Sunset Or Sunrise In Forest Landscape. Sun Sunshine With Natural Sunlight And Sun Rays Through Woods Trees In Summer Forest. Beautiful Scenic View. Natural Real Lens Flare Effect

Like her mother, who had worked as a nurse in a factory, my mother found her calling in caring for others. Between raising my sisters and me, she taught special education, ran a women’s crisis hotline, volunteered at the state prison to teach reading, worked at the YMCA—and that’s just what I can remember before I left for college.

I tell these stories to my mother’s caregivers now, wanting them to see who my mother was, who she still is, despite her diseased brain, her atrophied body, lying in the hospice bed, knees folded to her waist, her hands in a palsy as she reaches for something to touch to make what connection she still can to the sensate world. I tell these stories to remind myself where I came from, and why I am here beside her bed.

Six years ago, I left my apartment in Chicago to help with the care of my mother who, after several years of cognitive decline from Alzheimer’s, appeared to be nearing the end of her life. What I believed would be a summer became six months, then a year, then two, then three. She went on and off hospice care three times, until—when she began to lose weight after catching flu along with half the residents in her care home—my sisters and I decided to bring her home, sure her last days were imminent. Two and a half years later, and despite the looming danger of the COVID-19 global pandemic, I am still here and so is she.

Though I have no children, I have become for her both mother and father, one and the same. She reminds me of our reversed roles, calling out suddenly with emotion: “Daddy? Daddy?” And at once, the image of my grandfather comes to me, a balding, pale Irish American, as tall as I am, with his bartender’s apron around his waist. I pat her on the arm; whether she thinks I am him or me now doesn’t matter. She calls, too, for my deceased father, staring into a corner of the family room with such concern and sincerity in her voice that I look myself to see if she’s somehow summoned his presence with the love she still possesses for him. Why she’s never once uttered my name remains a mystery, but for her, words are used not to define but to express emotion, and that’s enough.

Read more in the Boston Review.

This is an external article from our library

Everyone is talking about caregiving, but it can still be difficult to find meaningful information and real stories that go deep. We read (and listen to and watch and look at) the best content about caregiving and bring you a curated selection.

Have a great story about care work? Use our contact form to submit it to us so we can share it with the community!

Related Articles

manic pixie dream world

manic pixie dream world

Rayne: Eliza, do you consider yourself mentally ill? Eliza: Rayne, at one time, I would have said I am extremely mentally ill. I no longer say that....

Popular categories

After Caregiving
Finding Meaning
Finding Support

Don't see what you're looking for? Search the library

Share your thoughts


Share your thoughts and experiences

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Join our communities

Whenever you want to talk, there’s always someone up in one of our Facebook communities.

These private Facebook groups are a space for support and encouragement — or getting it off your chest.

Join our newsletter

Thoughts on care work from Cori, our director, that hit your inbox each Monday morning (more-or-less).

There are no grand solutions, but there are countless little ways to make our lives better.

Share your insights

Caregivers have wisdom and experience to share. Researchers, product developers, and members of the media are eager to understand the nature of care work and make a difference.

We have a group specifically to connect you so we can bring about change.