When my daughter announced her plan to return to Canada, I didn’t feel the way you might expect. She wanted to fly back before the Irish government kicked her out of the country for good because of her expired tourist visa. She was going to stay with me just long enough to secure a one-year work permit for Cork, Ireland.
You would think I’d be ecstatic, right?
I wasn’t. I dreaded her visit. Guilt, shame and fear enveloped me.
I was a train wreck and didn’t want her to see how vulnerable and raw I felt. It had only been 11 months since my multiple sclerosis diagnosis. My capacity to cope with anything outside of my safe harbor was thin. My role in my daughter’s life was to be a solid rock, not a muddy puddle.
She was barely out of her teens. This would be her first time coming home. Twenty months before, she’d taken off to follow her dream of living and working abroad. Chatting and supporting her from a distance had been possible. I could flick the switch and be present and engaged for 60-minute chunks.
But now, she’d be exposed to the real me — all of it. What if she saw me as damaged? I didn’t want her to notice the brokenness I felt because my spirit, energy and tolerance were low. Would she mistake this for my lack of care and love for her? Would she worry about losing a parent?
The plane ticket was booked. I was determined to maintain the rituals of our reunion.
I pulled myself together, excited and nervous to greet her. When I arrived at the airport, I looked for a seat. Most of them were taken. I was relieved to find one, because standing for 10 minutes would be trying. As I sat, I realized I hadn’t bought flowers. This was a family tradition.
I got up and dashed as quickly as I could without knocking over any travelers as I weaved through the crowds. Two escalators later, I arrived at a tiny gift shop out of breath. As soon as the flowers were paid for, I hurried back to the International terminal. My adrenaline was doing a great job of masking the fatigue.
There was my jet-lagged daughter looking despondent, wondering if I had forgotten to come get her. Our hug was joyfully momentous. Despite her weariness, she wanted to head to our favorite all-you-can-eat Indian buffet, then track down a sim card so she could reconnect with her world.
It felt normal. We did it all.
I knew that fatigue would slam me later, but I didn’t care because I was overwhelmed with joy to reunite with her.
Before my daughter’s arrival, I’d explained my need for daily naps and quiet time. I’d set up the sofa bed in the living room so she could settle in.
I’m not sure what differences my daughter witnessed in me since she returned from Europe. We didn’t discuss it. I focused on what I could do. I worked from home, so this was another layer to navigate.
Once we were able to establish our rhythm together, the worry that I’d become less of a mother because of MS disappeared. My role as a parent was automatic. What I appreciated most was sitting at the kitchen table with her, hot cups of teas in our palms.
We spoke about her unknown future. How life takes you on unexpected journeys. She would discover her way as life unfolded for her.
I suppose this advice was just as much for me as it was for her.
What I have discovered is my capacity to celebrate and cheer her on from a distance and in person.
I proved to myself that I can handle being a caring and supportive parent to my adult daughter even with the disability of chronic fatigue.
Is it easy?
Does it fill my heart with love and my soul with joy?
I discovered that when I am willing to get out of my comfort zone, I can move towards what is most important to me. As a result, my capacity is greater than I imagined.
What I give and receive is greater than the time it takes to recover from the fatigue afterward.