It is a part of who I am. I always thought I would relish the time when the only responsibility I had was decisions for myself and only myself, but that’s not true.
What is true is that I enjoy caring for others. It’s part of my purpose and I know that now. In fact, I embrace it.
For all the caregivers out there, I salute all of you. I will always stand with you. I will always be one of you.