One thing our readers are sure to notice over the next few months is the different experiences Vanessa and I are having in our midlife journeys. While she’s experiencing all the ashram has to teach her, I’m at home learning lessons about caregiving at opposite ends of the life cycle.
One one end, I have an 18 year old son who is still living at home. He’s taking some classes towards a certificate, working part-time, and weightlifting. He’s developing skills and confidence I’ve never seen in him before. It’s a pleasure to watch him become the self-assured young man I always knew was within him.
On the other end, I have my 82 year old dad living with me. While my son needs less and less parenting, my dad requires more. Over the past four years, I have become Dad’s primary caregiver. He’s lost most of his vision and is no longer able to cook or bathe by himself. I take him to all his medical appointments, do his shopping, manage his money, and try to make life as interesting as possible for him.
I’m in a midlife sandwich. How I’d love to be able to leave the house for two months to go do karmic yoga at an ashram; to have the time to be in nature, learning, growing. Right now, I can barely leave the house for an hour. Dad can’t be left alone much longer than that.
At a time when I’m encouraging my son to find his independence, I’m watching my dad lose his. Just this week, Dad asked me to look into nursing homes. He’s starting to get lost in the house because he doesn’t have enough sight to help guide him. He thinks he’s walking in a straight line, but he’s not. He gets disoriented when he finds himself somewhere other than where he wanted to be. It’s frustrating for him and sad for me. This man who always seemed larger than life, who could solve any problem, who was so giving of his time and energy – he’s fading before my eyes.
It’s a time of such mixed emotions. I’m proud of my son. I feel sorry for my dad. I feel guilt that I can’t do more for him. I feel relief knowing he will be in a place that can give him the level of care he needs – and then more guilt because he won’t be living with family. I don’t know if he wants to move because it’s better for him, or if he’s doing it for me.
We all have our own paths to walk. My son is just starting; my dad is near the end. I’m somewhere in the middle.