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Bedtime Ritual

I had planned to take care of my dad at the end of his life.

In 2009, Dad retired at seventy-five because of Parkinson’s disease. Over the next couple of years, he lived in his own home. My younger brother Mark, who lived nearby, faced the first difficult milestones brought on by Dad’s declining health. Mark was the one to tell Dad that he could no longer drive. And after Dad moved out, Mark took

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The Caregiver’s Mantra

Patricia Williams ~

If one more person tells me to be sure to take care of myself, I’m going to bury my face in a pillow and scream.

“Go for a walk, take a vacation,” they advise. I know they’re trying to help, but really? Giving me one more thing to do? Oh well, they’re just doing the best they can.

I moved my folks across the country, from Florida to Washington

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Mom at Home

Arlen Gargagliano ~

Aisha is lurking in the kitchen just outside my home-office door. I hear her rattling dishes and speaking to herself in Twi, a language of her native Ghana. I know that she wants my attention, but I’ve told her that I need time to work. I try to focus on grading my college students’ papers, but I’m distracted.

Aisha is one of my mother’s aides. My mother requires care twenty-four/seven,

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Letting the Tears Fall

 
In terms of size, I am a big man. But when I visited my dad in the hospital recently, I felt a “little boy” inside of me, resisting something I wasn’t ready for.

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What’s Wrong, Dad ?

 
When I walked into my father’s hospital room, he began to sob. I didn’t cope well with his tears. I experienced them as a reaction to his seeing me and started to beat myself up, to think to myself, What have I done?

A voice at the back of my mind said, This is his illness–you can’t take it personally. But even so, I felt hurt by his crying.

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Crazy

Ginny Hoyle

I walked through my mother’s madness
in a coat of hungry colors.
Her eyes did not take me in. I was a child.
To win her, I hung by my knees from low branches

of the family tree, voicing nursery rhymes
from the hallowed text of her delusions.
And failed.

When they took her away,
I was older, careful. I hid my heart

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Standing Up by Speaking Up

 
My parents immigrated to the U.S. from Korea when I was two, in 1972. We were lucky we left when we did, or my father, a pro-democracy professor at Korea University during Park Chung-Hee’s regime, might have been jailed. We were also lucky my mother was a pharmacist, as the U.S. was accepting pharmacists and nurses then. We moved to Seattle and made our home there. 
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Complainer

Christina Phillips

The patient, age forty-nine, complained of abdominal pain. She was taking both slow- and fast-acting oxycodone to manage the pain, and she also took antidepressants and a sleeping aid. She’d come to the hospital several times in the past year, always with the same complaint. This time, not feeling well enough to drive, she’d come by taxi. The veins in her arms were small, threadlike and collapsed, like those of a ninety-year-old

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Wake-Up Call

After my father died, I made sure I spoke with my mother every day. Dad’s death was sudden, if not entirely surprising, and there were a lot of logistical details to sort out. Mom, at 71, was living alone for the first time in her life. She wasn’t sleeping well. She was anxious. She didn’t understand all the paperwork that flooded into the house. I wasn’t surprised that she forgot things; she was overwhelmed with

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Riñones al Jerez

 

“You do not need an MRI,” I told my father emphatically as he stood in my living room, explaining to me that his beloved doctor had ordered this for his low back pain. He was hoping for a quick fix before meeting his brother in Spain. “You need physical therapy.”

I dislike playing doctor to my family, not trusting myself to dissociate emotion from evidence, but this was just too much. Sure, his back

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Knowing When to Let Go

 
I will never forget being told that my mother’s treatment options were pretty much over. A COPD/atrial fibrillation sufferer, she had been intubated and spent time in the ICU, then rehab and then home for a few days. She was very vehement about not wanting to spend life on a ventilator. And she documented this in a living will.
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Hope in a Hopeless Place

 
In 2008 my father was committed to a long-term care facility, and our family visited him daily. We testified to the nursing home staff of the funny, smart, kind and generous man he once was.
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