Caregiving and Responsibility

“You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” Abraham Lincoln

My maternal grandmother raised me and was my primary caregiver for the first four years of my life. She died after giving my brother his middle-of-the-night feeding. My mother raised my son. I was in university when I had him. I went into labour in my afternoon class, finished the day, went home, then to the hospital. I told myself I didn’t have time for this even as the nurse was rolling me into the delivery room. Papers had to be finished, an exam was coming.

I took four days off and went right back to school, refusing my mother’s pleas to take a year away from my studies. To be fair, my ex also helped raise our son. I did as well, after school and on weekends. Still I have always felt I had abandoned him.

I’m not proud of deserting my son. I don’t regret my education or my career, but I wonder to this day why I felt I had only one option available to me back then. But that is likely a topic for another blog or perhaps a psychiatrist’s couch.

In families like mine grandmothers shoulder the caregiving responsibilities and instil the family’s values. Even though I only had my grandmother in my life for a short period of time, I have never forgotten her or the lessons she subtly taught. Don’t fight with your sister and brother. Share. Take care of your family.

 Yes, I’m a grandmother now, but being a baby boomer living in a North American society neither my son nor my stepchildren expect me to raise their children. Everyone takes care of his or her own responsibilities. In some ways this is a good thing. In other ways, I wonder if we haven’t lost something.

As you’ve probably noticed, it’s hard for me to stick to one topic.

My concern now is with my father. I know. How did we get to her father when she was talking about a grandmother’s responsibilities? Stick with me and hopefully I’ll get to that. I’m trying to figure it out myself.

As I mentioned last week, my father fell down the basement stairs in his house. He’s healing and will eventually recover. I’ve been wondering for a long time about stepping in to look after him.

You’re probably thinking, finally she’s gotten to the point. And you’d be right except I’m still sorting it all out.

On the one hand, I think if my dad lived with us, he would have family rather than strangers to care for him. Yes, he has exceptional care at the moment. He’s able to live in his own home and is supported by homecare workers who come in four times a day to help with his medication. And while they sit and chat with him, they are strangers, not family.

If he were to live with us, he would be in Whistler, a place of nature and a home my parents both loved. There is a comfortable familiarity and good memories here.

I could make whatever time he has left calm and pleasant and loving. He wouldn’t have to worry about anything.

And yet, and yet, the more I do, the more I know he becomes dependent. Is that a good thing for anyone, let alone for a man who was so competent in his life? Doesn’t thinking about things keep a person feeling vital? Gives life a purpose?

Does taking away responsibility help or hinder? I don’t know. And who am I to tell him what’s best for him? It is his life.

He is comfortable in his home. He tells me often that his home is where he feels closest to my mother. It’s where his memories are. Why would I take that away from him? In short: to protect him. But is that all that life boils down to?

Can you see my struggle?

Yes, I know caring for him will impact my life. Like everyone, I have a busy, busy life. But isn’t this the time to think about someone else for a change? Can’t I put my own pursuits on hold this one time?

I wonder what my grandmother would do. Actually I know exactly what she would do. Yet I hesitate. I’m not sure I can live up to the person she was.


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