With father’s day this past weekend, I was of course thinking of my father. I thought about digging out a photo of us together to post on facebook or doing one of the other small tributes that people do. But none of them felt quite right for my third father’s day without him.
Then, I came across an article on what a caregiver learned from his father. It inspired me write my own reflection on what I learned from my father that makes me the caregiver I am today. My father was a caregiver for my sister for many years, and had begun to care for Mom, so I had his example to live up to when the caregiving responsibilities passed to me. So here goes:
1. Keep it fun. One of my dad’s best characteristics was his sense of fun and humor. He always had a joke or way to lighten the situation and connect with all the people around him. In taking care of Mom these days, using humor is one of the best ways I have found to reach her. Even as conversation fails, she responds to silliness, joking tones and funny internet videos. Sometimes even my most pathetic attempts at these elicit Mom’s biggest smiles. She still loves to laugh. I am grateful for Dad’s lifetime lessons in using humor.
2. Get things done. Dad was always working and in motion. He never lazed around or talked about his need for rest, the way I often do! When dinner was over, he was up doing dishes. When something needed to be fixed, he was heading for his toolbox. Sometimes this feels challenging to me, but thinking of him inspires me to make the effort on some of my more tired days.
3. Stay committed. I often remember a conversation with Dad about my sister when she was doing poorly. He told me– taking care of her is my job. I start at this time and end at this time every day. That is what I do. There was something so strong in this. When I have days that I really feel that I have no more energy for my family, I think of these words. It’s my job. One that I committed to, and recommit to day after day.
Obviously if Dad was still here, these past few years would not have been nearly as challenging. He and I could have supported one another through this time. Sometimes of course I wish things had played out that way.
And yet, he gave me so many strengths and values to draw on that have guided the caregiver I have tried to be. And it feels like a appropriate father’s day tribute to think of this.