Do you want to know when you really become a grown up? It’s when you have to take care of your parent. The day you realize you’re the caregiver. That the balance has shifted on your scales.
For a litany of reasons that I’m not delving into, I was the official decision maker as my mom lay dying in a hospital.
My dad was on the other side of town, in a different hospital and working his way back to mom.
My brother was the one who lived closer. He had a wife and a gaggle of kids. I lived six hours away, in NYC, and I wasn’t even thirty. But it was my job, my responsibility, to talk to the doctors and relay info to my dad.
Legally and practically, I made the decisions that ended her life.
That sentence is bullshit. Not because it is untrue, it’s not. I was the one.
It’s bullshit because that’s a messed up thing for anyone. In the history of ever. It happens every other minute all day long, but that’s not any less screwy.
So there was a moment in my life where I got to tell the doctors we were done with any heroics. I got to witness a parade of people giving my mom the weight of their sadness. I slept on a cot in her room, one of my girlfriends by my side, so I’d be there if something happened.
I think my moment of clarity came when Daniel’s best friend, by no small coincidence my ex-boyfriend, brought his rather pregnant wife to meet my dying mother. I’d just been explaining all the legal shite to Danny & I walk out to see everything I wanted to share with my mother walking down the hall.
My life, unlived, passed through me like a ghost.
And then I got to wait for my dad to arrive because mom wasn’t budging without talking to him. That’s 100% true, btw. The goodbyes and pleas to mom to “let go” went on for days; my dad instead talked over the phone, telling her she better wait for him to get there. He’d spent a lifetime waiting for her to get ready, and by God, this time, she would wait for him.
Naturally, she did. Mom was wild eyed & desperate for dad. She couldn’t talk by then. He arrived and so very soon after she left us.
I turned thirty a few days later. But honestly, I had aged a decade in just a few weeks.
Afterward, I ran away. I ran from that knowledge for years after. I ran from being grown. From as many responsibilities as I could.
To tell the truth, I kept running until I found someone who made me want to be a grown-up again.
But that’s a different tale, for a different night.
This post originally appeared on Mother of Serendipity. Reprinted with permission.