I’m the only one of my siblings who had a relationship with our father, so I was his caretaker. I don’t regret it.

Lynnette Lyons has two younger brothers, and when their father’s health deteriorated, it fell on her to care for him.

When my father got lung cancer, I became his caretaker. My brothers didn’t have contact with him, and I had a classic case of ‘eldest daughter syndrome.’Though it was a lot of pressure and I felt isolated at times, I also don’t regret it.

As the oldest of three kids and the only girl, I grew up feeling like I had to take care of everyone. I relished being the oldest as a child, but as I matured, the responsibility increased, and I never learned to say no. This classic case of ‘eldest daughter syndrome‘ led to me becoming the father’s sole caregiver of my father, who dealt with alcoholism, and the only person in my family to continue a relationship with him long-term.

My father’s steadfast refusal to seek help for his alcoholism resulted in my parents’ divorce when I was 14. As alcohol took over his life, Dad’s desire to see his kids began to fade. My brothers and I were relieved; spending every other weekend in his smoke-filled apartment, listening to him rant about the divorce as he drank himself into a stupor, wasn’t our adolescent idea of a good time.

I heard sporadically from my father as I entered adulthood and even reluctantly saw him a few times. I didn’t have much desire to connect with him — he still drank heavily, and I resented his lack of support growing up — but the eldest daughter in me worried I might one day regret my choice if I rebuffed his peace offerings.

My brothers didn’t want to spend time with our father

My brothers continued to keep their distance, claiming he gave up the right to a relationship when he disappeared from our lives. I rationalized that alcoholism had impacted his ability to be a father, while they saw his actions as a choice he made willingly. I realized it wasn’t a matter of wrong vs. right; someone needed to be there for Dad, and as the oldest and only girl, the job fell to me.

When I was a new mom in my early 30s, Dad, a smoker since his teens, called to tell me he had lung cancer. Thus began nearly a decade of single-handedly caring for my father as his health circled the proverbial drain. The saga started with several four-hour round-trip drives to pick him up in the small town where he lived, only to turn around and drive him back to my city to consult a surgeon. I waited alone at the hospital as he underwent the three-hour procedure to remove his left lung and visited him daily until his release.

Lynnette Lyons’ two younger brothers distanced themselves from their father.

I took it upon myself to care for Dad

A couple of months later, Dad suddenly couldn’t walk. I found myself on another tour of specialists, where a neurosurgeon finally diagnosed hydrocephalus, an excessive buildup of spinal fluid on the brain. I waited, alone again, through a two-hour surgery to insert a shunt that would drain the excess fluid. During Dad’s recovery from that operation, it became clear he could no longer care for himself, so it fell to me to set him up in a nursing home and carve out time to visit him so he wouldn’t feel abandoned.

To be fair, the few times I asked for help, my siblings came through for me. They made clear, though, that they were helping me, not my father, and I believed, as their older sister, I shouldn’t need help. I kept my requests to a minimum.

Lynnette Lyons says she understands her brothers’ reasons for keeping their distance from their father.

My father finally succumbed to cirrhosis at 65. There was no funeral, and I felt sorry for myself as I left the funeral home with his ashes — my final solo act as his oldest child. But I broke down in tears at the realization that I was the only person in the world who cared enough to be there for him in the end.

I understood my brothers’ reasons for not wanting a relationship with our father. If I’d seen it as an option, I might have even done the same thing. But I accepted their refusal to interact with him and my resulting role as his only caretaker as just another of my eldest daughter responsibilities. That created a lot of pressure, but I’m thankful my role in the family forced that path because I can look back on my relationship with Dad without regret.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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