I have been listening to On Being for many years now. I actually discovered Speaking of Faith shortly after moving to Florida in 2004 to live with, and take care of my parents in their final years. I have thoroughly enjoyed this program over the years and many times have listen to the downlowad of the extended interviews. As a person who has spent many years exploring my own inner deamons and working through them to become the person I am today; someone who I love, like, accept (warts and all), who can forgive and let go of the past, there have been many programs that have touched me and resonated with me. This show, however, is the first one that got me to come to the Share Your Story Page. Listening to Jane Gross's experiences taking care of her mother at the end of her life was very much like my own experience and I enjoyed her stories and insight even though nothing was actually a new idea or knowledge for me. About two hours ago, I came to this page to share a little bit about my own experience caring for my parents at the end. However; after typing for most of that time and only getting through the first year of the four and a half years which ecompassed the time from when I arrived in 2004 to my mother's death in October of 2008. I realized I need to write it all out. It will most likely not be the next Great American Auto-Biography. But it is something I realize I need to do for myself. I believe that it is a great gift when you as an adult child are in the position to care for your parents at the end of life. Especially if the relationship had been rocky over the years. I had discovered shortly before moving to Florida how much I really did love my parents dispite everythig that had gone before and how much I wanted the opportunity to show them by my presence and caring what they had meant to me. What I experienced along with the increasing responsibility, tiredness and frustrations, was the redemption that Jame Gross talked about today. I truly believe that especially if your relationship has been difficult over the years, that adult children should embrace this opportunity to finally just let it be all bout love. I know it can be hard, but you will never regret the experience and you will never feel guilty about what you didn't do. I have decided to share the beginning of the story that I started when I first came to this page. The title comes from a line that my mother would say to me many time towards the end of her life when she was becoming more and more dependent on me. Mom would turn turn to me and say "Don't get old Lauren." To which I would reply, "I would be happy not to Mom, can you tell me how to stop it?" Don’t Get Old Lauren: A Daughter’s Journey in Parental Care Giving In 2004 as my father was approaching his 90th birthday, I decided to relocate to Florida from Oregon to be close to my parents. I knew as the only girl and unattached child of the family it made most sense for me to be prepared to be the caregiver when the time came. I, as many children, had had a difficult relationship with my parents as an adult, most especially with my mother. In April 2004 I was 46 when I arrived in Florida. There had been a number of years in my early 40's when I had no contact with my parents as I was working through my own issues. It wasn't until about three years prior to my move that I intentionally reconnected with my parents because I wanted to heal the breach before they were gone. When I moved to Florida, it was with great trepidation on both sides. I had realized for some time that it would be primarily up to me to make the relationship with my mother work, since she was still the same psychologically unenlightened and damaged person I had always known. Of my parents, my mother was the one with the most health issues, although in 2004, both parents were still independent and active. However, my father had never had any severe health issues and was still playing tennis at least four times a week, gardening daily, and doing most of the housework. Upon arrival the plan was for me to stay with my parents for the first six months to establish myself in a job and find a place of my own nearby. This plan was initially disrupted by the arrival in Sept. of 2004 of Hurricane Francis and then a few weeks later of Hurricane Jeannie. After more than 20 years of living in Florida and not being affected by hurricanes, these two storms both landing in almost exactly the same place, were only miles from where my parents lived. We were fortunate in that there was little damage to their home, however, the extent of the damage in the surrounding community meant that rentals were at a premium and so it was decided that I would stay on living with my parents until the following spring. As I said earlier, there was mutual concern that my mother and I would be able to live comfortably together. We were all happy to discover that this was not the case. I used to joke that it was a combination of my mother mellowing with age and finally growing up that made it possible. While this was true, from my perspective, I believe that the work I had done to get my life together and work through my issues, allowed me to handle my mother in a way that smoothed over problems rather than escalated them. I had realized that even thought Mom was still a champ at pushing my buttons; I didn't have to respond as a 10 year old. There were a number of occasions when Mom would bring up a potentially explosive topic and I would reply that I thought we should agree to disagree and move on to something different. I also believe that by living with them, this allowed my parents to finally view me as an adult and to appreciate that while they might not have agreed with the decisions that I had made, that I had grown into a responsible adult. For most of my adult life I had dealt with my mother/daughter conflicts by keeping at least 1000 miles between us. I will also admit that I was definitely the black sheep of our family. Considering the state of my parents’ health when I planned to moved to Florida, I had imagined that my mother would be the first to die and I would be left living with my Dad until his death. However, it was my Dad who passed away first. All things considered, this was probably for the best and the quick progression from initial illness to his death took only about 4 months, of which time only about 3 months of when we knew he was dying. My Dad developed what we thought was bronchitis which over the course of a month was treated with three different anti-biotics. In reality what we came to discover was that my father had picked up a virus that attacked his lungs. The anti-biotics were too much for his 90 year old body and caused the shutdown of his kidneys. At first he was open to going on dialysis, however, once his doctor informed him that the virus had caused permanent scarring on his lungs which would prevent him from living the active life he had lived up to this point, my Dad decided to let nature take its course. As a family we accepted my Dad's decision without any conflict, but this is not to say that we wanted him to give up. At the end of the day we all knew that it would have been torture for him to continue living if it meant that he spent the majority of his time in a chair. My Dad was not an arm chair kind of guy. We elected to keep Dad at home with Hospice care and were fortunate to have great caregivers from the agency we choose. Ironically, four years previously, I had assisted a professor of mine and her family care for their mother who died of renal failure, just what Dad was going through now. After the shock of the due date for his death had somewhat worn off, I realized that this was my last opportunity to show him and tell him how much I loved him. I will always cherish this gift that I was given. I remember the first night when I realized I had to put into word how I felt. Growing up I had been a Daddy's Girl and was closer to him throughout my life. I believe many of my strengths had their roots in how he nurtured me as a daughter. He always encouraged me to do anything I wanted and to not let societies restrictions restrain me. Just prior to the final diagnosis, I had taken my Dad to his eye doctor on a Saturday because he had a persistent eye inflammation. I went into the exam room with my Dad and during the exam the three of us chatted. The doctor made some comment about how lucky my Dad was to have me to bring him to the office. My father's response was like a benediction. He said in reply, I don't know what I would do without my daughter, she is my strength. Fast forward six weeks and my Dad who is getting weaker, but still ambulatory, has just gone into his bedroom for the night. I went in after him and I said I had something I wanted to say. I have always known that my parents love me and I think that even if they had had doubts before I came to live with them, they now realized that I loved them too. But time was running out and I wanted my Dad to know how much I loved and respected him. When I went into the room I said that I wanted a hug, as I embraced my Dad, I told him that I loved him more than he could ever know and that I was so grateful that he had been my father, that he was the best father in the world. I should interject at this point that both my older brother and myself had been adopted and that much of the personal therapeutic work I had done over the years revolved around this fact and the issues that spun out of this fact. By this time both my Dad and I were crying and hugging each other for all we were worth. My Dad responded to my statement saying that he knew he had made many mistakes, but that he had always loved me. And I said that whatever mistakes he had made didn't matter, that they were nothing compared to all that he had done right as a father. To my dying day I will be grateful that I had this opportunity with my Dad. There were so many times over the years that hurtful words were spoken or loving words not uttered, but at the end I was able to tell my Dad how much he meant to me. Do I wish that the break in our relationship had never happened? Of course. Do I wish I had spoken my love more often over the course of many years? Absolutely. But the fact was that I while I could never go back and regain those lost opportunities, I had been given this final one and I didn't blow it this time. Dad first got sick in April 2005 and Father's day fell towards the middle of this final illness. There had been many years when I had not sent a card to either of my parents, so I decided that this year, instead of just celebrating Father's Day, I would celebrate Father's Week. Starting on the Monday before Father's Day, each morning before I left for work I left a card waiting for him. While I grew up in a family that was not afraid to express love, we tended not to be sappy about it and humor was also very important to all of us. Each card I left from Monday-Saturday was more of the humorous variety, but also loving. On Father's day itself I found the perfect card, it expressed my love and admiration for him and gratitude that he was my Dad without being overly sentimental.
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