It’s close to year end. Only about two weeks left in 2013. As I start to reflect on the previous 11 months, I’ve been thinking about how my role as a caregiver has changed this year and how it has changed even more during the past several years.
My role as a caregiver to my mom came to a halt in March when I said goodbye to her. There are no more parents for me to care for now that my mom has passed. (My dad died almost 25 years ago.) No more Hanukkah cards or presents to send to Flo-ree-da. No more mom calls on New Year’s Day with greetings for a happy and healthy new year. My phone was always on automatic dial to Flo-ree-da on January 1st.
The Taoist proverb that my teacher P shared in yoga class last week especially touched my heart: “We cannot see our reflection in running water. It is only in still water that we can see.”
I’ve kept myself very busy the past nine months since losing my mom. Have I been running to avoid facing my grief? Have I been running all these months because I am no longer her caregiver? Have I been running all these months because I don’t want to face these changes?
This week marks the sixth anniversary of my husband M’s passing. I was a caregiver to my spouse for 24 years of marriage. I learned how to care for M whenever his asthma attacked his breathing. I learned to take deep breathes myself when times got tough.
My role as a caregiver is deeply embedded. It is an important part of who I am.
“Be sure to wear your sunscreen when you’re on vacation in the Dominican Republic,” I told my son D before he left for vacation earlier this month. He smiled and shook his head. Did I say that my son D is an adult with a job in finance in NYC? I will always be a caregiver to my daughter A and my son D. I am forever their mom.
“I’m retired so go ask your silly little question to someone who cares!” states a plaque that hangs in my home office. This year I retired my caregiver role in the workplace. After 30 years of answering questions and taking care of my staff and others, my corporate career came to a close in April. There’s only one person to care for during my work life after 50 and that’s me. “If you don’t take care, you have no one to blame but yourself,” said my coach D.
I wrote my checks for my yearly community giving. A donation to the Boys and Girls Club in honor of my late husband M. A donation to the Girl Scouts in recognition of my mom P. A gift for the Jewish Federation to support their programs for the elderly. A donation to the Food Bank to help feed the hungry.
My role as a caregiver still felt empty. But then I received an email from my webmaster.
“B Two Design is working with Virtua Hospital’s Early Intervention Program to help sponsor local families for the holiday season. Virtua is looking for local business people interested in sponsoring South Jersey families. Sponsorship involves purchasing gifts from a child’s wish list (i.e. from Santa).”
OMG! OMG! OMG! The chance to play Santa to two little girls in need was exciting. My oxytocin levels were on high as I picked out several outfits, jackets and accessories for the two sisters J and S. I packed each outfit in a separate box so the girls will have lots of gifts to open on Christmas Day. I made sure that each child has the same number of gifts. (Ooh, ooh, ooh, I tried to be exact, but when I went to pack up the gifts I noticed that I bought an extra item for J. I just couldn’t resist the tiny animal slippers.)
I’m starting to set my intentions for 2014. I want to continue to slow down and practice mindfulness and yoga. I want to continue to slow down and quiet the waters so I can reflect like the Taoist proverb states: “It is only in still water that we can see.” My role as a caregiver is changing during my life after 50. Perhaps in the new year I will better define next steps. I’m taking off my running shoes. Can’t wait to see my reflection in the water.
Disclosure: I am a member of AARP’s Blogger Kitchen Cabinet On Caregiving. All opinions are my own.
For more tips on caregiving during the holidays check out the Caregiving At the Holidays video on the WHOA! Network. WHOA co-founder Darryle Pollack gathered a group of experts to discuss caregiving at the holidays and creative ways to celebrate and create new traditions. The video features helpful suggestions from Amy Goyer, AARP Family and Caregiving Expert; Dresden Shumaker, of CreatingMotherhood.com; and Kelley Connors of KC-Health.