As some of you may already know, my husband and I moved to Florida about two weeks ago. My husband was offered his dream job and it’s quite possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him. I would never in a million years ask him to turn down such an opportunity, but I’d be lying if I said I was completely on board. Florida is about 1,000 miles away from my hometown, which is where my mom and dad live. I was extremely reluctant to move so far away from my parents since my mom is in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s. When my husband initially told me about this job opportunity, I said, “No way! I’m not moving to Florida!” But then, I thought to myself, “What are the chances that he will actually get the job?” I wanted to be supportive, so I told my husband to go ahead and send his resume, thinking there was no way he was going to get the job. Fast forward a few months and here we are. I guess I really screwed the pooch on that one!
Not only is Florida 1,000 miles from home, but from the time my husband got the job offer to the day we left for Florida, we had just seven weeks to get our shit together. We had to put our house on the market, travel to Florida together to look for a place to live, prepare for the sale of our house once we got an offer, apply for a lease on a rental home, and I had to pack e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g by myself while my husband travelled back to Florida to take a class for his new job the week before we moved. We also had to arrange all of the logistics for our move, my husband had to quit his current job, and I had to find a way to say goodbye to my mom. Plus, about a million other things had to all fall into place at the exact same time in order to facilitate this long-distance move. All in just seven short weeks!
With so many things to be stressed out about, my biggest concern was leaving my parents. How in the world could I move away from them at such a critical time in my mom’s care? How could I just abandon my dad during such a difficult time in his role as her caregiver? I couldn’t even tell my mom that I was moving to Florida because she wouldn’t understand. My mom doesn’t even know what Florida is, let alone where it is. She would have absolutely no concept of what it meant that I was moving to Florida. I didn’t want to confuse her and on the off chance that she did understand what it meant, I didn’t want to upset her by telling her that I was moving so far away. Do you have any idea how much it sucks to be moving to Florida and not be able to tell your own mom? Hint: it sucks a lot.
Even with all of these thoughts running through my mind, I knew that there was no way I would ever ask my husband to turn down such an amazing opportunity. I also knew that there was no way I wouldn’t go with him. But, I wanted to both stay and go at the same time. Our impending move and the build up to saying goodbye to my parents was weighing on my heart. I swear I could literally feel my heart shattering to bits and pieces each time I thought about having to say goodbye to my mom. I felt like such a terrible person for leaving my mom at a time when most people would be moving closer to help take care of her. My mom lives at home with my dad and they have help during the week, but to me it wasn’t about who was still there to help take care of her. To me, it was about the fact that I would no longer be there to help her. I wouldn’t be able to just sit with her and hold her hand. I wouldn’t be able to sing with her and make her laugh. I would no longer be by her side as Alzheimer’s continues to ravage her mind. I wouldn’t even be able to call her any time I just wanted to say hi or ask her how she was doing. If I can’t be there in person and she can’t talk on the phone anymore, then what did I have left? How would I ever get through this?
I started to realize that all of my thoughts were centered on the wrong person. Me. My thoughts should be focused on my mom and how this move would affect her. And, the truth was that this move wouldn’t really affect my mom at all. Even with me living in Florida, my mom would still have plenty of people who take care of her and visit with her. My mom would have no idea where I was and she wouldn’t know that I was so far way. She wouldn’t know that she hadn’t seen me in a while and she would never ask for me. My mom wouldn’t be sad that I was gone. She wouldn’t miss me. Sometimes, Alzheimer’s can be both a blessing and a curse.
Ultimately, I knew deep down that my mom would never want me to give up so much of my life to take care of her or be there for her. If she could, she would tell me to go to Florida. She would be unbelievably proud of and excited for my husband’s new job. She would want us to live in Florida together. She would want us to live our best lives. I know that with one hundred percent certainty. But still, it would be oh so nice if she could tell me herself. It’s during these times, when my mom is the one and only person I feel like I can talk to about something, that I miss her most.
Even though my mom can’t give me advice anymore, I know what she would want for me and I can feel it in my heart. I know that she will be ok without me and that she won’t miss me. I have also learned that there is a big difference between leaving someone and abandoning someone. You don’t have to go anywhere to abandon someone. You can live five minutes away from someone and not do a damn thing to help them. By the same token, you can live 1,000 miles away from home and still do everything you possibly can to help. I am at peace with what I have done so far to help my mom and dad. I have done more in the last five years than most people will do in their whole lives. And, I know that I will continue to help in any way possible. I am also at peace with our decision to move away. Although I love my mom too much to leave, I also love my husband too much not to go. Sometimes in life we have to make difficult decisions as a result of deeply caring for more than one person. Then again, I guess that’s a good problem to have.
(Stay tuned for future posts about saying goodbye to my mom and adjusting to life 1,000 miles away from home.)