Tracy Line
Tracy Line
I’d been caring for my father for about a year or so when my cousin asked me the dreaded question: How is your dad? The question is a simple one. The answer? Not so much.
First of all, Dad wasn’t doing well. He was in a state of decline both physically and mentally. So I pondered: does she really want to know how he is? Or is the question just a polite one, akin to when someone asks how your day is going? Answering that he was fine was a lie. But saying that he wasn’t felt like a betrayal. My father, a proud man, wouldn’t want me telling his business to anyone.
I don’t recall what I told my cousin that day but I do know this: with time, this question, which I heard often from various family and friends, brought out a fire in me. In a word, it made me angry. Angry that people care enough about my father to ask about him? I know, I didn’t get it either.
It took a lot of soul searching to realize that while yes, my father was in a state of decline, I was the one in pain. So many lovely friends and relatives would call to ask about Dad, but no one ever asked how I was. Dad wasn’t so well. But me? I was drowning.
My busy life, my jumbled emotions, not knowing what to do about this or that situation, it brought out feelings I’d never have expected. And though I love my father and am grateful to be able to care for him, I needed to take care of me too.
And so I did. I joined a caregivers support group, both online and in person. I bought books about Parkinson’s disease and dementia. And best of all, I learned to talk about how dad and I were really doing. Because hiding it from everyone wasn’t healthy, nor was it helping. I needed to acknowledge my circumstances (and feelings) to be able to cope. Now, years later, I’m still busy and often don’t know how to handle the many things that come to me as I care for Dad. But I research, ask others who've been in my shoes and somehow I muddle through. And while I am still asked this question repeatedly, I no longer find it dreadful. He may not be who he used to be, but Dad is doing okay. And thankfully, so am I.
The Times is partnering with the Indiana Parkinsons Foundation to promote education and awareness of Parkinson’s Disease. For more information visit http://www.indianaparkinson.org/