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.
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!