"Why don't you move home and reassess your next steps, spend time with family and just take a break?" Those were my mother's words to me when I decided to move out of Los Angeles. Agreeing to all of this represented a surrendering to a new life, one that I had been apart from on an intimate level for some time. My father had been sick for six years by this point and I knew that returning home signified a commitment by me to his care. It would be my silent agreement- my consent where nothing was asked of me and where I never vocalized any objections to what was to come. I felt I was on the cusp of life's delicate yet sharp turns and it was time for me to step fully in to this next chapter of my life. Pressing the pedal meant "go" and getting comfortable in the driver's seat as I would journey a long road. I had been where many generations of adult children had been - the crossroads of unexpected and unimaginable. The words, "I never saw it coming," became my silent mantra as I trekked through the terrain of an off beaten and demanding path.
Adult-child caregivers are our neighbors, friends and acquaintences. They are the strangers on the bus who are silently negotiating with their exhaustion and raw emotions on a sometimes hourly basis; they are those who have been caring for their parent from childhood to adulthood; they are the sandwich generation who are facing a mid-life crisis earlier than anticipated; they are those who have established their personal and career life and are perhaps more available to walk into the rite of passage we call caregiving. They are jolted by the rousing calls of life as they witness the suffering of another and bestow compassion with a relentless spirit of devotion. They are infinitely connected to a community of millions by sincerely saying, "I've been there." They are those who walk with an army of other caregivers yet feel so alone. They are now my community. They are who I admire and who I learn from. They are my fellow warriors.
As I parked my rental car on the street, I took a profound breath and exhaled all of my energy into this moment. I would witness another's discomfort and hope my helping hands would caress the pain. I would often fold my personal agenda into the bulletin of needs. I would soon repurpose my mantra to: "I need to fix it all." I would exercise relentlessly at the gym as I exercised wholeheartedly in my sometimes unflinching authoritative caring. I would discover that nothing I did was wrong and everything I did required weighing what was right. I would learn that caring deeply for myself first was a prerequisite in giving care to another. I would learn that this experience of caregiving was a partnership between my father and I - one that has indelibly changed the trajectory of my life.