Updated: Sep 16, 2020
Life has a way of sneaking up on us.
Life has a way of teaching us.
We see changes happen to so many around us, and want to avoid that part of aging. The weight. The wrinkles. The fatigue. Have you ever said to your spouse, "Don't let me become ..." ??
As I reached my 4th decade, my body seemed to be waging war with me, and sadly, it appeared to be winning. In the past, I had always been very fit and never overweight. My yearly lab values were brag-worthy...until life happened. I couldn't deny it any longer. Peering back at in the mirror was not the fit and strong woman I used to know. The stress of a working parent was taking its toll. There are only so many hours in the day.
My story isn't so different than yours.
I married a wonderful man, and we raised children.
I worked, and rushed home to make the parent-teacher conferences.
I attended PTO meetings. I chauffeured to soccer and gymnastics.
I watched marching band performances and robotics competitions.
There were dating and college prep classes, prom and future plans.
I neglected myself to make sure my kids were whole.
Just when I thought I couldn't juggle anything else, my parents got sick - they needed care. I felt trapped between the needs of everyone: my family, my work and my parents. So many of us know this story. I now had 2 homes to manage. One full of youth, hope and new experiences, and the other grasping desperately to hold on. And no time for myself.
I did my best to help my parents get through. It was inglorious, difficult and heart breaking. Their memory, their health, and their vibrancy all fading as fast as the wind. They were in denial, they were deaf and they were vulnerable.
My father was a farmer, a hard worker, and a caring and good man. Dad was no longer that strong-as-an-ox of a man, but a shell of his former self. Parkinson's robbed him of body, and knees replacements and pain medications failed him. He began to forget, and then blamed us for keeping things from him. Eventually, Dad went to assisted living where he passed almost a decade later.
I will always remember my father for the good things he taught me. To stand up for what you believe. To get involved. To shun vices like smoking and alcohol. Like my Father in heaven, he showed me kindness and love.
I will forever treasure the letter he wrote to that scared teenager starting high school. He left it on the counter - already on his way to work when I opened it. He reminded me that I was strong enough. Good enough. "You are up to the task!" I had only complained of a stomach ache the night before, but he saw my stress and tried to help me face the music with strength.
I look at that woman in the mirror, and love her. She has a few more pounds and a few more wrinkles, but she is going to be okay. I wouldn't change a thing, because otherwise, I would not have been there for my Dad. Rest in peace Dad, and thanks for showing me kindness when I needed it.