A younger woman, looking sad, hugs an older woman. They are sitting in front of a calendar, whose pages are flipping rapidly.

The Days are Long But the Years are Short

When my kids were little, older parents would always tell me, wistfully, that the time flies, to enjoy my time with these little ones because it goes by so fast. When you have cleaned up more messes and meltdowns than you can count, and you catalog each milestone, cheering for the next, it feels like it will last forever. Some days you are just getting through and hanging on.

I used to think that I would have no regrets because I had been with them for every moment, fleeting though I was told each would be. Then, decades later, I become that mom who misses when they were little, and I could pick them up and put them where I wanted them. A Blue’s Clues Band-aid and a kiss could solve the crisis that brought so many tears. Perhaps I was too eager for those trying days to pass, I think wistfully to myself these days.

Caring for my parents with Alzheimer's

Life has only gotten more busy and complicated, and I have a parent with Alzheimer’s disease who lives with me. Dad had it first. He and Mom moved up where I live to be near me and my family and to have a house that wasn’t terrible. They had been living in a dilapidated house in rural Mississippi that was slowly being reclaimed by the bayou. My mom’s childhood home had been their only refuge after being left homeless by Hurricane Katrina. They weren’t up here in Buffalo too long before we all moved in together.

As my dad’s condition worsened, I decided I would be grateful for the time I had with him and my mom. I would be intentional, to redeem what I could, and not just get through it. How could I be in the moment and not wish it away?

I determined to hug him, to tell him I loved him. It seems so basic, but those are the things that I tend to skip when I get busy. I always feel like I have so much to do. I feel guilty when I stop doing, but it is those moments when I stop that I treasure the most looking back.

More than just an Alzheimer's caregiver

Now that my mom has been diagnosed with vascular dementia, I don’t want to lose this time being busy. I want to make sure I hug her, laugh with her, tell her I love her, watch a show with her. The crappy thing about this disease is that it robs me of time.

She once told me that she thought of me as a friend more than a daughter. That would have been sweet, but I thought of myself as a caregiver with all of these responsibilities rather than a friend. She gave me a gift, and I couldn’t give it back. I feel cheated that I didn't get to enjoy that transition from mother/daughter to friend, but it’s not too late. It’s up to me.

It’s my perspective that needs to change. I don’t want to cheat her, too.

I need to pull out one of those poems to moms about letting dishes and dusting keep and enjoying these days and making the most of them. The days are long, but the years are short.

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