Staying The Course

I have taken my fair share of hits during my stint as my elderly mother’s caregiver, as have all of us who are cast in this role. I’ve ridden the emotional roller coasters, played enough “Woe is Me” games in the mirror to last a lifetime, and on more than one occasion have felt as if I was a character in a Twilight Zone episode. Or a Hitchcock movie.

It has not been easy to watch my mother physically and mentally deteriorate. And it’s not easy to wrap my head and heart around the sadness which accompanies this process. Nor has it been easy to juggle the logistics of my immediate family’s needs, and a full time profession, while managing my mother’s care.

But lately my mind has been wandering to another hit I have taken during this seemingly never-ending journey. And that is the loss of the relationship with my older, and only, sibling. The brother who bailed on my mother and me. My ostrich. Who stuck his head in the sand because what he cannot hear or see does not exist.

And I am not the only person who has had this experience with their family members. Unfortunately, it is all too common for one person to rise to the role of caregiver, while the rest of the family goes about their lives in self-imposed oblivion.

My emotional divorce from my brother has been like a death in the family. The eight year old boy who carried around a five pound bag of sugar wrapped in a kitchen towel for a week after I was born, simply to see what it would be like to hold me when I came home from the hospital…he is long gone. The tween who used to write up homework assignments for me before I was old enough to have my own, simply because I wanted to do what he did every day after school…he has long since disappeared. The man who became one of my best friends as I grew into adulthood and who I believed would always have my back…he no longer exists.

And that saddens me. As so much of this process of being my mother’s caregiver does. Yes, there is comfort in knowing other folks share the same experiences. It is good to know we are not alone. And it does ease some of the heaviness in our hearts.

But if I could invent a time machine and turn the dial to whatever time zone suited my fancy, I would revisit the days when my brother and I were pals. When we would send each other obnoxious telegrams on our birthdays, before email and text messaging were the kings of communication. When we would talk on the phone for hours, each seeking the other’s advice on a career decision. When we would get together for holidays or for an impromptu dinner when one of us was traveling for business to the other’s part of the world.

But I can’t turn back the clock. And I can’t repair the damage that has been done to our relationship by my brother, the self-imposed ostrich. And I can’t wish away the sadness, for that would make me an ostrich too.

I can forgive him, which I have done. I can hope that one day we will be able to reconnect, which I do. I can wish that he will not regret his decision to be an ostrich, which I fear will not be such an easy task for him to do.

All I can do is stay my course. Do what needs to be done for my mother and let my brother’s dust settle where it falls. And be there with a stiff broom when he is ready to lift his head back outta the sand.

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6 thoughts on “Staying The Course

  1. I hope you two patch things up sooner than later.

  2. Thank you. And so do I. Truly I do. But instinct tells me not to hold my breath. Ball is in his court now. And if and when he decides to toss a ball back into my court, I hope I can resist the urge to wack him over head with the racket, rather than sending him a return volley. [Meow. Cough, cough, cough…excuse me…furball.]

  3. Having seen the same, your words ring true. Great choice of words to call it an emotional divorce. It’s an unnecessary cruel emptiness – which only one experiences. He’ll probably never admit it (please don’t say “I just couldn’t help – it was too hard. You are the strong one…fake sobs” Yeah, right) He’s adrift and must chart his course. You are anchored. Smiles sent for reinforcements.

  4. Appreciate the reinforcing smiles! I do believe the day will come when my brother will admit he bailed. But it will come in his time, not mine or my mothers. And I’m okay with that.

  5. My older brother and I were never close. He was born shortly after my father went off to WWII and enjoyed having my mother and grandmother all to himself—until Dad came back. That was an adjustment. Then I came along two years later. Another adjustment! Now he lives in a different state from me and wasn’t involved in our mother’s care at all. They really didn’t get along well, so I’m sure he was happy with the arrangement. I would hear from him or his wife occasionally, but since our mother’s death…it’s been *crickets.* That is, after the divvying up of her estate. My mother insisted it be split equally between us and that is what I, as executor, did. This Christmas I held off on sending a card to them, just to see if they sent one first. Petty? Yeah. But, no card came. His 71st birthday is in a couple of months and I think I will remain mum on that too. I’m sure it hurts much more for you since you were so close to your brother for so long “B.D”—before dementia. Hang in there.

  6. I am sorry you missed out on a closeness with your brother. But petty? Nah. You are doing what you need to do for your sanity, not your brother’s. We can choose to rise above, but sometimes…it sticks in our craw to do so. Not nice? Yeah. But sometimes necessary for us to do. I ping my brother via a text message every three months, when I send him a report of my mother’s quarterly visit with her family doctor. And I state just the facts, ma’am. A few quarters ago, he started thanking me, rather than a simple “K” in response. I sure am glad I was sitting down that first time I read his reply! And I did not respond by saying “You are welcome”. Just couldn’t get those words outta myself in good faith. Petty? Probably.

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