Me = 30something-ish mom, wife, two young kids, full time job, dad in nursing home with dementia
Okay. Now onto the topic: the weird abyss. The abyss I'm referring to is my role at this very moment in time. I'm caught in that weird abyss of being a mother to my kids, and being the daughter taking care of a dad on hospice care and in the nursing home when what I'd most like to do is watch him sitting on a dock, showing the kids the proper way to bait a hook.
The abyss is not an ideal place to be, as I constantly battle the struggle of managing time between the most important people in my life. If you don't know what it's like to have a loved one with dementia, please read this. It will help give you a little insight into why it is extremely difficult to bring young kids around a grandparent - a grandparent they love very, very much - when that grandparent begins turning into someone very different. Hence, the dilemma - I find myself short on days we can all be spending time together because life schedules and dad's mood and behavior match up. Thus, the need to choose who I'm spending time with has become a situation I'm far too familiar with.
On one side is my dad: the man who raised me, took the fam on cross-country trips to see the grand canyon, made my dream of performing dance in Europe a possibility, helped me pay for my college education, took me fishing, never missed a recital, taught my kids how to fish. You get it - and the list goes on and on. Now his days are in a nursing home because he needs quite a bit of help and it is the safest and best place for him, but he's lonely. While he's never been a really emotional guy, he makes it very known that he's lonely. I've seen him cry in the last year more than I have in my past 30something-ish years, and it breaks my heart. Some days he is barely awake and other days he'll talk about this or that. And while we try and be there as much as we humanly can (meaning, every single day when possible), he is still lonely in those times we are not, and I can't help but want to be there with him for whatever time he has left, trying to cheer him up. I know his days are growing shorter, and I just want to hear his stories and make him as happy and peaceful as possible.
On the other side are my beautiful babies, who really aren't babies anymore (but they still look at me with those big, baby doe eyes), who ask me when I'll be home or are we going to go somewhere together. The past year I've missed more school events and homework checks than I care to admit, because there just isn't time in the day for everything to get done for everyone. As I sit on the edge of the bed every night I can't help but remember that the time with them is also very precious. They're never going to be this age again. They're never going to have the same ideas for made up games and they're never going to make a baseball catch quite like the one I miss, and I don't want to miss a moment of it.
But I have to miss something. And here I am in the weird abyss where, no matter what choice I make, no matter who I choose, someone I love very much gets hurt and I miss something. I feel a tremendous guilt over not being there with him like I was with mom's battle against brain cancer, but here's the thing: I was single then and working full time, but no kids. I had nothing but time to give her. It's a lot different - and a lot harder this time around - because I have other obligations that also need - and deserve - my time and attention.
I don't write this because I'm looking for an answer - there isn't one. I write this because somewhere out there, someone is feeling like the knot in the middle of the tug-of-war rope too, and perhaps just knowing they aren't alone might help them from spilling tears in their mint chocolate chip ice cream for just one night. To that person: you're doing the best you can. Keep your chin up and keep chugging along. You're not alone, and you've got this.