The other side of my sandwich…

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I have to admit I never really considered motherhood as a rewarding path that I would want to follow (motherhood was for those domestic women who didn’t value career, purpose and success).   ‘Feminist self ‘ circa 1995-2000 believed in career and, if I had kids, my career would go on and that would be that!  Boy was she not as smart as she thought she was!  She had no idea what success and purpose was really about.

I sometimes want to blame others for not telling me that the duty of motherhood is one that so heavily pulls on the heart and soul that it, to some extent, brings you to your knees.  I wish someone told me that all your ideas about womanhood, identity, career, love, etc, all are scrambled and reformed the minute that little warm, beautiful, needy baby is put into your arms.  Couldn’t someone have told me that purpose in life is born right along with your baby?

 I know, however, I wouldn’t have believed them.  I am not sure anyone can really ‘get it’ if they haven’t been there. And, perhaps, there are moms out there who can keep their career and life on track and still be able to sit at her desk without her stomach hurting because she misses that little smile so much.  I wish I didn’t have to work. I have moved up steadily in my career.  My job is rewarding and validating, but I don’t want to be there everyday, and I hate that there are moms all over the world in the same position.  Did the feminists really mean for this to happen?  Or did we all get the message wrong?

Purpose and success, at this point, are raising my amazing imperfect little daughter into a happy, healthy human being.  I have grown as a feminist and therefore have a message from my new, improved ‘feminist self’ — success, purpose, womanhood is about being true to who you are and knowing that the feminine ideal is individualized, everchanging, growing, and a gift.

In Sickness and In Health…

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http://news.yahoo.com/pat-robertson-says-alzheimers-makes-divorce-ok-000952197.html

I wanted to share this link to an “interesting” article that I read this morning that really opens the door for me to talk about my father’s current situation.  Pat Robertson indicated that he would support someone divorcing a person with Alzheimers and equated having Alzheimers to being dead.  Tell that to my father, Pat!  And you can tell him, despite the fact that he has AD, because he is NOT dead, and he is actually declining due to the pain surrounding his wife’s departure.

My father had been married to his wife for about 12 years when she left him.  It was not the most stable of relationships, even when he was well, and I think she could not handle his decline and the thought of being his caregiver given the troubled relationship.  Moreover, she had always been an argumentative person and she couldn’t quite adjust her approach despite the fact that the things upsetting her were due to his Alzheimers (i.e. she would still snap at him when he forgot to do something).  She had other options than to leave, though, ie counseling, support groups, self-care, education.  My father who has Alzheimers (and according to Mr. R is DEAD) asked her to attend marital counseling and she refused.  Her choice was selfish.

She took vows and had an obligation.  My father doesn’t understand it and is sad and broken.  And lonely.  His kids are here to pick up the peices, as much as we can, but it does not compensate for the loss of his companion.  Pat Robertson’s comments make me sick — to in any way validate my dad’s wife’s choices is horrific in my opinion.  Pat is completely disregarding the slow decline of Alzheimers Disease and the many years that person is still very much aware and ALIVE.  My dad is not dead and someone with his power should be very cautious about what they propose.

Where’s my guidebook?

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I did it. I made the day trip down to my dad’s house and lived to tell about it and I did it without my handy dandy guidebook.  What?  There is no guidebook?  We are writing it as we go? What kind of  ridiculous nonsense do you speak of??  Didn’t Frommer write up something on this for me?

You will need some history before I proceed with the chapter I wrote in my personal guidebook on Saturday: My parents are divorced and my dad remarried 12 years ago (give or take).   Somewhere along the line that marriage fell apart (I will save my angry, anti-2nd wife stories for another day) and she left him in January of this year.  Her departure left my dad without a caretaker and with a lot of anger and confusion.  The emotional toll is huge and continues to grow as the separation papers go back and forth — with dad having little understanding of the process and feeling little control.  How’s that for adding insult to injury?

In comes my brother, sister, and I to put on the  “caretakers” costume – a costume that is not easily removed.  One of us is down at his house weekly.  We are slowly moving towards hiring someone to help and implementing all sorts of change my dad is resistant to implementing.  This is an ongoing, murky, slow journey.

So in an effort to do what a hypothetical guidebook might tell me to do, I set a limit with dad this weekend.  When I arrived, he immediately brought out the separation papers and shared his (lack of) understanding of things.  My dad believes the papers say things such as he will leave all of his things to her heirs, that she wants to take the windows, etc and etc.  Wish I was exaggerating.  Initially I tried to explain him out of the confusion he is in, but when he says over and over, “Thats not how I read it,” I eventually had to say, “Dad, you don’t understand it and you have to trust that we would never let those things happen!”  Trust me, I said it in a firm but caring way. 

Should I have done that? I have no freaking clue!  As I said, there is no guidebook and certainly not a chapter on dealing with someone halfway between reality and NeverNeverLand.  He is so functional sometimes and we try to respect him as a grown adult, but then he is so confused sometimes that we have to put our collective feet down. I know I am not supposed to argue with him but I can’t let him stew in his own confusion…can I?  Anybody?  Where’s my guidebook?

By the way, after my firm statements (yes, there was another one shortly after this), we had a great day. My daughter loves to be at her grandpa’s house and we got to go to the pool! See, I should write a guidbook if I can make that great day happen after such a miserable start!

Day “Trippin” to Dads

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Last night I made the executive decision (following an unexpected cancellation of all of my other plans this weekend) to head down to my dad’s house for the day Saturday.  My two-year-old girl will have the pleasure of accompanying me on this trip which is an hour and three-quarters each way.  My husband often works weekends so I have to bring her along. Yes, I must be “trippin.” 

Now dad is pretty functional at this point but definitely needs weekly support, and we are slowly working on getting him more (not that he thinks he needs it). My brother goes down A LOT and I do not, so GUILT has taken a nice firm seat on my shoulder.  I have guilt that I do not do more and guilt that I do not want to do more!! 

Will there be some moments of fun? Perhaps.  We will go to the pool and be able to run around outside if the weather permits, but mostly I see it as work. “People” always tell me just to enjoy the time with my dad.  I get that, but I really don’t think “people” understand the emotional toll of spending time with someone who really is not that person.  In his presence, I am constantly reminded of the loss we are all experiencing.  My dad’s mood swings are draining and it takes such energy to wisely choose every word you say so as not to upset them but to also get your point across. 

Soooo, I know avoiding him is not the answer and it isn’t even an option.  I must/we must keep supporting him.  There really is no way to make this easier — unless I really was “trippin?”  But, alas, I don’t believe in the use of illegal drugs… but perhaps if they make some legal??

Sandwich Generation

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I recently was told that I am part of the Sandwich Generation —  ” a generation of people who care for their aging parents while supporting their own children.”   How validating! I get a category – I am not alone in this! In fact, I am part of an entire generation of people who have been shoved into the role of one who takes care of everyone but themselves!

But then I had to re-examine this title — Sandwich? How unglorious is that categorization!?!  Like roastbeef on rye? Bologna and cheese?  Sandwiches are not glamorous, exciting, or even very appealing.  I am a vegetarian for christ’s sake!  Do you know how hard it is to find a good veggie sandwich?  Why couldn’t it be something like, Generation X?  Mysterious, proud, powerful.  Of course, there is nothing glamorous, exciting, or the least bit appealing about dealing with caring for your 66-year-old father with Alzheimers while working full-time and raising a small child.  Oh, and being a wife too. Don’t forget that! 

No pity party for me, though.  Things could be worse. I could have three kids like my brother and be travelling down to dads every weekend.  My brother is the real hero here.  I could be in my dad’s shoes and be losing my connection to the world and everyone in it.  I have control still and I have some hope.  Just not sure I want that sandwich!