On Life,  Wander, Wonder, Write

From one crisis to the next

Many months ago, I froze my travel blog in space and time. Not only because of the pandemic, but because of two serious family situations that I could not yet share online. For legal and emotional reasons, I kept quiet about what went on in my life. Today, I open up.

The first situation involves my family-in-law. After D’s mother suddenly died in August 2020, D’s father, who was sliding into senility, found himself in undesirable and precarious circumstances from which he could not free himself. D and I left Vietnam as quickly as was safely possible and returned to the United States to defend the father’s rights in court. We accomplished half of our goal almost immediately: We became his fulltime caregivers, and as such, were able to nurse him back to health with loving attention, natural light, good food, and an extensive medical tour including brain scans, new medication, and hip surgery. The legal half of our goal took longer to achieve, but after months of stress and strategies, we succeeded in April. My father-in-law is now safe in his own home, protected and in caring hands.

While the first crisis took place in Florida, a second situation in The Netherlands became more and more urgent. This one is all about my mother. I don’t know why I haven’t written about her before. Perhaps because it was too personal, too intimate. But now it feels as though I am lying by omission if I don’t address my current pain at all. Not that I’m obliged to be totally truthful online or required to share everything, but if I want this travel-life journal to mean anything, I need to speak about my mother. 

She is not doing well, which is an understatement. After several years of memory problems and severe anxiety, she was diagnosed at a fairly young age with Alzheimer’s in January 2020—a week before D and I flew to Asia for what was supposed to be a three-month journey. Then Corona happened, and when I finally returned to The Netherlands after a prolonged stay in Vietnam and a three-month stopover in Florida, I had not seen her in over a year. She still remembered who I was, but was no longer the mother I had left behind. Now, returned to Holland from Florida for the second time, I am losing her even more rapidly. Her mind is like quicksand and her will to live gone.

I’m not sure how much I’ll be posting in the challenging time to come. I’ll make notes during these weeks with my mother, knowing they will likely be our last, but I cannot yet tell what I will want to share right away. Like most humans, I tend to retreat when I grieve. All I can say is that it will be a complex, emotionally charged ordeal and a memoir is in the works. 

Photo: Portrait of My Mother as a Young Woman.


  • Lan

    One of the many painful aspects of caregiving is that sometimes the person cared for sees the caregiver as the only safe space in which to be irritable and even mean. I hope that doesn’t happen but if it does, just be prepared. I am told it’s quite common. Sending you my prayerful thoughts. L

  • Wieneke

    Lieve Claire!

    In je verhaal herken ik helaas mijn eigen moeder. Ik heb het geluk dat het proces bij haar langzaam -soms bijna onmerkbaar- verloopt, dat ik er vaak heen kan, maar vooral het grote geluk dat mijn vader haar liefdevol opvangt. Toch, stel dat ik haar het laatste jaar niet gezien had, dan zou ik ook flink geschrokken zijn van hoe ze veranderd is. Het is langzaam afscheid nemen van iemand die er fysiek nog gewoon is. Helaas onderdeel van het leven, maar erg verdrietig. Veel sterkte, liefde en kracht gewenst. Knap en dapper dat je jouw speciale kracht, het schrijven, hierbij in durft te zetten, en dat ook durft te delen!

    X Wieneke