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.