I am crying on the bus because I helped my dad put socks on this morning.

A year ago I was doing the same for my mom. Then, as now, complex emotions ricocheted inside my head. Fragments like: this is not how it’s supposed to work, why is this happening again, what did he do to deserve this.

In the last month I had barely gotten to a point of functioning semi-normally again (is there such a thing?). I was starting to define the outer edges, if not the depth, of my grief. And now to be facing the same road again seems almost unbearable.

I’m not sure how much longer my dad has to live, maybe a couple of years, but the length of time pales in comparison to what I sense will be the intensity of the experience. I realized yesterday that Parkinson’s has progressed significantly and although I have mixed feelings about watching another parent suffer, I also don’t think I can move, despite having tossed around the idea. I miss the ocean and want to align with a quieter, slower practice of life, and idealized from childhood or not, it seems like something I should do.

One of the bigger themes in my life at the moment is honoring what I individually want vs. honoring my responsibility to others. My dad is one of the few people that I would put aside my own interests for. Yet, it is still a complex situation. He is grateful for the help, as my mom was, and that illustrates how great the need is, and is why I’m quietly sobbing in a corner of this bus.

Although I am not a philosophical person in the academic sense, I do spend a fair amount of time trying to relate my life and the moments in it to larger ideas. I am not afraid to look at things as they are, which has advantages but is also a significant weight. One of my friends put it best back in high school. There were maybe 5-7 of us and there was one girl we all liked (she was part of the group as well). For the most part we were smart enough not to get involved with her romantically (although I sort of went down that road before correcting myself), but one of our friends started dating her and they were together for a year or so, which is long in high school time. Eventually they broke up and it created an intense situation. When I asked my friend Sam about it he replied that he couldn’t take sides because he really felt equally strongly on behalf of both friends. That’s the curse of having great empathy, it gives you understanding other people don’t have but it certainly doesn’t make decisions any easier.

I expect I will probably have to delay my own ambitions, and although it’s not an easy decision I have to make decisions that I can live with, even if they come with downsides. I’ll do the best I can to support my dad, while living half of the life I feel meant to live. And I’ll succeed in partially doing things that are good for me, and fail in many other ways. If that’s not the definition of life I’m not sure what is.


2 thoughts on “Decisions”

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Joe. Your last paragraph about delaying your own ambitions really struck me. I’m grateful to still have both my parents alive and healthy, but I had to put certain parts of my life on hold after they divorced in 2006 and my mom needed a lot of help (emotionally, financially, otherwise). Shortly thereafter I watched her do the same for her own parents, who passed away within a few months of each other. There’s no part of me that needs convincing that it’s the right thing to do, but it was excruciating for me to watch her risk her own sanity to help my grandma, who was suffering from Alzheimer’s before she died. I have to admit, too, that I’ve selfishly wondered how I’ll make it through those situations later in life because of my decision not to have children.

    Knowing it’s the compassionate and just and right thing to do never seems to make it any easier. My best hope is that in the process we’ll learn something that we can put to use for ourselves in the future. Good luck to you in your journey, and all the best to your dad.

    1. Thanks Matt, and agreed that doing the right thing doesn’t come easy, in fact I think it’s especially difficult when you do understand the tradeoffs.

      One of my core beliefs is that it’s important to acknowledge the human condition that we all face. It’s why I sort of gravitate towards people who have an appreciation for how dark life can be. It seems to help with things we can’t explain, like watching someone disappear behind the veil of Alzheimer’s. I won’t say it makes things easier, but it does help in some small way, and allows us to know where we stand with ourselves.

      I expect you may have a bit of regret later about not having kids, but on the other hand those with kids if they are truly honest would have to admit the same about having them =).

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