Saturday, June 26, 2010

Life Isn't Fair, and There Are Things That Can't Be Equally Divided

Even though I had reached quite an old age to have two living parents, I never found myself with something to contribute when friends and neighbors would be discussing the stresses and burdens or caring for elderly parents.  Mine were in New York and I'm here in Shiloh, Israel.

That is until late last summer when my mother fell and it all fell apart.  My mother was hospitalized and my father couldn't live on his own.  I found myself making plans to fly to New York, bring him to Israel for two or three months we estimated, and I had to nudge and harass the Nefesh B'Nefesh and Jewish Agency staff to miraculously and magically move mountains so that he could officially immigrate to Israel.  (As exhausting as the previous sentence may be to read, living those days was even harder.)

Since October I've been in the caregiver club.  One thing I discovered was that the only times the burden is equally spread among siblings is when there's only one child.  No matter how civilized and well-intentioned everyone is, the burden always falls heaviest on one of the children.  Since October I've had full-time responsibility for my father, with my husband's help and cooperation.  My sister gradually took over my mother's care, even though they had been thousands of miles apart.  Our brother's contribution to the care of our mother is and was of a different sort.

That arrangement has come to an end, because my mother decided not to move to Israel, but to move to Arizona to be near my sister.  In a couple of weeks, G-d willing, I'll be taking my father on a long plane ride, with the help of one of my sons, to Arizona.  And then the balance will shift dramatically and drastically.  My parents will be in an assisted living home near my sister.

It won't be easy for her, and I pray that she'll stay healthy and enjoy having our parents nearby.  The experts all agree that it's not easy.  So far she has done a great job getting things ready, including choosing a place for them to live.

I hope to be able to concentrate on grandmothering and mothering when I return home.  I'm the sandwich generation and there was little balance since October.  Of course I'll have to visit more than once a year.  It's about time that I learn how to get the best out of the "points" from the airlines etc.

Someones it's a tough call to know what to do, but G-d willing, we'll all get through this better and stronger as a family.

Shavua Tov U'Mevorach
Have a Good and Blessed Week


Hadassa said...

I'm sorry to hear that your father is leaving Israel, but family related decisions are never easy...
We all do the best that we can and daven for the best.

Netivotgirl said...

Batya, this post really hit home. My hubby and I bought a 5 room apt. 20 years ago so that there'd always be room for a parent by us.

Sadly, when Mom got Alzheimers, Dad put her in a home nearby him in upstate N.Y. refusing both my brother's and my offers of having her taken care of in our homes (with help of 24/7 live in help.)

When she passed away my brother in Ca. and I worried non-stop about Dad alone in upstate N.Y. where he'd already had the home burglarized while he slept. Finally after years of supplication he sold his home and moved out to CA. to assisted living.

You're right: one sibling usually takes the brunt of the care of elderly parents, and in my case it's my brother as Dad had no urge to make aliya.

It's a tough situation whereby we have to put our own guilt and feelings in a separate compartment and think what is good for them. All the best and may he have a smooth move to Arizona. May Hashem bless you and your husband for the devoted care you gave your father this past year!

Batya said...

Hadassa, thanks, it was never upn to me.

Netivotgirl, CA is so far, like AZ. It's really something how they fight to preserve their independence. Amazing.

Keli Ata said...

You're right about the burden falling on one sibling. Since I was the youngest and only sibling living with my mother it was my job to take care of her after a stroke. It was exhausting.

I won't bad mouth my siblings now that mom is gone but it was hard.

The 7th anniversary of her death is tomorrow June 28.

ank58 said...

...And sometimes the burden falls not on one sibling but on one inlaw child... My sister in law lives a fair distance away, and only visits once a week, while we live in the same town as my inlaws. My husband travels an awful lot, to very distant places (e.g. Australia). So the burden often falls on me. There was a time a year or 2 ago when my Mother in law, with Alzheimers, fell ill and was hospitalized. It almost came to a decision of divorce or my sanity or leaving my inlaws to cope on their own. I was falling apart. Thank G-d we got the ishur from Bituach Leumi, and an angel in the form of a Philipina carer arrived.

The burden still falls very much on me, but a huge load has lifted from my shoulders.

It was a very scary time.

I should add that I still have elderly parents of my own living nearby too. But we are 3 siblings in the same town which makes matters a lot easier.

Batya said...

ank, you're so right about that. It's very common.

thanks for writing