My mother was often my first phone call when I was pissed at a colleague, thrilled about a new writing challenge, or just feeling blue and needing some cheer. She’s been there from day one, helping me put things in perspective and providing unconditional love. My Dad, too, has always been a kind and generous mentor, advising me in my career and with financial matters. I can’t thank my parents enough for just “being there.”
Then there are my amazing friends, who have been there for me through countless adventures and almost 30 different addresses. In the 60 years I’ve had on this planet, I have never felt friendless, lonely or lacking in support; I’m so grateful for that.
But on one memorable day at the beginning of my caregiving adventures, I came home in tears, extremely distressed….and I could think of no one to call. I didn’t even feel that I had a right to be upset; my agitation seemed all out of proportion. I honestly thought I was losing it, as I sat there feeling completely overwhelmed.Who would understand what I was going through? To whom could I explain this emotional vortex, without sounding like I was whining or exaggerating?
Seeking solace at my laptop, I Googled “help caregiving Alzheimer’s.” I ended up on a site called AgingCare, and reached out to the virtual community there. Comfortable as a stranger within their midst, I pounded away at the keyboard, telling them about a recent disastrous shopping trip with my mother. I channelled my frustration and despair into an eloquent plea of “What do I do? How do other people cope?”
Within an hour, responses started trickling in, and for the first time in months, I felt connected. I felt affirmed. I felt heard. The caregivers reaching out were responding from a shared space of sorrow. Their kind words felt like balm on an open sore, soothing and wonderful. One response in particular jolted me, and I found myself laughing through my tears at this woman’s perky point of view:
“I’d rather take a severe beating than go shopping for three hours, much less with an old lady with dementia. The few times I have taken my Mom shopping (she’s 84 and doesn’t understand that we’re just not going to find the same bras that were around in 1948) it is an ordeal for me. You are far more patient than most of us. The one store I take my Mom to they all run and hide when we come in the door.”
“I am thankful for laughter, except when milk comes out of my nose.”
– Woody Allen