The unknown sacrifices, the silent pain, the grief of loss… and I would do it again in a heart beat.
I cared for my mother through a year and a half of lung cancer treatments and was holding her hand when she took her last breath. A year after mother died my father was diagnosed with lung cancer (both were non-smokers.) Daddy’s was more aggressive and he died in 9 months. I was asleep on a stack of pillows and we were also hand in hand when he passed.
Both times I moved into my childhood bedroom to be my parents primary caregiver (at home). I was not going to let my parents be put in any type of facility… I wanted them home and they wanted to be home.
I left my husband to take care of our animals and work a full time job. We didn’t have children so I was blessed to be able to care for both my parents. I was blessed my husband (at the time) only lived across town. He would visit and sleep over but he was unable to do much else because one of us had to make money.
I quit 3 jobs to care for them and would do it again in a heart beat. I had two brothers… one lived a few blocks away and the other in Canada. I got no respite from either of them… it was an inconvenience when I asked my local brother to pick us up a gallon of milk. Yes, out of sight, out of mind. When he did come by he just pulled in the driveway, honked the horn and handed me the milk through the window… he was “Busy” to visit Daddy… I could never understand it… TOO BUSY to visit your dying father? Oh right… I forgot, he was saving his energy for the reading of the will.
I lost so much weight, my clothes were literally falling off me and I looked ill myself (I am 5’7″ and weighed 102 lbs at Daddys death — 130lbs is my norm).
I had circles under my eyes which made me look like I had been beaten up… but I didn’t care… I kept telling myself “I will sleep when they die, I am going to spend every minute I possibly can while they are alive.” And I did — I lived on adrenalin, coffee and love. The ending…
My father was career military and made wise investments over the years, owning land and homes in 3 states. He was not rich, but he was wealthy. He made me executor of his revocable living trust. He knew my brothers were greedy and he knew they would come after me for what they claimed as their ‘Rightful Inheritance’. Daddy was smart and I was lucky because he had the Trust drawn up when I was not with him. The local brother actually started asking for material possessions in the house before he died… one being a diamond ring Daddy was wearing.
Daddy predicted my brothers would become greedy… I was accused of influencing his division of assets… Assets was the farthest thing from my mind. My brothers kept me in court for THREE (3) years because they felt they deserved more of my fathers estate.
I spent back breaking hours, months, and years closing out and cleaning up my parents estate (Daddy was a hoarder, a child of The Great Depression and he kept everything only for me to work tirelessly to clean up).
Back to Court…. The Judge looked at me and said I was to be commended on doing everything I did and should be proud of myself for my legal work and my role as caregiver. (I acted Pro-Se and represented myself against my brothers fancy attorneys). The Judge turned to my brothers and told them he was disgusted at the lengths they went to just to get their hands on money my father did not want them to have. The Judge awarded me financially which compensated my not working any other job for 7 years of my life I. To me, it was only money. At last I could finally breathe. I was too busy to even grieve until the gavel was struck.
My brothers never spoke to me again. My husband left me and I was (am) left more alone than any person should ever be. I was left with a double garage full of my parents belongings which I could not bring myself to go through (too emotional) and then when my ex left, he only took what he wanted and left me to clean up after him. He had no concept of what all 3 deaths did to me (both parents & one divorce = 3 deaths). I suppose the years I spent taking care of my parents and 3 years of legal work and then the years of clean up afterwards, took more of a toll on my marriage then I knew. My ex used to say “You haven’t been the same since your parents died”… He was right. I was worse. I jumped into a rebound marriage with my high school boyfriend but it ended quickly. He is now simply an unreliable person from my past. So this date I have no one in my life.
When I am sick I put down my attorney’s name as who to call in case of emergency. The cost for my choice of being there for my parents was basically my life… my husband, my friends, my family… as they all turned their backs on me. But I have my pride which no one can take away. I also know I cared for my parents out of love and nothing else. As painful as it was and the price I paid for being there for them… it wouldn’t change if I had to do it over. At nearly 60 years old… I am trying to start my life over. I am a better person now. I know the meaning of true love…it left my life with my ex-husband…But at least I have my cats.
So ending on a positive note… To everyone who read this, Thank you. I needed to release my feelings. My heart goes out to everyone who has walked in my shoes. I learned A LOT on my 7 year journey. IF there is any way I can help anyone reading this, please don’t hesitate to ask. I live in Florida and know Florida laws, etc. I know I have been placed on this earth to help others, so if you need me, let me help. If you live in the Orlando area I would be more than happy to help you.
Photo courtesy of the author: Daddy’s Little Girl, taken one month after my mother died.