This has not been an easy year.
I haven't blogged much about it because I wasn't even sure how I felt about what we were going through.
And then, to consider the privacy of those that we love and care about.
I didn't want to be one who just put everything out there without regard to the feelings of those meandering down the same path.
So I talked only lovingly about saying good-bye to one family member that we cared deeply about. I thought that provided me with the closure that I needed to heal and to find the strength to move forward.
Now, at another unfortunate crossroad with another family member that I deeply love, I find myself having to make hard decisions. The kind that you think (hope) that you never have to make with one that is your elder.
At this point, I see myself becoming part of the 'sandwich generation'. I still have two young children living at home and my mother is no longer capable of caring for herself or living independently.
What this realization brings is a list of hard questions to answer.
And with that list of answers, is the reality that life is once again changing.
Last week, I flew to Florida to meet up with my only brother. This was not a simple task. Our family is one that covers multiple geographic locations with each of us living in different states. Because neither of us live closely to mom, our efforts to see each other include navigating not only time off from work and family obligations, but also in my case, deploying a type 1 diabetes emergency plan to care for the girls.
That meant a whole lot of pre-planning.
Thankfully, we have a wonderful type 1 diabetes team in place. Several girlfriends stepped up to be on 'on-call' and a few offered drop off and pick up to/from school. Our Naturally Sweet Dad re-arranged his schedule to spend a maximum amount of time at home so that both girls would have a consistent schedule and hopefully, minimize crazy blood sugar swings.
It was stressful. I hadn't left the girls overnight since our first diagnosis (almost seven years ago). While I know that both our youngest and oldest daughter have become more independent, there was still a large chunk of daily caregiving that mom handled. Our family discussed this openly and we even put together a few 'what-if' plans.
- What if Sigums stops working? No one had yet managed to grasp the tricky CGM sensor insertion except for mom. So we planned to try a re-start and if the sensor failed a second time, just take it off and put the sensor with the receiver into the diabetes supply closet.
- Who do we text or call when we are school? Our Naturally Sweet Dad spends his days in meetings and is often unavailable by phone. Taking this into consideration, we decided that mom should still remain the contact as she could handle (and welcome!) blood sugar calls anytime or anywhere.
- How would Dad wake-up at night time? This was tricky. Our Naturally Sweet Dad sleeps soundly. We talked through a variety of scenarios but in the end, we opted to place Sigums (CGM) receiver on his night time stand and to place it directly on the wood with the idea that the vibration and beeps would be enough to wake him up. Our Naturally Sweet Dad also decided to have a few late night snacks with the girls to make sure that were a little bit higher on the blood sugar end to lessen the worries. I was fine with that idea too. Sometimes, the most perfect scenario isn't the one that reflects perfectly in a book. You do what works best for you.
After our type 1 diabetes plan was loosely in place, I was able to focus on my mom. My brother and I tackled the difficult tasks of closing her home, establishing power of attorney and making her as comfortable as possible.
It wasn't easy. As the only daughter, I felt a tremendous amount of responsibility in supporting my mom. However, clearly, my life is stretched thin. I have two children that require extra daily medical assistance which meant that I needed to be extremely honest and truthful with my brother. Taking on the power of attorney was not another layer that I could add without potentially toppling over our own fragile tower of family.
This is where my brother truly shined. He understood my dilemma and immediately stepped in - signing his name to her guardianship and offering to be the main leader in her daily care needs. Since our mother has multiple sclerosis, this is a major undertaking and one that will bring several additional layers of care needs.
But he won't be alone. What we also talked openly about is another round of 'what-if' scenarios. In essence, we created another plan for the nursing home and for her multiple sclerosis care. If he is out of town or unavailable or even needs a break, I can step in and offer assistance. We discussed a visitation schedule, notifying our family of her care and creating a responsible financial plan for her future. We even touched on an end-of-life outline and while immensely difficult, tried to figure out what mom would want while she was still able to tell us.
We made another team... a 'Helping Mom Team'.
And really, that is what this stage of life is all about. It is about coming together and supporting the ones that you love. Not by yourself as a martyr but with a group of loved ones that all want the best. When I am feeling down (and there were a few tears), I know that I have someone to turn to. The opposite is true as well... when my brother had an overwhelming moment, he knew that I was there to lean on.
Much in the same way as it has been for type 1 diabetes. I leaned on my team while I was gone and they gave me the support that I needed to be away for a week. The girls were fine. Yes, there were a few moments like underdosing for donuts and landing in the 400s at school or the late night pizza escapade that shall remain a secret. All of that is minor in the scheme of things and nothing that truly went haywire. I am also sure that there will be unplanned moments like that for our mother and we will handle them as they come. That is just what you have to do in all of life - being ready for the unpredictable and managing it as it comes along.
Since coming home on Sunday, I have spent some time in reflection. Life is truly wonderful. I feel so blessed to be where I am. In a way, I have it all... a wonderful husband, two beautiful daughters, a fantastic brother and a sweet mom. This is how I see it.
I choose happy.