During the summer of 2021, my dad suffered a series of silent strokes that left him with vascular dementia. Prior to that, I used to joke that we were a “decentralized” family; the three of us (my mom, dad, and I) each happily lived alone and conducted our lives independently of one another despite being in the same city. My parents have been divorced for about 25 years, and for the majority of that time, there was radio silence between the two of them. Some time after the strokes, I received an urgent phone call from one of my dad’s doctors bringing to my awareness his extreme disorientation and the need for immediate care and intervention. At 33, in the middle of an accomplished career, I dropped everything to go be a support and ensure his safety. Soon enough, I found myself desperately calling my mom, who had gladly resigned her responsibility to my dad long ago, to beg for her help. She agreed, “but only for you,” she said. Thank fucking god.
The first few months were confusing and extremely wobbly. From learning about all our new, overwhelming, and serious responsibilities to the soon-to-retire neurologist who told my dad he “has nothing to worry about”, all we could do was cull our resources, use our best judgment, and figure out his needs one step at a time. Imaginably, this completely changed our family dynamic—we actually spend time together now! Along with my saint of a boyfriend and two home health aides, our ragtag team manages to maintain a semblance of my dad’s quality of life as he grapples (or not) with the seismic shifts affecting his mind, body, work, and relationships. With responsibilities divvied up along the lines of finances, food, and medical care, we found a "comfortable" groove amid the chaos.
While this continues to be a rollercoaster of overwhelming moments, isolation, and the periodic depressive plunge, it has strangely brought my family together with purpose. We’re spending holidays together for the first time in decades and I’ve even caught my parents FLIRTING (gross). While I still wish this were not the current predicament, we have found a new way of coexisting constructively. We are thankful to his friends who have kindly leaned in to our collective needs, to the wildly beneficial support offered by CaringKind, and to the 92NY Program for Cognitive Strength and Ability club—all lifelines during this tumultuous time.