Trauma is a term we often hear talked about in communities of color and the LGBTQ community. There is an entire body of knowledge about how to support individuals who have had trauma. But what is trauma and how ordinary is it?Continue reading
My two brothers and I, with our children, have all descended on the Florida town where my parents are renting an apartment for the winter. My mother’s desire to take my father, who at 90 years of age, is wheelchair bound, out of the apartment for meals, movies, and tonight for s’mores, knows no bounds.
Whose life is this anyway? I went from living my new gay life with a sense of freedom, joy, and fun to caring for my wife who was dying of cancer, caring for my father who is dying of old age, caring for my son who found himself accused of hazing, and working with my siblings to clean up my fathers estate, which is a mess.
There has to be a better way to grow old.
My father, at 90 years old, is at the end of his life and can no longer do, what the health care industry calls, “the activities of daily living”. Dad can not walk unassisted; needs to be catheterized to pee; needs someone to wipe him after going to the bathroom; needs help dressing and getting up or down from a chair; needs to be held while he walks so that he does not fall. The last activity of daily living which he still can do is to feed himself, but even that function is rapidly fading. He is sleeping fifteen to eighteen hours a day. The one good thing about this part of his life is that he is not in pain and seems happy.
I am flying home after a short trip to Florida to help out my aging parents. How did the weekend go? The answer depends on how you see the world. Mom says, “Doesn’t dad look healthy? He’s doing so well, except that he can’t walk.” My brother, who came last weekend, says, “He just needs more PT to be stronger and he will soon be walking again.” My sister, who has made multiple visits to help my parents, says, “Dad is declining fast.”
On Tuesday my wife got a port put in her chest for the two chemo drugs she started yesterday to treat her cancer. The procedure, which took place at a local hospital, was expected to last a hour. My wife and her parents were at the hospital for six hours. When I heard how the day was going I offered to make them dinner so they could sit down to a hot meal immediately upon their return from the hospital. I knew they would all be exhausted.
Last Saturday my partner came over to the house that I moved out of three years and nine months ago, to meet my wife and her parents for the first time. This gathering was a long time in coming and was driven by my desire for my partner and my wife to meet. The timing was precipitated by my wife’s increasing decline from terminal cancer. She soldiers on with a new chemo regiment that begins today, with the hopes of slowing down or shrinking the tumors that increasingly inhabit her abdominal cavity and lungs. These new drugs may only slow down the inevitable, but they will not stop the cancer.