What’s it like to be 31 and moving home with your parents? What happens when that temporary move becomes more permanent after your mom is diagnosed with cancer?
Once I moved in, every day was filled with so much overwhelming uncertainty that I immediately turned to the things I felt I could control. I synced all of our iCals so that I could keep track of doctor appointments, making sure to mark important dates like immunotherapy treatments every other Thursday on the paper calendar in the kitchen. Though it was my mom who was sick, I also lessened my dad’s load as much as possible, taking over household chores and cooking dinner during the week. We discussed redrafting wills and organizing important documents, which always led to an argument about me being a fatalist. “Realist,” I would correct them, as I went back to juicing kale and celery or swapping out their cleaning supplies with greener options, all of which felt safer than sitting in my grief.
It was then that I saw my dad as a fallible human being, terrified of losing his wife of nearly 50 years. I suddenly felt less like an adult showing up for my parents and more like a child who needed everyone to see it my way. At 31 years old, it occurred to me just how much I still had to learn about compassion. Caregiving teaches you things like that.Some days, I found myself desperately jealous of my friends’ daily stress of, Will he ask me on a second date? What costume will my daughter wear on Halloween? Do I have enough money to close on the apartment that I want? It all sounded so much better than, Will this month’s scan show that the cancer has moved to her lungs? Is this the phone call that will tell us how much time we have left with her?Now, four years later, I’m still living with my parents and taking care of them in many ways. I’ve made the decision to live at home and spend time together while we still have it. It is both a blessing and a curse to be this person for my parents. I’m reminded every day that they won’t be here forever, and knowing that leaves me feeling gutted. But the relationship that I have with them has changed drastically over the past few years, and my role as their caregiver has evolved into a deep friendship. The worry that I have for them never went away. Their physical health and general wellbeing is on my mind every day.