by Donna M. Brown
I know I’ve said this before (and I’m sure some are really tired of hearing it); but, it’s part of my story and without it, the rest of me just doesn’t make sense.
My world crumbled when my sister was found dead in her bed in 2007. She left three children behind. Shortly after I was divorced (22 years); my ex-husband found my best childhood friend dead in her car on the side of the road; my father was diagnosed and shortly thereafter died of pancreatic cancer; my 4-year-old nephew was crushed by a truck in front of his mother; my brother committed suicide and my mother went crazy. This spring an ex-lover I shoved out of my life of grief was hit and killed by a car. He used to tell me I made his life worth living. That kind of sums it up with a lot of regular life stuff shoved in the cracks. A couple of months ago I was diagnosed with sebaceous/mybomian gland cancer and underwent three major surgeries. In the last month I have had two cataract surgeries. This week my mother’s beloved nephew died.
Oh, did I mention I am a full-time caregiver for a person I adore who suffers from dementia and is a brittle diabetic? (That’s a crucial part of the story too.) Regardless of how I have treated the situation, this part is not an afterthought. It is my reality and I have to face it.
It might also be noteworthy that I have a very demanding full-time professional career. I have an office at home where I work full-time and care for my mother full time. All of that takes up about 300 percent of my time. I’m fat. I’m sad. I’m lonely. I just keep trudging on.
It’s safe to say I have been “frozen” since June 2007. I have only about half lived life. I have worked from home since then hiding from the world and just trying to keep it all together.
I had a meltdown of epic proportions yesterday in the ER when they wouldn’t keep my mother. It’s a long story. Huh, imagine that. They wouldn’t keep my mother. Go figure.
I really had arrived. Something has to change. The few days of my life I have left just can’t whither away while I remain subservient to the needs of everyone else. I don’t have it in me to neglect their needs. It’s a dilemma.
I went to sleep last night — frankly, drunk (no, I don’t drink my problems away, but I sure did last night) — spent, defeated. Yes, I had arrived.
I have a pact I made with the Lord. I won’t go into it here, but if you would like to read about it you can visit my WordPress blog. It’s called “Self Help Heaven” (because I really need a lot of that). I woke up this morning with clarity. I remember standing in front of the doctor and wringing my hands in the air, “I have arrived. Do you get it? I am here.” Jesus.
This morning I can imagine those words reverberating all the way up to heaven. I’m pretty sure the Lord did a double-take and came running stat. All the guardian angels must have come to see what was going on because together they worked out an answer.
I’m moving out of the tundra where I have been frozen for nearly a decade and into the light of life.
I am moving my home office to the center of our sweet little town. See, I was once our community’s and our state’s chamber of commerce executive director. I took 220 people on a business trip to China and helped hundreds of others get there too. I was an award winning journalist for local, state and national publications for 30 years. I served on the airport board, headed the historical society, chaired the organization of our city’s first business expo, started an annual festival to honor our farmers and ranchers, brought NBC’s Three Wishes to our little town that benefited with literally MILLIONS of dollars in donations and millions of dollars in publicity from the one hour show for our beautiful community — the gateway to some of our country’s most fabulous national parks. I organized a party in honor of our state’s centennial celebration in a ghost town 60 miles from nowhere. A THOUSAND PEOPLE CAME. (Of course you realize all of this is for my benefit and not yours.I think you get the point.)
Oh, and while doing all of that I raised four amazing children. Yeah, there it is again — the afterthought (and the most important aspect of my life).
So, today, I am sliding off this land of frozen sorrows and regrets and moving back into a warmer place. I will “lunch” with old friends who heard I had gone crazy and haven’t dared ask how I’m doing. I will go to the gym. I will attend social functions and maybe volunteer a little here and there.
I will not make my mom move. This is her home and she has been through a lot. I will begin to establish my life separate from hers and start the search for two reliable aids who can offer her care while I have a life for eight hours a day.
I will come home refreshed instead of spent to offer her my love and attention. I will love on my eight grandchildren with the energy I save up and help my children when I can.
Yeah, I know it won’t be as perfect as it sounds. But, damn. Isn’t it time to dig out my summer clothes?