Dad Has Rheumatoid Arthritis
It is the desire of every parent to do the best they can for their children. All parents feel that way. Imagine the thought process of a parent who lives with chronic arthritis, the pain and limitations, and eventual disability. How are children impacted when a parent has rheumatoid arthritis (RA)? What changes from the perspective of the kids? Do the kids really understand what their parent deals with on a daily basis while trying to maintain normalcy for them?I interviewed my husband Rick's two sons, my stepsons. Brent is now 20, and Bryan will turn 18 at the end of the year. They were quite young when Rick was diagnosed with RA. Perhaps after reading the brief interview you will be moved to speak with your own kids, whether they are small or now grown, about what it was like growing up with a parent who has chronic arthritis.
Do you remember how old you were when your Dad got arthritis?
Brent: I probably couldn't spell my own name yet alone even say arthritis when he got it. But by my math, I would have to say I was like 4-ish.
Bryan: I don't think I was born yet when he got it.
How old were you when you began really understanding what arthritis was?
Brent: If he got it when I was around 4-ish, then I would have to answer something like 13. So almost 10 years later. It took that long to say rheumatoid, and then I had the capacity to understand most of it.
Bryan: Well, actually I'm still learning about what it does. When I first got a clue about it was when I was maybe 10.
Do you fully understand it now? What has helped you understand?
Brent: Well, 16 years of questions has filled half of what I know, and the other half was visual, so to make a long story short, it was a high mix of both. I still don't understand all of it, but in time I will.
Bryan: I don't fully understand it, but what helped is having 2 parents who have the disease. Because whenever I need help knowing what something is, I can ask you guys the question.
You were young when your Dad got arthritis. Do you think you missed out on much? What did you miss out on?
Brent: There isn't a single thing I missed out on. What I didn't get physically, I got emotionally and didn't care. As long as I have my Dad then I'm happy. I wouldn't have this any other way, unless he could get rid of it for his sake. But no, I can't tell you anything that I truly missed out on.
Bryan: Well, I missed out on playing catch and stuff like that. But even with it, he still seemed to try his best to do idle Dad stuff. But I'm glad he's my Dad.
Did you gain anything by having a Dad with arthritis?Brent: I gained many things. One is a knowledge of something that if he didn't get, I would know nothing about! When I see someone in a wheelchair or who has a disability, I don't stare, and try and understand why they are that way. I can thank my Dad for that.
Bryan: I gained on more than I lost. Instead of playing catch, we would watch a movie together. So instead of the physical stuff, I got attention and got to spend time with my Dad. I also gained more respect for physically and mentally handicapped people. You guys see I start to get angry when people stare. But maybe it is just because I've seen it all my life, so I don't feel the urge to stare.