The Reluctant Troublemaker
Like many Baby Boomers, I suddenly found myself on the caregiving end of the family tree. The year: 2009. I had just divorced and relocated when my father fell down the stairs of his house. Dad was always the stronger and more active of my parents so to hear he had fallen was a jolt. The shock hit my mother doubly hard since she relied on Dad for everything. Although she possesses an MBA, she is a chronic worrier. When she isn’t worrying, she’s concerned what others think of her and our family. If my brothers or I did something to negatively influence the family name, we were in for a long and miserable punishment. So when Dad fell and didn’t recover immediately, it was more than she could bear. Caring for Dad and explaining what had happened to well-meaning friends and family required hope and a positive attitude—traits my mother never possessed.
Over the next 6 years of 1000-mile round-trip drives, I visited monthly to help mom. Her coping mechanisms: crying and worrying. My coping mechanism: writing. In between client assignments, I wrote about my long-distant caregiving experiences, lessons learned, and how it was taking a toll on us.
Already a writer, my family had turned a blind eye to my pen and paper always in hand. However, that took a turn during one of many visits to Dad. “You better not be writing about this!” my mother sobbed.
Although I neither confirmed nor denied her comment, I said, “Our situation isn’t unique, Mom. There are THOUSANDS like us. People need to know they are not alone.”
While she sobbed, I soothed her, and we discussed our experiences. She admitted that it was too stressful to admit Dad wasn’t coming back when people constantly “hounded” her:
- Well-meaning friends bombarded her with tips and update requests.
- Dad’s siblings constantly asked if she did x, y, or z.
- Her church always had someone check in on her and offer help—which she declined through a forced smile.
- My brother insisted she sue anyone involved in Dad’s care for negligence.
Mom was certain everyone pitied her, blamed her, and my readers would further judge her.
After explaining how writing helped me deal with emotions, she was a little more understanding. She asked to join my Grandparents in Business Facebook Group but became suspicious when I denied her. Our compromise was I would never mention our family name or location, and she would participate in anonymous interviews. However, she still tosses me the ole’ evil eye to ensure I hold up on my end of the bargain. Old habits die hard.
My lesson learned is that we all cope with stress and life in our own way. There will be times when we will anger a parent or they will anger us, but we all grow from the experience.
About The Author:
Kristen Reed Edens is a content developer, blogger, entrepreneur, grandparent and caregiver. She’s the founder of the blog and community, Grandparents in Business, where she and writes about issues important to the Sandwich Generation: money, health, family, the dream of retirement, and midlife balance. Follow her on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook.