See Ya Later, Alligator

The hardest part of moving 1,000 miles away from home is leaving my mom and dad. Although I know that my mom is being well cared for, it upsets me that I’m not there. I am no longer one of the people taking care of her. The guilt is unreal. Not only that, but I struggle with the fact the I can’t just pick up the phone to call her any time I want to say hi or see how she’s doing. I communicate with my dad almost every single day to see how things are going, but it’s not the same as being able to talk to my mom myself. My mom doesn’t know how to use the phone or have a conversation anymore. When I lived at home, it wasn’t that big of a deal because I would go visit her once or twice a week. I was able to sit with her and just hold her hand any time I wanted. But now, I will go months at a time without being able to see my mom and hold her hand.

In the weeks leading up to the move, my big concern was how I was going to say goodbye to my mom. I felt like the worst person in the world for leaving her and my dad at this point in my mom’s illness. I mean seriously, I was moving away at a point when most people would have been moving closer to home to help take care of their parents. How could I just up and move 1,000 miles away? How was I going to leave knowing that it would be months before I saw my mom again? How was I going to say goodbye to my mom without knowing what would happen during the time I was away? Any Alzheimer’s caregiver can tell you that a few months is like a few eternities in Alzheimer’s world. In reality, my mom could go downhill over night and die before I even had a chance to book a flight home. That might seem like an exaggeration to those who are not familiar with the disease, but trust me, it’s not. It’s real. Literally anything could happen.

After my husband met a few of the contingencies of his job offer, we decided that it was time to share the news with everyone. People began sending their congratulations and well wishes almost immediately. Everyone was very supportive and excited for us. Everyone except for me. I felt like I was dying inside. I felt like my insides were disintegrating and my heart was ripping into a million pieces. I was walking around with this enormous weight on my shoulders, wondering how I could possibly move to Florida at such a time in my mom’s life. It felt so wrong. It felt like I was abandoning my mom and dad. It felt like betrayal.

People kept telling us how happy they were for us and that we deserved it. I definitely agreed that my husband deserved it. This was his dream job and he had worked so unbelievably hard to get to this point. But, did I really deserve it? I was moving to Florida because my husband was offered a job. What exactly did I do to deserve anything? I didn’t go to flight school. I didn’t work really hard. I didn’t get offered a job. What the hell did I do to deserve moving to beautiful, sunny Florida? I didn’t devote every waking minute of my life taking care of my mom. I wasn’t by her side every minute of every day suffering right there along with her. I was able to go home to my own house to get away from it all. I was able to choose when I wanted to take care of her and for how long. I had an escape. And now, I was escaping all the way to Florida! How exactly did I deserve any of it? How did I deserve to get away from Alzheimer’s, but my mom and dad didn’t? Why did I deserve to be rewarded with this great escape? Truthfully, I don’t think I did.

I almost feel like I am suffering from survivor’s guilt. I got out, but they didn’t. I feel guilty that my mom is suffering from Alzheimer’s and I’m not. I feel guilty that my dad is her full-time caregiver and I’m not. He’s had to give up any picture of what he thought his life might be like. He’s had to quit everything and devote all of his minutes and all of his days to taking care of my mom. He’s had to become a prisoner of his own house. All of these things he’s had to do and I feel guilty because I haven’t. I am free to go and do and be and live. I am able-bodied and able-minded to live my life. There is still hope for me and the picture of what I want my life to be like. For me, yes, but not for them. Why? It’s not fair. I don’t deserve this. If anyone deserves to escape the clutches of Alzheimer’s and live freely, it’s my mom and dad. If anyone deserves to have a fresh start in Florida, it’s them. Not me. Why should I be able to survive Alzheimer’s, but they can’t? What gives me the right to just pick up and get away from it all? Why should I have the option of getting away, when they don’t?

To be completely honest, I was a little bit excited about moving to Florida and I am a little bit excited about living here now. BUT, I feel immense guilt in admitting that. I feel like I’m admitting that I was excited to get away from my parents. Like I just couldn’t wait to hit the road and get the hell away from them and everything. I know that’s not true, but that’s how it feels. I feel bad every time I start enjoying myself and our new life in Florida. Every time I smile or laugh. Every time I start to feel happy. I feel like it’s wrong to smile or laugh when my mom and dad are so miserable. I feel like it’s wrong to be happy being away from them. I feel like I don’t deserve it. All of this guilt consumes me at times and I have to just do my best to put it out of my mind.

I hope that with time this guilt will subside, even if ever so slightly. I want to be able to be happy and enjoy my life. I want to be able to embrace this fresh start and take it for everything it’s worth. I really don’t want to waste this opportunity for me to create a beautiful picture for my life. I know that’s what my mom would want and I don’t want to let her down. After all, I know that moving away isn’t really goodbye. It’s more like, “See ya later, alligator.”


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