Caregiver vs. Caregiver

Perhaps I should not write this while I still remember her license plate number.  This is fresh, y’all.

Let’s begin with one of my favorite quotes:

Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude.  ~  Martin Luther King Jr.

It was a perfect breezy 80-degree morning, the kind of morning where it looks like the sun is gently kissing each surface around you.  Hubby left for work with minimal physical challenges.  I jump in the car early to go pick up snacks and water for a 24-person summer school field trip.  I feel joyful and have plenty of time to shop in our local grocery store.

I paid without feeling rushed.  I turn left out of the store to walk toward the ice chest.  I need two bags of ice.  Ahead of me is an elderly man shuffling his feet like Tim Conway from the old Carol Burnett show.  I guess he is in his late 80’s or early 90’s.

My mind goes two places.  One, I want to make sure I leave him plenty of room.  I walk behind my cart slowly.  Two, I find myself praying for him.  I thank God that this man has lived a long life and ask that he have a wonderful day.  Given his difficulty to walk, it is great that he is outside enjoying the weather.

I stop to place my hand on the ice chest door handle.  The man is well ahead of me at this point.  Suddenly my eye catches sight of erratic body movements further ahead of the man.  Jumping out of a white SUV parked curbside down by the liquor store is a woman near my age.  Her arms flail.  Her voice is loud.

“You’re about to be run over, Grandpa!” She bellows.  I notice her slim figure looks good in white pants.  Odd the things you pay attention to sometimes.

Aw, I think maybe she is trying to banter with him.  To connect.  To have fun.

Censored beep, beep, beep later I realize she is not being playful at all.  She is livid.  At me.

She yells my direction, “Some people are so rude!”

What?!

I attempt to tuck in my inner Martha.  Martha, my mom, had a short fuse made of magnesium.  I can let this go.

And then my mouth opens anyway.

“Maybe from your perspective,” I send her way.  “But from where I am I was giving him plenty of space and even saying prayers of thanksgiving for him.”  I know that probably sounded stupid, but it was true.

After all, the woman is beyond us and there is even a brick column obstructing her view.  From where her SUV is parked it would be easy to jump to conclusions.  There’s no way she can accurately assess the distance between Grandpa and me from her location.

And then her mouth opens.  She combines words like prayer and the b word and other words I’m not going to type.

Sigh…this day had been going so well.

Is she coming after me?  My faux Terminator eye surveys our surroundings.  In seconds I assess where the security cameras hopefully are, what time it is, how my body will flatten hers if she hits me first, and contemplate if I can withstand assault charges.  I am not proud of this.  I’m just saying I was raised in a way that is ready for unanticipated action.  Generally, I am a pleasant person.  I try to maintain a kind face even in these strained moments.

I finish putting ice in my cart.  Grandpa shuffles into the liquor store and the angry lady gets back into her SUV.  I step into the parking lot so I can make a mental note of her license plate, then turn right to find my car.

I maintain awareness as I load my trunk.  I know my insides are shaking a little bit.

Sitting in the car I text a trusted BFF to ask for prayer.  A day once going well now feels scary.

When back on the road, I see the SUV.  The lady still looks erratic.  She runs her hands through her hair many times and might be yelling at Grandpa.

I drive, pray, go over the checklist for the day.  Crisis adverted.

Then a deep truth hit my heart.  That lady is a caregiver for Grandpa.  I don’t know if she is every day, but this day she is.  As my mind softens, I dismiss some judgement about how if she really cared about Grandpa she wouldn’t send him alone into either store and especially not the one with hundreds of glass bottles.  It occurs to me that maybe as a caregiver she is angry.

And sometimes I feel angry as a caregiver too.

I just felt anger toward a fellow caregiver.  With good reason, I saw her as an enemy first.  But what does the Bible say about our response to enemies?

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.  Matthew 5:44

Do I love her?

How long did it take me to pray for my enemy?  Answer:  38 minutes

It was easy to recognize Grandpa’s struggles, but it was hard to recognize the possibility of her struggle.  It took me 38 minutes to pray for her.  Maybe she needed to let off steam and I was an easy target.  To follow are a few additional thoughts about invisible caregiver pain:

1.  People don’t read minds.  The SUV lady couldn’t read my mind and I couldn’t read hers.  Lord, May we try to give people grace first instead of judgement.

2.  Perspective is varied.  Depending on where you are standing or what you are doing at the moment before you look up makes a big difference in what you see.  I suspect if the woman had been parked behind us or beside us she may not have jumped to the conclusion that Grandpa was in danger.

3.  How often do we miss the caregivers?  We sign up for meal trains, we bring things to patients who are sick, but what can we do for caregivers?  There are other blogs and articles with ideas on this.  I encourage you to keep caregivers in mind when you support people who are hurting.  Lord, Please help caregivers to be comforted, seen, and heard.  Also, help me to be sensitive to the journey of others.  Amen.

Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished.  1 Chronicles 28:20

When Was The Last Time

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2009 Shaw Farm

When was the last time he took my hand and we took a walk together?  When was the last time he could stand up from the couch without thinking about how to stand?  How many years ago was the last time he could golf–his all-time favorite activity?  When was the last time our home did not involve daily groans and pain?

As a mother, I vowed to cherish everything about our sons:  every flutter as they swam in the womb, first grins, first toys, first words.  My heart skipped beats when their little hands kept reaching for mine well into elementary school years.  I knew their childhood would end.  I treasured their soft skin and cuddles.  I would not squander those moments.  And while storing up sweet memories I welcomed the fact that one day our boys would move on to a greater destiny beyond their mom’s heart.

What I did miss was treasuring simple moments with my husband.  Yes, I appreciated him.  Yes, we tried to spend time together.  Yes, we overcame the fact that opposites really do attract and chose to draw closer to God, our translator, to communicate.  Yes, we did not give up on our marriage or each other.  But did I truly cherish him?  I didn’t think he was leaving.  And he hasn’t left, but sometimes it seems like he isn’t all here either.  My mind reaches for precious moments of ease that I forgot to store in my brain.

Grief arrives in many forms.  Sometimes we grieve the loss of a job or relationship.  I’ve endured the pain of people close to me passing away.  You may have too.  And now I endure the pain of watching chronic illness ALS-21 steal expectations we had for our present and future.  Our youngest child is a teenager.  I thought we had more time before hubby and I grew old together.  But symptoms of old slowly moved into our home decades too soon.  We are like the metaphoric frog in the pot of tepid water who didn’t know the heat was about to turn up.  We sat calmly in the pot not noticing that the water began to boil our circumstances.

I spend hours each week clearing “stuff” out of our house.  It feels like we are in a race against the clock to move to a more accessible place.  We had plans to remodel that will never happen while we are here.  I feel the ugly emotion of jealously toward people I haven’t met who will do projects here that I likely will not see.  Tears drizzle my checks occasionally over leaving our home of 20 years too soon.  What really got me down deep was when our oldest son was home on leave from the Air Force.  A couple nights he didn’t want to go see friends.  He shared that he just wanted to enjoy the walls of our home because he knew he might not ever again get to come home to this address.

On the flip side of the moving coin, I celebrate the thought of being in a home where my husband doesn’t have to crawl upstairs at night.  Are we old enough to require a no steps living arrangement?  Apparently yes.  This thought process requires me to clear clutter faster.  Time is not waiting for me.  I’ve quit looking at other homes online because I need to focus on the task of leaving this home first.  I trust God will provide the right place for us at the right time.

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.  Matthew 6:34

I often tell myself that our situation could be worse, that there are worse things that people deal with.  These thoughts push me along to be grateful for the good things in our lives that we do have, or things that are better because we’ve had to adapt.  For example, I’m not sure my husband has ever verbally appreciated me more than he does now.  His kind words mean a lot to me.  We are also more forgiving and appreciative these days.  It seems like we have reached a calm place where we are slow to anger and less judgmental.  I thank God for the side benefits of sticking together and pushing through tough times as a team.

Are you grieving a loss or expectation of any size?  It takes time to grapple with it.  If you have tips or favorite verses about grieving that you would like to share, please comment.  I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

PRECIOUS VIDEOS

I’ve learned not to be surprised by irony in life.  In fact, I welcome it.  How about you?  If I’m aware enough to notice when it happens, then I raise an eyebrow to God and ask, “Is this ironic thing something you are using to get my attention?”

As long as I can remember, I’ve been a writer.  Harriet the Spy was one of my childhood heroes because she walks around writing in a notebook.  As a child I walked around with notebooks too–and I still do today!  The desire to write and publish books has grown in my soul since I learned to read and write.

The first book I had the courage to complete was about caregiving and grief.  After years of wanting to complete and publish any of my writing ideas, it was grief that fueled my fire to finally finish a writing project.  Rainbow Bed:  a child’s perspective on coping with grief (2009) was a labor of love inspired by how one of our children dealt with the caregiving and death of my mother. 

That was a dark and painful time for our whole family.  Not only did we lose my mom, but we also lost my sister-in-law just 5 weeks later.  Sadness swallowed us whole it seemed.  Since that time, most of our darkness has lifted.  We all have needed time to adjust to our “new normal”.  Rainbow Bed:  a child’s perspective on coping with grief is one of the projects that helped me through the hurdles of grieving.

Flash forward to 2012.  I have been meaning to download and organize family videos.  Anyone else overwhelmed by how to do that?  I keep hoping that the video recorder will hold up until I figure out a good system.  Meanwhile, I’ve been taking videos of school events and holidays year after year.

Often while recording school events I have a nagging feeling that I might not be the only parent in the room who would want copies of my videos someday.  I brush off those thoughts, but keep the camera rolling.  Who would want my footage?  And how often will even I look at these videos when my own kids are grown?!  Most of my zoom is focused on my children, but I take the time to scan the crowd of kids involved–just in case.

This summer one of Ben’s classmates died as a result of a horrible car accident; Grace, 10 years old, a precious, kind, amazing sweet girl.  I have given her mom space, but also sent encouraging notes occasionally–mostly to simply say “you’re in my thoughts and prayers”–because c’mon, what words could I possibly say to this dear mother who has suffered so much?  Encouragement is a fine line when tragedy happens.  Choose words carefully, I tell myself.  Let people know you care, but be wise and pray about what words to say and what words not to say.

But I’ve been thinking about those videos more and more wondering if Grace’s mom would like copies of events K through 4th grade.  Of course, that would mean I’d have to start organizing those videos I’ve been avoiding! 

I can’t imagine the pain their family has endured.  I didn’t bring up the videos to Grace’s mom, but then the door opened.  I received a text from her saying that they have one video of Grace, a clip taken by her younger brother.  That was one of those ironic moments.  I barely whispered to God, “Guess you want me to mention those videos, huh?”

So I did.  And she wants them.  Today, another parallel day with grief, I finally worked on organizing my videos, downloading precious moments in-between time working on this new blog.  I’ve cried while watching Grace and Ben run around in their kindergarten gym class, sobbed in contrast to their class singing happy songs like America the Beautiful and Fifty Nifty.  And, seriously, Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA sung by third graders was never fair from the first time.  I cried at the original performance.

In a few moments I will drop off 5 DVDs to Grace’s mom, a woman who found the courage to raise her hand in praise during her own daughter’s funeral when no one in the rest of the room could.  Could I do that?  I pray I never know.   

I wonder if children in our community receive a little more patience and love from their parents who know about Grace’s story.  I know that is the case in my home.  The opportunity to hug my children is extremely valuable. 

I’m glad today was a day to finally tackle projects like precious videos and creating a blog.

Blessings to you and your family,

Glenna

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