My city, Fargo, North Dakota, has just wrapped up a huge event, with extensive media coverage, memorials and reunions, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a tornado that devastated Fargo on June 20, 1957. Twelve people died, six of them children from the same family.
Since I work in the media, I’ve been heavily involved in this coverage. I clearly remember that F5 tornado, so huge it has been used nationally as the basis to rate tornados, since that time. It ripped through north Fargo on my 12th birthday. Working on this project has been, for me, an emotional experience.
Our home was not directly hit by the storm, but it was damaged by wind and debris. We went several days with non-stop rain and no electricity. My dad was involved in public health and fought to prevent an outbreak of disease. My mom was seven months pregnant with my sister, and we were afraid she’d have the baby during the blackout.
What does this have to do with caregiving? A couple of weeks ago, I would have said “nothing.”
However, since we were starting tornado coverage on the day my weekly column runs, I decided to go off topic and write about my tornado/birthday experience. Digging back into my memory, and recounting that day for my readers, reminded me that there was a long period of my life when I was not a caregiver. My parents took care of me.
For some of us who have gone through very long stretches of caregiving (for me it was two decades and seven people), it’s sometimes hard to remember a time when we were the ones being taken care of.
After recounting that tornado day for my readers, my mind has stayed in a reminiscent mode. Rather like the evening after I had to put my mother in a nursing home, my childhood keeps spinning through my brain.
I remember the day I knocked out my front teeth. I remember my parents’ worry when I had surgery. I remember the months when I was sick and they were trying to get me to eat and gain weight. My parents were good parents. They were not perfect, as none of us are. But they were good parents, who did their very best for their children. They took care of us. They took care of me.
These aren’t revolutionary thoughts. I never “forgot” that they took care of me. But delving back into my childhood, with such intensity, brought strong memories of them as the vital people they were.
They were the “adults.” They were the protectors. They were the caregivers I could count on. I am grateful that I’ve had a chance to pay some of that back, through caring for them, during their long, declining years and drawn out deaths.
My parents had been caregivers to their parents. My mother always hoped I’d never have as many years of caregiving as she did. As it turned out, I’ve had even more. Much more. But that is okay. It’s how life has worked out. I was a good caregiver. Not perfect; none of us are. But I did my best.
Published On: July 03, 2007