Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

My biggest challenge: staying the course

I've lived my life on the edge. It’s been a life filled with outrageous and often imprudent risk and adventure across continents. But now? It's all about staying the course.

Few friends would have predicted that I'd come back home to the Midwest and stay in one place for so long doing something so hard and so traditional. It's all about the dailiness now. Because, who knows tomorrow?

Since 2004 I've been taking care of one or the other of my parents. Eight years is a long time. First my father and I cared for my mother until her death in 2006. We made a strong team. And now I care for my father--who amazingly has made it to 96--as part of a family care team.

Companioning my father towards his death is the firmest and most taxing commitment I've ever made. I may be shaken off that horse I've mounted. But, I'll keep getting back on.

My father has shown me how love works. We get mad or have a fight, and there's still love on the other side of the mad. I rest in bone-deep knowledge that neither of us is going anywhere. It's most likely the only 'til death do us part relationship I'll have.

I just need to stay the course.

Staying the course requires constancy. And that requires reconciliation with constraints beyond my control. My schedule is not my own. How can contentment be such a hard-fought achievement? Constancy and contentment require comfort. For once in my life I am more than happy to remain in my comfort zone--at least as far as I can map it. This stretch of my life is about the day-after-day walking along the path--no matter whether it's smooth, muddy, rocky, or filled with ruts.

In my 20s I climbed three mountains in Africa: Mt. Cameroon (West), Mt. Kenya (East), and Lesotho (Southern). Each mountain had its own character. Mt. Kenya makes for a clear metaphor because the terrains are so sharply defined: rainforest, bog, alpine, and then from the top hut the glaciers leading to the peak. In between the sharp ascents in each terrain there are passages of flat and gradual ascent. That’s where I am now. Headed for the top hut along an imperceptibly gradual path. It’s okay with me.It's gotta be.

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5 Responses »

  1. Janet,

    This is a truly powerful work. You share your relationship with your father
    with such love, power and most of all faithfulness. He is lucky.

    Blessings to both of you,

    Terry

  2. Janet:
    Thanks for sharing this journey with us. Your staying the course means the most to your father and then your family. But it means a lot to your readers as well. Keep on keeping on.
    -Matilda

  3. Dear Terry and Matilda,

    Your words mean so much to me, and are part of a nurturing community that help me stay the course.

    Janet

  4. Janet, It's a challenge but most of all it's a labor of love. As demanding as caring for family can be, losing them (as you well know) is harder. In part because it's permanent. You're doing just fine. K

  5. Janet, I've just come across your website (on Herstory) and blog about family caregiving. I moved across the country 20 months ago to my childhood home to live with my then 96-year-old mother. I am struck by your comment in this old post about it likely being the only "til death do us part" relationship you will have; and the bone deep knowledge that you aren't going anywhere. Yes and yes. And there is a lot of that falling off the horse thing; weeping into my pillow about the old life, the one that I left; the uncertain future. And then the tears are dried, I get back on the horse, and carry on. Thank you for saying it so beautifully. I am saving this post to reread. I am often told by readers of my blog (www.daughteronduty.wordpress.com), how grateful they are for those of us who write down their story by way of our own; we all feel less alone. Thank you for yours. Gretchen

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