Monday, June 22, 2015

Parents on holiday.

My mother spent many years helping me exercise every single day. Regardless of whether  it was a weekday or a weekend we'd be right on that mat on the floor, stretching, moving and turning for hours. But when summers came she'd often send me away for a week or two if not more.The goal was to get me away from the home and out of the city. There was no pleading with her. For me it was a wasted time. I'd be stuck with an aunt or an uncle in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do. I'd end up on my grandmother's farm or a cabin in the woods just counting the days for someone to put me out of my mystery. I was there with no computer, a black and white TV and electricity being often out for hours. For a young boy it was version of hell. I didn't really like going to school growing up (although I was a good student) so I hated the feeling of wasting most of my break on this only to return before classes resumed again. I tried pleading and reasoning with my mom telling her how all of this gave me anxiety but the fact was that the break wasn't for my benefit. It was for hers. She told me on one or two occasions, when I got really upset about having to stay with yet another relative that she needed a break for me. And that we needed a break from each other. It's not a nice feeling when you think of yourself as a burden or a task that people need to take a break from. It frames you as a thing rather than a person. For many years however my rehabilitation was my mother's full time job. My father had an outlet, he had a job - often two- outside of the house. And caring for a special needs child, being a nurse, a therapist, a nutritionist in addition to simply parenting has to get exhausting sometimes. Yes, I know that this is what parents do and they do it with a smile when they come to call. But isn't it emotionally and physically draining sometimes when you take on so much? Doesn't everyone deserve a vacation?

I was reminded of this as my Florida nonprofit was investigating ways to help a girl with a brain injury in my native Poland. A violent incident and a chain of events that followed rendered her with no long term or short term memory. It was a heartbreaking story that made the headlines and we wanted to do something.  Our focus was to see if we can get involved to find a therapy or treatment to get her out of that state. We asked family members to look into her situation. But the information we got was primarily about the mother. Always there, always silent, supportive and trying to  get her daughter back. A single parent.  For a shred of memory and a bit of improvement she gave her life for her daughter's in a sense, trying to get her back for the last ten years. And she might never be as she was. I understand the need to help her, but who's going to help the mother?- our contact said- She needs a break, she's always there. There should be a non profit that sends people caring for family members with disability on vacation. Well, it's outside of what we do, but maybe there should. Because it is hard work, day in and day out. And we rarely seem to notice, taking sacrifices for granted because it's "what parents do". But what parents also do have is a breaking point and they're only human. And this made me think of all the times I was stuck in "nature' so my mom would get what she needed to recharge her batteries. Many don't even get that much I guess.

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