Someone once told me, “some days you are the pigeon and other days, the statue”
It was a statue kind of day. Mondays typically are. There is always some needed item that gets lost in oblivion. On Monday, October 27th, it was the new shoelaces for my 6 year old’s sneakers. You would think I would have handled that long before oh-seven-hundred, but not this mom. i totally spaced and forgot. And by 7:35, I was in panic-mode, as these are the only shoes that fit his ever-growing feet right now.
I finally found the missing lace under the coffee table, nestled between the Nutri-grain bar wrapper and last month’s tattered edition of Real Simple magazine. Perfect hiding place.
After getting the kiddos settled…dropping one at school, the other at daycare, and there’s the one who drives himself to school….I headed to my father’s house to pay the aides their weekly checks. On the way there I remembered…
I was supposed to pick up a disc at his pulmonologist’s office and take it with him to the thoracic surgeon’s office. So i raced over there. All the while, handling work calls.
He was already at the appointment. Luckily, I staffed an aide to take him there and to get him checked in.
By the time I arrived, he was already in an exam room. After waiting for a bit, the surgeon arrived.
He was tall and slender with a heavy German accent. I kept thinking he looked like Slugworth on Willie Wonka’s chocolate factory…I digress. He was intense but kind.
He may as well have been Slugworth. He delivered sobering news to us with candor and seriousness. I readied myself to fight. To challenge what he said. To deflect the issue so I could have a minute to process.
Instead, he said,”I am almost 99% sure it IS mesothelioma. There is really no treatment for him in his condition. His body cannot withstand it.”
Not a pigeon here, but a statue. I felt like a statue. I was motionless and still. And I felt as cold as stone.
My father has a disease that is not curable. A disease that will limit his life. A disease that has the potential to cause him great pain.
And I just sat there. Stoic and statue-like. Processing it all.
My father is extremely hard of hearing and he has macular degeneration. So he didn’t hear all that was said. He couldn’t see the way the blood drained from my face, but he could sense there was a shift in the climate.
I don’t agree with keeping secrets from those I love. In this situation, I felt it best not to share the gory details with him. If he knew the gravity of the diagnosis, he would likely give up. He would focus and obsess on the little amount of time he has left, rather than enjoying what time he does have.
As we were leaving he looked at me in a way that a child looks at a parent. The look was a “I know it’s not good, but tell me it’s okay” look, I could feel his anxiety. I could sense that he needed my approval of the situation.
Of all of the roles I play. As a mother to three children, a friend to many, an employee, a caregiver…being a parent to my parents is by far the most emotionally taxing. Especially difficult with my father. He has always been my strength.
So I reflected on what he would do in the same situation. I looked at him, peering into his sparkling blue, but worried eyes, and said, “Daddy, it’s not good news, but it’s not the worst news. They need to do some further testing to know the specifics, but I promise you, I will be here with you. And I feel very confident in the doctor and his judgement. We are going to get through this. You may be 81, but you are strong. We will know more soon and I am here for you”
He looked down for a moment. I knew he understood what I was trying to say. He looked back up and grabbed my hand, “Thank you, honey. We’ve always been so close and we always will be.”
Regardless of diagnosis. Regardless of treatment or lack of treatment. Regardless of up in the heavens or here on the earth. One thing is certain, we will always be close.
And just like that, he flipped back into the role of being my parent. In the midst of hearing some difficult news, he was able to reassure me.
No longer the statue. Not a pigeon. Back to who I’ve always been.
November 5, 2014 at 11:53 am
A very touching post. It is difficult at times when we feel that we have to switch roles, and be the caregiver to the parent’s that cared for us for so long. At the time you may feel like a statue, but it’s a fluid statue of emotions.
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November 6, 2014 at 8:47 am
Thank you for the kind comments. It is difficult to switch roles, but the most rewarding job in the end. Knowing that I can be the voice of reassurance, as they once were to me, makes it all worthwhile. Giving them that sense of peace in their final years.
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