I cared for my parents from 2006 until 2017, and I have stories to tell. I cry, a lot, like every day, or I tear up, bracing the flood gates from opening. If I envision my mother on her death bed, me at her side watching her life fade, then there’s no chance in hell I’ll keep the tears from running down my cheeks, dripping off my chin. I get choked up when I visualize my mom in her final hours.
It took my father 18 years for his body to deteriorate to the point that his internal organs began to shut down, gulping his last breath three days later in 2011. Bedridden from a brainstem stroke, he could only move his eyes, blink, and make an occasional guttural sound. His mind trapped inside a body that couldn’t move, he survived, if that’s what it’s called, for 18 years in a bed. Tubes going in and out of his body had kept him at that baseline.
My mom went fast, like in less than two years since she had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. She had a couple of falls, screamed at night, thought people were trying to tunnel into the house from under the foundation, believed pictures on the walls in her bedroom were moving, kept seeing a little boy running down the hallway, and tried to invite the people on her Japanese TV shows to come through the screen. I had my hands full with caring for my mom, which didn’t leave any time to get emotional about the situation. My world crashed, and my heart broke after she passed in 2017, and I continue to grieve. Both my parents passed on inside the house, in the same room, in September of different years, and I did the best I could with what I had, and the emotional trauma I experienced triggered a flight or fight response.
I hadn’t decided what course of action for me to take in life. Should I stay in the house, or sell and bug out of town? The memories I confronted in the Beaverton house at times were painful to digest, but I had thought they were part of the process of shaping, reinforcing my character to fathom the meaning of life. No matter where I go, those memories will travel with me, and any change in domicile only illuminates the irrelevancy, that at the end of the day, my memories remain.
I uprooted my life and moved to the lake, and I don’t need to fight my memories into suppression; instead, I need to be at peace with them, to accept them as experiences that embolden my character as a son who honors his parents every day.