The Love Angle


The Love Angle

love-1261887_640On Veteran's Day last week, my parents, younger sister, our niece and I met for lunch. My parents had spent the morning with my sister at her kids' high school enjoying a special Veterans Day event.

We met for lunch so I could give my dad his "Mail Call." In October, my dad was scheduled to take an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C. with other veterans to see the memorials dedicated to those who served their country. The trip takes place in one day, with an early morning flight out and an evening flight return home. On the way home, the veterans are surprised with a "Mail Call," much like they experienced during their service. The Honor Flight volunteers ask family member and friends to write cards and notes thanking their veteran for their service.

Unfortunately, my dad had sepsis (!!) when he was scheduled to attend his Honor Flight so we had to cancel. My dad rescheduled his flight for the spring but I was concerned he wouldn't be in good shape to take the flight in the spring. Recent tests indicate suspicious cells which could be cancer. Additional tests don't confirm if the cancer has returned so the oncologist is just watching. But, I'm not watching my dad die without his mail call. So, I asked the Honor Flight volunteer to forward his mail.

During our lunch last week, I presented my dad with his Mail Call. Family members and friends wrote cards as well as some of you here. (I had posted a request to send cards on Facebook. Thanks so much to those of you who wrote such thoughtful notes.) My mom also reached out to their friends with a request to send a note or card. After I handed my dad his cards, he said, "Thank you so much for organizing this, Denise."

To which my mom responded, "She didn't do anything! I did it!" And, then for good measure, she forcefully repeated, "Don't thank her. Thank me!" So my dad did as the rest of us cowered behind our menus.

And, that's life with my mom.

I help my parents. I do my best to be available to them and support them and care for them. Many times, my parents make it difficult for me to love them. One another particularly challenging day, I vented to my brother-in-law, "Sometimes, I just hate them!" He patted my shoulder. He understood. He gets how tough my parents can be. And, just the week earlier, he had his own rant about his mother to my sister.

During National Family Caregivers Month, we read lots of articles and blog posts about caregiving. The attention is great and needs to be there. Sometimes, though, I wish some of the authors understood that we may be caring for a family member who isn't our loved one. I wish they thought twice about writing sentences that throw us all into the category "of taking care of our parents because we love them."

Love fits into my caregiving equation -- just in a different way. I help and care for my parents because I love myself. I love myself enough to know how caregiving aligns with my values and priorities.

Sometimes we care not because of how we feel about our carees but how we feel about ourselves. It's about how much we love ourselves that we do what feels right for us.