As caregiver to my parents, life has changed dramatically. Project deadlines and sales goals are a distant memory; estate planning and Alzheimer’s support groups now replace corporate jets and board meetings.
But my true purpose in caregiving goes beyond human boundaries.
Besides elderly parents, I take care of old houses, maintaining my mother’s 150-year-old farmhouse, winterizing my father’s island cottage. I volunteer as a trail steward, patrolling and caring for two-hundred-plus miles of local trails.
And through volunteer work at an animal shelter, I care for homeless pets. From that, springs an unexpected petsitting side job. Caring for my own elderly dog, who passed last year at age fourteen, gives me experience in pet hospice care. Animal welfare articles I write encourage animal advocacy.
Taking care of people, places and pets: with this simple message, the essence of humility emerges.
Until recently, the only kids I’ve ever had have tails. A happy pet parent all my life, I am suddenly a new mother.
“How old are your kids?” friends ask.
“81 and 85,” I respond, eliciting almost as much head-scratching as my “kids with tails” quip.
As the only child of elderly parents, I have now been given the opportunity to experience human motherhood through the journey of reverse parenting. Dad’s a teenager, living life on his own, exploring the world. Naïve and trusting, he loves the ladies.
Mom’s an eight-year-old, unsteady, unsure, nervously navigating the labyrinthine world of Alzheimer’s. She calls me “mother” sometimes, when confusion and reality collide in her mind.
In a bittersweet, reverse twist of fate, the daughter becomes the mother; the eight-year-old gradually grows younger. Motherhood is indeed a dubious honor.
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Sit in a chair
Lean your head back, looking up with eyes open
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Slowly open your eyes and bring your head down
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