January 5, 2010

Strayer Univ. student connects with "Losing Herbie" film

Tegan Webb, from Professor Abramson's "Intro. to Sociology" class at Strayer University, writes a personal essay on Losing Herbie and her personal experience with caregiving.

When I first saw the title of the video, I knew it was going to be about someone dying. Watching this video hit home for me because I was caretaker for my mother before she died. She died in December 2007 from Lou Gehrig’s Disease/ALS. Losing a loved one is never easy, but taking on the responsibility of caretaker can be even more challenging. After watching the video I would say the three things that struck me the most would be how much of a burden it was for his family, the obligation his daughter felt to be caretaker, and the joy his grandchildren brought him while he was there.

A burden can be referred to as some kind of responsibility or duty to be performed. When the video begins, you can see it in Herbie’s daughter and son-in-law’s faces that the responsibility ahead of them was more than they expected. I remember in the video how Julie Winokur, Herbie’s daughter, stated that it was putting a strain on her family. She was forced to juggle everyone’s needs and demands. Her husband felt neglected, putting a strain on their marriage. The children fel
t neglected, by their mother missing out on important events in their lives. Herbie’s granddaughter was upset with her grandfather, she stated she wished he could “do it himself.” A burden can take an emotional and sometimes physical toll on you. I could see with my mom sometimes how exhausted my father and I would be. You ask yourself how much longer can I endure this, but you keep pressing on, just as the Winokur’s did.

Many of us have th
e benefit of growing up with our parents. They see us through from beginning to end. As we grow older, so do they. At a point in our lives we have to decide what is in our parent’s best interest. Does it become our responsibility to take care of them? Some people would agree that it is; others may think differently. Julie truly believed that taking care of her father, was her obligation. He committed his life to take care of her and she is returning the favor. Whether the decision she and her family made was a good one, she knew as she stated “we’ll see this decision through to the end,” and that’s what she did. I would agree with Julie in this aspect. My mother carried me for nine months and nurtured me until I was able to care for myself. I could only hope that during the time I cared for her, she was proud of me.

In my opinion, children carry such a sweet spirit. Some children’s spirit is disrupted with negligence they receive from their parents or caregivers, abuse, or any other traumatic experience they face. From the video I could tell that the Winokur’s children were not neglected of love. The love that they received from their parents, they expressed and shared with their grandpa. At times when he may have felt alone, or unaware of his surroundings, they were there to support him and remind him who he was. With their hugs, kisses and laughter he would be assured of who he was. The loved he received I believed kept him going. When I lost my mother I was 4 months pregnant with my son. I know if she had the opportunity to have met him, he would have had the same impact on her, as did Herbie’s grandchildren with him.

Dementia does not have a cure. When a family is told that their loved one is diagnosed with this disease, they know they face a long journey. The Winokur’s got to see it first hand everyday all day with her father. I believe even though she was glad for him to be alive, she was probably more relieved when he passed away. Caring for someone with this disease can be a burden on you. But as children we feel an obligation to be there for our parents when they are in need. We can only hope that through this time they get enough love from us or their grandchildren, and it helps to ease them through.
“Losing Herbie” was a very touching video, and made me be more aware of my own father and pray that I won’t have to be in Julie’s place.

- Tegan Webb