30 Days of PF: Our Role Reversal Has Strengthened Our Relationship

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by BNS Staff |

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Photo courtesy of Emma Schmitz

Day 29 of 30

This is Emma Schmitz’s story:

I hadn’t planned on being a caregiver for my mom in my 20s, but it felt like the least I could do after the support she and my dad have given me throughout my life.

Some folks can’t stand witnessing vulnerability in the people they depend on. A lifeline is supposed to be foolproof — sinews braided in a locked promise and hardened by years of reliability. Seeing a fray in that rope could suggest failure. Fear fills them when they see weakness in their safety net.

To me, my mom has always been undeniably human. Strong like a bull, yes. Tenacious as a tornado, definitely. But never a superhero. She made mistakes and was someone to whom I could relate.

She does, however, appear invincible when you first meet her: taking up space with her big, gap-toothed smile and dark, kind eyes. She’ll level with strangers like they’re her favorite uncles. She shows universal respect for everybody as if she deeply understands the familiarity of the everyday human condition.

I wanted to show that same respect to her by helping my dad care for her post-lung transplant, to let her know it doesn’t matter that I’m the one taking care of her instead of the other way around. We take care of each other as part of our contract in society. I don’t have to explain that to her.

There’s no doubt that our relationship has changed. I’m not as self-absorbed as I was as a young adult, and I listen to her more as she gives me updates on her health and other goings-on.

Our acceptance of and ability to temporarily reverse the roles in our relationship has strengthened the lifeline between us. Now I know the strength isn’t exclusively coming from her end. It feeds into both ends and continues to flow between us on an infinite axis.

Note: Emma Schmitz is a columnist for BioNews Services. She writes the column “The Emotional Support Daughter” for Pulmonary Fibrosis News.

Pulmonary Fibrosis News’ 30 Days of PF campaign will publish one story per day for PF Awareness Month in September. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more stories like this, using the hashtag #30DaysofPF, or read the full series.