I am an out-of-town guest in my “hometown.” I am staying with my brother and his wife, hoping to give them some respite in taking care of our aging parents. The daily task of meeting the needs of our physically and mentally declining parents is not easy and never the same. Each day provides new challenges for everyone. At 93, Dad has become frail with sudden onset of a myriad of medical issues. Mom, 89, has entered the world of dementia, sometimes “clear” and able to be reasonable and understanding, but usually in a high anxiety state with her own fantasy world, with a faulty memory, but a determination that what she believes is THE TRUTH.
As with the arrival of babies, there is no “how-to” instruction book for aging parents. My brother and his wife have lovingly attended to our parents, with ever-increasing amounts of energy, attention and the inability to “leave town.” Did I mention STRESS?
We are fortunate that Dad was able to accumulate some financial resources to help with their care (attained through frugal living and a “depression-era attitude”). We are also, thus far, “endowed” with a community that has for-profit, non-profit, and volunteer services for the elderly. We are using all of them. Dad has finally entered into the care of Hospice, which is such a relief to all of us. Wonderful people giving so much of their talents and their hearts to all of us who are in need.
Our story is one shared by many people. It truly makes us aware of the gift of family and community. It also brings us a daily understanding of the importance of having the nursing, medical and assisted living services that are crucially needed by not only our aging parents, but also by us. We simply WEAR OUT as the never-ending demands for care begin to saturate our daily lives.
I was sitting with Dad the other day when he began to speak of how tired and weak he is. Of his acknowledgment that he isn’t going to get better. Like with your child, I wanted to find a way to soothe and “make things better.” I have no magic left to make things easier or go away.
After a few moments of silence, I said, “Dad, the only thing I can do is be here with you.”
Dad nodded and said, “That’s enough.”
We sat in quiet silence for a few more moments, being father and daughter—sharing the gentle essence of caring with each other.
After I left, I reflected on how the Quakers have always used “being present” as a way to support, love, share, guide, endure, and care for others. The power of “being present” is awesome in its ability to give the participants the gift of being “gathered” in loving grace of Spirit.
I do so wish that I could share in this gift of “being present” with my mother. But her dementia makes for only tiny moments of opportunity, which seem to quickly float away and I have a child without a memory trying to make sense of her chaotic world. Perhaps the steadfast endurance of her children provides her with moments of feeling anchored, of being “held.” I hope so.