When my daughter was born some 20 years ago, Mom and Dad came to stay with us for those first days at home with the new baby.
I’d had a high-risk pregnancy and a difficult, 19-hour delivery. My husband and I were exhausted. I was scared to death by the responsibility of taking care of a precious little person who came without instructions.
To say the least, I was grateful to have Mom and Dad there. In their always positive and encouraging way, they showed me that I already knew more about being a parent than I realized. After all, they had spent the last 27 years of their lives raising me. I must have learned something, right?
I remember the day they left to go home. They both hugged me and explained that they had to get back to their jobs in the Bay Area. “Let go of us, kiddo. You’ll do just fine. You know what to do.”
I watched their car grow smaller and smaller in the distance.
“There goes my help,” I thought to myself, wiping away a few tears.
I felt so alone.
Not knowing what else to do, I went back into the house. And began a rich, new chapter in my life.
My father, Thomas B. Laird, passed away in 2007 at the age of 67. Earlier this month, I lost my mother, Janet Kirk Laird, at the age of 73.
Last April, Mom was struck by a rare, auto-immune disorder called “sudden onset acute transverse myelitis.” In layman’s terms, her body attacked her spinal cord and destroyed the lining of her spinal cord. She became a quadriplegic from the shoulders down. She would never recover.
All of a sudden our roles were reversed.
I became Mom’s caregiver for nearly a year. We moved her into our home and transformed my downstairs office into a suite the Marriott would be proud of. We found a new personal physician and made friends with nurses and physical therapists. I learned a lot about what isn’t available for middle class Americans who are struck by serious medical conditions.
We did the best we could with what we had. I did those tasks usually reserved for nurses and aides: bathing, administering a catheter, diapering, feeding and turning every few hours. I invented new recipes for invalids with my VitaMix.
I tried to keep Mom’s mind engaged. I think I watched every episode of “Gunsmoke” and the BBC’s “Antiques Roadshow” with her. We talked about planting this spring’s garden with tomatoes and strawberries. Mom encouraged me in my creative writing.
But despite heroic efforts and an indefatigable spirit, Mom’s body, in the doctor’s words, just “failed to thrive.”
And on March 2 Mom’s Creator finally said, “Enough! It’s time to come home.”
So here I am.
Feeling so alone.
Dad and Mom never intended to leave my younger brother and me so early. But God had other plans.
I am grateful for my faith that reminds me that this separation is not forever. I am thankful to have, in my brother’s words, “Lucked out in the parent department.” Dad and Mom were strict but fair, wise and always loving.
The words they said to me two decades ago still ring in my memory as I prepare to move forward and soldier on in my new life as an adult orphan:
“Let go of us, kiddo. You’ll do just fine. You know what to do.”
Send your event for consideration in Susan’s column to [email protected].