There's one thing every caregiver dreads, and knows she or he may get one day. I thought about that a lot today, at the end of an interesting January.
The Dreaded Phone Call.
I can remember back in my 30's, when I lived about 1400 miles away from my father. My father was in his early 70's and suffered from various health problems. I was fortunate because his younger sister was his caregiver. Still, I feared for the day I would receive The Dreaded Phone Call.
And one evening, in January of 1986, it came.
I'm only at the beginning of my present long distance care giving journey with my mother in law, and I've already found so many "fellow travelers"in co workers and people I meet in other settings. (I will note here that when I was growing up in the 50's and 60's, "fellow traveler" meant something completely different. Maybe it still does.) Some of them have already received The Dreaded Phone Call. Others await it.
It isn't necessarily a "someone has died" phone call at 10pm, as you prepare for bed.
For one fellow traveler, it came right before Christmas when she got a phone call telling her that her fiercely independent 90 plus year old mother in law had broken her collar bone in a fall. It would be the end of the in law's independence and the beginning of countless hours of stress for this fellow traveler.
For another fellow traveler, it came today in the early morning, when a relative called to say her mother had fallen, and he couldn't get her up by himself. Between the two of them, they finally got her up.
But then, she fell again.
The fellow traveler was realistic. She knew she would get these calls again and again, until one day, when she knew she would get the true Dreaded Phone Call.
I am one of several long distance care givers for my mother in law. We are quite aware that we may be watching what will happen to us in 20 or so years. And we wonder, why does it have to be that way? We all - all of us - have to make it up as we go along. There are no manuals.
Our aging parents, so many times, haven't made plans for this day. And you know what? They were care givers for their parents. They should have known better, right? Well, will we know better? Will we remember what our parents put us through and not put our own children through it?
Or will the cycle continue, generation after generation?
When will each of us generate our own Dreaded Phone Call?