Today was my grandson’s first football game of the year. Chris is a Offensive Guard and Defensive End. This is the sport Chris lives for. He eats, sleeps, breathes and dreams it. His favorite thing to do in the game is to take out the Quarterback. Chris has an amazing way of knowing exactly where the other teams Quarterback is. I suppose that doesn’t sound so odd to a football player, but to those of us who do not play, it is amazing. He may not always be able to sack the Quarterback, but he will always try.

The football players are looked up to in school, which is another thing I never understood, but I’m sure it all has to do with the warrior syndrome. We always seem to notice the super hero. And that is what these boys are, and deserve to be. They work very hard to get where they are, and even harder at game time. They are the heroes of the school when they win, and they are shredded when they lose. It’s kind of a thankless job, but someone has to do it right.

So why do they do it? I think part of it is the adrenalin rush they get when a play comes together just as you had planned, or when a player makes a save that seemed impossible. It’s the love of the game…the tactical planning, and then the ability to bring the plan together. I’m sure it also has to do with the cheering crowds and knowing that they like what you just accomplished. It would be something that would give you a kind of high that you can’t get anywhere else.

Now, don’t get me wrong when I say that there are things about this game that I don’t get, because I love football…especially when my grandson is playing. I look up to those boys as much as anyone. I feel pride because to me they are the school heroes. They charge out there into battle and give it their all, trying to win. They are the boys who choke back their feelings of disappointment over a blown play, or a lost game, and come back the next game and try again. Boys who go home filled with aches and pains, whether they won or lost. Boys who earned the glory they get from fighting the battle…win or lose, The Boys of Fall. My grandson is one of them…and I am very proud of them and him.

Dad and MomAs a caregiver, I can understand fully just how easy it can be to hit the breaking point. Sometimes it comes with irritation, or worse, screaming at the person you are trying to help, but just as often, it comes in the form of an argument with someone else…one that has nothing to do with the things that are bothering the caregiver at all. Usually the breaking point happens over something that is so trivial that you wonder what your problem is. And sadly, so does everyone else. Basically it’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. It’s just that last thing to happen in a series of events that have been adding stress upon stress, to the point that you just have no more patience.

Caregivers tend to hold it all in for as long as they can in an effort to keep on keeping on. There is no way out of the situation…you are needed, and you would not leave your loved one without the help they need. You love them. So you simply pull yourself up by the bootstraps, take a deep breath, muster up every bit of adrenalin that you can, and you go on. It’s all you can do. Then, without warning, something hits that last straw point…that breaking point…and you find yourself losing that control you have worked so hard to maintain. It’s like watching yourself explode. You would stop it if you could, but it is beyond that point now. Your mouth is engaged, and your mind has already quit thinking rationally. It is probably the darkest, most horrible, single act that a caregiver can perform, and one that none of us want to do. We already know that we will have to apologize for acting in such a way…after all, it wasn’t the fault of the patient or whomever it was that we have just unloaded all those pent up feelings on. They were simply the last straw.

Not only do they not know what they did wrong, but they find themselves wondering why they never knew that you were insane before. You aren’t, of course, but you are overworked, and you are tired, and you are emotionally drained. The person you have always known to be strong and capable, has suddenly changed into a weak and needy person, and that has turned your life upside down. It is enough to make anyone go seemingly insane. You had always thought that your parents would always be your parents, and they are of course, but they are also your patient, and your responsibility. The tables have turned, and in the process, your life has hit a turning point too, and you don’t know what to do to fix it.

There really is no way to fix it. You find yourself in a position of having to accept that your parents will never be Dad and Momthe strong people they were. That part of their life has passed, and the future…the winding down of their lives has been set in motion. Even if it was just a day ago that they felt fine, there is no going back that one day. Time marches on and we have to go with it. We have to learn to make the best of what we have now, and take care of ourselves well enough that perhaps we can avoid that next breaking point…because if we can’t, we will once again find ourselves looking at someone who has no idea what they have done to us. All they know is that the person they love is somehow furious at them, and it breaks their heart…at which point, we lose all that anger, wish we had not let things get out of control, and begin the process of repairing the relationship again with that all too familiar apology.

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