Monday, April 17, 2023

A Season for Caregiving

The Easter season has passed, and I've not been writing.  I'm not all that motivated to write, because beyond my church work, all of my energies are wrapped up in managing Dad's care.  I interface with his doctors.  I get him to appointments.  I'm the point person for his home care providers.  I manage invoicing to his long term care insurer.  And most importantly, I'm there, physically, as part of the team that prepares him food and helps clean him and dress him and tend to his various failing systems.

There is no bandwidth for writing, just as there wasn't bandwidth for writing back when the boys were tiny tikes.  I'm just too tired, most of the time.

"You're suffering from provider exhaustion," Rache suggested to me the other night, as I returned home having dropped off a stool sample at a lab.  Ten o'clock, and I'm dropping off a vial of ashen diarrhea in a near empty medical facility.  Was I tired?  Of course.

But it's not the sort of fatigue that rests so heavy on the souls of those who find themselves alone and caring for an aged loved one.  I am remarkably privileged, after all.  Dad has competent doctors and remarkably generous health care.  He has financial resources enough that we can have eight hours a day of home aide support.  And there's that long term health care insurance, which may get around to helping once the endless hoops and barriers hidden away in the fine print are overcome.  

It's every day, but it's not every moment of my time.  I have time to exercise, time to read and relax, time for my garden and for my church work.  But I don't have the mindspace to write manuscripts.  Not really, this writing notwithstanding.

And that's just fine.  

There's a peculiar theme in our culture, one that insists it is not fine.  We must be ourselves!  We must be free to do what our heart desires!  Caring for an aging parent is not something to which we aspire.  It is onerous, an impediment to our careers and our creative endeavors.  It's a little dismal, the sort of life suffered by a hopeless, loveless Victorian spinster, living alone in a shadowy mansion with their mad invalid mother.

I recently read the novel DINOSAUR by Lydia Miller, in which there was a minor subplot involving a socially awkward character trapped at home caring for his mom.  He couldn't get out, couldn't find love and meaning, because, well, he was stuck dealing with mom.  His blossoming as a supporting character comes when he finally finds his joy by putting mom in a care home.  Finally!  Free!  Free of mom!  Yay. 

Our grandparents and parents are, when they reach a certain age, mostly seen in those terms.  They become an inconvenience.  A thing that must be gotten out of the way so we can be our true selves, so that we can live our best life now, so that we can work and work and work and work.

But this isn't life, not as it is meant to be.

Life comes in seasons, and this season of my life is best spent being there for my parents.  Sure, my vocation is important.  Sure, I miss the creative outflow that writing provides.  But I've written.  I've done that.  This is what is mindful now, what is essential now, what builds relationship now.  

It's not about me being me.  It's about me being a child, about me recognizing that my duty to support my parents as they age is as vital as "parenting" my children when they were young.