My fellow caregiver.
I think of you most often as I walk out of Mom’s senior living place. Perhaps it is 9:45 p.m. on a frigid winter night. I worked all day and then drove the half-hour journey to have dinner and a game of Scrabble with Mom. She has told me her litany of things – birds on her feeder, friends who are ill, bargains at the store, aches and pains, childhood memories. Her voice rings in my ears.
I breathe a great sigh into the night air. It comes out in a cloud of steam replete with that familiar mix of weariness, gratitude, and loneliness. That’s when I remember you and send you a blessing for doing the thankless, dull, strangely joyful, exhausting work of caregiving.
I know you are sitting just down the hall during those hours at the clinic, watching a patient nurse practitioner or physician help Mom navigate the complexities of her 90-year-old body. You know that delicate dance between knowing when to intervene and when to step back. How do you decide which to choose?
And I think of you when I am breaking down Mom’s walker and stowing it in the back seat of her Buick – at the grocery store, the hair salon, the pharmacy, the restaurant. How many times have I performed this ballet? How many times have you?
I celebrate with you when I make her laugh in that way that lights up her blue eyes – still sparkling and vivid at 90. And when she calls me back for one more hug before we part and I breathe in the gift of her still-aliveness through her familiar scent. I say to you with a brimming heart: “This makes it all worthwhile, don’t you think?”
Remember, I am right beside you as you sit by the hospice bedside at 3:00 a.m., torn between wanting to hold on and needing to let go. I am thinking of you as you sit on hold with Medicare, as you listen to the same story for the third time, as you drive through traffic once more to be there. Just be there. For whatever comes.
I know you are doing your best. And we both know though it will never be perfect, it will be enough. I forgive you your moments of impatience and frustration. Will you forgive mine as well?
My unknown friend. my fellow caregiver:
We are in this together, even when we feel most alone.