Caregiver's Diary: Another Family, Another story

If my dad wants to leave the island to visit friends, attend events on the lake or even return to the car for trips to town, we are back to the boat and the need to get in and out of it – safely.

For the several years now I have been watching my parents make their way around at the cottage with hands over my eyes – and fingers spread. My mother feels that she looks after him all year so the least he can do is let her go to her island for the summer. She will not leave him alone, so he must come with her. There is no consideration of staying in their city home, where Dad is safe and comfortable, for the summer. I have been waiting for Dad to put his foot down and simply refuse to travel to the lake, but this has not happened.

As their daughter, I don’t know whom I am most angry with, my mom or my dad, about this situation. This is something that they could have prepared themselves for, by establishing a summer life in the city years ago. Even though I completely relate to my mom’s desire to be at her cottage in the summer, another part of me believes that she should not be dragging my father up there with her. She could leave him in the city with a care-giver, but I know that she absolutely would not do this. The other option then is to stay in the city with him, where he is safe and comfortable. But at the age of 80, she has few summers left and she clearly does not want to miss even one.

Of course, dad is capable of refusing to go, but he continues to allow himself to be taken up there year after year. Now it is not just a question of pain and discomfort – it has become dangerous for him. But perhaps the prospect of the danger is less scary than the prospect of my mother being miserable for two months? ….

I once voiced my frustration to a wise friend, who turned to me and said, “Your parents are all grown up now. You just have to let them make their own decisions.”

What is it about my parents’ 56 year-old marriage that commands this sense of duty and sacrifice to each other? It is a wonderful and powerful form of love and commitment – but it is awfully hard to watch. Meanwhile, this summer at the cottage, I will keep 911 on speed dial.

Keywords: caregivers