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Posted: December 08, 2005

Spousal Caregiving

Is Your Kite Still Flying?

Bill Andrew

I am sure you have heard the expression "go fly a kite" many times in your life -- often in a dismissive way. That is, the party that made that statement dismissed your prior statement -- whatever it was and however good it was intended. In fact, someone told me that the other day after I made a suggestion about caregiving that I thought would help them in their current predicament. However, there are other "kite" stories and I recalled one from some past reading.

Once again, I went to the classic book Chicken Soup for the Caregiver's Soul for another bowl of "caregiver's chicken soup." Many of the stories therein have helped me to put my spousal caregiving role into perspective. LeAnn Thieman, L.P.N., and her co-authors have shared similar spousal caregiving stories in previous columns, and will do so in the future as well. The "good medicine" inherent in chicken soup, as documented in various clinical studies, helps to support all caregivers through the "must-read" stories that LeAnn shares with us. I hope this story will lift your spirits, and those of your loved one, and nourish your souls as well. And perhaps even have a good laugh!

The seventh story that LeAnn would like to share with us can be found on page 55 of Chicken Soup for the Caregiver's Soul.. LeAnn offers this personal thought-provoking insight into this story -- "I think until a person walks in the shoes of a caregiver, they cannot begin to comprehend the frustration, the anger, the helplessness that they feel some days. Yet in the midst of the hardest times, their faithful, undying love prevails, setting an example that blesses the whole world."

_____

Kite Season

"Love is all we have, the only way we can help the other."

Euripides

 

"Why don't you just grab hold of my arms and stand up?" My wife looked up from her position on the floor, her eyes filling with tears of anger and frustration, "Don't you think if I could do that I would've done it half an hour ago?" She crumbled.

Before my eyes I saw her will leave her, like a kite string falling to the earth after being snapped by an angry gust. My own feelings of impotence broke the calm. I grew furious. "Don't you give up on me Laura!  Don't you dare give up on me!"  The house echoed with my anger.  I flushed, embarrassed at my own outburst. I felt the ache begin in my chest, that tightness that precedes the tears.  No, I would not fall apart.  She needed strength, not a wet Kleenex.  I drew in a deep breath and turned away, wiping my eyes with the knuckles of my clinched fist.


"Why are you mad at me?  What did I do?  You don't know what this is like, Bret.  I've ruined your life, ruined the kid's lives, I've…" "Let's not get into the self-pity thing, honey.  I hate it when you do that." "It's not self-pity," she sobbed, "it's reality.  Look at this," she waved a limp hand around from side to side. "I'm on the bathroom floor half-naked and I have to call you home from work to help me up.  Your job is on the line and I can't even go to the bathroom by myself.  Now, tell me I'm not ruining your life!"


I swallowed hard.  There was no easy answer to this.  The reality was here, all around me: the crumpled and balled-up floor rugs, victims of her vain attempts to regain her feet; the various shampoos and conditioners lying on the bottom of the tub; the broken towel bar which had betrayed her and caused this fall. Seeing the towel bar stung me.  I stared at it guiltily. I had meant to replace it with a sturdier grab bar designed for just such circumstances.  But, I hadn't.  I had been just too tired.  Now... here we were.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.  There's just no time to be tired in this household.  Now it was my turn to throw the pity party.

It was true, in a sense.  Not that she was ruining my life, certainly not that.  The multiple sclerosis was ruining our life together.  I hated it, this disease that turned our lives into a daily hell.  What had we done to deserve this?  What unfeeling god had pointed its finger in our direction?  Why us?  Why me?  Sure, I could choose to walk away from it all. The thought had even crossed my mind occasionally. Statistically, I'm in the minority among men.  It seems my gender is easily discouraged when faced with an unwelcome guest such as this.  Who would want a guaranteed life of turmoil? 

Something in me won't let me walk away, though.  We've come too far, loved too much and too well.  No, this woman on the floor before me deserved better.  True, she wasn't the woman I had run with through Golden Gate Park.  Not the woman serving cocktails at the Comedy Club in Long Beach, where this lonely sailor had caught her eye.  Yet, she was.  It's hard to explain.  This woman still had the same wry sense of humor, the same love of old movies, the same gleam in her eyes.  She had changed, yes.  But, so much of her was still there, and she shared it with me every day.


"Honey, we're where we are.  That's all," I answered.  "You're not the reason life sucks.  You're one of the bright spots.  You're the reason I go on.  You haven't ruined my life.  M.S. has caused us some problems but, nothing that warrants," I spread my hands out helplessly, "this."

She looked at me for a long while, not saying a word.  It seemed like forever in that small, unventilated bathroom.  I had an aching back, quivering arms, mushy legs, sweat-soaked clothes, and still she looked at me.  My wife.  The woman I had sworn to love, honor and cherish in sickness and in health.  There had been a lot more of the former than the latter.


I tried to read her thoughts from the expressions on her face.  I saw hurt.  I saw anger and futility.  I saw her soften.  She seemed to be thinking much the same thoughts as I was.  Maybe not the specifics.  Maybe she was thinking of our walks along North Beach or China Town.  All those wonderful times before M. S.

Maybe she was thinking of times more recent.  That was entirely possible…there were many.  Sure, the spur of the moment outings were a thing of the past.  But the spark was still there.  The fun still there.  We still laugh at the same jokes and I still screw up the same meals, try though I might to get them right.  Our lives have changed irrevocably, but the warmth remains.  These things, no doubt, were what she was thinking.


"Honey, tell me you still love me," she pleaded. My heart skipped.  Yes!  "Yes, I do.  I love you more than ever.  You know that, don't you?" "Yes, I guess I do.  I don't know why, but you do."  She looked up at me, still hurt, still weak, but with a new determination.  "Well, let's do this.  Where do you want me?"

I grinned and motioned to the bedroom.  "Well...." She smiled back and slapped my leg. "You've got a one track mind, mister!"  She laughed.  It sounded like a song to me.  "How 'bout a rain check on that one?" "Deal!"

The kite was once again dancing in the breeze.

B.R. Wright

----------

(Kite Season is reprinted by written permission of Chicken Soup for the Caregiver's Soul. To learn more about this book and caregiving issues, contact the co-author, LeAnn Thieman, professional speaker, author, and nurse at her website.)

This is a true story by the author. Have you and your spouse experienced such an event? I know that Carol and I have. And you know what? Humor seems to win out every time. I am sure that many of you have similar heart warming stories to tell our readers -- would you share them with us? 

WORDS TO CARE BY . . .

"Humor is the great thing, the saving thing.

The minute it crops up, all our irritations and resentments

slip away and a sunny spirit takes their place."

Mark Twain (1835-1910)

 


Bill Andrew identifies himself as a former “nutritionally-empowered Alzheimer’s caregiver” who attributes the slow-down in progression of Alzheimer’s disease in his wife, Carol – and the growth of his own personal emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual capability and strength to provide quality 24/7 care for her in their own home – to the targeted nutritional supplements they both took on a daily basis. Carol went to her Heavenly reward on June 9, 2008 – Bill continues on to advocate for family caregivers. Contact Bill with your caregiving questions and comments via email at ASKBill@caregivershome.com.

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© 2005 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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