I remember the first time I saw my father in pain – real, physical, call-for-help pain. He was working on finishing the basement when he threw out his back, and I was the only one there to help.
As he lay on the floor writhing in pain, I just stood there staring at him feeling completely helpless. It was as if my feet were glued to the floor and my mind was a scratched record repeating, “What do I do? What do I do?”
Eventually, my dad recovered, but I was left wondering if this was a demonstration of my aptitude to be a caregiver. A measly five minutes (which felt like five hours) of panic was enough to rock my confidence to its core.
Would I always turn to jelly in a time of crisis? Would I be able to make the right decisions and act quickly when needed? At the time, I was certain my father immediately changed any plans he had of me caring for him as he aged. I felt like a complete failure.
But as it tends to happen in life, more opportunities came my way to see what I was really made of. Between motherhood and other crisis moments throughout the years, my confidence slowly came back. I knew the right questions to ask, when to stay calm and when to act quickly. I knew I could do this even with the inevitable bumps in the road. I knew that one moment of failure would not define me.
I was no longer afraid that I would be a poor excuse for a caregiver.
Looking back, I realize that seeing my dad – the person who was my protector and seemingly the strongest man I knew – needing help was rightfully a frightening situation. It was the first time I realized that my dad wasn't invincible and that someday he wouldn’t be here.
As those who cared for us for so many years begin the transition to the ones who need care, our whole world changes; the way we think changes. Everything changes. Sometimes it’s a slow process, and other times the baton is passed to us faster than what could ever be thought of as fair.
Regardless of how quickly we become the one giving care, it is okay to be afraid. It’s okay to be sad and unsure at times, to question if what we are doing is the right thing. We have to take those moments of feeling stuck to the floor when our thoughts sound like a broken record player; it’s a part of this journey. But we cannot forget to make time for those moments when we are the caregiver rock star; the times when we do something we didn’t think we could. We have to make time for the good and celebrate the little victories along the way. We have to remember that one moment will never define us; rather it is our entire journey that ultimately makes the destination what it is.
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