It was late June when we heard the news that my grandfather was ill. Two days later, the diagnosis of cancer came. Along with the diagnosis came a big bag of mixed emotions and a journey I will never forget.
Anger. His cancer was one that is easily prevented and when caught early very curable. Why didn't he see a doctor sooner? Why didn't he tell someone about the symptoms he was experiencing? Why did he wait so long? Why?
Sadness. I sat on my deck in tears. Not the pretty tears that can be dabbed neatly with a tissue, but uncontrollable tears that lead to hyperventilation, smeared makeup and red puffy eyes. My husband reminded me that I deal with aging, caregiving and everything senior related on a daily basis. Through my sobs I told him that no amount of knowledge or professional experience could have ever emotionally prepared me for it to happen to someone I love.
Regret. It had been three years since I had seen my maternal grandparents. My grandparents live 650 miles from us, and when I would call it would usually be my grandmother I spoke with. I felt terrible. Had I missed my opportunity to reconnect with the grandparents? Would I ever get another chance to hug them, look them in the eyes and tell them I loved them?
As it would turn out, I would get that chance. As the widely-dispersed family came together via email and phone calls to plan for my grandparents’ care, I offered to head down south for a week to help. I figured in the next month or two, the family would take me up on the offer.
I went to my boss and explained the situation, and asked for time in the next few months to work remotely. I am lucky to work for such an amazing organization, and there was no hesitation when agreeing to my request.
Twenty minutes later, I received a text from my mother, “How about next week?”
Queue the panic. I had just told my boss “in the coming months”, not next week. My mind raced with everything I would have to do to be able to leave my job and family for a week. I also questioned whether or not I was really prepared to do this, as well as my sanity in offering my time. Surely it would have been much easier to stay home and offer my support from afar. What had I gotten myself into?
In the coming weeks, you will read more about my time caring for my grandparents. All of it is real. My real emotions, my real struggles, my real fears, and my real joys. I encourage you to follow my journey and share your own stories, tips, and support.
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