June 2, 2012: Mom's first grandchild. Two more would come along between then and now -- three boys, all J's, all belonging to my incredibly gifted, patient and kind younger sister and her equally kind and supportive husband. Due to the ravaging effects of M.S., Mom would meet only two.
In 2012, Mom still had partial functioning of her right hand. All other limbs had succumbed to paralysis. The right hand meant everything. It meant stability. Empowerment. Autonomy. Freedom. That right hand -- that functioning right hand -- enabled her to steer her electric chair around the house, to hold a utensil and feed herself (with a special wide grip), to feel the tiny toes of baby Jonah in her fingertips.
In 2014, that hand lost functioning, too. My sister and brother-in-law -- at barely thirty years old -- moved Mom into their home forty miles from where we grew up; a place where Mom had spent her entire life. In their home, my family and a rotating cast of caregivers changed, fed, bathed and tended to Mom, while just on the other side of the door my sister tended to her babies.
It is easy to get caught up in the emotional pain of a caregiving role reversal. I wanted so badly to turn back the clock to the time when Mom comforted and cared for me. My anger and sadness and confusion blinded me to the fact that she still WAS caring for me, only differently. She was still a listening ear, a giver of sound advice, a rock that held the family together. She was still Mom looking out for us. Maybe she couldn't pick us up if we fell, or heal us with her embrace. She was still there watching, teaching, anticipating. She was still caring for us all.
This picture is a reminder of the healing power of Mom's touch; the soothing calm of her voice; the kindness of her eyes. We had a reversal, of sorts. That is something I believe and something I felt. Yet this experience -- this journey -- is different for everyone. If there is one thing I learned, it's to try not to mourn the care you once felt; try instead to celebrate its metamorphosis into something different -- and beautiful.
4 straight-talking articles to help you through this transition
1. How to Navigate Becoming a Caregiver for an Aging Parent, from arborassistedliving.com
2. Caregiving for Your Parent: When the Roles are Reversed, from caringpeopleinc.com
3. How "Role Reversal" and Other Caregiving Catch Phrases Skew Your Thoughts, from agingcare.com
4. 9 Ways Caring for Parents is Different Than Caring for Children, from agingcare.com
What have you learned from transitioning into a caregiving role for your parent(s) or grandparent(s)? What tips would you share with others? Leave a comment below!