I spent last summer with my mother. On the surface it was picture-perfect: ice cream cones and beach picnics. But, like the rest of our caregiving journey, the outsides don’t match the insides.
Autumn arrived in vibrant red and gold, signaling my departure — another two-month hop between coasts and families. I realized I couldn’t leave mom alone; the relentlessness of Alzheimer’s was deeply rooted in our lives.
We needed a paid caregiver.
At first, Mom insisted she could take care of herself. And I felt guilty for leaving, yet curiously jealous. What if mom liked her more? What if she was a better caregiver?
Hiring Amanda turned out to be the best thing we’ve done yet. She’s unflappable. Tireless. Patient. We celebrate small victories, chronicled in the purple ink of her daily log. She teaches me to stay positive. And she’s given us true peace of mind.
It’s been a year since I stared at the blank pages of a notebook, alone on the deck at the family lake house. For decades, handwritten journals were as distant from my life as I had been from my mother.
I missed writing. I needed to write.
My writing roots go back nearly a century; both grandparents were authors. At age eight, I had set up a studio in the garage, a barnboard desk resting on sawhorses. My earliest tale, “Matt the Flying Dog,” quickly evolved to mystery stories, a stack of Nancy Drews for inspiration.
I’ve filled a dozen notebooks this past year. Daily writing is non-negotiable. I lay down the tracks of my life like a composer with music. Writing is both fun and terrible. And the days I don’t want to write make me realize I must.
Is my passion caregiving? Is my life purpose caregiving?
If you’d asked me a year ago, my answer would be a resounding, capital-letters-spell-it-out “N-O!”
I’ve spent my retirement immersed in the world of Alzheimer’s caregiving, a labyrinth in which all roads seemed to lead to frustration, anger and impatience. But gradually, it’s become more of a road trip, with an unexpected side effect: purpose.
My life journey has gone off-road.
Caring for my mother for the past three years, actually living with her for the first time since my reckless departure at age thirteen teaches me compassion. For my mother, for others, for myself.
I express compassion through writing and volunteering. Taking care of shelter animals. Helping hikers navigate local trails. Blogging about dementia caregiving.
My passions are transformed into purpose through compassion. And my answer is now “yes.”