This morning is rough. It began with an innocent call from a friend whose cell phone is provided by his employer, and apparently their base is in the Dallas area, judging from the area code. The call woke me, and I thought it was from my niece who lives in that area when I saw "Cell Phone, 214-555-5555" on my caller ID.
I talked with the friend a few minutes, but with my niece on my mind. Then I called my niece. I'd meant to call for several days, and it seemed like a good time. We chatted a good while, as I got caught up with her. My sister and brother-in-law have been living with my niece and her husband for a couple years now. This is because of failing health with both of them, and it was a choice of a facility somewhere or one of their children. At the time, two years ago, it was pretty much a no-brainer. They needed assistance, support, and who does that better or with love, but family? None of their three children lived near, one in GA, one in northern NM, and one near Dallas, while their home for over 40 years was in West Texas. No one was close enough to check in on them even weekly, and honestly, they would have needed, at the very least, daily monitoring. A move across the state was the best possible solution.
Then several weeks ago, my BIL had a series of events that included falls and strokes, being in and out of hospitals and nursing facilities, and eventually everyone feeling that it is unlikely that he would be able to live in the family home again. The care will likely be too great for the family.
Now a new life phase is being approached by my niece and two nephews, with my sister as part of the decision making. They are considering where and how to best care for their parents. It is a hard task. Knowing you can't give adequate care at home leaves feelings of inadequacy, interlaced, I'm sure with relief, because after doing so for a couple years, they are exhausted. It is hard on everyone. I look at my sister and her husband who have lost their home, are living with one of their children, can no longer drive, can't make as many decisions about how, when, where, why their lives go from now on. Their losses are beyond listing. Even at their ages, 78 and 88, the losses are devastating. Who of us wants to be dependent on others in our "golden years"? I know I don't. It's a hard place for any of them to be, and while it is done with love at every step, it never feels adequate for the people you care most about in life.
As I spoke with my niece, I was drawn back in memory to my own parents in their final years. The scenario is so similar, except that we were able to keep my parents in their home with my brothers living near until mom, with Alzheimer's, needed constant care. This morning, we made comparisons, talked about how difficult it was in each situation for those involved, the emotional state, the coping techniques and the toll it takes emotionally and physically. I was reminded of my parents' situation, as well as the final months of my husband's life which were frenetic for me, and it is not possible to think of either of those without being sucked right into the grief associated with each.
I was sad, but relatively OK, following my chat with my niece. Then, however, I opened my computer and read a note from another nephew, reminiscent about my parents and how he still misses them. I do, too. He mentioned driving once by their home in a little town outside Denver, and I did the same thing. I won't do it again. It was too hard to see their home without their essence in it. My mom's field of irises was gone, covered with grass, and that alone broke my heart. As I wrote a response to my nephew, the tears began flowing. I probably need it, but more than an hour later, I'm still not able to stop it. Occasionally, I have a day like this when it just had to be allowed to let go and flood out of me, but I'm left wondering when this will become less painful, at least enough that I don't dissolve in a puddle like this every few months.
So I'm posting this in hopes that writing it out will allow me to buck up and move on for the day. I hope I can forget for the day. And I hope I never forget completely.