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Role Reversal: Suddenly the Child Must 'Parent'

It’s a natural progression, a shift occurs causing us to become caregivers to the ones who raised us. But are we ever quite ready?

When a woman is 36 and her mom is 54, she doesn’t often consider the idea of death or convalescence – at least not quite yet.

But this past Friday the 13th my mom had an accident that changed my perspective on how fast this transition can occur.

I’m referring to the transition from child to caregiver.

Long story short, my mom owns several horses and occasionally picks up hay from a local farm. Since she was a teen, she’s been a capable horsewoman, always quick to train the wild stallions and loving every minute of it. Despite a few minor riding accidents, she’s been safe in her equestrian endeavors.

That was…until Friday the 13th, April 2012.

On this day, my mom carried out her normal horse routine and drove to the farm where she buys her hay. It was time for another load – 50 bales or so.

As she worked with the farmer to load the hay onto her trailer an unfortunate accident occurred. When she wasn’t quite ready, a 40-pound bale of hay came flying into the back of her head from the second-story barn door.

The impact forced her face-first into the hard ground causing traumatic injury to her head, brain and neck. She is recovering, and the doctors believe she will be OK in time. But this was certainly a stressful moment for all of us.

How quickly life can change.

As the only one of my siblings living in this area, I received the call from the farmer telling me my mom was with him and was hurt “pretty bad.”

“We should come get her,” he said.

I didn’t know what that meant. Why wasn’t my mom calling me? Why weren’t they calling an ambulance? How bad could she really be? After all, she’s my mom. Isn’t she invincible?

Up until this point, we’ve enjoyed the good life as mom and daughter, Mimi and grandsons. She’s full of energy, loves to be outdoors and is quick to take my boys to her farm to spend the afternoon working and playing.

She just told me she wanted to take them camping for the weekend. We have plans to travel to Montana together this summer.

“How could this be happening now?” I asked myself as we raced to retrieve her. Nothing has made me consider her mortality, as did this experience.

The good news is that she did not break her neck. She had some severe injuries but will heal in time. Her life will change for a while though – no more horseback rides, no more tossing bales of hay.

As her oldest and only local child, I accept responsibility for whatever needs to happen next. If she needs my family to care for her, I accept that. Whether she’s 54 or 84, it’s my job as her daughter.

It makes me wonder if my children will accept this responsibility someday. My hope is that through my sincere and loving actions toward my parents as they move into this next phase of life, my own children will how to love and care for their elders.

This is our responsibility to carry…no matter what it takes.

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