How can you prepare to become a parent to your parent? Sounds like a crazy proposition, but is it? With the advent of sophisticated medical technology and pharmaceuticals, we are able to live longer. The quantity of our life is extended and, allegedly, so is the quality of our life. Illnesses that were once considered sure death sentences, that used to be labeled by medical professionals as “incurable”, “terminal” have become, in some instances, treatable and manageable through ‘miracles’ and discoveries of modern science. Though grateful for these advances that we marvel at day after day, secondary issues usually not considered at the time of life extending heroics become 'in your face’ issues after the application of the ‘miracle’ has stabilized the patient.
Take for example having to now reverse the roles of responsibility between a parent and their child. Many children some adult and some not, find themselves in this precarious, unanticipated, unintended and sadly, unfortunate position. I am one such child, having become the primary care giver for my mother, 13 years ago. My vibrant and fun loving mother, Louise, was my ‘running buddy’ and my vacation pal. We had finally forged a wonderful adult, relationship after having a tumultuous and ‘not so cool’ relationship during my teenage years. I enjoyed becoming my own person as I matured into a young lady and career professional. And though my Mom was a ‘tough-love’ type of mom, looking back now, she and my father were really good parents. Hind sight is always 20-20. Funny how that works out…
I see that now as I catch myself sometimes doing and saying the same things to my mother today that she used to say and do to me as a little girl. I recall, sometimes, she’d say certain things to me, admonishing or reprimanding me for something that I had said or done and I felt was ok, but obviously was not okay with her. I recall saying to myself that I wouldn’t do/say/treat my child that way when I grew because, obviously, I didn’t like or appreciate her response/admonishment/reprimand at the time. Ok; fast forward… Louise, who is a stroke, heart attack and cancer survivor keeps me quite busy. (That is probably an understatement). Where she used to take me to school, I am now taking her to the doctor. Where she used to have to attend PTA meetings at the school, I am now having to attend care coordination sessions with the clinical and caregivers I have been blessed to have to help me care for her. Where Louise used to take me to whatever extra-curricula activity I was involved in at the time, drop me off and pick me up, I now take her to adult day care types of activities on her good days, drop her off and pick her up. And for all the times she stayed up with me at night in my room with my asthma issues when I was little, I now stay up with her with her multiple hospitalizations, in her room.
Of course I could go on, but I am not a fan of pity parties and am not looking for one here.
I also don’t have a quick fix suggestion for you or a great moral of the story to share with you at this time…since I am still in the middle of being a daughter/parent to Louise.
I can say that this is definitely one of those times in your life where if your mom or dad taught you how to make ‘lemonade out of lemons’ (making the best of what you can out of a ‘bad’ situation) that you’ll put that lesson to practical use. I doubt that at the time they taught you they thought you’d be applying the lesson to them. At the end of the day, it’s a choice, accepting the responsibility of becoming a parent to you parent…and then actually executing as the guardian/parent of your parent. At the end of the day, for those of you who were raised by one or both of your parents, they made a choice and accepted the responsibility of being a parent to you. God knows some days they probably wanted to put you in the ‘lemonade’ they were having to make… yet one more time, to get through yet another life challenge. Not everybody does it; not everybody can …and though it’s not easy most of the time…it can have it’s moments of being one of the most rewarding responsibilities you could ever imagine. The technology and the extension of time and life it has given to Louise has allowed me to have this experience of unexpected ‘parenting’ with her…and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

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