Or, How I quit my life in order to survive losing my parents.
First, I’m not going to whine about losing my parents. I had just turned 49 when my Mom died from lung cancer and I turned 50 shortly after my Dad died from Lou Gehrig’s disease. A short eight months time-lapse between them. But let’s not talk about the sad part of losing my parents. Let’s say instead how blessed I am to have had them for so many years. I know people whose parents died long before that. Let me say how blessed I, and my family, was to see them through the end of life.
I will add that losing my father—whose sense of humor never waned throughout the pain of ALS—devastated me. I’m the original Daddy’s Little Girl and long ago gave up trying not to be her.
So, my crazy (ie., crazy making, fun, trying, fun) Mom is gone; my best friend Dad is gone and I’m left with a consuming HR job in a company run by a [insert adjective here] person I did not see eye-to-eye with. As I listened to him once more pontificate about how wonderful he was and brilliant and makes so much money because he’s worth even more money and … I carved fingernail arcs into the palms of both hands trying to keep from crying out: Shut up!
I knew then that something had to give. That I had to leave or cave because he was never going to stop being who he was. But where to go? What to do next?? What life did I want to lead?
Praying for instruction
I began praying for answers, while looking down this path, gazing down another, throwing a feeler out here, a question or two there.
We spent ten days nursing Mom through the end stages of death. During that time, I was the only kid she constantly wanted around. This caused us much laughter because throughout my life, Mom and I tried each other’s patience—constantly. But there it was. I slept on the floor in the bedroom with her and Dad—the two of them separated into twin beds for the first time. With the other bedrooms occupied by siblings, I’d start out sleeping in the living room. I’d hear mom stir or dad would murmur and I’d drag my blankets and pillows in and curl into the corner at mom’s feet. Sometimes, when she was agitated, I’d crawl into the narrow bed with her and hold her in my arms.
I did this because as I prayed for guidance on what to do, the answer that I continually received was: Love Your Mother.
With my heart open and old pains surrendered, I loved my mother.
That kind of openness during loss drains you.
Then, there was the slow devolving loss of Dad.
We watched him dwindling from this horrid disease, taking his once huge and powerful frame and shrinking him in on himself. Even at 76 when he was diagnosed, he was strong and full of everything good in life.
It wasn’t ten days of loss with Dad, it was fourteen slow and painful months. We lived with the erosion of Dad’s independence as he became less able to do things on his own, yet we never saw Dad lose his dignity. He knew when it was his time. With clarity a couple of nights before, he said: I love you, to Seester and me as we tucked him in. Talk about ripping another hole in our hearts.
He arranged for a haircut, for us to call friends to come home, his brother…there was a list. The next day he was gone.
Back to “real” life
Returning to work the following week was not conducive to healing. I remain thankful to the friends there who were kind, who made me laugh, who helped in a multitude of ways. The nemesis did not. There were months of praying, seeking guidance.
In simplicity, the answer came during a call with my sister Jackie: Why don’t you come here for the winter? Spend six months with us and regroup.
What an idea.
Peace descended as I thought about this plan. My shoulders were squared and strong again. Regroup. Time with Seester, et al, in a place I love. Hm. Dwell, ponder, debate…but truly from the moment she said it, it was the first thing to make sense to me in a year.
I gave notice, told friends, dismantled my apartment life. I smiled more. I slept well for the first time in years. God had given me clarity about this choice and enabled every step of it to go smoothly and in a blessed way. Taking the decision out of my hands and placing into prayer told me what I needed to do next in my life.
A different kind of career
Thus began the six months of being a Grown Up Nanny—Going Off the Deep End on Purpose, Part two.