Valentine’s Day..To My Caregiver.

Fun - it's important.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S TO THE BEST CAREGIVER EVER!

In our dark days and nights, you were there.

Do we stop and think of the other life that was changed drastically?  Sometimes that is the hardest thing to think about.

My husband hates it when people say “ this must be so hard for you, or it must be difficult for you, or I’m so sorry it must be hard.”

I asked him why it upset him or made him feel uncomfortable  when people said those things.

Personally I felt they were right, I feel sorry for him too because his life has changed drastically. Seeing someone suffer, rolling on the floor and groaning and not really knowing exactly how to help – must be the worst feeling!

He said that they have never seen the suffering – Nor had they ever experienced watching someone suffer that they loved and he felt the attention was drawn more to himself.

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Talking to my cousin who has a lot of my same issues, and listening to both of them talk as a couple, I realized there was a lot of the same feelings. So this left me with some things to ponder. Our caregivers need support, and they need a pat on the back, they need encouragement, because they need just exactly what we need when we’re bearing a cross that’s awfully heavy.

The more I thought about it, the puzzle begin to look like a picture.

When the “Chronic” gets ill, there is attention of some sort for a bit.  Because we didn’t write or call the world, there wasn’t a lot of local support until some who are close friends found out reality in the story.  The pain was too much to allowing thinking…. and Charles had too much to handle to think.  Our plates were overflowing, and we still had a few month/years to parent.  This wasn’t the way I had intended to go out – with a BANG….  I prefer quiet moments, talking, memories, etc…  but now, I couldn’t do anything, and I sure couldn’t hold a reasonable conversation because of “no words” and “yikes-what came out of my mouth?”.  It was, to say the least, a BOMB!  Something we are still trying to overcome after 15 years.  When it’s said “This affects the whole family.”.. as they read or listen to my story….it’s as shocking to them, as it was to us! 

And THIS was not how it was supposed to end (when our children left home) nor begin (when we began our empty nest lives).  Though we tried not to let it affect us to much – the traveling we promised ourselves was done by cruising.  That’s another story, but at least there was a bed nearby and we both were content.

So, mind you…. this changes the caregivers plans that were my plans too!  But, we had learned to be flexible, and this wouldn’t last forever, so we’d just roll with it. I don’t know what he did when he had days he realized “this is life” (I haven’t a clue what men do in their cave!), but I know what I did on those days, and it was NOT a pretty sight.  If I could have bottled the tears, there would be no drought.  I rarely did my “realization” in front of anyone.  I had learned to be very careful, or I wasn’t “positive”, or I was “complaining”.  And the lectures started.  I know we both wanted to say “HERE IS WHAT ‘VENT’ MEANS…” along with “HERE IS WHAT WE NEED D E S P E R A T E L Y!!  One quickly learns what is acceptable to say/ask and what is not.

What Charles learned is what I had already learned….. if there are no Cuts, Bruises, Breaks, Bandages, Hospitals, Doctors talking in hushed voices, and death was an over all feeling then you are “FINE”. which interestingly, death was an issue, it just was kept from us as much as possible… or rather me….

A headache – yes we all have them.  Aches and pains are just part of growing old.  And who can remember the day anyway?   It was hopeless and so discouraging. 

The worst thing that could happen, happened.  We stopped talking.  Not to each other, but to others.  Then to each other…. not sharing like we use too…. discouragement set in, yet we still smiled.  Because it’s what you do.  Ask any “Chronic”.  We brushed things off, because that was usually preferred.  We heard about everyone and their health and how awful it was for them…. and we agreed and were glad to hear.  But, it’s hard to keep quiet, as my husband has said, when you are drowning and all you hear is how awful it is that others are drowning.  Sometimes it seemed they’re drowning was worse than are drowning. Which is not a nice thing to say or think on our part. I felt it was selfish,

Actually this is a two edged sword.  We truly are interested in others.  At times we are so deep in STUFF and PAIN, we can hardly listen… it just doesn’t compute.  What we can’t say is “we are living the same life, instead of talking about all this, how  about being productive”?  Either to them, or us.  Doesn’t matter.  There were three times I was aware death could happen.  Once when I knew it would and prepared funeral plans.  Only a few days short because of a doctor’s visit with someone who would listen and acted quickly.  We were out of our mind with pain, fear, and loneliness.  We wanted our children so badly – to see them in case…..  When I asked my husband if he would tell or say something, he had given up.  My heart bled for him.  Can you imagine?  Our doctors stay closely in communication because they are aware family is scattered, and ill, and busy.  I knew some were wondering where my faith was when I finally admitted to having a breakdown.  My faith was there, but I also wanted those I loved.  To come to a point when one realizes how insignificant you can be…. well, it’s not pretty, no matter who you are… man or woman.
While FAITH – or the lack of, was mentioned many times early on by those who were not around enough to know, was devasting.  Then add a doctor who almost allowed death because of “my lack of faith”….. does that come kind of close to being allowed a “breakdown” of sorts?  Does that give a reason why the caregiver is quiet?  Who had gone deep in his shell even I can’t find him?   All the verses, all the sermons given on social media, was just for that…. social media.   Those that were our rocks, were those who were quiet, loving, kind, prayerful, were always never noticed.  Social Media was never in the mix.  I wonder if this is something we must not get delusional regarding.  Gives one something to consider.

Charles began attending some functions by himself.  I insisted and he needed to get away.  As time passed, more serious issues were becoming evident, and he was needed with me.  So basically, we both are off the map for many.  It’s understandable…..in our world where so much is going on, we can’t expect to be THE ONE on everyone’s mind.  Maybe a few nearby…. and a close friend or two. 

People heard “Cathy can’t cook anymore….she used to cook for 20 with her eyes shut, and now, she can hardly make her coffee.”   People WERE shocked, and felt bad for Charles…. coming home from work, cooking a healthy meal, cleaning up, getting things ready for the next day, and finally sitting down – only to fall asleep.  THAT was a big day for most men – although women do it many times! (just thought I’d throw that in there for those who were going to mention it anyway!)  We are used to the lives we have, and when it varies, there is stress.

I liked a clean, organized house.  I had learned how to make lists for the week so things wouldn’t pill up (they still did), and the house was always cleaned by Thursday afternoon.  Why Thursday?  I don’t know, but that’s how my mom did it – because she wanted a weekend free too!

Charles liked this, and came to be “part of life”.  Now this part is gone, and he is trying to keep it up.  I said to him… “PLEASE, let it go… it doesn’t matter if dishes are in the sink, or things aren’t perfect.  PLEASE sit down….”  No, he refused – because he happened to like the way things had been for many years.  I was in to much of a fog to even notice or care too much, but I did feel bad.  This would be mentioned in complimenting him, but as you are aware, I was only digging my grave.

This is what is “heard“…. “Cathy always had things neat, so Charles does it just like her and he is exhausted, but that how she likes things.”  A few missing words can make a lot of difference.  He is STILL worse than I ever was at times!  It’s his choice, but in a manner, it has affected him.

It was mentioned to me that “Poooor Charles was tired because I wanted things the same and he worked hard”.  True.  But not in the manner of TONE that is was said.  Sometimes I try to correct things and sometimes I wonder if people think at all.

Let’s consider…. (I think I’ve had this chat before)….  EVERY HOUSEHOLD has chores that are similar.  We all have to eat, we all have to work – or at least one person does.  There are groceries to buy, errands to run….. even single people have plenty to keep them busy.  So how would it feel if someone had pity (a word that rarely has action) yet you were drowning, and it would be thought of if only we thought of our own situations.  Simple.  But not really.  Somehow, when things happen to others, I’ve always noticed it’s easy to say “at least they have plenty of time….they don’t have….kids, house, school, …etc…  

Our caregivers are working hard.  They are doing it out of love.  Yes, some are able to afford to get some help, but that help gives them time that they already didn’t have. 

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There should be a “CAREGIVER’S HONERABLE DAY”…. no matter who they are.  My sister will be first in line for her loving care of my parents.  Charles will be second! 🙂  They are willing for things that would blow most peoples mind and it will never be told.  Only if you are one, will you really understand.  The love that must be there has to be 100% – or it won’t last.  Divorce rate is 75% and we have no doubt why.  It’s not a job for wimps, it’s 24/7, it’s not planned (like caring for a child), and it makes or breaks relationships of every kind, and things that are said would turn your in nerds inside out.  Books are written about what is said, because it makes an unbelievable story.  No one believes the little we tell them, they would be certain both of us were insane if they knew it all.  When the “Chronic” deals with people… doctors, strangers, relatives and friends  – it can be either very entertaining, or very sad.

I am very thankful for my special childhood friend who I can trust to care for me.  He may need prompting, but at least he’s willing.  He still carries on what was done before and I find that quite amazing.  Food is still brought to those in our little area who are needing some help.  Some weekends, he never sits down.  I sit and feel guilty!  But when he sits, sometimes he really enjoys it…. a memory!

2001-08-09 001 2001-08-09 002  YOU CAN ALWAYS COUNT ON DAD TO BE A CLOWN!~    5 MO. AFTER MY ACCIDENT.  I LOOK GREAT, BUT A MESS INSIDE.

We are not perfect and have our differences….but if we didn’t then I’d say “take our pulse”.  I think I would rather be the “Chronic” than the  “Caregiver”.  I’m not sure I can handle all he does.  It is the most difficult road most Caregivers say they have ever taken, but would not give it up for anything.  Humbling. 

For the record, I’m not lazy (most days, that is!) – I just have to rest often and there CAN NOT be a lot of brain overload.  Hard to comprehend, but that’s okay… we have the same trouble.  Another “for the record”…. we do not have the corner on “chronic”, or sick, or tired, or up to our eyeballs, or anything else.  We are just part of the human race that needs an extra boost at times.  Like we all do. 

 

The thing we love the most is….F R I E N D S H I P.   Acceptance.  Belief.  Empathy to allow us to do what is needful to do.  Nothing new, nothing overboard, just the normal things we like ourselves.  Those who have been the best encouragement, the best help, the most cherished – many times were those who JUST cared.  It was in their voice. They had a word in season.  We had good talks, we felt their love.  Sometimes, it’s not what goes in our mouth (food) that’s helpful, but what goes in our ears and hearts that carries us onward.

And, for the record, He has told me I am very easy to care for – not complaining, or expecting things to be a certain way.  So if the house is up to par… either the helper just left, or I’m trying to be good, or he has just picked up! 

Research, studies, whatever…. are all the same.  If they read the bible, it would save us many tax dollars of re-inventing the wheel.  It’s the same a long time ago, and it will be the same forever.  We are our brother’s keeper, and sometimes that means when we are “chronic” or not.  We don’t get to heaven because we have the magic ticket, but because we have kept His commandments. Ever notice how LOVE must be very THICK in order to comply?  And we aren’t commended by going the first mile, it’s the second mile and after that counts.

Do we go the second mile just to get to heaven?  Sorry.  Even though it’s a big one, the reason behind it is more important.  Love will go to limits that duty can not reach.  God destroyed a city because their widows weren’t watched over by all.  I think God means business and only Love will get us where we want to be. Newlyweds were not to do anything but to adjust to marriage for one year. Other men brought them meat, others made their food. Everything was taken care of. New mothers  were not to do anything but focus on their baby, feeding them,  sleeping  and being with their husband  and other children.  They were not given two weeks off.  If I’m correct it was a year.  Their husbands were not tied down trying to keep home fires going.  They benefited from what was the commandment to the mother. The food was fresh, friends and family were nearby to help. I wonder if postpartum depression was even a name in those days?  God is interested in families, in marriages, in serving each other within the family and within our friendship’s circle, and beyond, as we see the need. Because there was a profound closeness, there were no nursing homes because it was learned at a very early age to respect and get along with each other. That is not what we see today.   Love sees all… it even sees what to do.  Love accepts all, and it doesn’t have to discuss it either.  Love eats things we don’t like (I know – it goes both ways!) and says “thank you for the meal”.  If it “takes a village”, then the village must have love or it’s only a war zone waiting to explode.

If you are a caregiver, accept the kudo’s with grace.  You are of great worth.  If any causes you more grief than you already have, love them, but keep close to those who see your worth.  Sometimes we say “thank you for the encouragement”.  Have we ever thought to say just as nicely “thank you for all the constructive criticism”?  Maybe it wasn’t constructive, but a point is made!!

We learn more in life during hardships.  We learn MORE when health is involved.

 “And, thank you  for passing along what you know about our health problems.  We honestly try many things….but if we say “we’ve done that” or “no thank you”, then that’s what we mean.  We appreciate your interest in trying to help.”  This is something to say when things are flying our way, when we’ve had enough advice – we can still give respect.

In appreciation of our caregivers, and those that have lifted up their hearts.