To Give Care

There is no interview, no resume is required, and that dreaded question about your strengths and weaknesses is not asked, but before you know it you are hired for the hardest job of your life: you are now a CAREGIVER. Someone you love, whether it be your spouse, your parent, your sibling, or your child, is ill or injured and needs to be cared for. If you had read the job description you would never have applied for the position, especially if you are caring for a loved one with dementia. The hours are 24/7 and the grief is daily and deadly. Sleep is optional, heartbreak is required. The position requires bottomless patience and cheerfulness. On a positive note , no one will check your references , but if you were tempted to lie on your resume it WILL come back to bite you in the ass.

Roger is riding in front of me on the bike trail and I think his calves are huge! I can’t keep up with him on the bike or hiking trail. He slows down because I yell “Wait up!”. Coming down the hiking trail he usually got very talkative and this is when I learned how Roger became Roger. He described his childhood Christmas ( he loved the tree lights) and what he and his brother did for Halloween (think a pillowcase full of candy) and his father (S.O.B.). We compared our “favorites” and things we hated. We talked about cars; Bugs, Superbees and Chargers. He was surprised how I recognized cars as well as any man he knew. It’s an odd talent I have. We talked about work and the crazy people who inhabited our work lives. We bitched, we laughed and we listened to each other. We got angry with each other sometimes, but it usually ebbed away as we hiked down the trail. These memories are “new” for me, they were buried under years of caregiving, decline and grief.

I remember the “before he got sick” Roger more and more. I can see that devilish grin, that goofy look and hear him say “Hi Dinker.”, his version of “sweetheart. Roger had a temper that could flash like a flame thrower. He would scorch a few acres and then get steely quiet. We were both so imperfect, so human. He put my engagement ring in a bag of jelly beans and insisted I try all the “new” flavors. I didn’t swallow it , so we got married. Memories of Roger as he declined and was swallowed up by dementia are still very raw, but I can feel the memories shift to our life together before dementia struck.

Was I a good caregiver for Roger? My resume for being a caregiver would never have got me an interview. My skills were lacking and I doubted my own commitment, would I?could I? do it. My life experience? I loved Roger fiercely. It turned out this was all that I needed.

 

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