Posts Tagged ‘Caregiver’

A little book worth reading


Different Hats

Found a gem of a book at the library. I didn’t realize it was a local printing until I finished the book since I never look at the publishing, or author/s info unless I’ve fallen for the work inside. Why bother if the pages between the covers don’t hold your interest?

Well, this book of poems and stories from caregivers does. It resonated on a number of levels.

Take this simple line from Priscilla Dunning’s poem The Greenhouse Effect,

The older you get, the less there is to laugh about.’

I used to think once I hit old age I’d be a laughing don’t-care-‘bout-nothin’-where’s-the-candy bowl kind of codger. But now I recognise the truth in her line. There are days when I see little value in growing old.

And, as a caretaker, I felt the aching mind in the ending lines from her poem Compassion Fatigue,

‘I look forward to tomorrow

when empathy and enthusiasm

have recovered. ‘

But the poem that knocked my socks off was Gregory Lance Skala’s sad poem Angel of Mercy? and boy, did it ratchet up my spine a notch or two. Here’s four lines still pinging between my ears,

‘I resented

Witnessing his suffering

I panicked because

He made me see life as pointless’

I get what he’s saying in those lines. Anyone who’s ever looked after another soul that’s suffering or failing will understand. The problem is when thinking takes that nasty downward trickle, and the rest of his poem attests to how far down one can go,  trying to catch those thoughts is like trying to catch a pig-on-the-run.

I know I have to stop almost daily and check out my thoughts. See what’s bouncing around inside and what kind of feelings those thoughts are generating. I need to check and see if they are taking the high road or the low road and then I ask myself, “How’s that working for ya?”

If it ain’t . . . I’ve got some climbing to do.

Inside Wrinkles

Living as an adult with a parent is a strange experience. Grateful moments mixed with moments floundering in itty drifts of panic. Not only do the usual questions of, ‘will I be strong enough to be there for her till the end?’ hang over your head like a neon sign but there’s another button constantly being pushed. This one makes it flash on and off like one of those old ‘Eat at Joe’s ’signs. It’s the OMG sense that as I watch her putz about I’m seeing a future me. Enlightening yet freaky. Sometimes I see Man-wonder watching us and I wonder what he is mentally digesting. And, even though I’d like to ask I don’t. I’m not that daft.

I watch Mom struggle. I daily hear her curses and mumbles about ‘just being lazy’ and ‘how stupid I am’. It used to annoy me to no end to hear her talk like that because she isn’t. Then one day as we sat on our back deck, our wrinkled skins smoothing out in the last of the summer warmth we had another of those sweet talks about life and living. Mom explained she doesn’t really think poorly of herself, it’s more a case of her not having the patience to accept what she no longer can do.

Well, did my mental dinger go off? You bet! I’ve always suffered from impatience. It’s caused me untold problems. Suddenly, my life, past and future, was laid out before me. Choices. Put more effort into the practice of patience or end up pushing a walker around cursing and grumbling.

Will I learn to accept life as it is offered up before I reach old age? I hope so.

Another thing I’ve learned is that my desire to take the easy road through this life is another inherited trait. I figured it was my own dirty little creation. No solid sense of passion, or at least one strong enough to push through life’s obstacles. Never being sure of what I’ve wanted other than to wander about, mentally weaving daisy-chains, and swinging in my mañana hammock.

Turns out, Mom has always lived with those same emotions. Huh!

They say that ‘getting old’ ain’t for sissies. I’d like to add—neither is ‘being there for those getting old’ . . .

New habits for the old

Mom has a new habit—swearing. And trust me any impatient person reaching the grand old age of 92 has a lot to swear about.

At this point there’s still enough of Mom’s normally nice nature that most of her cursing is aimed at either herself or the over-long commercials on television. But, the odd time when I’ve annoyed her just a bit toooo much, I see those dirty little words dancing in her darkening eyes.

It won’t be long.

My saving grace may well be that I know way more variations of dirty words. (At least I think I do). I’m even made up the odd one. One in particular I really liked and it lived inside my head like a whirling dervish till the day I made the mistake of sharing it with my husband. Well, man-wonder grabbed it and ran with it. Took the joy right out of it for me. . .and I so like my ‘special’ secret words.

Maybe I should go look up the meaning of the word secret again. . .

But I digress.

Most often Mom’s choice of curse is either ‘dammit’ or ‘shit’. Which isn’t so bad unless she isn’t wearing her hearing aid. For a little old lady, she can really squawk out the sounds.  And, let’s just say, I’m looking forward to the cooler weather and being able to close windows.

Okay, that’s maybe a slight exaggeration—unless it happens during the middle of the night (when the hearing aid is on the nightstand).

Nothing like a foghorn level ‘dammit’ blaring the sleep right out of your eyeballs at 3 am. Like last night. But we have learned to stay in bed, hands soothing pounding hearts, and wait. If another curse follows it’s a signal something is amiss but if silence follows—she is dreaming, and all is well.

Last night silence was the tailgater, and happily, sleep slipped back into the sheets with us.

And now, please excuse me for I feel a nap drifting in.

Going, Going . . .

I was going to label this post under the tag of ‘on being nuts’ but then decided to use ‘caregiving’ instead. Caregiving is such a funny word. We take it at face value. We give care. But one can’t give care if one doesn’t also take care. It’s a two layered job. Not only do we give care to others but we must also take care of ourselves. Or we will lose the ability to care. Period.

This past week I’ve been fractured in mind. No measurable attention span for any one subject. Even writing this is difficult. I have to keep pulling myself back to it. Like most things I attempt to do right now.


Because Mom is losing ground again.  Faster too. I suppose it’s like that rock rolling downhill— just keeps picking up speed. And while there’s still enough of the Mom that makes her Mom, there’s more smoke than fire now and there’s nothing I can do to stop this disintegration of body and mind. Not that I ever thought I could. But .  .  .

This living in a house where death is beginning to drape itself like a misery garland is pulling. It feels like my brain is yanking out hunks of unrelated emotion and tossing them here, there, and everywhere. Kinda’ like goofy sad-coloured confetti. This state of fractured mind is slippery too.  Sometimes I’m not even aware it’s happening until my husband hands me the truck keys and tells me take off. (Guilt always puts the foot to the brake before I get too far.)

And sometimes all I can do is stop and remember to breathe in one big honking breath after another, letting it fill my lungs and clear some of the smarmy fog of death out of my own cells.

So I breathe; in-out, in-out. Pull calm in, let tension out; suck peace in, push stress out.

Or I stretch my body just so I can feel the life inside me.  Or I take five minutes and step outside. I drift into the life happening there.  Funny how five minutes of being still and silent can feel as satisfying as a thirty minute nap.

Sometimes that’s all you have room to do—breathe deep and refill the well.

Take care — because you have to. . .