Something that I never factored into my father’s illness was how important it was to have a support system in place to help me get through it. You know, friends and family who aren’t mired in my father’s last stage of life, and with whom I’m bonded through previous life experience and not some common misery (i.e. not a constructed support group). I might have set up my friendships differently if I had.
Right now, the only people I have to talk to about my situation are my mother and my brother — both of whom are sharing the same situation. As a result, our conversations just go around in circles. Frankly, it doesn’t help. My brother tries to evade as much as he can, and any conversation I have with my mom soon devolves into how her misery is greater than mine (I’m paraphrasing, of course).
What I should have had in place are a number of ears willing to listen (not type…listen) to ME bitch and moan about the situation. I basically want a sympathetic ear to lend me some emotional solace. In concert with this, it would be nice to hear about someone else’s life that isn’t quite as draining. One final condition… it needs to happen, at least occasionally, without any prompting by me. A spontaneous act of kindness.
When the people I care for, friends and extended family, have a life challenge, one of the first things out of my mouth is: how can I help? I’ll call, I’ll make care packages, I’ll chauffeur, I’ll cook, I’ll do any number of things to help my dear ones when they need help. Apparently this isn’t one of those things that engenders any quid pro quo…at least not among the people I interact with. What I get are non-ringing phones, empty mailboxes (e- and snail-), and often no replies even when I’m the one doing the initiating.
There is a saying that states when you are in troubled times, you’ll quickly learn who your real friends are. While there is a grain of truth to that, I can’t hold by the inference that if people don’t immediately rush to your side that you should stop considering them friends. That’s bollocks. People are more complicated than that. No matter how close or how loved, people will almost always manage to disappoint. They may not even know they are doing it (e.g. "if you don’t know, then I’m not going to tell you"). That’s no reason to abandon a happy history with people who share your heart. Think of how many sermons around the world would have gone lacking if it weren’t for the parable of the prodigal son.
Even so, it’s hard not to feel abandoned at times. My mom talks on the phone, often for hours each day, to various siblings. She not only gets to vent, but she also gets to be distracted from the current toil. Though she’s incredibly stressed out, I can’t imagine what she’d be like if it wasn’t for this release.
So, gentle reader, pretty much all I have is this forum in which to whine a bit. I may eventually take advantage of the volunteers and clergy available via my dad’s hospice program to have someone to talk to, but honestly, it’s not the same. I don’t know these people, and once my dad is gone, it’s not likely I’ll ever see them regularly again. That’s not a support system meant to make you feel safe and warm your heart even while riding out rough waters…that’s just a flotation device that does little more than keep you from drowning as the waves tower overhead.
What about Mary*, you ask? We thought you two were close. You know, I sort of did, too, but there was a noticeable sea change this past Valentines Day (which I’m not going to rehash here). Since then…well, let’s just say that I’ve observed that Christian charity often starts in the home and unless you live under that particular roof you might have to endure a little rain before anyone thinks of popping open an umbrella. In any event, it’s not like this hasn’t been an eventful year for her and the the girls as well. I’ve offered to help on many occasions, but I’m rarely taken up on the invitation any more. Still love ‘em, though.
Where does that leave me? I don’t know. I guess it leaves me about where I am now. All I can really do is ask that if you are prone to prayer or similar practices, then ask that my dad will quickly be rid of this dignity-robbing suffering. Once that happens, I’ll be happy enough to once again done my rose-colored glasses and enjoy the company of the people in my life until it’s my mom’s turn to get sick. Maybe by then I’ll have set up something more emotionally usable by me. One can only hope.