Sometimes, okay – most of the time, as a caregiver I feel like I just stick out in life. It feels like I don’t really fit anywhere or with anybody. There are a few places we go – most of them necessary and I just learn to adjust, adapt and advance. Such is life right now. Even though we do get out more – and I’m getting out more specifically since we finally have a decent aide, it still feels like I’m just out of sync with the world. My life is just different period and all I can do is make the best of it.
There are many negatives that I could focus on. For instance, it’s not easy navigating around with Chris and is oversize chair. I used to be embarrassed by his drooling. And I feel socially dwarfed in most situations because of the lack of social activities. Add to that things like trying to find a spot to park our handicap van where I don’t inconvenience others (I fondly call it our “tank”.) and I can be emotionally drained just from going out. I only mention these because they are things that caregivers just have to deal with – and just have to get over.
But the other day I took the tank in for an oil change. First of all the attendant was very friendly. I had a coupon for the oil change and he pointed to the price and said that was correct but if the van needed more than 5 quarts of oil it would be $8 or $9 more. I asked him if he knew how much I could get a quart of oil for at Walmart. (I don’t shop there any more btw!) I said, “I’ll tell you what then. You put 5 quarts in for that price and tell me if it needs another quart – I’ll add a quart at home!” He told me he would cover it for me not to worry about it! lol But he was just so friendly and kind. He has no idea how his whole demeanor affects others in a positive way.
Then I went inside the store and grabbed a free coffee and sat. Pretty soon about 4 of us older ladies had gathered. I don’t even know how the conversation got started, but we all started talking about washing machines. (Real wisdom right there, huh?) One lady said she had just replaced her washing machine that she’d had for 40 years! We all chimed in about how things used to last and how you could repair them yourself back in the day. I started to check my facebook or something but I decided I didn’t want to compromise this moment with these ladies I would never see again. It was such an enjoyable conversation about nothing really. We didn’t build relationship, we didn’t discuss politics or changing the world we just talked about our experience with washing machines. lol
We even talked about the old school wringers like my Auntie Pat used to have. We laughed and decided we’d prefer the computerized models of today. We talked about hanging out clothes to dry. So many memories were crammed into this 15 minute spontaneous conversation among strangers. I noticed at one point a young lady came in and looked around. She stood there for a minute and then left. As I was driving away I noticed she was setting outside alone and her cell phone had all her attention. I felt sorry that she couldn’t glean anything from our conversation about nothing important. Because it meant so much to me. I left there feeling light and cheery; and I didn’t even know why.
I thought about it for quite some time and think I know what happened. For just a minute or two – I wasn’t a caregiver – these ladies knew nothing about me. I was just a person – just like them. I’m sure they each have their struggles too because they were breathing just like me. We talked about nothing and it was beautiful. I’ve given up hope of ever being normal whatever that looks like. But for a moment I almost felt human again!
As a caregiver people don’t know what to talk about with you for some reason. I really don’t want to talk about caregiving all the time… there’s more to me than that….I think. I have a good friend who comes by now and then and brings me coffee and we visit. It always makes my day! We talk about anything and everything and it takes me out of caregiving for a bit – and is refreshing.
If you know a caregiver – give them a call. Take them some coffee. Take them a magazine or book or even a movie that would interest them. And then talk about it. They probably still like to play cards other games. Their likes didn’t change – just their situation. They have given up all that stuff for a couple of reasons. First, there really isn’t always time. Secondly, everyone stopped playing with them…so it’s easier to just cut it from their lives.
Caregivers are giving their lives for someone they love. But they are still alive, still human and still have hopes, dreams and desires. Don’t bury them by ignoring them. The social isolation that comes with the caregiving package is one of the most damaging aspects of the journey. Some of that is because even when we are out in social settings we’re still not like everyone else. It’s difficult to watch others be uncomfortable with who you are. I am to the point I don’t care really – I will try to stay out of your way- but you have some adjustments to make if I am in your way.
Go love a caregiver today. James said that pure religion and undefiled before God is to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction; and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. Caregivers are not necessarily widows or fatherless but I think they fit into this category. They are separated from normalcy and social interaction for the most part. It’s not that it’s a command – but it’s just something nice to do outside your box. I would suggest to visit anyone out of your norm. Perhaps you know of someone who is in a nursing home, a hospital or otherwise home bound. Maybe they can’t attend your worship service. Maybe they no longer want to – because of how awkward they make you appear.
Christianity wasn’t designed to be lived out inside the four walls of the church. Keith Green sang, Jesus told us to “go” it should be the exception if we stay. Do some true ministry today and go love on someone who is hurting – you’ll be surprised how much healing it brings to you.