I recently read an article on the CaringBridge website titled We’re Celebrating National Caregiver Month – and You. The article talked about what was special about caregivers and invited caregivers to leave comments about why they do what they do, what makes a good caregiver and advice to other caregivers. Always hoping that my experience can be of some help to others, I left a short comment, but I continued to think about National Caregiver Month. Special times devoted to special people are often celebrated by giving gifts or doing something special for the honoree, and I thought about some of the special things people did for me while I was a caregiver. There were lots, but one day in particular stood out in my mind.
For a while after David and I retired, we were active traders in the stock market. Once a year the trading group whose tracking software we used had a seminar in Dallas. We had always wanted to attend, but for one reason or another had never made it. In 2008, neither of us had a job to cause scheduling problems, so we decided why not. It’s amazing how quickly a simple trip to a three-day seminar can become a tangled mess of complications. The first and biggest complication was Mom and Dad. My brother and his wife already had plans for the same time as the seminar, so they couldn’t pinch hit for us. We looked into the possibility of a short-term stay at a residential care facility, but it was too expensive, so I called Aunt Fay, Mom’s younger sister. She lives on a farm near Brashear, Texas, about 80 miles east of Dallas, and she said she’d be glad to have them visit with her for a couple of days. We were back to simple again, but not for long.
David’s motorcycle buddies found out he was going to be in the area and started campaigning for a road trip to the Tetons. And since I was already going to be half-way there, Christian and Amy wanted me to come to Pueblo, Colorado for the charter signing service of Milagro Christian Church, the church they had planted a few years before. The short version is that our itinerary went from a trip to Dallas and back to this:
- David rides his motorcycle to Brashear, and Linda follows with Mom and Dad in the car.
- Mom, Dad and motorcycle stay with Aunt Fay while David and Linda drive car to Dallas and back to Brashear.
- David rides motorcycle to Dallas where he hooks up with his buddies and rides to the Tetons.
- Linda drives car (with Mom and Dad because Aunt Fay doesn’t feel comfortable caring for them for the whole time) to Pueblo, Colorado.
- David rides bike back to Pueblo and hooks up with Linda.
- David rides bike back to Tampa, and Linda follows with Mom and Dad in the car.
There were various other details and stops to flesh out the trip, but you get the idea. Getting back to my original point, the day that stands out in my mind occurred during item #4.
The trading seminar ended on Saturday, and rather than adding the complication and expense of spending a night on the road, I planned to make the 730 mile drive on Sunday. Simple, right? Even considering the time change, getting two slow moving senior citizens out of bed and into the car early enough to make the twelve-hour drive in time for an evening church service was a challenging undertaking. There were frequent potty stops, stops for coffee and snacks and stops to clean up spilled coffee and snacks. In addition, driving becomes more stressful when you have to continually answer questions about where we’re going, why and how long it will be before we get there. Even with all the complications, we made it in time for the church service, the last song anyway. We slipped into the back row, or clattered in – senior citizens with canes and confusions aren’t exactly quiet – and Christian looked up from his guitar and grinned. I fell onto the pew, closed my eyes and thanked God we’d made it safely.
Like a lot of churches, Milagro likes to include food as part of special celebrations. The last song ended, the benediction was offered and everyone was invited to share in a potluck supper. Milagro is a small, informal church. The food service area is an alcove off the sanctuary, and after filling their plates, diners returned to the pews to eat. While I was instructing Mom and Dad to stay where they were while I got their food, a sweet lady whose name I can’t remember came over and introduced herself.
“We’re so glad you could make it. You just take care of yourself and visit with your son and let me wait on these two lovely folks.”
Mom and Dad beamed under her loving attention, and I almost cried with the relief of having a few moments of respite. Later, after everyone had eaten and clean-up was under way, the lady with the servant heart sat down to chat for a minute.
“I know you must be tired,” she said, “but I can tell you’re a good caregiver.”
She must have seen the doubt on my face.
“Oh, I know there are frustrations, but I see a peace in your eyes.”
Her words meant a lot. At a time when I felt totally frazzled and like anything but a good caregiver, her words were like a soothing balm. I’ve thought about those words a lot since then, and wondered exactly what she saw. I guess she saw a reflection of Philippians 4:6-7.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Caregiving sometimes involves specialized duties that make it difficult if not impossible for the uninitiated to take over for any length of time. But if you know a caregiver and want to do something special in honor of National Caregiver Month, visit with their loved one for a few minutes so they can take a short walk or a relaxing bubble bath. Keep their loved one entertained so they can get dinner on the table without “help.” Most importantly, give the caregiver a hug and whisper in their ear You’re doing a great job. Believe me, that’s one of the best gifts you can give them.
- Who Will Care for Her? | by Linda Brendle (lifeaftercaregiving.wordpress.com)
- Bringing Alzheimer’s Out of the Closet | by Linda Brendle (lifeaftercaregiving.wordpress.com)