The moving truck has already come and gone. By now, they should have reached their destination outside of a suburb in a large metropolitan Texas city. They will have already begun unpacking boxes and assessing the situation. Having shoved various items haphazardly together, she is probably wondering if it will even be worth the time to unpack everything, or if they should simply choose the bare essentials.
It was a last-minute decision. Even down to the day the truck was scheduled to arrive, they still hadn’t fully committed to going back. The worry was not in asking their renters to move on such short notice, as they found themselves with an impossible decision and needed a landing place if they were to move back. After all, even up until the very last moment, the situation of whether they could rent their home out or not would be the least of their concerns. If they chose not to go back, they could always find new renters.
It was leaving here that would be the difficult decision.
She would be leaving a piece of her heart behind.
I have spoken to her several times over the nine months. She has been carefully weighing her options and waiting. Maybe somewhere in the dark recesses of her mind she was hoping that the situation would not be as grim as it slowly came to be.
When the final diagnosis was given, the reality that something would have to be done came to the forefront of her mind.
Her mother was dying from ALS.
She tried to look for signs, something that would push her in one direction or another. She called me, asking if we had a home available.
We do not.
She asked if it would be easy to care for her mother in a home that is not her own, and because of that, would making changes to the floorplan even be an option.
It was not.
When her husband was laid off from his job, and her employer demanded she work remotely, she took it as the final sign. They would move back to Texas to care for her mother. Between a world-wide Pandemic, and the uncertainty in her husband’s employment in a small North Idaho town, it seemed maybe this would be the best decision.
But was it?
Her teenage son is navigating his senior year during a time of stress and precariousness in every possible way. He wants to attend school, because online learning is hurting his GPA, and he misses the social interaction with his peers. He is even willing to wear a mask all day, every day, if it means he can enjoy this last year of school.
He has lived in this small town for eight years. Long enough to fit in, and to belong, and long enough to have created life-long friendships.
If he left now, what would that mean for him?
The rights of passage for every young adult leaving behind their childhood is meant to be fun. Some would say this will be the best years of his life. However, the prospect of ending his final year of high school with such finality is detrimental for both he and his parents.
It is doubtful this year will hold treasured pep rallies, fundraisers, or lectures of the dangers of drugs or drinking, that most teenagers scoff at or roll their eyes at, yet every adult hopes they take to heart. Nor will there be the customary dances such as homecoming, or even prom. Besides the previous year’s graduates, it is doubtful his final year of high school will compare to any of those students who come after his class. These graduating students will have missed out on all the lasts of their high school experiences.
So when his mother made the announcement that they were going to have to move back to Texas to help care for grandma, you can imagine the heartbreak and intense feelings of desperation he must have been experiencing.
He was already navigating a world of loss.
Now his family was asking him to sacrifice even more. To leave his high school sweetheart, friends and his first job. To leave the comfort and beauty of their small town and return to the hot, dry and busyness of city life once again.
He hadn’t cared for it as a child, and he knew he wouldn’t care for it now. And he was determined not to go back.
His mother was now forced to make the most impossible choice.
She chose to leave without him.
The decision to let him stay was not easy, and she second guessed it even after that moving truck was pulling out of the driveway. All she can do now is trust that she raised him right, and that he would carry the weight of this new responsibility as well as possible. She prayed and prayed some more. There was no easy option. Then again, ALS is never easy.
It would be too difficult to move her mother up here. They would have to find new doctors, and potentially buy another home during a risky economy and unknown futures. While I tried to assure her that we have an excellent care team, support groups and incredibly caring families that can help pitch in when the difficult parts were upon them, there was another dilemma that had to be addressed. A stepfather who is also sick and will need care and possibly chemotherapy. It was too much to ask them both to move over a thousand miles in the conditions they are in, and one would not leave the other behind.
This woman made the only choice she knew to do.
She chose to leave a piece of her heart behind, with the hope that he will be happy, and to experience what little of a senior year he could. She chose to uproot her entire life to travel to another part of the country to care for the other piece of her heart.
The guilt either way will wear heavy on her.
With no family to ask to watch over her son, she is relying on church members to check on him from time to time. Her newly eighteen year old son is being thrown into adulthood, and she has now become the caregiver to her mother who has already lost her speech, and ability to move more than a few steps.
She made the most heart wrenching of choices to leave her child behind and to launch herself into the new found role of being a full-time caregiver, praying she has the strength to watch her mother slowly deteriorate in front of her. The worry and stress will be compounded as she is faced with the disease and what it steals. Instead of worrying from a distance, it will become all too real. And she will now have the added worry of all the things that could go wrong while she is so far away, with little support for her son and trusting in others to help watch over him.
There is no right or wrong way to handle this. There is no easy way out. All they can do is rely on each other to get through what they each need to get through on this journey, and hope to come back together in the end, stronger than ever.
Like I said….an impossible decision.