Second Of A Two-Part Series
by Kim Keller
Here’s the second installment of our look back at some of our favorite pieces of advice, support and inspiration from our In Care of Dad contributors this year.
In no particular order:
In death, as in life, we each cope as best we can. There is no one right way to part with a loved one. We must each find our own unique way to say goodbye.
~ Joan Blumenfeld, Saying Goodbye, January 15, 2013.
Acknowledging that our parents aren’t the spry, active individuals they once were is certainly a bitter pill to swallow. Where there was once great strength, we may now see only fragility. The idea of forcing services on our parents, against their will, may result in powerful feelings of guilt and even shame. Knowing when to step in and how to go about it is crucial in providing them with greater strength, stability and security. They’re our moms and dads — they deserve every bit of help we can arrange, but also to be part of the decision-making, whenever possible.
~ Ed Moran, When Home Alone Is No Longer Safe, January 31, 2013.
When I have trouble sleeping, I turn to the hour-long radio series, This American Life. Each week, Ira Glass and his cast of soothing speakers tackle a central theme. This is not to say the program is boring; it’s actually quite compelling. But think of it like a bedtime story for adults, told in the relaxing tones of NPR. As soon as it starts, I feel the anxiety inside me just melting away. Worst-case scenario? If I’m still awake after an hour, at least I’ve listened to an interesting story. Best of all, there are literally hundreds of episodes and themes to choose from, all for free.
~ Michael from Brooklyn, Sleep Strategies: Putting Nocturnal Anxiety To Rest, April 23, 2013.
When all is said and done, love is the common denominator, the universal language we all are capable of speaking. Touch, sound, smells, and silent companionship can all be used to let them know we are listening, and we hear them loud and clear . . . no words necessary.
~ Colleen Lanier, The Language Of Alzheimer’s: A Nurse’s Journal, May 7, 2013.
One of the things you learn about when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s is intransigence. There is a kind of inflexibility you come up against that appears in all shapes and forms, and from all sorts of unexpected directions. When someone you love is having trouble negotiating the world, you start to notice how uncompromising the rest of the world can be.
~ Beth Whitman, Intransigent Behaviors: A Daughter’s Journal, June 13, 2013.
Long before Mom’s health declined, I spent years in therapy doing self-development and spiritual work. Much of it focused on not idealizing my mother and learning to accept, forgive and embrace the woman herself. I came to suspect that Mom wasn’t able to verbalize her love because it wasn’t part of her family experience growing up. Which left me with a choice: I could try to convince myself that hearing Mom say these words wasn’t so important after all, and I could live happily and comfortably without it, or I could accept that deep inside her was probably a wound much like mine and that she, too, craved this verbal expression of love but feared making the first move and being rejected. Or maybe just didn’t know how.
Then the big “aha” hit me. I was no longer the little girl who had to wait for Mom to approve my decisions or tell me what to do. In fact, the power of our relationship had largely shifted. My sister and I were now responsible for making sure Mom was cared for in her final years. I could say, “I love you,” not as a test, hoping she’d reciprocate, but as a gift to heal us both, with no expectation of her returning the sentiment.
~ Carol Woodliff, Healing The Heartache Of Unspoken Words, June 27, 2013.
When Mom passed, my sister’s mother-in-law asked for some of our mom’s clothing. She then made teddy bears for each child, each grandchild and each of my mom’s best friends (30 teddies altogether), all out of Mom’s clothes. It was so neat. It truly touched everyone. I can’t tell you how moving it was.”
~ Marti from Muskego, WI, Small Acts Of Kindness: Helping Our Friends Through Grief, July 11, 2013.
Naturally, the disease overwhelmed me at first, but it later served as a turning point for me, helping to create balance in my life-mind, body, spirit and emotions. Let me be very clear here: I would never have chosen to have breast cancer or any other cancer, but I am grateful for having found the light at the end of the tunnel and the life changes that resulted.
~ Lisa M. Wolfson, Cancer Survivor: Five Years And Counting, October 10, 2013.
Seven-ten, Saturday morning. The phone rings. It’s Pop.
“I can’t find my watch,” he declares. “The girl must have taken it. What’s her number?”
I can hear the anxiety in his voice. The “girl” is Ann, his caretaker — the devoted nanny who comes in weekday mornings for an hour to get him up and running. She’s a responsible, intelligent woman in her midthirties, with a warm olive complexion that rivals Halle Berry’s. If Ann is dishonest, then Dad is a 007 agent.
Poor Dad, getting so worked up about a watch straight from a Delray Beach flea market with a faux-lizard band. It’s an ailment endemic to the elderly — blaming others for their own absentmindedness. I suppose it’s easier for Dad to fault a black aide from Jamaica than the real villain — old age.
~ Janis Abrahms Spring, Life With Pop: The Lost Watch, November 19, 2013.
When you lose someone you love, it can be difficult to see beyond the grief. The idea of “letting go” doesn’t always feel like an option. In fact, many people misinterpret the idea, thinking it means you’re supposed to forget about that person who has passed on. However, it is important to know that letting go actually means you’re letting go of the negative feelings attached to the passing, while still holding onto the love you’ve always had for the deceased. Your relationship with them doesn’t end when they die; it endures because you continue to have thoughts, feelings and memories about them. Your relationship does not disappear. It just changes.
~ Erin Doeberl, Letting Go And Letting Live, December 5, 2013.
There is a saying by Henry James that goes like this: “Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.” It’s clear that our contributors have fully embraced this adage, for which Karen and I are deeply grateful. In Care of Dad is all about helping each other through our most challenging moments in life. And it’s all made easier when we treat each other, and ourselves, with kindness.
Wishing you peace and kindness in 2014.
Kim Keller is the Co-Founder of In Care of Dad. She lives and works in New York City.