Caregiver of the Month Spotlight
February 2000
Congratulations!
GHJAN99 A/K/A HOLLY

Dear Mom,

It's the eve of the year 2000 and the anniversary of your death. I write this in memory and honor of you.

It all began two months prematurely, with you in a lot of pain (as you later told me). I arrived in grand style, with a police escort to the hospital. I had to get out early as I knew you needed me. I'm sorry I had to remain behind at the hospital in an incubator, and I know you were sad, but while I was there an angel stayed with me, explaining that I was born to care for you and many others. Hmmm, I thought. How could this be when I was such a sick, weak baby? But the angel explained that I would recover and grow up quickly to be there for you.

I was 2 1/2 when I began protecting you from Daddy. I was too young to understand why he threw things, screamed and knocked you down. I only knew you were hurt and needed my help, so I learned how to take care of you as best I could. I even learned how to hide his bottles from him, for I realized that things got a little scary when he drank out of those bottles.

You gave me a brother when I was four and a sister when I was seven. I learned how to hide them so they wouldn't get hurt. I even stood in the way of Daddy's fist to protect you and the others, but even after the beatings Daddy would pick up my older brother and leave with him.

AND SO IT GOES.....

Years passed and you began to drink too. You thought it might help you to understand him, but you couldn't. Poor mommy. He finally left us, and we all thought we could finally live in peace, but by that time you and my two brothers had a drinking problem and being Irish didn't help! Abuse continued. We both got hurt again. My one brother abused me so badly that I had to resort to a restraining order against him. Sorry, mommy. You didn't like that.

AND SO IT GOES.....

Dad got sick and moved back to our state, and I was the only one willing to take care of him until he died. I planned the funeral, which was a big affair in our city because he was such a VIP. We held it at the cathedral so many could attend. All of the dignitaries and the 21-gun salute made it a very impressive funeral and procession.

But sadness continued at home. Auntie got sick with the big "C" and her own daughter wouldn't care for her. I did until the day she died. You never got over her death, and you began to drink more and became sicker and sicker. I tried so hard but I couldn't make you well. I even quit my job to take care of you, but I saw that you were getting more tired each day, and then that Christmas I called the ambulance. The last time you really talked to me was in front of the Christmas tree and you said "I'm sorry I've been such a burden." And then you left me.....standing in front of that tree.

AND SO IT GOES.....

Many years have passed and you wouldn't be happy because I never had another tree - until this year. I bought one and you came back and helped decorate it. You told me that you knew that your youngest daughter, my sister, had
developed mental illness and that has been a long and sad journey. You also told me that I looked very tired and now you had to come back and help me.

You renewed my spirit. I never lost faith but I have been frustrated. You told me that I have been through enough and that the journey was getting close to being over. The new year was coming and little sister would be well, and for once I would learn how to take care of "me." You reminded me that I had been a caregiver since such a young age and had been a "parent" to so many without every having given birth myself. I never really had a childhood, but I knew if I hadn't taken on the role of parent for my family, there would have been no one for them to depend on. I felt needed also, and fulfilled I guess, for that's all I knew. I also know what it's like to need and not have anyone there for you....you then learn how to put yourself on hold and then in the background. After years of this, a caregiver looses their identity.

AND SO IT GOES.....

I have a deep faith in a higher power that I call God. I grew up as an Irish-Catholic, remembering now the horrors of an all-girls private school. I am now very spiritual, and I would have given up many years ago if I didn't have my strong faith. During times of abuse, I considered suicide. I guess one particular incident set me on my spiritual path from which I haven't diverted.

As I drove down the dark and curvaceous lonely road in the village where I lived, with tears streaming down my face remembering my brother's abuse, I lost control and ended up smashed into a tree. After impact I looked up and saw a sign in front of my eyes that said "Don't Give Up, We're Here For You". Here I was in front of a church that had both AA and AL-Anon meetings there and the people came out to investigate the crash. That's when I began another survival journey.....my God showed me it was not my time yet.

It seems that when I've been at my worst God has directed me out of my pain. I ended up getting very involved in starting support groups and shelters for the abused women. This was during the time when there were no places to go and no laws to help. Therapy was something that was not acceptable when I grew up in the '50s & '60s. It was brought to my dear mother's attention but it was refused.

I studied psychology in college and did some counseling when I worked at a Crisis Intervention center but I never got into therapy for myself until after my sister had her breakdown. I seem to have always been the therapist for everyone else.

AND SO IT GOES....

Now, in the year of the turn of the century, I find myself at a time of discovery. Now it's time to get to know "me" and to care for myself. It's time to realize that I do matter instead of living vicariously through everyone else's life. And it's time to let the OLD baggage go and start with the new.

I know there are so many of us out here that are thinking about going on this journey and so I hold out my hand to all of you. In my heart I know we can make it. We are brave, strong, and we are survivors. I know that with our hands held firmlyh by our Higher Power, we will make it. We just must remember to never let go of His hand let others help us if they choose. We WILL move this mountain as we've moved so many.

AND SO IT GOES....

I could tell much more, but for now I just want to say "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift and that's why we call it the present."

Copyrighted Holly 02/01/2000
EMAIL ghjan99@aol.com

EMPOWERING CAREGIVERS features the "CAREGIVER OF THE MONTH SPOTLIGHT". If you know of a unique caregiver who you would like to honor or perhaps submit yourself, please send a jpg photograph (if one is available) along with your story. All submissions must be received by the third week of each month to be considered. In the subject line, please type CAREGIVER SPOTLIGHT SUBMISSION. Submit your entries here:spotlight@care-givers.com   

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