Watching Out the Window…
When a statutory holiday offers a three-day weekend, it doesn’t always create anticipation of a good time. Circumstances may keep us on the inside looking out, especially if health issues confine us to barracks.
Caregivers sometimes suffer bittersweet memories of fun days long past, including family get togethers. When the list of visitors becomes short, our days and nights get longer.
Mustering endurance and replenishing courage isn’t easy. My brother sent a text last night that read “(if) an opportunity presents itself, go for it if feasible”. With summer nearing its end it’s essential to try and arrange some downtime for ourselves. Respite for our loved ones feels wrong, but if caregivers fall down in the traces acute complications arise. Everyone one who feels backed into a corner brought on by health issues earns kudos for caring – and that includes self care. Research the options, evaluate as objectively as possible and make an opportunity to not be watching out the window.
Last evening I went with a galpal to see the newest movie release of Mamma Mia. Aside from the music and lyrics of ABBA, there was surprisingly more to take home.
ABBA was Tony’s top favourite, in younger years he could dance the night away with sheer joy, and we shared many laughs about him being the Dancing Queen. Even the wine-glass clip around the stem of his usual sipping source bore that label. Mine was Boat Tramp, and my sister’s read Shoe Addict. We were Larry, Moe and Curly for sure.
I’m the last man standing, and hold them dear to my heart. Unexpectedly the familiar music reminded me of the empty space, and being a weeper of the nth degree, I snuffled. Quietly of course,hoping nobody would notice. Even today I feel emotional, it’s awhile since I’ve been ambushed so thoroughly.
So what’s on the stereo now? ABBA of course, and I’m smiling and celebrating those days when Tony rocked and rolled.
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
― Brené Brown
As I sat alone today at the back of a small church, feelings of joy overcame sadness. The pews slowly filled with reverent parishioners, people scooched along the smooth wood whenever they heard a new hesitant question whispered. “Is anyone sitting here?” By 1:45 it was standing room only and latecomers overflowed into the foyer.
When the organ swelled with melody a stillness suffused the air, sinking our shoulders with softness and peace. The minister ascended to her place, her white robe floating as soft as an angel’s wing. She welcomed everyone, and looked straight at me in the last row. There was no way of knowing, until she spoke the words, that I was sitting in the exact spot Nicole preferred. The occasion today was Nicole’s funeral.
A brocade cushion lay next to me. I wondered if it was her cushion.At first I wanted to shrink away, but I touched it instead. Red with gold, piped edges, square, and those ties you recognize on kitchen chairs when the seat is tied to the back rungs. I heard the minister speaking words about how Nicole’s roots spread deep, growing into a sturdy courageous tree that inspired everyone with its grace and beauty. The pattern on the cushion is soft-edged leaves and tender young limbs; to my eyes every thread was utterly symbolic.
Before today’s service I felt certain that I had moved through the stages of grief. Unexpected ambushes of emotion aren’t so fierce or frequent nowadays. But there it was, next to me, Nicole’s cushion in Nicole’s place. My weeping heart overflowed, overwhelmed with emotion. In that brief moment I gave thanks for the magic of an unknowing blunder that warmed into a full special connection.
Logically, I may never again see a red and gold brocade cushion, but the beautifully spoken words are etched in my mind.
Commitment to each other and the power of love.The ring on your finger and fulfilling a dream. Happy days. Reiterated between today’s enchanted and deliriously happy bride and groom. They are looking forward, many of us are looking back with full hearts. When you’re caregiving for a spouse it’s hard to feel starry-eyed sometimes, I shed a few tears watching the Royal Wedding. Missing what once was but also celebrating who we were.
It’s All a Puzzle
A television documentary this week impacted me when I followed the dedication and resourcefulness of the caregiver, a young woman whose husband has Multiple Sclerosis. Two of Alice Cook’s quotes resonated. “I just don’t think about the emotional side,” she says. “You get numb because you’re so busy. I literally don’t have time to be sad. I just stay on task.”
According to Cook, it also helps “to approach things as a puzzle or a game rather than as something to get you down.”
From my perspective staying on task throughout the caregiver’s journey, and after, is a two-fold assignment. We do what we have to do as best we can, not with resignation but with devotion. It’s often a hard slug, magnified by the inevitable end. Now and then though, a whisper of a smile or shared moment that feels truly special.
Our footsteps take a new path when we break our own trail through and over unfamiliar obstacles. The new assignment is recovery and renewal. This is where I feel that recognizing our progress through the Stages of Grief is empowering, when we use our wits to grow and move forward. Part of my ebb and flow is feeling needy, though I have a circle of loving friends and family.
Kudos to Alice Cook for her objective solution “to approach things as a puzzle or a game rather than as something to get you down.” I think of a game as an activity that brings both satisfaction and mirth, in contrast to working our way through a maze to solution. It’s all a puzzle.
…Let the world slip away
On this almost perfect afternoon
Can’t we stay in bed all day?
Just this one day
This golden Sunday with you
On this sunny Sunday it is, as the lyrics go, an almost perfect afternoon. With Molly Johnson’s “Messin’ Around” CD jazzing up my space, I’m thinking about how time ebbs and flows, seems to stop momentarily when our breath catches in our throat, and then we breathe again. When the work of care giving becomes dreary, the seconds, minutes and hours seem to move too slowly.
Here’s an excerpt from my memoir, Dear Tony…a Caregiver’s Journey:
“I was aware that Alzheimer’s disease was sometimes described as “the long goodbye”. Like other caregivers, I mourned as events unfolded – rather than jailing my pain till the end. Some days it was like watching paint dry.”
Somehow the resilience of spirit keeps us plodding forward; we know in our hearts that this temporary assignment will have an end date. A new assignment begins then with different work. Everyone handles grief differently, and despite my urge to reach out to a new widow, I reserve my impulse and pledge to watch her grow into a new self.
My niece gave me a butterfly-shaped sun catcher for Christmas. The words etched on the pendant are inspiring and encouraging, even on this sunny Sunday when I’ve been ambushed by emotion.
Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.
The promise catches my breath in my throat. After all, we are part of nature’s ever-changing cycles, sprouting with renewal now and waiting for spring.
Despite using a ruler and measuring, I somehow can’t draw a straight line. Might it be that my own horizon is crooked?
Today, February 14th, I dislike the Valentine’s aspect, because my heart is still bereft.
The logic behind reverently unwrapping the two small bears with heart-shaped angel wings seemed questionable; they were a gift from Tony. He is gone but the bears are still here.
This morning I set them atop the fireplace mantle and said aloud “Happy Valentine’s Day, Tony.” This evening I will enfold them in white tissue paper once again and place them in the bottom drawer of my dresser. They are small bears, one pink and one red. I love them for sentimental reasons.
A gal pal is teaching me the principles of hand-crafting greeting cards. It’s painstaking work, made worse yesterday when I tried to replicate the cover picture of a coffee table book for a Happy Hearts card. The sunset scene was a simple one, two colours on dark blue cardstock. Alas, the horizontal dark strip, pasted on to define where the earth meets the sky, looked wider at one end than the other.
Though hardly discernible, I could see without doubt that my own perspective is off-kilter when looking to the horizon.