I had the pleasure of having breakfast with the cousin of a dear friend who was taking care of his 90 year old mother who was in advanced stage Alzheimer’s disease. He had read my book and contacted me through Facebook. Soon after that, we made plans to meet for coffee the next time he came to town. That Sunday morning we met at Panera. It felt like I was meeting an old friend. He and his husband had been taking care of his mom for several years. We traded caregiver war stories. The circumstances may mave been a little different but the story was the same. Even though we had other siblings and family members who could pitch in and help, the majority of the caregiving duties fell on our shoulders. My partner Rose and I experienced this first hand with her mother and my mother and several aunts and uncles, who had children of their own. We seem to be the go to people when some one needed taken care of. 

 So why is it that the gay kids are usually the ones in the family who end up with the care giving duties?” Is it that we are more sensitive? More compassionate? More organized? I used to think that maybe it was a family thing. Rose and I are both from Italian families. It’s almost an unspoken rule that the girl in an Italian family is responsible for taking care of the ailing parents and quite frankly anyone else in a twenty mile radius.  But I don’t think it’s just our Italian heritage that puts us in this position. I remembered sitting in oncology several years ago with my aunt, who was just starting chemo for breast cancer. We sat in the waiting room with 2 other patients and their caregivers -both gay men. One caregiver, a college professor type was sitting next to his father. His father , who also looked like a professor, wore an impeccably pressed white dress shirt and gray slacks with razor sharp creases down the front. They sat quietly reading the paper as they waited to be called for the older man’s first visit with the doctor. The second caregiver,   younger man came in holding the hand of a woman with perfectly coiffed flaming red hair. She wore a bright pink velour track suit and a nasal canula attached to a small green green oxygen tank, which was slung over her shoulder with a shoulder strap.Both care giver’s set off my gay-dar. The six of us sat in the waiting room with our loved ones. We smiled friendly hellos and secretly acknowledged we all belonged to the same club.

 Week after week, we learned a little more about each ones situation- the professor- he really was a retired economics professor-was getting treatment for metastatic prostate cancer. The cancer had spread to his spine and liver. The treatment (chemo and radiation) were palliative.  The red headed woman, a breast cancer survivor of 6 years was starting treatment again because she now had an inoperable lung tumor. The beautiful red hair was eventually replaced by a platinum blonde wig. But the caregivers determination didn’t waiver. We are there through every treatment. Every victory, every setback and remain true to the very end – no matter how difficult- no excuses. 
I still haven’t been able to completely figure out why so many lgbt kids end up as caregivers. But I did figure out that even though caregiving, no matter if you are gay or straight-is one of the hardest things  will ever do and it is the most honorable and loving things we can do for the people we love. If you are an lgbt caregiver, I would love to hear your story. You can contact me at my website: http://www.mariaciletti.com

Take care,

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