This I Believe

Royal - Lynchburg, Virginia
Entered on February 25, 2007

On Death and Not Quite Dead Yet

I think of writing about love, of being in the place where I CAN write it, but all I write about is caregiving. I’m in that place, doo-doo deep.

It’s amazing my transitions: from being proud to “sacrifice” six years for Daddy. Naively, I thought it would be admired. But that hasn’t been my experience.

I showed a friend an essay where I mentioned also being the caregiver to Mama and her 92-year-old husband. She immediately looked at me and quickly asked, “WHY?” It was her tone. I didn’t know what to say except, “Because she’s my mother and she needed me”.

“Really?” she pierced. “Do you all still talk?” I felt violated and needed to reply, defend, and diminish my loyalty. I didn’t like how she made me feel.

Basically, that’s how it’s been.

I’ve gone from being proud, to cautiously speaking, and attaching a professional title, “Senior Care Administrator”. I think that’s when I started to feel shame in caregiving, and I feel guilty. I feel guilty because he can’t help it. I feel guilty because I don’t want to keep doing this.

Then I became angry. After five years, I was angry with Daddy because I felt he didn’t value my life because he asked two months before my college graduation when I was 40.

Everything angered me. I hated to hear people say they have a great life, with someone.

Anger grew when his children became distant and defensive of their absence. We are statistical. I became really angry when I stood in line at a food bank.

What really pissed me off were the empathizers empathizing because they took care of someone. “How long,” I’d ask. With fading exhaustion, “Six months”.

Six months?!? Try six years!

“And we all traded weekends or sent money to help out,” someone else would say. I’d get angry all over again. I couldn’t hear that.

In all fairness, there are those who tell me, “God’s gonna bless you for this”. That’s expected, and I expect it before I get to Heaven!

Throw worry in. What am I going to do afterwards? How am I going to survive? My existence is predicated on his living. I’m tired, and mad about that. I’ve never felt this kind of tired. Guilt, anger, worry, fatigue: a bitter elixir.

I had an encounter recently shaking my “angry balance”. I met a writer writing about her six-month sabbatical caring for her dying sister. There’s that six months again. I convulsed about two shakes.

“Yeah, but people would tell me, ‘but what about your sabbatical?’”, she retorted. She was repulsed they only thought about the loss of her sabbatical, not her sister.

I understood that, but it was the six months I couldn’t shake. Then she told me she just buried her mother three weeks ago, for whom she also cared. To add injury to my humiliation, there was another person in there to add up to her three people in five years. Katherine, I’m sorry.