Losing a parent has made me incredibly aware of holding tight to the parent I have left. My friend Megan – who also lost her Dad – said it’s actually a thing. Yep. It’s called “surviving parent guilt’.
This explains a lot.
This is probably why Mom gets away with getting SO MUCH MONEY from me. I don’t ask about it, I just provide it – fearful that if I were to say “no”, something would happen to her – she’d be torn away unexpectedly the way my Dad was – and the last thing I said to her was “no”.
I give and I give and I give.
Then Mom was in hospital and the fear of losing her rose up again.
The memories of that 4am phonecall in June 2021 and the words “Your Dad died this morning” rang like a bell in the depths of my soul, along with the memories of Dad coming back ‘safe’ from surgery. He had successful hip surgery and was in bright green, striped shorts with a familiar daggy smile on his face.
“All good, Chook” Dad had said that day “I’m so excited for going home tomorrow”.
God misunderstood and took my Dad home all right. To Heaven.
I didn’t want to lose my Mom after her operation, so for the last 72 hours I’ve been breathing shallow, panicked breaths. I’ve been either at work or at Mom’s side in hospital. Guilt pushing me forward through the fatigue. Fear propelling me onwards even when I’ve needed to rest.
I can’t lose my Mom, God. Please don’t take her away from me.
Shaking, frightened, tired beyond belief and anxious, I visited Mom again today. She had her surgery yesterday afternoon (praise God) so today is much the same as it was with Dad…Mom looked well. Happy, even. Her face lit up when she recognised me coming into her hospital room.
I rolled my eyes at the nickname Mom has given me even though she knows I hate it.
“Hi Mommy – how are you feeling?” I couldn’t help it, I was automatically in ‘parent‘ mode, tidying the sheets around her and making sure her phone was on charge and within reach.
Mom passed me her hairbrush “Sweetheart, can you please brush my hair?”
Because Mom’s left hand was in plaster and a thick bandage – simple things are much harder with just the one hand. I was glad to be able to be useful to Mom.
“You don’t have to be gentle with my hair – just get the knots out” Mom instructed.
I bopped the top of her head gently with her hairbrush “I know what I’m doing, Mom – stop being bossy”.
We both laughed.
I brushed Mom’s hair – frowning at the change in our roles and feeling a bittersweet pain about it because our roles didn’t just change today; it’s been this way for a very long time.
I’ve been parenting my parents for as long as I can remember.
Today was one of the days I didn’t mind.
I’m just glad to have Mom around.
Now I’m at the height of my fear…because my Dad was dead the day after he was returned to his hospital room.
All through today, I keep picking up my phone and tears fill my eyes – wondering when that text from someone will come through:
“Your Mom is dead”
“You’ll need to sit down for this, Janet…”
Every time my phone buzzes with a text, I die a little on the inside.
I won’t sleep at all tonight.
Please God, don’t take my Mom away.
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