Come on. Admit it. Aren’t there times in your life when you feel like running down the street screaming, “Stop the world; I want to get off!”? Yeah, me too.
As an overwhelmed caregiver to a very sick and disabled husband, I find myself with not enough hours in the day, not enough strength, not enough sleep, and sometimes not enough character to do what must be done.
I am not Superwoman or Florence Nightingale. At times, I’m not even myself.
Instead, I’m two people. With Frank unable to do the things I took for granted for so long, I have taken over the bill paying, lawn mowing, car servicing, insurance battles, trash taking out, household repairs, making sure our car lot stays solvent, and all that other “man stuff” from which women of my generation once had exemption.
It’s not so bad. The term “empowering” comes to mind. But, add to that list the grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, housecleaning (which is worse with an invalid), dish washing, telephone answering, dog walking, and my very favorite task of babysitting my 2-year-old grandchild. Then throw in five hospital stays with Frank since July and trips back and forth to the nursing home.
I have no time for my friends, my dogs, or my 93-year-old mother. I barely have time for a shower.
There is such a thing as respite services for caregivers, but, according to my family, I have chosen martyrdom. That explains why I’ve slept in almost every chair on the third and fourth floors of Fort Walton Beach Medical Center. I’m currently sleeping in one as I write this.
But enough of that.
In the midst of burden after burden, I have experienced an overwhelming of a different sort — human kindness and comfort.
Last Sunday, in church, as I sat during prayer, feeling sorry for myself, I felt the soft weight behind me of hands on my shoulders. The hands remained there as the prayer leader lifted up my name, petitioning God to strengthen and sustain me and to grant His healing to Frank. I don’t know for sure whose kind hands embraced my shoulders, but that human touch applied something soothing to my weary soul.
Later, in the week, I took the time to open emails and found several notes from Frank’s former colleagues at Fort Walton Beach High School and fellow charter boat captains, all wishing him well and adding kind words for me.
Then there are those grocery store moments when I chance upon a friend who takes the time to ask about me and Frank with genuine caring and offers of “If I can do anything …” There really isn’t anything, but the conversation is like good medicine for my fading spirits.
And, as predictably, as there will be a rainbow over Destin Bridge after a summer rain, I get a sweet “thinking of you” card from Ms. Betty (Boop) Horton. I like how she begins her notes, not with Dear Mary or Dear Frank, but with the “Dear” after the name, as in Mary Dear. Miss Betty is Destin’s first lady of thoughtful greeting cards, and they always arrive when you most need words of comfort and cheer.
A few nights ago, while scrubbing blood stains (Don’t ask) off the kitchen floor, the phone rings. I really don’t want to be bothered because I’m busy and irritated. But I’m not one to let a ringing phone go unanswered.
ME: (grumpy) “Hello”
Pleasant Voice: “Hi, Mary, so are you snowed in tonight?”
Pleasant Voice: “I heard on the news that South Dakota is getting snow”
ME: (grumpy) “This is Florida, and it’s raining here.”
Pleasant Voice: “Isn’t this Mary?”
ME: (puzzled) “Yes.”
Pleasant Voice: “I must have the wrong Mary. Sorry to have bothered you” (sensing I’m frazzled) “Are you OK?”
ME: (stunned) “No”
So, then I begin to tell Pleasant Voice over the phone how things are going with me. After 20 minutes, I feel calm and encouragement from a stranger who accidentally (or maybe not) dialed my number. Thank you, Marianne.
One particular act of kindness came from a friend on Facebook. He claims to be an atheist (but he’s not a very good one) and yet he wrote about my struggles and hard times, requesting friends to PRAY for me.
Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.