So maybe it’s not so much a manifesto, as it is a list of reminders. And make no mistake, it’s definitely not a whine fest. Nor is it a lame psychological attempt for attention, because someone is ill and garnering pity that somehow comes out sideways as a complaint. No, really, it’s just some notes. And G*d bless you if you have no idea what this is all about.
At some point a care giver realizes the term “care giver” is a legitimate thing. One day, you look into the rear view mirror while parking in the hospital parking lot and see a care giver, maybe less of the person you were before your loved one was diagnosed with a chronic condition or cancer or both. Who do you see? Someone who has walked through the doorway, now aware of the presence of germs (in the absence of a microscope attached to your cornea…I think I can smell bacteria now). Someone who guards said loved one against visitors, knowing the exhaustion will result in complicated side effects within 24 hours. Someone who systematically recites sterile procedures and considers how many cc’s of urine there were today. Someone who is happy to report her love of bald heads and really is just as happy to BE a care giver,because it’s better than the alternative. (There is indeed a new set of alternatives).
Does it matter how many times you have been deposited into the role of care giver? A good care giver doesn’t wrap the entire universe around the situation. She finds that one or two people who will tell her it’s going to be OK and there is no possible way the cosmos is somehow rendering a punishment for some awful karmic collapse perhaps a thousand years ago. Or was it the pool towel that somehow made it home from that one hotel, that one time?? Really, shit happens and it just happened to happen now. There’s no godly agenda and no price being paid for killing indigenous folks in a jungle somewhere hundreds of years ago. Care givers fill in quiet spaces doing small mindless things, because let’s face it…..doing the NYT crossword is way too hard now. Forgetting really important things when you have commuted to the hospital and realizing it in the parking lot and having to cross town again to retrieve it is equally as challenging for the care giver’s brain. That falls directly under where can I buy a hot, delicious, rotisserie chicken in a drive through so I can eat something hot when I get home? Care givers find themselves looking at pots and pans that haven’t seen use in a long while. They look up one day and notice it looks like we have been mountain climbing barefoot, it has been so long since these feet were pampered. We realize our attention to the cc’s of urine have replaced our own output. We carry around books, with every intention of reading chapters in the quiet moments….but never read them. They weigh down a bag that offers a reminder off the left shoulder for the walk that I call the “Zombie Walk”. That’s the schlep…the long quiet walk to the car….from long hallways….down floor after floor on the elevator….the world seemingly doing it’s thing while the care giver transitions back into the stream. The care giver’s phone is never off. She can hear it in the deep bowels of her bag. It might be an important call…it likely is. She reserves attention and conversation for insurance issues, appointments, the patient.
Mostly, the care giver sees life’s precarious balance. The tripod of the patient, the loved one and the care giver. Kick one leg out and everything will tumble.
Next time you are wandering your community take notice…see if you can spot one. She’ll probably spot you first, because you need something and she can tell.