In April of the pandemic, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. It was not an optimal moment to need a pulmonary specialist. In September we learned that my father had ALS. That was it for me—it was time to go home. That I’d now taken to calling it home hadn’t escaped my husband’s notice. I moved to New York when I was 22 and hadn’t been in Texas longer than a week since. He made it clear that he did not want to go, but would.
I am my ancestors’ wildest dreams, and those dreams happened to be sharply prescriptive. My mother worried when my definitions of success didn’t mirror hers. And I was unwilling to test my decisions against her scrutiny, her verdicts. So I chose. This would be my family now. Him and New York. I didn’t even go home for holidays.
But when my parents got sick, I thrust myself back into their lives. My helplessness was diabolical, truculent, lacerating. I called them daily, as if to make up for lost time, raging when they went to the store. I raged when they saw their friends. I raged when I couldn’t force them into a single-story apartment. I raged that even in sickness they held sovereignty over themselves.
As a solemn kid in Hong Kong, searching for my parents through the window of our high-rise at night, it was the uncertainty I couldn’t tolerate. The anticipation of loss. Now, as I care for them, I’ve entered that fog again.
Family caregiving is commonly viewed as an act of love. So much so that the phrase "caring for a loved one" is practically synonymous with family...