Has family caregiving changed your life?
Caring for a loved one, no matter the reason – be it dementia or another health concern - can be all consuming and impact relationships deeply. Family dynamics often evolve. Sometimes people find a strength they never knew they had. In the best case scenarios it can bring families together; forgiveness is given as need be, and gratitude is freely expressed.
Thirty years ago I watched caregiving bring out qualities in my father that I had seldom witnessed. Throughout the time that my dad took care of my mom, our relationship grew more positive in ways that I could never have imagined.
Last year my dad stepped back into the role of caregiver as my stepmom’s health deteriorated. This time, his relationship with his stepdaughter blossomed. An already positive bond grew even stronger, giving my stepsister the love and support of a father in a way that she had never experienced. Along with that, a new and lovely relationship is now growing as I get to know her. Believe it or not, we had never even met until last year.
So this tribute is for the dad I so happily share, not only with my brother Clark, but with my stepsister and her brothers.
If you are a family caregiver – I honor you for the love you give and for the sacrifices you make.
Jack – A Tribute to Our Dad
My dad was not the guy who played with you in the back yard. His playground was the golf course, a game I never really “took to”. My mom, who passed away 29 years ago, was my best friend and confidant. Dad was more likely to say “This too shall pass.” Or “We’ll get it handled.” Years ago I didn’t really want to hear that and I know he would agree with my assessment that we often butted heads. If you had told me then that my dad would become my best friend and confidant, I would have said “In your dreams.”
But things change. During my mother’s long illness we spent a lot of time together and I saw a side of him I had never seen before as he nurtured and lovingly cared for her every need. When my son was born, during my mom’s last month of life, my dad bonded with him in a way I am sure he never did with either my brother or I when we were little. Don’t get me wrong – he didn’t’ change diapers – but still. They formed a relationship that thrives to this day.
Fast forward about 20 years, to a time when my world came apart at the seams. Somehow without me even telling him, my dad knew something was wrong and stepped in to offer me the unconditional love and support I desparately needed. Along with that he threw in some great advice and even some financial support. But the most important thing he did was listen to me and let me talk and talk and talk. He always had time and was relentless in his follow up to make sure I was OK.
After my mom died, my dad lucked out and met a wonderful woman, Meg, who would become his wife. For 22 years they enjoyed life in Iowa, Arizona and Florida. They cruised in Alaksa, hosted countless cocktail parties, danced the night away and played endless games of golf with their friends.
Time has a way of catching up with everyone and for the last year of Meg’s life Dad and Meg moved to Colorado so they could be near Meg’s daughter Jinny. That move was hard for dad. To be honest, he never would have done it, but for his love for Meg and his desire to care for her. And while he hated living in the senior residence, it gave both he and Meg precious time to spend with Meg’s kids and grandkids– especially her daughter Jinny.
Jinny and my dad didn’t have a difficult history to overcome. But they had never lived in the same town and so had not spent much time together. Over the course of that year in Colorado they grew very close. They jointly and lovingly cared for Meg.
Life has settled down for me. And dad’s caregiving days ended with Meg’s passing last summer. But Dad’s support for and interest in the lives of all his children remains.
None of us get to choose who our father will be. But lucky for us, our dad, Jack, is a keeper.
Happy Fathers Day Dad!