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. Sorry folks, the correct URL to reach my blog called Gail Thornton’s World, is: Thanks!
    Gail Thornton recently posted..Poem – Something ElseMy Profile

    • I am beginning to worry about the posts I have scheduled for this week. Some of them are more than eight months old…I fixed this BTW a few minutes after it went live 😉

  2. Gail, that was some powerful insight. I am always amazed that there are loving, caring parents out there as it is an alien concept to me, having grown up in a cold, dark environment. It was the proverbial cave for real, and more, with super long-lasting scars and ripple effects.

    Having said that, one side of that is to be spared the loss I guess. For some reason I’ve never had to grieve for a person (lost pets hit me hard though), as they tend to move out of my life before then. Perhaps it’s why I keep moving around?

    Well, my mother did pass while I was an ocean away, but those feelings were more guilt than anything for never having reconciled and for abandoning her as punishment for some of the things that happened.

    You illustrate very well the flip side of loving and growing old. Thank you for sharing your personal experience.
    Alexandra Heep recently posted..MilestonesMy Profile

  3. Thank you Alexandra! I understand the scars of childhood trauma, and the aftermath. I am sorry that you suffered so, and hope that in your growth, that healing has occurred. You are a very generous and loving soul, full of optimism and so much to offer to others. I look forward to your comments here, as you are very insightful, as well. Thank you for for sharing, too!
    Hugs – Gail
    Gail Thornton recently posted..Poem – Something ElseMy Profile

  4. GAIL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    What an amazing Lady You are 🙂
    kindness ………
    wow ……….
    checking your blog right now 🙂
    Cat Forsley recently posted..Last Video for the summer ! Cat Forsley ©My Profile

  5. Gail …………. how does one subscribe to your site ?
    Red !!!!!!! What an amazing woman you found 🙂
    Lots and Lots of love and awe 🙂

    Cat xo
    Cat Forsley recently posted..Last Video for the summer ! Cat Forsley ©My Profile

  6. This is beautiful Gail … very touching. I’m not good with mushy sentiment, however you completely touched my heart. 🙂
    Mysterycoach recently posted..~ Regularly Scheduled Programming ! ~My Profile

  7. I admire the love you and your father shared. I work in adult protective services and see far too many people who don’t care for their aging parents. I appreciate your honesty about the difficult moments. It isn’t always easy, loving someone and caring for them. Beautiful post.
    C. Brown recently posted..What Kind Gesture Need Be GrandMy Profile

  8. An amazing, heartfelt story. Thank you for sharing. My mom looked after dad until he died but 24 years later, she became ill. I have five siblings so the burden of care wasn’t singular. One sister, who works in a hospital took the time to stay with mom everyday (in hospital and hospice) for three months. She was lucky, her employer not only paid her for the time off but took her back after mom died.
    Tess Kann recently posted..Ego Takes a HolidayMy Profile

  9. That was a very powerful piece for being so short. A little too close for comfort for me, though.
    Binky recently posted..Extra Cold PizzaMy Profile

  10. Gail – this was wonderful – and a poignant reminder of the whole circle of life… if we live out our natural lives surely the children we cared for will be the ones taking care of us and so it goes. This kind of hit me like a brick this summer when I moved home for a while because my mother had knee surgery and my dad couldn’t do everything required – now that isn’t odd for my dad to not want to do it all and smart man he takes help when offered and where he can get it but this is the third time my mom had this major surgery I have come all three times – in the past 10 years – and this time – if I hadn’t .. well ..I took the night shift since I don;t sleep anyways and from dinner to 6 am I was on.. all the times I was in and out of their room my mom crying in pain and me moving machinery around – to us laughing hysterically cause he would roll over and…ok anyways – he did not wake – he was that exhausted and it hit me that my parents are getting old… hey guess what I lost my train of thought… but I guess it was just good timing and so beautifully expressed… my dad has never deserted me even when he thought I was just a super screw up not living up to my potential… they asked me to move back home recently and I was adamantly not going to do it until my mom told me it was more for their benefit – to have me to help them then for mine this time… so… wonderfully done – I have been to your blog and couldnt comment but i have another option to get around it I think – I’ll let you know if it works 😉 <3 Lizzie
    Lizzie Cracked recently posted..The Grass is Always Greener Where You Spread the Most Manure. Mid-Afternoon Mental MomentMy Profile

    • Lizzie, your kindness and commitment to your parents is admirable and you will reap more benefits than they do, I am guessing. Becoming even closer in the later years, yes even the hysterical laughing, which made me laugh out loud, is testament to your good-heartedness and beautiful spirit in the face of your loved one’s pain. I admire you.
      Hugs! Gail
      Gail Thornton recently posted..Poem – The Singer – Blues Cabaret, 1958My Profile

    • I think it took a lot for your mother to admit that, Lizzie. You are far more critical of your relationship with them than is absolutely necessary. You are a benefit to them. Just look at how much you helped after the surgery. <3


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