On caregivers, faith, family, and writing…

First published in the Rains County Leader, Emory, Texas:Hands in the dirt

There’s something special about Texas dirt. I have felt that way from my days of making mud pies in our back yard in West Texas to the last few years of learning to coax a passable crop out of my little garden. This past weekend, I confirmed that belief in my own mind.

David and I just returned from Louisiana where we visited with his mom Betty. She fell a few weeks ago, suffering a broken arm and torn ligaments in her foot. Even with just those injuries, she would have needed some help, but combined with other health issues, she needed live in help. She had been staying with her daughter Deb, but Deb and her family had planned a trip long before the accident, so we volunteered to fill in while they were gone.

It was easy to slip back into the caregiver role. It seemed natural to be sure she had nutritious meals and snacks as needed and to keep trackGiving injection of her various treatments and medications. I have to admit that the insulin injections didn’t seem natural, but David, drawing on his experience as a Navy corpsman, was glad to take on that task. Betty’s other daughter Sharon works full time, but she stopped by at lunch or on her way home to help her mom with grooming and other personal needs.

By dividing the caregiving among the three of us, none of us was over-burdened–but I still began to feel the familiar pressure that goes along with caring for a loved one. By the end of our two week stay, I was in a state of an emotional confusion. I was anxious to get back home to our simple routine, but at the same time, I wanted to stay and be sure everything continued to go smoothly for Betty. I kept these thoughts to myself, though, as Deb returned and David and I traded our caregiver hats for simple visitor caps.

The morning we left, we packed up the car, gave last minute hugs, and headed for home. I felt like I used to feel when I left Mom and Dad with my brother or a temporary caregiver for a few days–or later, the way I felt when I left for home after visiting them in their residential care facility. I felt the relief of leaving the responsibilities behind mixed with the feeling that I was somehow shirking my duties. I knew that we had done a good job and that Betty was in good hands, but my heart hadn’t quite gotten the message yet. However, time and distance can be soothing, and by the time we crossed the Texas border, I was looking forward instead of backward.

We had seen reports of rain in the Emory area while we were gone, and I wondered if my garden had survived two weeks of neglect. As we pulled into the driveway, I was disappointed that I didn’t see any red tomatoes shining through the protective fence we had built to keep the squirrels out. When the car came to a stop, I immediately went to check it out. I was relieved to see that the perimeter hadn’t been breached and that there were lots of tomatoes just beginning to turn. I also saw some cucumbers and purple hull peas that needed to be picked and an eggplant that needed to be staked up.

I helped David unload the car, and then I changed into my grubby shoes, grabbed a small plastic tub, and went back to the garden. I only meant to stay for a few minutes, but an hour or so later, I had a tub full of veggies and dirt up to my elbows. I went back into the house to fix dinner, and as I scrubbed the dirt out from under my nails, I realized that the tension I had been feeling since we left home two weeks ago was gone. There really is something healing about digging in the dirt, especially if that dirt is in your own back yard.

Blessings,

Linda

A LONG AND WINDING ROAD: A Caregiver’s Tale of Life, Love, and Chaos

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