It doesn’t matter who you are. We all wear many different hats throughout our lifetime. Daughter, son, student, girlfriend, boyfriend, employee, aunt, uncle, mom, dad, grandma, grandpa. Whatever hat you don, your innate ability to switch on a dime is astounding. You don’t usually get overwhelmed, or even realize you are doing it. It is second nature.
I’ve read many articles that explain the many hats a Mom wears on a daily basis. It is utterly astounding. But then I started adding up all the hats I wear as a caregiver in addition to all the others. That was truly mind-blowing.
I’m not one to wear hats. I never found them flattering, unless I was on the softball field. (But that was a whole other life ago.) So far I’ve got a list of 30 different hats I have to have on at any time. I have to switch between them all fluidly and sometimes I stumble. Sometimes I fall. But I always have to get back up and get right back into the flow of my life. There are many times I am overwhelmed. I just have to remember that tomorrow is always a new beginning.
My first hat I ever wore was that of being a daughter. The first part of my life, that was all I knew and it was so easy. Oh to go back to those days. Am I right?!
I wore, at most, three hats back then. Daughter. Student. Friend. There may have been a few others, but those really don’t count for much. They just came as they came and went where ever the wind blew.
But as I age, as my parents age, the role of daughter has become more. I am no longer the cute little girl with curly piggy tails that runs around playing outside with everyone and no one, always with her nose in a book or head in the clouds waiting for the next adventure her father, and the Air Force, will take her.
Granted there was a time in between that we both went our separate ways. Not by choice, mind you. But because I grew up, got married, my dad retired from the Air Force, his civil service job went on the BRAC List and he was forced (yes I say forced with a smile) to move to Florida, and we moved to Germany and then Texas. So, we were apart from each other for near 10 years. Even when we lived in the same area, we were 45 minutes away from one another and had our own lives. We saw each other on holidays, or random get-togethers. I was not much of the daughter I used to be.
No. Now I’m all grown up and my own individual. But not really. I have donned another hat–that of wife (or spouse, as the Army so designated). I’m still my parents’ daughter, though that role takes on a whole new meaning now.
Sometimes, most times, I feel like I am my parents’ parent. With the new technology abound, and my mom and dad getting into it, I’ve had to school them quite a bit on their privacy and internet use. There was one time I had literally yelled at my mom for following some person to their house whom she hit with her car but they never stopped. Hello?? Safety!? I mean, these are the people who taught me all about “Don’t talk to strangers.” “Never get in a car with someone you don’t know.” Not to mention, “Don’t give out that type of information to someone you just met.” And so on. And so on.
When my father was diagnosed with lung cancer back in 2001, I found that my strength is what got my mom through it all. She’s not one to take hardship lightly and will obsessively worry and focus on the worst. Definitely not healthy and it sure didn’t help my father. So, I was there to be the pillar through it all. After my husband got out of the Army, we moved to Florida to be closer to them. Again, 45 minutes away.
I am my mother’s strength when anything goes wrong. She’s a constant worry wart and every little thing that goes wrong, “OMG I’m dying.” Or, if dad has a doctor’s appointment, routine day surgery, or major surgery, it’s always the same. “Please say a prayer for your father.” The worst thing that my mom ever found was WebMD! I console her and offer her light in her darkness. I reassure her that as long as the doctor isn’t worried, she shouldn’t be. I make sure she understands that she should be focusing on “being strong and positive because what kind of life can you live if you are constantly worrying or in fear?” I can never understand why my mother says she knows that she needs to let go of the worry but never does. Out of the forty some years I’ve known her, I’ve never known her to change….much.
And then there’s my dad. With all his little quirks, the ones that get him into the most amount of trouble with me are the ones dealing with his health. I’m constantly on him about his smoking and his picking and his incessant need for Starbucks despite his diabetes. He is so stubborn and like a little boy when it comes to these things. I really feel like he’s at the point of not caring. “I’ve been smoking since I was 14 and hasn’t killed me yet.” “I know, I know, picking got me a staph infection of the skin, but I can’t help it. It itches.” And then there’s Starbucks. “I like it.”
What can I do but throw my hands up in the air and shake my head?!
What’s going to happen in a few years? Ten? Twenty? With all the things wrong with my father – thank you Vietnam and Agent Orange — and all his surgeries and his lack of youth, I fear that I will not only be a caregiver to my husband, but also helping my mother take care of my father. God forbid if my mother out lives my dad, which she probably will based on family history. Seriously, she’s going to be a basket case and I don’t know if I can take that much negativity. It’s already a strain on me to keep my own demons squashed. So I am constantly worrying how I am going to manage all the caregiving I’m inevitably going to have on my shoulders when the time comes. And since I’m the only child, it’s all on me.
Sometimes a nice padded, bouncy room with a jacket that gives me constant hugs sounds nice.
In all seriousness, they weren’t always the child in this relationship. I just hope one day, when I’m as old as they are, I’m not so grumpy, not so stubborn, and not so in need of being reminded how to be an adult. Children should have a better life than their parents. Not the same. So I wish not to be a burden for my son. He’s our only, as well, so I know exactly what it’s like. If that’s the way things are meant to be, then so be it. I will do my best to be the best for everyone who needs me. No matter the time and no matter the hat I’m wearing, I will forever and always be their daughter and I will gladly accept that hat because I love my parents deeply. I thank them for who I am. They raised me pretty good I think.
Do you have any “hats” you’d like me to explore? Like I said, I have about 30 on my list now. You may just have one I don’t have yet. 🙂