Usually, I feel like donning my cape and tights and taking on the world like my favorite super human character, confident in the knowledge that I will easily outwit and out-power any foe that I must face throughout the day. Yes, that is how I normally feel. But, not today!
Today, I feel like a little girl, lost and lonely. It is hard to believe that the person lying in this bed is my grandmother. My sports loving, got to have the last word, what comes up comes out, spitfire grandmother. I refuse to allow this shell of her former self to be a lasting memory for me. I choose to remember all that she has meant to me. Have you ever had someone willing to give their last for your comfort? I believe that she determined, when she found out that she finally had a granddaughter, that I would never want for anything in this life if it was in her power to provide it.
16 months ago, I determined that she would not want for anything if it was in my power to provide it. I chose to become my grandmother’s caregiver. I refused to uproot her from her church family, her friends, her social calendar. It was far easier for me to make the changes, so I did. Because she was as feisty as ever, my responsibilities were limited to chauffeur duties. I soon realized how greatly I had underestimated the weight of the caregiver’s responsibility.
A few days ago, we had a brief exchange during which she said, “I really don’t want you to have to worry about me”. Immediately, I thought about all those nights when I came in later than I should have and she was sitting up, waiting. As soon as I was safely in, she would inform me that she guessed she could “get some sleep now”. I did not understand it then but I get it now. When I am away, I worry about whether my directions regarding her care are being followed. When I’m home, I’m usually stationed at her bedside hoping that she might get the energy to speak, watching for the rise and fall of her chest to let me know she is still with me. Only after I have attempted to sing a few of her favorite church hymns, prayed for her and waited for her to pat my hand, can I “get some sleep”. They say you never truly understand what a person endures until you must bear that same burden.
As I watch her health decline to the point where I’m being told to get prepared, my thoughts fall on all who serve in the role of caregiver. I woke up one day and realized that I had not talked to my friends in a while, I had not pampered myself in a long time, I had not written a word in weeks, and that my regular routine had pretty much disappeared. It wasn’t until that Wednesday when the tears came and refused to stop. I was forced to acknowledge how overwhelming it had all become. In some ways, I was crying out for help. In some ways, I was helping myself.
If you are a caregiver, do something nice for yourself today. Big or small, make yourself a priority (if only for a little while). If you are not a caregiver, encourage someone by lending a helping hand. Small gestures are appreciated. If they are like me, they will insist that they are fine and do not need anything. Do it anyway!