Competitive athletes – at least back when I was competing – talk about hitting the wall. ‘Hitting the wall’ means you just give everything you’ve got to cross the line – to complete the race. I had that experience once in my life – which tells you that I wasn’t a super competitive athlete. I was put into a war canoe with a bunch of young women from Canada’s National Team – and then we went out for a ‘fun’ race. I hit the wall during that race and I couldn’t walk for two days. Even though I was in pretty good shape I couldn’t hold a candle to them and almost died trying.
I often think of that experience when I think about caring for my mom or dad. I know I would go to the wall for them. I love them and I’m aware of what I owe them. I think I have an idea of how much they love me since I know how much I love my own kids and they gave me that capacity to love. You don’t think about the reverse responsibilities when you are beginning to build your own family. But one day – it dawns on you that there has been a subtle shift and now your relationship with your parents requires more giving from your side. They need you more.
I’ve read enough from other caregivers to know that this feeling is not unique. There are so many people ‘going to the wall’ for their mom or their dad every day. The problem is when you go to the limit you have nothing else to give and you might not be able to walk for awhile. So that’s why I think it is so important to give caregivers support and pragmatic help.
And from this comes the promise …