Growing up, I was always known as the “wanderer” in my family. My mom’s favorite story of me as a child was when we were in Arizona and I somehow left the hotel room and ended up in the café downstairs eating a muffin with a waitress while wearing a swimsuit, a floaty, and pajama pants. Apparently, I had wanted to go swimming. My independence followed me throughout my life and I was known as the wanderer both in high school and college.
The reason behind the continued independence may have something to do with my upbringing. When I was three years old, my dad’s cousin from California, who was already widowed, died of breast cancer. She had lost her husband eighteen months earlier to ALS. My parents assumed guardianship of her three children, then ages 16, 13 and 10. My three older siblings were 14, 11 and 6. As the youngest of four – and then seven – I inherently understood that I would need to take a number and get in line to get my needs met as my cousins adjusted to life in Minnesota. The focus needed to be on integrating three children into an already chaotic family of six.
As the years went by, we had turmoil, but in a situation like ours, who wouldn’t? There were tears, fights, and yelling, but most of all, there was love. We learned how to laugh together, how to live together, and most of all, how to rely on each other.
Through the tougher years I found a way to take myself out of the situation. For example, I found it easier to bike to Target to get my school supplies than bug my mom when she was making dinner for the lot of us. At some points it was hard not to get aggravated, but it taught me patience and kindness. It also helped me to understand others and that we all come from different backgrounds so we shouldn’t judge people on first impressions. The independence I acquired out of necessity as a young child has served me well as a young adult. It is what brought me to Israel to study and what compelled me to apply for a summer internship. It’s what brought me to CareHood.
The fact is, I never considered what my cousins went through in the years before they moved across the country to join our family. How did the family survive during their father’s illness and subsequent death? How did they manage when their mom received her diagnosis four months later, and spent the next year enduring grueling treatments and facing an uncertain future? Their uncle lived with them and helped out, but as the caregiver, did he have the support he needed?
I was too young when they came to think about these things, but now, as I do this internship, I wonder: How could CareHood have helped them ease their daily load so they could have spent less time figuring out meals, finances, school schedules and errands, and more time enjoying simple pleasures together? What services would have given their parents emotional and physical comfort beyond the doctor’s visits, hospital stays and treatments?
Needing help is hard. Asking for help is harder. Not knowing how to help a loved one in times of darkness and distress is heartbreaking. The beauty and brilliance of CareHood is that patients and caregivers can choose the services that will bring them the comfort and peace of mind as they face uncertain futures.
I can’t change the past to make sure that my cousins had had everything they needed to support their family as they faced unspeakable heartache, but I know that CareHood can ease the road for other families who face similar challenges. I’m grateful that my independent spirit brought me here to be part of this compassionate organization. I’m proud to represent an organization that provides personalized and needed support to people and families in need.
By the way, I no longer have three cousins and three siblings. I have six siblings. It took time and patience and hard work, but we are now, thankfully, one big, happy, loving family.