Chewing on Guilt
Last updated: September 2021
I'd be lying if I told you that I don't struggle with guilt. Watching your dad cope with Parkinson's disease through a screen seems callous.
When we talk on the phone, I can hear the phone moving with his shaking hand. He looks more taxed every time I see him. Yet, I still choose to live away from home.
Exploring the planet
I grew up in a small town in Michigan, where stop signs were optional and your neighbors were a 10-minute walk away. I had a good childhood, with caring parents and a handful of goofy siblings.
But as I grew older, I realized that my culture didn't fit that of Michigan. I wanted to spend all of my free time outside, exploring mountains and rocks. And Michigan didn't have the kind of experience that I needed.
In my 20s, I decided to pack my bags and begin a life of exploration outside of my home state. My journey took me to the Utah desert. I traveled through 14 states on foot along the Appalachian Trail.
Eventually, I made it to Colorado. And joy followed me everywhere. How it exciting it was to be exploring this planet!
My dad – who had a travel chapter of his own, always told me that I'd get it out of my system and find a place to grow some roots. But I think he was wrong. Today, I'm in North Carolina, planning another exodus.
I know that my dad understands my urge to go. Yet, I always wonder if I'll regret that I didn't stay in Michigan. I've chosen to exchange time with him for time in the mountains. And I'm not always sure that I'm making the right choice.
In the Blue Zones (where life expectancy is above 100 years old), there's a heightened sense of community and additional care for the older generation.
The odds of living to a ripe old age seem to be linked to the support system that's available to you. But what if I don't want to be fixed in place, supporting the weight of others? Am I selfish for choosing to stand alone?
Will I regret being away?
Loss has a way of shifting your perspective. Suddenly the things that seemed important dissipate, and the things you expected to remain constant are more fragile.
But they sit at the forefront of your mind, forcing you to look at the choices you've made. I wonder if I'll turn around one day, to see loss catching up with me.
Will I come to regret my choice to be away? Am I a bad daughter and sibling for spending so little time at home? If my dad didn't have Parkinson's disease, would I still internally battle myself for choosing to be away?
Evaluating my choices
The reality is that our parents grow old. And everybody dies. Is that more of a reason to be home? Or to use the time that you have living as the best version of yourself?
I can't help but present myself with a bit of criticism when I evaluate my life choices.
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