The Power of 3: Supporting Elderly Parents
Day 63 of 100 days of Blogging
My Dad had a stroke a few weeks ago.
Quick update on physical details: He can talk. He is numb on the left side. No blockages in his arteries. He is in rehab and working really hard to recover. My niece is a speech therapist and she told us that the first six months are vital to the best recovery. He is working hard and making progress and has a positive attitude.
My Mom and Dad have been married for sixty years. She is balancing taking care of herself and their home and going over to spend every afternoon with him.
A few more details:
I have two living siblings.
My sister, Joanne, is 57 years old. A preschool teacher. Parent of 3 adult children. She has been taking the “first shift” of support. She lives the closest to my parents, 90 minutes away, and her lifestyle allows for regular visits right now.
My brother, Rob, is 52 years, a carpenter. Lives in New Jersey. Divorced. Co-parenting three kids who are in public school. His daughter needs someone to be with her at the bus stop every day. He is willing to take a shift and for now he is talking with our parents daily.
I am 59 years old. Entrepreneur and Coach. Parent of 3 adult children. Currently living in Washington, DC area. Teaching a variety of workshops in person and on-line. Working with the Heal My Voice Board President and holding in person meetings to build the 2016 Board of Directors. I will be flying to Florida and staying for a week at the end of December.
There was a time in my life where I would have dropped everything to be there for my parents immediately. I homeschooled my kids and had the flexibility to go on the road during most of their education.
At this time in my life, it means cancelling meetings and events and putting my life on hold. I go in and out of guilt about not dropping everything in my life to sit by my Dad’s bedside, help my Mom and be there to support my Dad’s recovery. I see many of the women around me right now in this struggle of wanting to care for and support their parents and questioning how much of our own dreams do we put on hold. And for many of us, the youngest adult child has just left the nest and we are building streams of income to support ourselves financially for the next part of our lives.
So, the decisions my siblings and I are making are practical. Who is going to help them? Even being real with each other. When is it “convenient” for a loved one to need additional support? My parents have always lived full and busy lives with many interests, and service work and community. So, of course, we are all the same. Living full lives with commitments to other people.
First, our conversations centered around the shock of the stroke which was sudden and unexpected.
Second, the assessment of his health and…to be blunt, if he was about to die or live.
Third, once we knew he was stable, what are the long term care needs.
My siblings and I moved into more practical conversation. You take this shift. I will come down for that shift. Then communicating during each step.
There are layers of internal processing here for me. I have already lost a son and a husband to illness. I have already watched two people I love die. I was the caretaker who sat by each of their bedsides. This experience is familiar and my heart is heavy thinking about it. Knowing what I have learned from losing so many loved ones and letting myself stay in the discomfort of feeling like I am not doing enough right now.
From the loss of a brother, son and husband, I have learned to live more in the present moment. And each additional time I get to spend with loved ones is a bonus. I have learned to keep my heart open and to love fully in the moment. I have to let go when I leave not knowing if I will ever see them again. All we have is the present moment.
Today I am feeling grateful we were all together at my Aunt Ellen’s funeral in Boston in September. My Dad, Mom, Sister, Brother and Me with various generations. Conversations. Photos. Connecting with Relatives and Sharing Memories. It was a beautiful weekend. Lots of sad feelings about the sudden death of my Aunt and so much joy around all of the times we spent together. Love. Gratitude. Appreciation.
What I know today is I have my plane ticket for Florida. Flying at the end of December. Spending New Year’s Eve with my parents and ringing in 2016. Creating more memories. Until then, we have the phone and computer. I have a text thread with my sister and brother. And I have made a commitment to stay in the present and live for today.
Today I am grateful that I have two siblings who are a part of this journey with me. I am appreciating the Power of 3 and how this time, I don’t have to do it alone.
Andrea Hylen believes in the power of our voice to usher in a new world. She is the founder of Heal My Voice, an organization that inspires women and men to heal a story, reclaim personal power and step into greater leadership. Andrea discovered her unique gifts while parenting three daughters and learning to live life fully after the deaths of her brother, son and husband. In addition to serving as Heal My Voice’s Executive Director, Andrea is an Orgasmic Meditation Teacher and Sexuality Coach.
She is following her intuition as she collaborates with women and men in organizations and travels around the world speaking, teaching and leading workshops. Her passion is authentically living life and supporting others in doing the same. To connect with Andrea and learn about current projects go to: www.andreahylen.com and www.healmyvoice.org.