Can we ever really know the truth?

At my writing group last night one of the women wrote about care-giving for her father who had Alzheimer’s. She wrote of herself as a reluctant caregiver. She found a lot of reasons why she didn’t want to make the 2-hour drive to Columbus and stay overnight at her parents’ house.

I applauded her for her honesty.

And then I started to wonder about myself. Did I resent feeling a responsibility to take care of Mom and Dad over the past years? I don’t remember not wanting to go visit them. I don’t remember it being a burden. What I remember most was being driven to try to fix the problem, to help ease their pain, to scramble to make things better somehow, someway. It was a vocation for me.

I’m sure there were days when I might have preferred to stay home, but I really can’t recall feeling that way.

And it makes me wonder whether I am now in denial, or whether my personal history has made me approach or feel differently about care-giving than some others might. I learned care-giving from a very early age as I stooped to pick Annie’s toys up off the ground where she dropped them, or straightened her up in her chair, or fed her a meal. When I moved away from home it wasn’t very many years before I was giving care to what would eventually be four children in our family.

I know there were times when I grew tired, or frustrated, but I don’t think I would ever refer to myself as reluctant. I wanted to help my parents. I was desperate to make things better.

When things fell apart last December, I spent nights on a sofa in the lobby of a hospital, on a sofa at my Mom’s house, on a Hospice chair that converted to a very hard bed, on an air mattress on the floor, in a recliner beside my father’s bed. I wanted to be there. I went home and slept in my own bed only because I knew that if I didn’t take breaks I would not be able to sustain the level of support I wanted to give.

But in this place of grief where I now dwell, I wonder if I will ever know the truth of any of it anymore. Can we ever really know the truth?

Sunlight on water-2013-10-21

30 thoughts on “Can we ever really know the truth?”

  1. The fact of the matter is you were there when they needed you and you will always have that time with them in your heart.

    1. It was more of an intellectual exercise, really. I just wondered if I had a different response than other people, or if I was kidding myself. I don’t know if it is really possible to know.

  2. I’m not sure it matters. Truth is a slippery devil at the best of times, and we all have our own version of it. You were there. That’s what counts.

  3. Christine,

    I think your truth can be found in every word you’ve written about your experience. You write from the heart, and that can’t be hidden. Through it all you wrote of your pain, of your exhaustion, of your fears, but also of your desire to fix, to help, to solve. You never expressed reluctance (while I often did). Do not doubt yourself or ability to give when your family needed it most. Your family was, and is, an amazing example of the power of love and caring.

    1. That’s a wise answer, Lisa, to look back in my words. I don’t really doubt myself or what I gave to my family. I am very much at peace with knowing I did all I think I could do. Thanks for your support and kind words.

  4. What difference does it make . . . HERE and NOW?

    You did plenty for your parents and Annie when they were alive. NONE of them would want you to feel badly that you did not do more.

    1. It doesn’t make any difference here and now, as you already know. I don’t feel badly that I didn’t do more for my parents or Annie. I am at peace with what I did. The question was more of an intellectual exercise, really. And even though it may have nothing to do with here and now, I do believe in the value of self-reflection.

      1. Oops . . . I misunderstood you. I thought you were questioning whether you did enough for them. Seeing your replies, I see that is not what you meant.

        Self-reflection is extremely valuable. Especially if we use an internal reference point and ask the right questions.

        If you are at peace with what you did, that’s the reflection to focus on. Peace is good.

  5. From what you’re saying, and have said before, it seems to me that you’re the sort of person capable of doing this without complaint, without a second thought. Some people are not.

    My father’s sister, for example, was never the sort who could be at vigil in a hospital. It was just not in her. So my dad, mom, and uncle were the ones who really did that when my grandparents passed away. She just didn’t have that in her.

    1. Thanks, William. I am sometimes baffled to realize not everyone thinks as I do. Some things just seem so natural and automatic that it surprises me when not everyone feels the same. Then I wonder if I am kidding myself. But I don’t think I am. Your words encourage me. I think you’re right. Everybody’s different.

  6. Some of us are born care-givers. Others, not. My husband is not. He tries, but doesn’t quite get it. I think most important is we do the best we can being who we are and what we have to work with. We cannot do more or better than that. None of us can.

    1. Thanks for weighing in with the others. When I find myself responding differently than others to something it always causes me to pause and try to understand why or what is going on. Your wisdom enriches me.

  7. That is a lovely photo at the end of your post. I like the light glistening on the water. You will continue to be a caregiver, it is who you are. You have children…and a future full of love to be shared.

  8. Christine, I don’t think we ever do have the answers to questions such as these. I know that there are days when I grieve for the loss of the life I want for Aspie daughter and now when I want to take away my son’s pain over his heart break I feel helpless. We can only do the best we can and if we sometimes resent it then that shows we are only human You are a true care-giver who gave all of yourself to your parents. You can be at peace about that Christine.

    1. You’re right. We can only do the best we can do. And I think it is true that some people find it easier to give care than others. I am at peace with my role in the events of the past year. I know there was nothing more I could do. It doesn’t keep me from wishing that things had been different at times, like you do.

  9. I’m with others — some people are natural caregivers. For instance, I truly enjoyed and loved every second of being a stay-home mom. I remember feeling frustrated (very very occasionally) but I know I never resented “being mom,” not ever. I don’t know if the two (taking care of parents, of children) can be equated, but I know from what you’ve written that the depth of your caretaking of your parents has been genuine, selfless, profound….and real and honest.

    1. I suspect you’re right. I don’t know why finding things out like this continue to surprise me. But I also think it’s true that I will never see what happened with a clear lens. I have new filters on now. I’m not saying that’s bad or good. It just is.

  10. From the age of 8, while a sickly only child with a maniacally violent other parent, I was a sub-par caregiver and often sole listener of a nervous wreck mother. By the time I was 42 and received her last real diagnosis, a moment topping all other bad moments in our life that nearly gave me a stroke as I hung up the phone, I held 3 part time jobs and was mom to the next set of 2 kids, running around with all their activities and all her errands, literally running from job door to school door to scout door to pharmacy door. Yes, I was a reluctant caregiver especially when my mother didn’t always know me — actually mistook me for someone she wasn’t crazy about. I was relieved when she passed in my arms, but also, devastated on every level after those 9 months. For 2 solid years. By year 5, though, it was tolerable. I’d like to think that her molecules are still hanging around nearby, and I know we breathed the same air in and out –same as Christ– so that everyone’s breath is still here on earth, I don’t think like that, but I’d like to! She herself was a caretaker of many, also from an early age, and she took me along with her as she could. What else would I know to be the right thing? I showed up for 43 years until she was gone home, but yes, I was reluctant. That difference might just be who we are.

  11. Hello Christine, am catching up with emails etc – I saw your lovely post a few days back and I couldn’t help thinking that you may be encouraged by this link I am giving you … I have never met the author but I have been so touched by her story of living with her mother in her last years ..http://www.salmonsaladandmozart.


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