Right after Thanksgiving, I sent my dad off to an international airport alone and followed his flight online nervously for the next 20 hours until he landed at the designated airport. He doesn’t fly often. Thank goodness it was a direct flight.
For years, my father talked about replacing his deformed knees. When he walked or stood for a long time, his joints hurt. Over the last ten years, he gradually walked slower and slower. When he bent his knees, they cracked. He had adapted to staying indoors, only stepping out to the yard or his car to pick up prescriptions at Costco.
Finally, he felt good about going through with the surgeries in Taipei. With luck, the first surgery was scheduled in a short time. I hopped on the first flight I could get. Then I stayed with dad in the hospital as his full-time caregiver. I was excited about dad’s future. Improved mobility. Better quality of life.
When I returned home five weeks later, I slept a lot for a week or so. Being a caregiver exhausted me more than I realized.
Single or now, we all have parents. I also have close aunts who don’t have children. Being single and having at least six parent figures living in four homes in two different countries, I wonder how I might be everywhere for everyone in the future. Many countries are now facing an aging population. This situation is not unique to my family.
I don’t feel being single is a disadvantage in life. But this is one time when having a bigger family seems more ideal. More people, more helping hands, right? Though I have always considered that one day, I’ll be old too, still be on my own, and figure out a way to take care of myself.
I steadied my mind and thought I would have to be creative. Discussing my concerns, my cousins jumped in. “Don’t worry. I’ll help.” My dear cousins meant helping with our family and caring for me too. My girlfriends, whose parents are older than mine, shared their practical solutions, “We hire help!” A few others told me about their experience with assisted living and senior communities.
I’ve seen my aunts taking care of my grandmother for two decades. Being a full-time caregiver for my father for a short time gave me a glimpse again into the intensity of the labor required to take care of a loved one.
For now, I’ll continue to be thankful that my parents, aunts, and uncles are healthy and independent and take care of themselves.