My grandma used to babysit me. Then I babysat her.

My grandma used to babysit me. Then I babysat her.
  • I never expected my later 20s would be spent babysitting my grandma.

  • Caring for my grandma deepened my understanding of love and myself.

  • I hope that when I'm 85 I can have someone I can trust in taking care of me.

Taking care of my grandma during the last years of her life was not a part of the plan when I envisioned my 20s. A time in life that society has designated for self-discovery and independence is not often imagined alongside an 85-year-old woman and her senior center posse — but alas, it's where I found myself for the latter half of those precious years.

While the world is headed into a more hedonistic mentality, for many families like my own, the duty of care is still our main form of retirement plan, that those whom we care for will one day care for us.

I spent the last five years with my grandmother making good on that verbal contract, which ended up teaching me invaluable lessons about sacrifice, reciprocity, and the weight of being needed.

My grandma babysat me when I was a kid

I grew up extremely close to my grandma. Being from both a single parent as well as a Mexican household, my mom keeping her mom near was something of a given. To me, she was a babysitter, a confidant, and the one getting me new shoes for school. Growing up close to my grandma was not just inherent; it was survival. Which is why when the call came for someone to keep a closer eye on her as she aged, I knew I couldn't hesitate to answer.

However, with the decline of her health, what started off as visiting once a month became once a week to daily. I don't believe there is any age that you feel prepared to see the pillars in your life start to crumble.

As the duties to her care grew more intimate and demanding, the resentment of having to be within this familial hierarchy of care grew as well. From her eating to getting into the shower, I was seeing to her every need — no matter how uncomfortable that got. I started to question why I owed so much of my time to carrying the physical and emotional load of another human being.

But it wasn't until I was bringing a new change of clothes to her while she bathed that I remembered so vividly how once, in the middle of the night, she carried to me a new set of footsie pajamas in the bathroom after I had an accident. I started looking back at how many times she had carried the weight of self-sacrifice to see to my own needs and comforts.

I'm glad I was able to take care of her

I came to realize that needing someone isn't the transgression society paints it out to be. Western culture often focuses on hyper-independence, that the road to true success leads to self-reliance. But in caring for my grandma, I saw firsthand that we all enter this world needing someone, and whether we like it or not, most of us will leave the same way.

I'm aware that I could have chosen a life for myself free of family obligations. One that adhered to only my wants and needs. But if I had, I would have missed out on inappropriate laughs with my grandma in sterile doctors' offices where I had to quiet her down or learn about who she was as a woman and not just as my caretaker.

And now that she is gone, my only hope is that someday, when I am 85, I will also have given myself to someone who sees freely that should I ever call for help, they will not hesitate to answer.

Read the original article on Business Insider