During six years as a caregiver for my mother and father, the key ring I carried would no doubt have made a janitor swoon. It held keys to our family home where my father still lived, his old Camry, my mother’s small duplex apartment, her little Hyundai, and a safe deposit key in both their names. My keys included a few for the house, my Camry, a PO box, and several for the business I’d been employed by for over 20 years. All told, about 15 keys dangled from multiple rings attached to a homely metal snap clip from Home Depot. Fashion be damned.
Then my father died. The house was sold, and the car was gifted to Mimi, his amazing home health aide, with our deepest gratitude. After my mother died in 2013, the keys for the house she moved to after my dad’s death were returned to the landlord, my brother got her car, and the safety deposit box, containing only a copy of her Last Will and Testament, was closed out. At that point, it struck me that the keys I now carried were only my own. And as often happens when reflecting on the joys and hardships of caring for those we love, I felt both lighter and heavier at the same time.
Out of that experience, came a book and workshops focused on helping other adult children feel supported and understood both during and after their caregiving journey. It was a way to grieve the loss of my mom and dad, while holding them close through the stories I shared.
Fast forward to the end of last year when, after much upheaval, I left the job that no longer sustained me to focus on writing and speaking full time. Walking out of the office and turning over the keys to my replacement, I thought of my parents, and hoped they would approve.
So, here I am once again, holding that same shabby key ring, but now it represents a new life filled with promise and possibility. No more steady paycheck, or health insurance, or a presumably “secure” future, but there is a lightness to my spirit that wasn’t there before.
“LET GO” has become my mantra for 2018, starting with the long-held identity of “employee;” but come what may in the years ahead, a daughter I will always be.