Guest Post: Gail Thornton

Today’s guest blogger is Gail Thornton. She is a poet who blogs at Gail Thornton, Poet ~ Author. She said yes to blogging about caring for others. Let’s talk to Gail about being cared for and caring for those who cared for you. Grab a cuppa.

My Dad was a Marine in the Korean War, and worked hard as a plant manager of a thriving die-casting plant to provide for my Mom, my two sisters, my brother, and myself. We all had bronzed baby shoes from the foundry.

When I was five years old, I became paralyzed by polio. Once I was out of the iron lung and returned home, I was still unable to move. He lovingly built a stretcher for me at the business, and it was he who did my nightly stretching exercises to help me to regain the use of my body. I was loved and encouraged by both of my parents that I would one day walk again, ride a bike, and climb trees. I believed in myself because they believed in me, and felt anything was possible. He held me every night, limp in his arms, and sang lullabies to me.

Gail and Cliff Thornton

It was Dad who taught me to take my first steps again with crutches, one agonizing inch at a time. It was difficult not because of any physical pain, but because finally, I was realizing my dream with the help of my Dad to become whole again. I did recover completely, and to my own and my parents’ pride, went on to climb not only stairs, but literally mountains.

My Dad was seventy-nine when my Mom died, and he was lost. Within a year, he had secured an apartment and lived independently in the same complex I am living in now. We were always close, and this time he needed me. Physically, he maintained, but emotionally he was a broken man. He had loved my Mom so deeply that the loss of her was something he couldn’t recover from.

I tried to take care of his need for love. I visited him often during the week, and we made collages together, watched the Patriots together, talked about loneliness and aging, and coming to the end of one’s life.  He said he wasn’t afraid of death, but afraid of suffering. I knew he was already suffering at a depth that was barely understood by me.

Over time as he became weaker and ill, I felt I had little left to give to him. I couldn’t replace my Mom. I couldn’t comfort his immense loneliness and isolation. There were times I had to admit that I felt resentful of the burden of his emotional demands on me that I just didn’t have the reserves for. The resentment caused me tremendous guilt because he had taken such loving care of me when I was a child.

I loved my Dad. He cherished me. I will never doubt those things and I have no regrets. We were honest about our needs and limits, and this helped to ease my own loss when he was gone.


Have you cared for your parents? What helps you stay strong for your parents? What are good activities for engaging aging parents? Have you talked to your parents about their care as they age?

Many thanks to Gail for guest posting. Be sure to show your thanks for giving you a break from Red. See you in the comments!

(c) Red Dwyer 2012
Original post text and photographs (c) Gail Thornton.
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  1. Deeply touching, Gail. What a wonderful insight on caring for aging parents! I was an only child & cared for both my parents through illness at the end of their lives in their early 60s. However, my story is much more about a dysfunctional family than shared love & support.

    I was very young (22 when Mom died, 23 when Dad died) & it’s hard not to have regrets about choices I made at the time. Knowing I did the best I could under the circumstances have allowed me to reach peace with it.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    Tcub recently posted..Money, money, moneyMy Profile

    • You are another one who needs to read my new book. Killing Us Softly covers in depth resolving those issues.

  2. Thank you, Tcub, and you were very, very young. I hope that you will read Red’s new book…….you will be guaranteed all of Red’s honesty and experience.
    Gail Thornton recently posted..Poem – Last Night’s DreamMy Profile

  3. Sharing care of both my Dad and my Mother-in-law. A very difficult job in many ways. My faith helps me stay strong and remembering this person doesn’t mean to be a pain at times. My dad is also a widow and not handling it well, even after 5 years. He wants to be independent when he can’t (man). The m-i-l has dementia, and that’s another can of worms. Thanks for your post. I’m glad you’re able to care for your dad and that you were able to overcome.
    Angela Young recently posted..Writing MountainsMy Profile


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