Sometimes The Most Important Lessons Are Those We Learn The Hard Way

As we celebrated the old fella’s birthday this weekend I can vividly recall the morning, one year ago when my Dad woke up complaining that he’d pulled a muscle in his arm but it was obvious to us all that something was seriously wrong. After a visit to the local doctor’s surgery he was despatched to the bus stop to make the thirty mile roundtrip to the hospital on a very stormy day lashed by gale force winds and torrential rain. When I returned from work I found my Dad soaked right through explaining that he’d had to ask the bus driver to retrieve his bus pass from his pocket as he was unable to and that was the first time of many that I was to cry tears of frustration that year. It’s hard not to when your old Dad who has always been so strong and self-sufficient struggles to even feed himself. Other times you laugh at your own incompetence such as when I accidentally locked him in the house with a lunch of bananas and sausage rolls completely forgetting that he would be unable to open them. I am forever trying to find ways to shave minutes off my day often falling into bed exhausted and I discovered pretty quickly that I’m not superwoman or a juggler so some things have had to change. Inevitably, it’s the things you enjoy doing the most that get sacrificed when you are under pressure.

It’s been a real journey of discovery and I have learned the hard way who my real friends are. Whilst many of my contemporaries are wrapped up in weddings, new houses and new families my life starts at five am when I’m awake for work and the rest revolves around hospital appointments, shopping, cleaning and repeating the whole process again the next day. You no longer have shared interests because you have very different priorities. They struggle to identify with your commitments as a carer and you constantly explain why you can’t just jet off with them on a much-needed holiday. Concerned friends soon stop asking when they realise you can’t fix a stroke with a couple of aspirins. Your hopes and dreams are parked and the life you imagined yourself having fades into the distance; this situation quickly becomes the new normal. Do I ever get resentful? Well of course, I’m only human after all and sometimes it’s hard surrendering your independence for dreary routine. There are no quick fixes here, no magic wands to restore mobility and recovery has been painstakingly slow but this is a marathon not a sprint.

There is help out there for those that are prepared to fight the system or are fortunate enough to have someone who is able to do that for them; for those that don’t no doubt they fall under the radar of our social services and struggle on alone unaided. In addition, gadgets enabling an easier life for those afflicted are ridiculously overpriced again taking advantage of the most vulnerable.

For those finding themselves in a similar situation if I could I’d gently take your hand and assure you that you’re not alone and that there is life after a debilitating family illness. Is it going to be harder than you imagined? Most probably! Will you have some really bleak days? Without a doubt you’ll feel incredibly overwhelmed, bone-tired and isolated but your sense of always finding the funny will get you all through. Will it get better? Definitely. It’ll be a big learning curve for everyone with both uplifting positive and desolate negative moments. You’ll lose friends but you’ll meet better ones worth keeping. For every hard-hearted dismissive jobsworth you encounter you will stumble across people who are like bottled sunshine. The old fella has made tremendous progress but we’ve learned to celebrate the little simple triumphs like seeing him pick up a knife. So why then don’t I just quit my job, buy a ticket and run away to Turkey? Because quite simply, he’s my Dad.

H.O.P.E. = Hold On Pain Ends

H.O.P.E. = Hold On Pain Ends

Not the best picture but this little one-footed fella dodges all the bigger birds every day to sneak a crumb when I’m feeding the rest and he reminds me that you can overcome anything.

For those facing the same struggles as our family if you haven’t already please try contacting the Stroke Association who are just amazing and helped us when no one else would.

42 thoughts on “Sometimes The Most Important Lessons Are Those We Learn The Hard Way

  1. Caregivers are true heroes. I took care of my mom when she had cancer, and until you are in that situation, it’s hard to understand the stress and grief and pressure and exhaustion, and worst of all, the guilt because however much you do, it never feels like enough. Wishing you and your whole family all the best.

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    • Thank you Naomi and it is hard being a caregiver and for the patient even harder. I’m sure your Mom appreciated all that you did for her and I’ve had conversations with my Dad that I probably wouldn’t have done had we not spent as much time together so that will be something I will always treasure

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  2. Another gem, Dallas! You have articulated the emotional upheaval that comes when there are health issues. I always smile when I read an article about the joys of growing old in one of those glossy magazines. There is usually a photo of a 80 plus skydiving or running a marathon. That is not to say that isn’t impossible. It is just that we must recognize that our timeline moves forward, not backward. That our bones become frail and that our joints become stiffer. Yet, there is so much to explore and discover. Your father is a wonderful example of this. I spoke with my mom, who is in her 80’s, today. She is working on a dance costume for a ballet concert. Yes, it is difficult for her to walk, and yes, she is partially blind, but oh, what a joy it is to be with her. I always liked what Jean-Paul Sartre, said: “The more sand that has escaped from the hourglass of our life, the clearer we should see through it.” Hugs coming your way.

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  3. Can’t help but admire your pluck. I have a pretty good feeling of what you’re going through, having cared for my quadriplegic husband for 19 years. There were tough times, but both of us soldiered on through somehow. Then my mom joined us with Alzheimer’s. I managed to lose about 30 lbs in about six months, racing around trying to care for both of them. There is simply no way I could imagine giving up on family through even the toughest times. As you you implied, you quickly separate the wheat from the chaff in the process. It certainly has it’s rewards.
    Sending soothing hugs your way.

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    • Gunta, I think you had it heaps worse than us! Dad is a lot more mobile but I don’t think he will ever recover the full use of his right arm but when I look back to a year ago I wondered how we coped but you do; don’t you?

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      • It’s no good comparing who had it worse. The main thing is that everyone keeps their sense of humor to make it through the worst moments. Wishing you lots of silly moments to help you cope! 😀

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  4. The worst of times, the best of times. Guess how you’re feeling but know you wouldn’t have it any other way. Stroke care in the UK is so hit and miss – thank goodness you’ve linked up with the Stroke Association. There is so much you can do to help stroke sufferers recover but, as you know only too well, it t a k e s t i m e. Love and a belated Happy Birthday to your Pa.

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  5. I well remember my dad as he recovered from his heart surgeries, yes multiples. Then later in life as he moved through stages of Alzheimer, it was difficult for him and those who loved him. You are a hero my friend.

    Happy Birthday to your Dad.

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  6. You’ve done a grand job, lass, and I know fine well that it’s not easy. I liked what you said in the comments about the conversations you’ve had that would never have taken place. You must be so close to Dad now, Dallas. And he must love you to bits. Hugs, darlin’. 🙂

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  7. Sending love and hugs to you all, and I can’t believe you took a pic of a pied wagtail, the monster has to count birds he sees for something at school and we saw one the the day before yesterday it was the first time he had ever seen one as they are not very common round here

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  8. Your dad is lucky to have you as a daughter and you are lucky to have him as a dad. Being a carer can take on an emotional toll and it is very difficult to deal with an aging parent. I watched my mom go through this with her parents–grandmother had dementia and my grandfather had heart problems. They were in and out of the hospital for years and I will admit I got resentful of their health problems. It created unnecessary stress for my parents and took up their attention which was time away from me. Now that I’m older, I understand the emotionally grueling position they were in.

    I hope your father is doing better. How is your mom holding up so far?

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  9. At some point, if we live long enough, we all face what you’re facing. Your Dad is fortunate to have you and I sure hope he tells you (which is something mine never did). Now I tell my son and daughter-in-law all the time and sometimes it even annoys them! lol

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    • I know my Dad is grateful but I so want him to gain his mobility back for his sake; he such an independent soul & this has been really difficult for him relying on others. And your family probably are only too pleasedg to be able to help you; we all like to be needed

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  10. Loved this post and especially your photo. It’s funny how we can find inspiration in the smallest of things. But it does take a special person to see that inspiration and take note of it.
    You’re clearly doing something that is considered one of the most difficult things to do. My own mother who looks after my nan is a different person after years of caring for her. She is broken. She feels tied down and unable to do what she wants when she wants.
    I worry if I will ever be able to be as strong as she is for her when she needs me.
    What you are doing is A-mazing. I really do hope that your father is able to regain his strength and independence. Best wishes and a belated happy birthday to your dad 🙂

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    • I have always had immense respect for carers especially young people but I truly never understood the sacrifices until I became one myself. It is important that your mum looks after herself and gets some time to nurture her wants and needs because life cannot all be about illness

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