Sunday, January 25, 2015

How I Became A Grown Up

Flying across the Atlantic the other night I found the movie Wish I Was Here, written by Adam & Zachary Braff. Zach Braff also plays the lead. About 35 minutes into the film I paused it, and the following flowed out. 

Do you want to know when you really become a grown up? It's when you have to take care of your parent/guardian/whathaveyou. 

The day you realize you're the caregiver. That the balance has shifted on your scales. 

For a litany of reasons that I'm not delving into, I was the official decision maker as my mom lay dying in a hospital. 

My dad was on the other side of town, in a different hospital, & working his way back to mom. 

My brother, let's call him Daniel, was the one who lived closer. He had a wife & a gaggle of kids. I lived 6 hours away, in NYC, and I wasn't even 30. But it was my job, my responsibility, to talk to the doctors & relay info to my dad. 

Legally & practically, I made the decisions that ended her life. 

That sentence is bullshit. Not because it is untrue, it's not. I was the one. 
It's bullshit because that's a messed up thing for anyone. In the history of ever. Of course it happens every other minute all day long, but that's not any less screwy. 

So there was a moment in my life where I got to tell the doctors we were done with any heroics. I got to witness a parade of people giving my mom the weight of their sadness. I slept on a cot in her room, one of my girlfriends by my side, so I'd be there if something happened. 

I think my moment of clarity came when Daniel's best friend, by no small coincidence my ex-boyfriend, brought his rather pregnant wife to meet my dying mother. I'd just been explaining all the legal shite to Danny & I walk out to see everything I wanted to share with my mother walking down the hall. 

My life, unlived, passed through me like a ghost. 

And then I got to wait for my dad to arrive, because mom wasn't budging without talking to him. That's 100% true, btw. The goodbyes & pleas to mom to "let go" went on for days; my dad instead talked over the phone, telling her she better wait for him to get there. He'd spent a lifetime waiting for her to get ready, and by God, this time she would wait for him. 

Naturally, she did. Mom was wild eyed & desperate for dad. She couldn't talk by then. He arrived & so very soon after she left us. 

I turned 30 a few days later. But honestly, I had aged a decade in just a few weeks. 

Afterwards, I ran away. I ran from that knowledge for years after. I ran from being grown. From as many responsibilities as I could. 

To tell the truth, I kept running until I found someone who made me want to be a grown up again. 

But that's a different tale, for a different night of wine, altitude & brilliant Indie film.


  1. I loved this! I felt it! Just love for this piece!

  2. So very poignant and beautifully written. I've never been the oldest, the youngest like you. and lived so far away and had to deal with the after math of all these discussions and decisions. Life, death, and consequences always the last to arrive with something to give or take. Thank you for sharing this part of your journey. 💗

  3. I don't know how things will go down when one of my parents get to this point. What I do know is how hard it is to be made to make all of the decisions. Everyone looking to you for news. They all expect you to do the net right thing. When my Papaw was dying of lung cancer, he had three living children. My Dad was the oldest, and I was the oldest grandchild. They put most of the burden on me. Not only did I grow up, I learned true resentment for them. But, as I came to grips with myself, I learned that I was so happy that they relied on me with that challenge.

    I held him. I bathed him. I read books and newspapers to him. I talked to him day in and day out. I reminisced with him. I laughed with him up to the day he was unable to laugh, and then i laughed softly in his ear.

    They couldn't be bothered. They all had jobs, were too busy to be there, kids that needed them, bla bla bla. But I loved him until he was gone. I loved him my whole life. No one can take that away from me. I knew how much that meant to him. I was his 'GIRL.'

    I love you, sweet Mama! Thank you for sharing this piece of you with us.

  4. Beautifully and heartbreakingly written. I absolutely loved the ending too.

  5. So many people are unprepared for the challenges of taking care of their parents. Thank you for your honesty!

  6. My dad is fighting cancer for the 3rd time, right now. We just learned that they can treat the symptoms, but not the cancer anymore, its too far along. My mom and I are getting through this as those who help the most, along with the people of my parents church. my sister can't be bothered, actually said she didn't care he was sick. She almost got smacked in the face that day.... What makes it worse to me is we are adopted, so they chose us! I live half an hour away, with 4 kids, and my sister lives not quite 10 minutes away. The resentment is real, but I am working on it. At 32, I thought I was a grown up, but I think I have a lil ways to go.

  7. One day, when I grow up - I want to have the gift that you have and the voice to be able to say it out loud (or type it at least). <3 you

  8. So deep. Loved this too much! It moved something within me and I felt tears come into my eyes. I commend you for being brave, strong, etc, in this situation. I'm not sure if I CAN grow up. I don't think I want to (under these circumstances). Great post my love!

  9. So beautifully written and so heart-wrenching. I feel for what you had to experience and go through.

    Hugs and love to you.

    Thanks for sharing and for linking up to the #SHINEbloghop.

    Wishing you a lovely weekend.

  10. I know that I have read this before and again, it gave me goosebumps. Hugs, many hugs. <3