circling the wagons

The end of a way of life.
Too bad.
It’s a good way.
Wagons forward!

John Wayne

A faithful friend is a strong defense;
And he that hath found him hath found a treasure.

Louisa May Alcott


I’ve spent the better part of the past two years circling my wagons…
As I’ve been riding on a merry-go-round of all things focused on caring for a dad…
one who has been more child than father…
as it should be noted that that has been pretty much him for the majority of my adult life.

As a life long high school teacher, I can multitask with the best of them…
except when it comes to a crisis…
then my mind and actions narrow.

I become steely eyed…
as I grow laser focused,
blocking out most everything that sits on the periphery of life,
as I turn every available resource to the problem.

Trouble is, there have been a myriad of troubles during the course of
the last couple of years…
all of which have kept me and my sights narrowed and hyper-focused
for much longer than is most likely healthy….
hence my back, or whatever it is back there that has me unknowingly holding my hand
to my lower back as I go about my day in a gingerly fashion….
So unlike my ADDness of darting here and there all before blinking…

As an only child caring for two elderly individuals who have varying degrees of dementia,
as well as a wealth of physical ailments…
and who live miles away in a different city from my own…
it has all left me more and more isolated and emotionally spent

It seems my closest friend these days is the main caregiver who spends her days
making certain no one falls or forgets their medications…
let alone forgetting to eat…
which for one of them is a constant battle.

I live on the road, traversing back and forth.
The days I spend not traversing,
are spent on the phone with various doctors and healthcare facilities,
or paying a sea of endless bills,
or simply organizing a home and household other than my own…
A house that is nearly 65 years old and needs much in the way of care….

My phone rings constantly with the calls from an ever growing confused 88 year old man
who has decided he will die in the hospital come Friday during his surgery…
as his wife, my stepmother,
just can’t understand and is irritated as to why he keeps having to run to the loo.

The concept of a large tumor and bladder cancer has simply flown totally
over her head as she has decided she hates the new dishwasher.
I had to buy it,
have it installed
and now she hates it
for the one single reason…
that I bought it…
Go figure…

She now demands that the caregivers hand wash every dish and glass.
Just as she refuses to eat the groceries brought into the house
because she is convinced they have all gone bad and are rotten upon
arriving fresh from the store.

And if it’s not dad calling, it’s the caregivers calling with the latest craziness
as I work my magic to put out the fires of bodies and minds fighting themselves….

The journey getting here was slow and almost unnoticeable at first.
There were, however, signs and warnings…

Signs and warnings, that perhaps in my naiveté,
I thought would all turn out differently
or never materialize in the first place…

Just like the pictures I had in my mind of my future with my mother…

That when she would one day grow old and grey…as dad is now,
I warmly entertained the thoughts of how we’d have fun together…
We’d go to lunch and to the antique shops we each enjoyed when she and I were younger..
Just as we would then travel and see the world…together…

But those thoughts were smashed 30 years ago when she suddenly died from cancer….
So I don’t know why I try to imagine things as a certain way,
as that is not how they will be…

For the snowball has picked up momentum and is barreling at breakneck speed toward me…

And so, yes, I have circled my wagons…
drawing my camp ever near.
As my circle in life has tightened..
excluding many from what once was…

My eyes have narrowed
As I hold my cards tight to my chest,
lest they reveal too much…hopefulness…

Yet this story of woe is not as tragic as it might seem…
Nor is this heart bitter as it might sound…

For despite the fact that my world has shrunk from what it was…
from my friends
from my freedom
from my choices
from my comings and goings…

there has been much…
inward growing
inward learning
inward bending
inward moulding
inward shaping

For the winds of this life are shifting…
And attentions must be turning…

So I ready myself and my camp
for that which comes our way…

‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’
declares the LORD,
‘plans for welfare and not for calamity
to give you a future and a hope.’

Jeremiah 29:11

The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.

A prayer attributed to Reinhold Neibuhr (1892-1971)

21 comments on “circling the wagons

  1. Wally Fry says:

    You’re always in my mind and prayers Julie

  2. DJ says:

    You are a light in the darkness shining bright. I keep you in my thoughts as well.

  3. Lynda says:

    Julie, thanks for sharing this very real picture of your life as a caregiver to your father and stepmother. Such commitment and patience! The Serenity Prayer speaks to your situation so well. I especially appreciate the line: “Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it…” Yes, there are certain things I can change but the most important is myself and my own attitude. Blessings and prayers that Friday goes well.

  4. Julie, this keeps my situation in perspective. 😦 I get irritated and impatient with my 87 year old mother (father died 20 years ago) but it is no where near what you are dealing with. Is there any option of placing them in a deeper caregiving situation so you are not so taxed? (where do we place those limits on what we are willing to do, sigh)

  5. Praying for you and your dad and step-mom. Thank you for being real.

    • Thank you Donald–sometimes I think its important for Believers to be honest as there is often some kind of misconception that we (Christians) are exempt or unaware of the pain and suffering that often goes hand and hand with life and living–we are not immune nor exempt and that does not lessen the fact that God is Omnipotent—despite our hardships, we still know that there is a Greater Power than ourselves–and that our Hope and Salvation is found in Christ–who himself was also not immune from the reality of living and of being human…
      We will muster through this!!

  6. Reblogged this on Talmidimblogging and commented:

  7. says:

    I know you are going through great difficulty right now Julie. God will carry you through it because He loves you. Our tests sometimes seem overwhelming at times and we wonder when they will end, but He has our backs. He knows what we are capable and He provides a way out when we can no longer bear it. Hang in there. He loves you and so do I.

  8. God bless you and your family Julie.

  9. Okay, tears are falling again. I so wish I lived near you and that I could help in some way even if it was to keep you entertained in what time you do have to yourself. I do so know to some extent what you are going through as James and I more or less became prisoners in our own home while we cared for mom. Soon after she moved in it became apparent she could not be left alone and since my two sisters had bailed on me, that left James and I to circle the wagons and hold the fort down.
    Our ordeal however was not nearly as long and drawn out as yours. I really don’t know you do it! My thoughts and prayers are with you. Love, Natalie 🙂 ❤

  10. marijo1245 says:

    I watched my mother battle similar situations. She drove 6.5 hours back and forth between her house and her parents all while teaching school and dealing with my father’s incarceration. She should have gone mad, but she pressed in and held on thru the refiners fire. Her life became a testimony to Almighty God…as is yours. May His peace surround you, breathe His sweet surrender, rest in His arms.

  11. Karen says:

    I could write that I don’t know how you do it but of course I know…your faith gives you the strength to go on. I’m sorry that you have so much to deal with, especially with your father.

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