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A panicked phone-call in the morning and a frantic flight overseas by the afternoon. This is how these things happen, unexpected and always chaotically timed. I had a job interview that day, and as I worked through worst-case scenarios and the checklist of things to pack, I answered each question my potential future employer asked me with as much calm and grace as I could muster.
The rest of the family joined me abroad the next day and we returned with my father two weeks later; he now had a major disability and I had my next job interview to prepare for.
I wish someone had told me when it all started that this was part of the parcel of life.
Taking care of someone we love is a reality we will all have to deal with at one point. In my case it was my father and caring for him would teach me so much about myself as well as those around me.
With the coordinated manpower of my brother’s friends, we took my father straight from the airport to the hospital. The systems clicked in after that and helped our family to begin the journey towards repair. As my father got the medical treatment he needed and went to rehab to relearn what he had lost, I accepted my new role as a dutiful and caring daughter.
Back then we were all filled with hope, that it was all going to be okay and my father would one day get back on his feet. The optimism quickly came to an end the moment my father was discharged home.
Outside of the hospital system and out-reach program, we didn’t know where to go for help or what was available to us. The services that existed didn’t work for my father and often didn’t meet the needs of my family.
As a first-generation migrant, I was taught from a young age that life is tough and the world will not always be on my side. I was taught to ‘adjust’, be smart and resourceful, and make the most of what I have.
I did this as an art, as did my entire family; finding clever solutions to the most complicated of problems and trying to mend the tears that formed from the added pressure of my father’s declining health.
If there is one thing that exhausted me the most over the year, it would be constantly working the system to make things fit, to bridge the cultural divide between two worlds.
In all of this, I have gained many things over the last year too. I have come to realise I am strong and resilient, able to make tough decisions with clarity of mind, and take charge in times of crisis and absolute chaos.
I am able to stand up and advocate for myself and others and challenge the system and its status quo. I have little hesitation now in calling into question decisions and standing strong as a pillar of unbreakable strength.
After 30 years of trying I’ve also finally learned to relax and let go. To accept that there is much in the world, including my father and his health, that is beyond my control. This has helped me in focusing my energy and managing the stress of seeing my father deteriorate.
I learned this most of all in sitting with my father for hours on end, listening to his stories, many of which I had never heard ever before, and talking with him about life and death, religion and tradition, and love and loss.
Caring goes beyond just helping someone in day-to-day activities, running errands and doing tasks. It also is about sharing yourself with someone and letting them share a part of themselves with you.
The time I have spent with my father the last year, caring for him, I feel we have opened each other’s worlds, teaching each other as much as we’ve learned from ourselves. I see so much that I had never seen before. Things that I’d had once overlooked and the simple pleasures in life.
For my father, with his health so faded, I would like to think I have helped him see the world in a new light and move through it with a little more ease.
I gained as much as I have lost in caring for my father, and it has changed every part of my life. I want to be honest and say that it has not been all insights and lessons and it has not always brought the best out in me.
Being a carer has taken a lot from me and there have been times I have pushed back. There have been times I have been angry at my father and resented him as well as myself. This is been part of the parcel though, the transition that takes place, in caring for someone you love.
It has at times taken a lot of work for me to show up and juggle the demands of being a carer. Asking for help and being open about my struggle has helped me greatly in lessening the load. Being mindful, finding comfort in the small things and choosing happiness in a simple life has also helped me in doing this too.
Though it has not been easy being a carer, I’m glad to be one. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without the journey I have been on with my father. I cherish the time I have spent with him, and the chance I have had to support him in the hardest and most trying leg of his life.
I am a carer and I care because I love and I wouldn’t have it any other way.