Wednesday, October 14, 2015

One Last Trip

A sketch I did at a park as he sat at a picnic table.  
(I wrote this post early on in my caregiving experience.  I hesitated to share it for various reasons, but like I said before, life is to be shared--the good and the bad.  There are lessons to be learned through life and art, so I share my lessons.)

Caretaking can be isolating. Spontaneity is a thing of the past.  Sometimes I'm jealous of the world going on without me.  I read the blogs of other artists who are painting away and see the artwork of friends on Facebook and I have a pang of sadness.  People are going and doing and I cannot.  Friends and family take amazing vacations and post awesome pictures with toes in the sand and drinks in their hands.  Life is moving forward and I am in a sort of self imposed time warp.  

Or so shouts the little demon in my head that loves it when I feel sorry for myself.  I don't entertain her long.  Because as I look across the table at my dad I realize how much he can no longer do.  I know sometimes that demon visits him as well.  She used to stay with him for months at a time, but thanks to anti-depressants and Alzheimer's she visits him less often and doesn't stay long when she does.  

Dad was a vibrant person, full of spit and vinegar who lived a life full enough for three people.  A man who loved adventure.  What was just over the next hill is what enticed him.  Always ready for the next great adventure, we would pile in the family car and drive many miles to a vacation destination of his choice.  Never the same place twice (unless it was family) because dad knew there was so much more to see and experience.  Been there, done that, check it off the list!  He and mom traveled the world, first in the military until he retired and then as tourists.  A vacation was always budgeted for and always taken.  I think there are few countries he has not set his foot on.  But certainly every continent.

Mom was not as eager to flit here and there.  She was cautious and fearful.  There were plenty of scary experiences in far flung places unfriendly to Americans. But she followed him all over the world and stayed behind with us when he had to go ahead.  It was not easy moving so much, but she did it. Mom had an artistic spirit herself.  She wrote poetry and short stories.  I have many of her travel journals and a few of her published works.  While she may not have been the adventurous one, she understood how adventure broadened her world and I have some wonderful images in her written words. I am thankful that dad was so fearless and that mom used her artistry to record bits of their adventures together. This left us with a wonderful legacy of their life together. 

I seem to be a happy combination of the two. I don't like moving.  I think I did enough with them and with my husband, thank you.  I'm cautious and can be fearful too, like mom.  But as I've gotten older I've become cautiously adventurous!  Dad planted wanderlust, and though I buried it deep, it has burrowed up and tempts me now.   And if dad gave me wanderlust, mom planted her artistic nature in me as well.  When I get the chance to travel again, I will make sure to record my adventures.  My journals will be visual as well as written and I hope to plan whole trips around painting the destination! I'm making a list, but it won't be for a while. While I don't long to visit the far flung and dangerous places my dad enjoyed, I have some more mild adventures in mind. 

Dad can't travel at all these days.  He wants to, and still thinks he can, bless his heart. But the reality is he just doesn't have it in him anymore.  It's taken some of the wind out of his sails when he realizes he's not going to get to go anymore.  He still talks about going here and there.  Talks about going to Arizona and renting a car and driving down to a place where he used to fly ultralights.  And then flying one. He's sure he can still do these things.  Either that or he just refuses to quit looking to the next hill.  I so admire that, even if it is the disease.  But I don't think it is.  I think it is in his character to never give up.  He's been through so much and he never let's it defeat him.  I hope I inherited that spirit as well.  

It makes me sad he can't travel anymore. But I'm also glad that he lived such a rich full life and did much of what he loved to do.  The lesson there is to wring as much out of life as you can!  Caring for him has been a blessing and learning experience for me.  I've learned much from the man who gave himself in service to his country which he still holds dear.  Such sacrifice does not come without cost to the one who served or their family. And I've learned a few things about facing adversity as I watch him battle his losses, many I never knew about until his later years. 
And while he can no longer indulge his wanderlust, he does have one last trip to make. And its my job, with God's good grace, to make sure the journey is a smooth one.  


  1. I already wrote a long comment before I clicked on "publish" at the end of Michelle's blog. Please don't tell me there's no record of it. I don't have time now to do it again. Thanks, Shirley Saywood. shirlann88@Gmail.Com. in Nova Scotia.

    1. So sorry Shirley! Those thing happen! Thanks for taking the time to reply.

  2. Michelle,
    Thank you for sharing such a lovely article. You really are still creating, just in a different way... You are creating a safe and loving environment for your father's journey. You are creating a lasting memory with your written words and these wonderful watercolor sketches. And you are creating an outline for the trips and travels you will take.

    "Life is a journey, and struggles are just part of it." I read this recently, wish I could remember where, but the words resonated with me. My sweet parents have gone on to their Heavenly Home, where I know they are safe and well. I take comfort in knowing that, but I also wish they were still with me.

    Hug your Dad today, sketch him tomorrow, and share with us again soon!

    1. Corikay,
      thanks for the comments. It is indeed a journey! Thanks for reading and taking the time to respond.

  3. Michelle,
    Caring for a parent can be a real adventure. You learn about "who" your parent is, the real person, not just a Mom or a Dad. It's a treasure to be given the time for that discovery.
    Just remember to take care of yourself too. You can only "give" when you have the reserves to invest. Ask for help when needed or look for help from one of the many organizations or agencies that are available in your area.
    Thanks for sharing with us.

    1. Kathy, that's one thing I've learned is that I must take care of myself! It is a mixed bag, but I will have no regrets. Thanks for your kind works and for reading!