A Different Kind of Identity Theft
by Donna L. Scrafano
Arriving on this universe as a female, there were “expected” identities handed to me, as well as the obvious. In addition to being identified as a female, daughter, sister, granddaughter, niece, and grandniece, I was supposed to grow to be the picture of the “Italian princess.” It never happened. On the contrary, I was very vocal from birth, I was told. During my latency years, I took on identities such as being a tomboy—how could I not, with three brothers and no sisters? I also continued to speak up. However, as a female child, vocalizing one’s feelings in the late ’60s got you labeled mouthy, contrary, disrespectful, and difficult. From my pre-teens and throughout my teen years, I not only continued the “mouthy” identity, I was very social. Socializing included going to parties, riding the strip, going to dances, hanging out with friends at the local pizza parlor, swimming, football games, and just spending time with great friends. At the same time, I was not only vocal about my own needs, I would advocate for others—whether there requested to do so or not. Perhaps the identity I was creating as being a strong, independent, direct, social, rebellious, and loyal comrade was preparing me for my adulthood as a human services professional.
From 19-years-old to 24-years-old I added the identities of wife and mother. Between 30- and 42-years-old, I graduated to being a single mother, a victim’s advocate and counselor, an administrator, and a grandmother. I also obtained a graduate degree—in human services, of course. Although I had developed a plethora of identities, I was solid in recognizing who I was. They were all a part of me and of who I wanted to be, even the unexpected ones. It seemed that I was always able to regroup, redesign my life’s path, and hold my head up high as I continued to trust the process of life.
And then it happened, another identity to add to the roster: caregiver for my mother and schooling my father in the “how to’s” of dealing with my mother’s Alzheimer’s disease. Although this phase of taking on the “caregiving-of-a-parent identity” was challenging, the most challenging was yet to come: the identity of being the sole caregiver for my father, who would then come to live with me.
For those of us who are the primary or only caregiver for a loved one, we know the heartaches, the exhaustion, the stress, and—yes, I’m going to express it—the waves of anger and sometimes resentment that are involved with the process. In my previous articles I have written about all the tasks involved, the roles we play, the feelings attached to watching our parent(s) or loved one fade and become more frail, more dependent. However, it’s only recently that I’ve come to realize how my beloved identities, which I have nurtured throughout my life, have either waned or dissipated all together.
I took early retirement at the age of 62 in order to care for my father. Although I have no desire to be an administrator today, I don’t believe I was ready to give it up three years ago. Evidently, the universe had a different plan. My social life is quite mundane, I have no desire to meet a man, and if I am to go out with a friend, I must arrange care for my father—“Pop care,” as I call it. I do get together with my children and grandchildren, but not as much as I once did. So I feel a bit disconnected from them. And regarding the identity of being a daughter, I don’t feel as if I am the daughter any more. I am acting as the parent.
As if a thief had come in the night, I found I had lost my identity as a daughter, my professional identity, my social-life, my mothering and grandmothering identities, as I had once known them. Make no mistake, I am damn good as my father’s caregiver, but I must admit that this unexpected identity has been the most difficult. Honestly.
What’s one to do? Regroup, reorganize. The new plan: returning to Bethlehem where my children and grandchildren live, house sharing with my daughter and her family, taking deep breaths, and, what’s most important, trading in the anger for the trust and guidance of our universe. Re-identify.
Art credit by “Identity Crisis by Sebastien Millon and Tom Fedro’s “Identity Crisis.”
Donna began her journey in Human Services in 1983. During the next 35 years she held various positions and formally retired in 2018. She writes on an array of social issues. Donna's relaxation time includes walking her Lab, Roxy, having fun with her seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, writing for Silver Sage, spending time with friends and family. Her last full-time position was providing care to her father. Since that has ended, Donna is taking the time to invest in her own self care and interests.