Most people who know me know that I went home to take care of my mom in what turned out to be the last six months of her life. I didn't know that at the time, of course. I always thought it was a bridging measure, and we talked about her moving out here with me when she was better. Anyway.
I quit my job and moved home to do it, but two of my sisters, already living there, helped a lot. At the time, I saw it as a continuing pattern of my family; the girls always did all the housework, and the boys didn't. We girls worked our ways through school with side jobs, but the boys didn't. A lot more was expected of us. And it's not an uncommon situation. I read while I was home that 80 percent of the people who take care of a family member who is sick are women.
So I was full of 23 years of rage and fresh grief when my brother said, "You know, if I could have one more day with her, I'd quit my job and move home." This infuriated me. In my mind, I always respond, "You could have. You just didn't."
But just today, just about 20 minutes ago, I finally understood. I was single, no attachments, barely even a tax return when I moved home. The brother who said that had a wife and two kids at that time. He had other responsibilities.
I can't stand it when people say that everything changes when you have a kid. It couldn't be more obvious, and I hate that kind of banality. But I also can't escape it. What I realized tonight is that what had changed for him was the definition of family. And eight months ago it changed for me.