I grew up with young, divorced parents; to me it felt normal. By the time my twin sister and I were two years old, we began the tradition of a back and forth life that included double holidays, two birthday parties and shared summers. Because we never knew any different and our parents were amicable, there were few complications. We went about our lives believing the ugly monster that can consume those involved in divorce had peacefully passed us over.
I somehow thought the impact of divorce ended once the kids grew up. I was wrong.
Last week my mother was in town to visit and attend her high school reunion. As her friends gathered to commiserate the old days, the topic of conversation quickly turned to their parents. Stories of parents who had recently passed and tales of the trials and tribulations of caring for aging and ailing loved ones filled the air.
It was the first time I had really heard that divorce monster growl.
I began to think about how I would care for my parents. The logistical difficulties of caring for two people who live 1,200 miles apart began to swarm in my head. Both of my parents have remarried, so my spinning head added in the care of their spouses as well. I quickly felt overwhelmed, and I wasn't even in the midst of being their caregiver yet.
Being the logical problem solver I like to think I am, I decided that I would care for my father who lives just 30 minutes from me, and my sister would care for our mother who is four hours away from her home.
And then I heard that little growl again.
My sister is in the military, and there is no guarantee that she will always live on the East Coast near Mom. And, there is no guarantee that I will continue to live here, near our father. How in the world would we ever make this work? How can we ever make it so that their children are an active part of their care?
I have never wished that my parents would have stayed together for the sake of us kids. But now with the daunting task of their care swimming in my head like the theme from Jaws, I wish they would have stuck it out.
I know it seems selfish, and I truly believe it was best that my parents went their separate ways, but I don't know if I'm prepared for what comes next. I am terrified to think I will spend my time reliving that back and forth life in a failing effort to do my best for everyone.
I have a feeling that perhaps that ugly monster of divorce has always been there; he's just grown some sharper teeth lately. The good news is that I have some time to start planning before I have to take on my parents' care.
So I am all ears for those of you have experienced caring for divorced parents. What were your biggest challenges? How did you make things work? And please tell me there are some hidden blessings in there somewhere!
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