growing up

I’m back in the home that used to be my mother’s.  My stepfather, who is the full-time caregiver for my grandmother, is in the hospital.  He has a skin infection that will be easily treated, however without his care there is no one else for my grandmother.  We are working on options so I can return to work soon, but for now I am on grandma-duty.

Fortunately my mother married a man who was willing and able to care for her mother after she passed.  I don’t take this for granted; he certainly could have declined this role. Yet even with his devotion I feel an added responsibility I never felt when Mom was alive. I am Grandma’s closest living relative, and there is only me. She has outlived both a husband and a longstanding romantic partner, as well as her only child. She is not able to care for herself independently, and I have a responsibility to ensure that her needs are met.

This is the source of some anxiety.  I haven’t yet recharged my batteries from Mom’s long illness and I worry about meeting Grandma’s needs if and when my stepfather is unable to do so. I also feel the burden of a small family.  I have no sibilings with which to share caregiving; my stepsister lives in another country. At many junctures during my mother’s illness I felt alone. Not to minimize the losses of my stepfather or Grandma, who arguably have had their daily lives more disrupted than I by her death. However,  nobody else was losing my mother in the same way I was.  No one else was watching this mother die of cancer.

Maybe grief is always lonely.  Maybe a brother or sister would have been disruptive, angry, drunk, high, unavailable, busy doing other things or otherwise a total pain in the ass. Any wishes I may have for more help in caregiving aging relatives is not only pointless, it illustrates the impossibility that I wish for: that my mother wasn’t dead.

Her passing has made me grow up.  I don’t have children, so with this loss I entered a new realm of responsibility for another human being. It also has provided a taste of getting older. I now understand the sting of watching the generations before me die, removing the meaningless yet symbolic distance between myself and the end. And I understand how difficult it is to say goodbye, to let go.  And what is getting older, if not a process of letting go?



7 thoughts on “growing up

  1. Chatter Master

    I work for Adult Protective Services. I see what you are going through, every day. I hope your stepfather gets well quickly. And my heart aches for your loss. Your post was incredibly poignant.

  2. Kathy

    I’m sorry about the loss of your mom. I lost my mom on November 16, 2008 to pancreatic cancer, and not a day goes by that I don’t think of her, miss her, and wish that she was still with us. My mom loved her family and we did a lot together. She took care of everything when it came to get togethers and holidays. When she died, my dad began looking to me for direction, and I was at a complete loss. I did the best I could but there was no way I could fill my mom’s shoes. Looking back now, I don’t think anyone expected me to. I’ve grown a lot since my mom died, and her illness and death made me grow up. You said that grief is lonely and you’re right. But know that you’re not alone. Through my blog I have met a lot of people who’ve lost parents and their support, along with continuing to write about my thoughts and feelings, has helped me to slowly heal. Take care, Kathy

  3. jennysserendipity

    I am sorry for the lost of your mother and thank you for caring for your grandmother…I live in Asia and the Western world as well, and the striking difference of caring for the elderly is so different. I am glad you stopped by my blog because I find your blog very endearing…And thanks for the following..Jenny


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