A SURVIVAL MANUAL

FOR CAREGIVERS OF ALL KINDS

 

A humorous and tender book

to help the care-er and the care-ee do it right.

 

By Danny E. Morris


 

 

 

A Survival Manual for Caregivers of all Kinds

by Danny E. Morris

All rights reserved

 

No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner whatsoever without express written permission from the publisher or author except for brief quotations included in critical articles or reviews.

For permission please contact the author – Danny@SpiritsLaughing.com.

 

Technical production:  Dandy Lewis

Cartoons:  David Carpenter


 

Dedication

To

Beth and Alan,

Susan and David,

Diana and Patrick,

and the nine wonderful grandchildren they have given us:

Graeme, Kelsey, and Tanner;

Will, Luke, and Joseph; and

Ross, Anna Claire, and Carson.

When they were born, we almost had five sets of twins in a row:

In each case, we missed by only one!


 

Table of Contents

Introduction. 5

Survival Manual for Caregivers of all Kinds. 5

Part One – The Tribute Part 7

A Tribute to Caregivers of All Kinds. 7

Part Two – The Humor Part 12

Indigenous Humor in Caregiving. 12

Part Three – The Laughter Part 26

The Anatomy of Laughter 26

Part Four – The Practical Part 31

Practical Matters in Caregiving. 31

Part Five – The Forgiveness Part 37

The Important Matter of Forgiveness in Caregiving. 37

Part Six – The Tender Part 42

Survival Stories. 42

 


Introduction

Survival Manual for Caregivers of all Kinds

 

Part One is a tribute to caregivers of all kinds. I have been a caregiver, but this is not an effort to give a "pat on the back" to people like me. It is a salute to people like you who may yet be in a heavy caregiving relationship, or still reeling from one.

 

Part Two focuses on humor that is indigenous to caregiving: humor that has come from specific caregiving relationships (mine and other people's). Humor helps make survival possible during long-running or deep caregiving relationships. Even tiny touches of humor become gifts of grace along the way. It is during such crises that humor is accorded its highest credentials of authenticity and provides actual power to help us survive.

Š      Humor is like a cushion between hard surfaces.

Š      It is like lotion that keeps people from chafing.

Š      Humor is a pressure release;

Š      A situation softener;

Š      An antidote for hurts;

Š      Humor often provides a refreshing change of pace.

Part Three explores the anatomy of laughter.  Humor, frequently leading to laughter, may be expressed in many ways.  The biggest payoff may be to view the different levels of laughter as potential ways to experience and express your humor within the broad sweep of your ongoing caregiving challenge.

Part Four is about practical matters in caregiving.  We are reminded that serving as a caregiver is not just fun and games.  There are some practical matters that may help to lighten the load of the "care-er" and the "care-ee." This section of the manual will be more significant than it first appears if you allow it to prompt you to initiate additional practical procedures in your caregiving.

Part Five considers the important (and heavy) matter of forgiveness in caregiving.

Part Six presents tender stories of and about caregiving survivors.  For more than five years, I have been looking for caregiving survival stories, not in books and magazines, but in people I know and meet.  Every story I have reviewed had distinct touches of tenderness; each was soul-rending for the writer (and for me); and each story was triumphant.

Why shouldn't they be? These are stories of survivors of a tough challenge or an outright ordeal that was life-changing.  It was difficult to select only a few unique stories to include in this manual.

Since there is no grid or scientific guidelines, the stories were subjectively selected for any number of reasons, including humor, feeling/tone, and transparency.

Humor in a caregiving story is a special gift—especially to the caregiver. The feeling/tone of a story helps get on the inside of the situation being chronicled.  In some of the stories, transparency makes it possible to look beyond the difficult circumstances of an episode to a spiritual reality.  The humor, the feeling/tone, and the transparency helped make it possible for these caregivers to survive. They didn't make it through the valley of their individual shadow by sheer grit or determination, or by simply outliving their caregiving responsibility, or through superhuman effort, or never-failing strength.

Rather, while these caregivers contended with the other person who was given to their care, there was Another, who walked the entire journey with them.  “Successful” caregiving is not just about Who, What, Why, and How, it is also about With Whom. Although there were days and days when they may not have felt that Holy Presence because of the weight of the assignment, there came days when that Presence was felt beyond any doubt.  Caregivers are survivors because a loving God is/was present and endured the ordeal with them.

God survived with them?  You bet!  God was with them before their caregiving challenge, perhaps even before they were aware of God’s Presence.  God was ever-present with them during what may have been the hardest thing they have ever faced. God was (is) not only good enough to do that. God is great enough to do that!


 

 

Part One – The Tribute Part

A Tribute to Caregivers of All Kinds

 

“The Who, Why, What, and Where of Caregiving.”

Who Is A Caregiver?

Mothers and Daddies

Professional Caregivers

Puppies

Two Reasons Why Caregivers Step Up To Serve

What Is A Caregiver?

Where Is A Caregiver?

 

Part One is a tribute to caregivers of all kinds. It is a salute to people like you, who may yet be in a heavy caregiving relationship or still reeling from one.

 

Caregivers come in just about all sizes, shapes, colors, nationalities, dispositions, and states of inexperience.  Some caregivers are new at it and some have been at it for a while.

 

Mothers (and daddies of course) are a special breed of caregivers.  Parental caregiving starts out in exhilaration (birth), may move back and forth from childhood illnesses, to wellness, to frenzied activities, to growing pains, to times of great pride and joy, to letting go, to setting free.

A mother soon discovers that it takes about eight minutes for a child to get sick.  Then the former fun-times become heavy-duty times, made up of long hours that may stretch over several days.

When more than one child is present, the mother must become flexible in caregiving, because there is the sick child, and one or more well ones, and Daddy—whether sick or not—who always expects and requires considerable expert caregiving, sometimes more than the sick child. (Caregiving for a daddy who becomes sick is multiplied exponentially.)

Daddies also step right up beside mothers as I did when Alan, who was eleven, broke his arm just above the wrist.  As the daddy, I was glad to be a dedicated caregiver.

One of my most memorable challenges was watching the removal of a surgical wire that had been inserted crosswise through the bones of Alan’s hand.  Because I get queasy when a Band-aid has to be removed, it was difficult for me watch the doctor trying to remove the wire with pliers, because when he cut the wire, he had left a small, un-noticed, crook in the end of the wire.

Alan began to scream! 

The doctor began to sweat!

I began to look for a door or to imagine where I could make one!

By then, it felt like not even a drop of blood remained in my head.  I held steady, though, because I had stepped up as a caregiver.  I refused to cut and run.  I stood firm. I bit the bullet, because I knew that when the wire finally came out, Alan would need his daddy to hold him and say, "It's going to be O.K., now!"  And I was right.

Almost any mother or daddy can use the following old limerick to summarize the wide variety of caregiving experiences that are called for within the family from time to time.

As a caregiver, I have been bawled out, balled up, held up, held down, bulldozed, blackjacked, walked on, cheated, squeezed, and mooched.

I have been stuck for war tax, excess profit tax, per capita tax, city tax, county tax, syntax, and thumb tacks.

War Bonds, Victory Bonds, and bonds of matrimony.

I have been asked to join BlueCross, Green cross, White cross, and Red Cross; And I’ve been double-crossed.

I have been asked to help the Society of John, the Baptist, G.A.R., men's relief, women's relief, stomach relief, and gastritis.

I have been sick and made others sick. I have worked hard and been worked hard. I have lost all I owned (and part of my furniture). And because, I will not lend or spend all of the little I earn, and go beg, borrow, or steal, I have been cussed and discussed, talked to, talked about, boycotted, and almost trimmed and ruined!

The only reason I’m sticking around is to see what’s coming next!

That says it for mothers and daddies! No doubt about it, they are among our best and most experienced caregivers.

There are also professional caregivers: doctors in general, nurses in particular, psychiatrists, ambulance drivers, and faithful puppy dogs.

The puppy's pay is plenty of food to eat, frequent and gentle stroking, and opportunities to sleep on the bed with the care-ee. (All other professional caregivers are paid at a higher scale—which doesn’t seem fair.) 

Non-professional caregivers include almost everyone else who attends a loved-one in any tough situation.

Because caregiving for the sick and wounded is usually so demanding, a person is fortunate who is sentenced only once at such hard labor.

I have been around the block a few times myself.  I remember dealing with: 

Š      standard hemorrhoids (before and during the "ectomy" stage),

Š      recurring sieges of bronchitis,

Š      sinusitis,

Š      tendonitis,

Š      a tonsillectomy,

Š      a hysterectomy,

Š      two car wrecks,

Š      four cases of old age (up to 104 ½),

Š      two broken bones on separate people,

Š      cancer and leukemia among friends,

Š      and a very bad case of diarrhea.

I have often wished for a chance to be a caregiver for someone who has a simple problem, like adolescent pimples, or ground-itch on one foot.

Yes, I have heaved, and heaved-ho as a caregiver.  I have been around the block and even up town a few times.

But actually, I have had only a little caregiving experience compared to several people who have shared with me their caregiving stories. Some of those stories are included in this manual. Their stories poured forth following a simple interview question: "Have you ever been a caregiver?"

Only a few people have not had an experience or a story to tell—and often those who spoke had to wipe away tears.

I have never interviewed anyone who volunteered out of the goodness of their heart to be a caregiver—except a Stephens Minister. But, no one ever does it on a lark.  No one has ever told me, "I am trying to decide if I will become a caregiver or go on vacation." Caregivers are usually: drawn into service, pushed into service, or drafted into service.

There are two reasons why they do it. The first reason is:   THEY HAVE TO!

You may hear them say, "Somebody has to do it." - "There is no one else." - "It is unthinkable to just walk away." - "I cannot stand by and do nothing.”

The second reason is:  THEY WANT TO!

Now, what is a caregiver?  TIRED!

Our cover picture symbolizes why the caregiver steps forward to serve. The one on the left symbolizes the care-er. The one on the right symbolizes the care-ee.  Notice the contentment, delight, and peace on the face of the one on the right. Even in difficult cases, there are moments like that for the care-ee, and, those wonderful moments—even if fleeting—keep the care-er going... and doing... and trying.  Such tender expressions of relief and a gentle smile—short or long—make it worth the required effort to be a genuine caregiver.

Where Is A Caregiver?

He or she is emotionally, mentally, or actually on the job almost all of the time. Even when the caregiver gets a break and can be away, she or he still feels on duty.

Caregivers are a wonderful sub-group within our society, but they are totally unorganized as a group.  It would be better if they were organized—had meetings to attend, had dues to pay, social outings to attend together, had a directory of pictures, addresses, phone numbers, and fax and e-mail lists.

They would at least have something else to think about rather than the same old stuff. They would not feel so trapped if they were in touch with a support group of other caregivers.  They should get on the Internet—just to expand their world and to confirm which century—to say nothing of which millennium—they wish to live in.  As individuals and as a group, caregivers need to be easily recognized and appreciated.

For three weeks after my wife Rosalie broke her arm and shoulder, I took vacation time so I could aid in her recovery.  One day she became nervous and discouraged because of her plight and pain.

For three weeks I had:

Š      vacuumed and kept the house,

Š      washed her hair,

Š      bathed her and the dog,

Š      rubbed her with lotion,

Š      washed and dried the clothes,

Š      written the checks and paid the bills,

Š      tried several times to balance the checkbook,

Š      cooked our meals,

Š      answered the phone,

Š      helped entertain visitors,

Š      kept up with who brought which casserole dishes,

Š      opened and poured and stirred all of her packs of “Sweet and Low,”

Š      and all of her little creamers for coffee like you get in restaurants,

Š      did the grocery shopping,

Š      bought her some Dental Floss on a stick (and tried to floss her teeth),

Š      hurt for her and often encouraged her.

There was no question about it.  I was fully employed!

But on that day, she hit bottom and began to cry.  She said, "I wish I had somebody who knows what I am going through."

When she said that, I suddenly felt like the proverbial horse that had been "rode hard and put up wet!"  I just looked at her and didn't say a word—aloud!  But to myself, I said, "Rosalie, for the past three weeks, do you think I have been playing Canasta?"

I thought it, but I didn't say it, because she was hurting inside and out.

If I had only belonged to a first-rate caregiver’s organization, I could have immediately written a check for my dues, and I would have felt like I had actually accomplished something.  I would have felt better on the spot.

No doubt about it caregivers definitely need to get organized!

 

Part Two – The Humor Part

Indigenous Humor in Caregiving

 

Intimacy For The Caregiver

Pass The Spaghetti

Caring With The Magic Pot

Two Are Better Than One All Of The Time

Preparedness

How To Keep A Leg In A Cast From Itching

How A Care-ee Can Keep Up With Who Brought Which Casserole Dish

Make Rules You Can Enforce

Red Flags For Potential Caregivers

How Granddaddy Prayed

Caring For Little Ones Can Be Risky

Every Little Bit Counts

Putting A Bra On Someone For The First Time

In The Caregiving Pit Of Despair

How A Caregiver Can Avoid Being Asked To Wash Clothes

A Caregiving Humorist

Caring For The Community

 

Part two focuses on humor that is indigenous to caregiving.  Humor helps make survival possible during long running, or deep caregiving relationships.  The following touches of humor came from ours, and other people’s caregiving experiences.

Note: Rosalie and I were surprised to find humor in a caregiving relationship, and that is where the idea for this Manual originated.  Because of Rosalie’s severely fractured arm and shoulder, both of us were looking for anything that could lighten our loads.  As we realized that humor could be found during such tough times—and how much it helped—we began to write about it just for ourselves.  By discovering humor, laughing, and writing about it, we began to “specialize” in humor, more and more.  We also began to learn how humor had helped other caregivers to survive.  Their stories and ours are interwoven here.

Intimacy For The Caregiver

The bottom line is - In the first few weeks of Rosalie’s recovery from a broken arm and shoulder there was not very much intimacy.

 

Pass The Spaghetti

A friend recounted how delighted he was that several people from his church decided to bring meals to him while his wife was in the hospital.

He gladly opened the door six times for six friends who brought him a covered-dish. Without them realizing it, all six individuals brought spaghetti.  He thought he would never eat all of that spaghetti.

Several nights later a neighbor invited him to dinner.  He said, "Thank you. I'd love to come, but please don't serve spaghetti."

The neighbor said, "I'm glad you told me because that’s what I was planning to have!”

 

Caring with the Magic Pot

Here is how you make a magic pot:  Take one grandmother and several grandchildren of assorted ages, an old cast iron pot, and a can of spray-paint.  Spray the pot; place it near the patio; fill it with several children’s treats—candies, cookies, new toys, and other fun games and things—and spread the word that Me Maw and Paw Paw have a magic pot.  That is all you need to do.  The children will come running and squealing.

Because it is filled with candy and other goodies and treats (or whatever), the little one will know on their first visit that it is a magic pot.

At age six, Will belonged to our magic pot generation.  One day he told me that he knew the pot was not magic.  He cautioned me not to tell the younger ones because they might spoil it for Me Maw.  “Me Maw really enjoys the magic pot,” he said.

I wanted to laugh out loud.  He had taken his Paw Paw into a six-year-old’s confidence.  He was very serious in his request for me to keep the secret.  He had shared a very important discovery, and I have helped him protect the secret from his cousins.  (He recently gave me permission to tell each of you who read this.)

 

Two Are Better Than One ALL Of The Time

by Rene’ Bideaux

My mother wears hearing aids, but often she can’t hear normal conversation.  When I visited, I suggested that her batteries probably needed changing.  She said, “You will need only one battery.  I changed the other one last week.”  (Her batteries last two weeks.  You can almost set your clock by it.)

I said, “Mother, why wouldn’t you replace both batteries at the same time?”

She said, “Why, son, if I change one battery every two weeks, I use only three batteries every month instead of four.”

“But Mother,” I said, “You always have one battery nearly used up, and that’s why you can’t hear well.”

“What did you say?”

 

Preparedness

by Dan Miller

A friend told me that preparedness is important when you are the caregiver parent on duty with four children while good ole’ Mom is away.

On the first day she’s away, the friend gets prepared by filling the bathtub almost full of water.  In order to keep everything in a ready state for washing, he makes sure that everything that gets dirty goes into the tub, such as plates, jeans, silverware, cups, tennis shoes, underwear - everything that he and the children use while “Mother is away.”

If Mom stays away more than four days, it is mandatory to add some soap to the water; a little bleach works fine for eventual odor control.  This technique greatly simplifies removing stubborn stains and dried food.  “We always wash everything on the day she comes home,“ my friend explained, “so we have everything spotless for her return!”

 

How To Keep A Leg In A Cast From Itching

Kelsey was five when she broke her leg in the middle of the summer.  She healed normally in four or five weeks.

When I asked if her cast caused her leg to itch, she said, “A little, but I can get rid of the itch every time it starts.  I just tap on my cast three time and say, ‘Itch, go away’ and it stops itching.”

“You mean—just tapping on the cast three times and saying, ‘Itch, go away,’ and it stops?”

Kelsey said, “That’s right. I tap on my cast three times and say, ‘Itch, go away’ and it stops.”

Try Kelsey’s method.  If it works for you (or someone you know), you will be itch-free.  If it doesn’t work, consider how many other things do not work for you, now that you are no longer five!

 

How A Caregiver Can Keep Up With Who Brought Which Casserole Dish

Š      At the door, thank everyone who brings all or part of a meal to your house.

Š      Enjoy all food brought to you and be thankful you didn’t have to cook it.

Š      Immediately write the name of each donor on a Post-it not and stick it to the bottom of each dish.

Š      When a dish is empty, put it into the dishwasher.

Š      Call the plumber to remove the chewed-up Post-it notes from your stopped-up dishwasher drain.

Š      Write the name of each item and who brought it, on a 3 x 5 card and put the cards away so no one will find them.

Š      Retrieve the cards from the open commode after you discover that two of your grandchildren played “toss the cards into the hat,” but used the commode instead.

Š      Enter the names of all donors in a ledger along with a description of the food the people brought.

Š      Discover that the grandchildren have been using your ledger for a coloring book and some of it is “no longer legible...”

Š      Make a computer list of the donors, dates, phone numbers, the kinds of food they brought, and a full description of all dishes according to size, type, weight, color, and taste of the food.

Š      Pull up your computer file for “Casseroles” and discover that you forgot to save it.

Š      Personally, take all casserole dishes to the church, place them together on a table and hope that all will recognize their dish, if and when they ever come to church again.

 

Make Rules You Can Enforce

by Dan Miller

Examples:

Š      Everyone quiet down when the driver is crying.

Š      Make no noises, with body parts, that I can hear.

Š      Make no visible gestures that will cause the police to stop us.

Š      Do not stick objects out of the window if you want them back.

Š      Do not remove your diaper without telling me.

Š      Never interrupt the driver when she/he is praying aloud.

Š      Never let me find anything in your room that must be fed.

Š      Never let anything into your room that must be fed, ever find me.

 

Red Flags For Potential Caregivers

by Dan Miller

After you agree to have a little visitor come over to play with your children, you will know you are in trouble, when:

Š      Her parents are eager to bring their child over, although a blizzard is predicted before supper.

Š      His parents cannot be pinned down on where they will be for the weekend, or when they will return.

Š      Parents of your little visitor say that, even though they are out of Ritalin, it is never needed during a weekend.

Š      A parent says, “We don’t have a thermometer, but we think Betsy’s fever has been down almost all day.”

Š      The only food your little guest will eat contains three or more types of refined sugar.

Š      A parent says, “This is the first time Albert has been away from us overnight.  Try to keep him from crying too much.”

Š      “I don’t mean to frighten you, but little George has been trying to run away, lately.  You may need to watch him.”

Š      “The only meat she will eat is a hot dog.”

Š      “I just realized I only brought one diaper but that may be all you will need.”

 

How Granddaddy Prayed 

 

After reaching age 84 ½, Rosalie’s father kept on living.  But for the last twenty years of his life (up to age 104 ½), he wanted to die.  As he put it, he was so old he was of “no account.”

Every night he prayed aloud two prayers that never changed.  First, he prayed that he could “go ahead and die.”  Then he prayed The Lord’s Prayer.  He was faithful and consistent in praying these two prayers.

After overhearing his prayers several nights in a row while we were visiting—and during other visits over a number of years—I said, “Granddaddy, each night you pray that you will die, and then you pray The Lord’s Prayer.  Since you keep getting older, is it possible that your second prayer is canceling out your first prayer?  After all, ‘Thy will be one on earth as it is in heaven’ is pretty heavy praying.”

He said, “You could be right.  I never thought about that.”  But he kept right on praying both prayers—and he kept right on living.

 

Caring-Giving For Little Ones Can Be Risky

by Dan Miller

You will know it will be a long visit when . . .

Š      Your little visitor says, “Do we have to eat this home-cooked stuff?”

Š      You are asked for chicken nuggets instead of Swiss steak.

Š      You discover that the little ones are painting their nails on the couch.

Š      When your little visitor says, “I’m afraid I’m beginning to get a little bored.”

Š      “Have you got anything I can do that’s fun?”

 

Every Little Bit Counts

While we were visiting Rosalie’s father, she insisted that she stay with him through the nights we would be there. This would give her two sisters some relief, and being a nurse she would stay at-the-ready for anything that might happen.

About the third night, he began to look unusual, and then he began to look bad. She pondered the situation for a while. Finally, she called her sisters to say, “Daddy is acting different! He has been restless for quite awhile and his breathing has become shallow and uneven. His color is not good. I think you better hurry, because it won’t be long!”

It took each of them about 25 minutes to dress and drive to the house. They arrived almost at the same time. They met in the darkness, joined hands, took deep breaths, and tip-toed through the door, expecting the worst.

They were stunned! They couldn’t believe it. Rosalie was lying on the cot in the corner, snoring up a storm, and Granddaddy was on his bed trying to out-snore Rosalie.

Her sisters burst into side-splitting laughter. Rosalie awoke because of their uncontrollable laughter—and finally, Granddaddy roused up saying, “What are you laughing about?”

Among their comments through their continued laughter were, “Rosalie, we are so glad we left you in charge so you could stay right on top of things,” and “Did you learn to snore like that in nurses’ training?”

Granddaddy lived through that night, and a few hundred others—or another year and a half. He died at age 104 ½. We decided to always mention the “half” because when someone lives beyond one hundred years, every little bit count.

 

Putting A Bra On Someone For The First Time 

(One of our most exciting times.)

Because of her broken arm and shoulder, Rosalie could not put on her bra.  She finally bought a special bra with shoulder straps with Velcro fasteners, a continuous strap across the back, and odd-looking fasteners in front in the middle of “everything.”

When I saw the bra stretched out on the bed, I chuckled.  I had never seen anything like it.  It looked like a kite that needed to be assembled.  I thought, If the wind ever gets into that apparatus it could lift her right off of the ground.

Although the bra was odd looking, Rosalie began to explain and demonstrate.  I suddenly became interested to the point of fascination.  I silently thought, this could be all right!

She asked if I thought I could put the bra on her.  I assured her that I would certainly like to try.

At first, I fumbled around a good bit—trying to figure it out, don’t you know!  She quickly got impatient with my incompetence.

“Why don’t you hurry?”

“Well, I’ll tell you; it’s sorta hard to keep my mind on what I’m doing.”

I asked, “Do I Velcro these straps together or do they fasten to something else on your body?”  She didn’t appreciate my laughter.

I said, “Dear, this is the very first time I have actually tried to put a bra on somebody.”  (She didn’t think that was as funny as I did.)

She asked, “Why are you sweating so much?”

I said, “Well, this is a big job.”

When I was almost finished, I stood in front of her and began trying to smooth everything to see if all was rounded out and properly settled into place, (if you get my drift.)

She said, “Danny, what are you doing?”

Rather sheepishly I smiled and said, “You know!”

She said, “Well, stop it!”

I tried to reassure her, “Anytime you want me to do this again, just say the world and I will get right on it!”

She walked away, shaking her head probably not reassured.  That was the last time she wore her collapsible bra for some time.  I can’t imagine why she waited so long to ask me again to put the bra on her.

After about five weeks from the first fitting, she wanted me to put the funny-looking bra on her again.  It was a little easier this time—or was I more experienced or less distracted?

I put the bra on her and left for work—just as the window-washer arrived.  By about 10:00 o’clock, the Velcro had tightened up and the bra became uncomfortable.  Since she couldn’t reach the fasteners, she told me later, she sat on the side of the bed, thinking “Let’s see now, should I call Danny to drive twenty-three miles home just to loosen this bra?  Or, shall I just ask the window-washer to do it?  I probably could ask him, because he seems like a nice man.  But, I probably shouldn’t because he working by the hour!

 

In the Caregiving Pit of Despair

Caregiving is sometimes relaxed and rather casual.

Caregiving is often nerve-racking, taxing, and just plain hard work.

Caregiving can, on occasion, be terrible and can put both parties into a deep pit of despair.

The third occasion mentioned above happened to me for a continuous period of four days.  At the time, I thought they were the worst four days of our forty-year marriage, and I am still convinced they were!

After we came to this side of that four-day pit, we went for Rosalie’s regular visit to her doctor.  I said, “Doctor, could we get a prescription for some nerve pills?”

He said, “She doesn’t look like she need nerve pills.”

I said, “I am the one who needs nerve pills!”

That day, I learned that Rosalie’s strong medication had caused her to have that very difficult time.  I was greatly encouraged to know what had caused her problems.

After reflecting on the four-day stretch, I am willing to bet that when a care-er and a care-ee go through tough times, there is an identifiable cause.  It is certainly worth the effort to try to find the cause; if there is one, you want to know what it is.

 

How A Caregiver Can Avoid Being Asked To Wash Clothes Again

 

Š      Take all of the clothes to be washed down to the laundry room.

Š      Separate the dark clothes into one pile and light clothes into another.

Š      Put Clorox into the water before you put the white clothes into the machine.

Š      Put the dark clothes into the machine, and without thinking, pour Clorox over the dark clothes.

Š      Quickly realize your dumb mistake in Step 4 and try to rinse all of the dark clothes by hand before it is too late.

Š      Finally, get up enough courage and come clean by telling what you just did.

Š      Allow yourself enough time to fully heal from all injuries incurred from telling the care-ee about your error.

Š      Don’t ever make the mistake of washing either light or dark clothes again!

 

A Caregiving Humorist

 

Since I was among the first half-dozen passengers on the plane, I lost no time settling into my aisle seat to continue a copy-editing project.  Soon after the door was shut, a woman stopped in the aisle beside me.

She said, “That is my seat by the window.”

I said, “I’ve been waiting for you.”

She made no response on her way to getting seated.

Unconsciously, I tabbed her as grumpy and returned to my work. For well over an hour, we were not there for each other.

She finally pierced the cellophane curtain between us and said, “You have really been busy.  What are you working on?”

“I’m editing a manuscript.”

“What kind of work do you do?” she asked.

With the intention of teasing her, I said, “I’m a humorist.  A storyteller.  And I do a little stand-up.”  (All of which is true.)

She suddenly became fascinated and warmed up.  She asked where I was going and if I would be doing that (stand-up comedy) in California?

I told her I would be attending an Academy for a week, and that I would be doing some humor, some story-telling, and some stand-up, which I usually do wherever I am.

She chuckled!

Within a minute or so after returning to my editing, I laughed as though I had read something funny in the manuscript.

She laughed with me.

After another reading pause, I laughed again, and she laughed again.

I expected her to ask what I was laughing about, but she didn’t.  I was fascinated with her response to my source-less humor.  She was really enjoying it.

I realized that I was a humorist to her as I was just sitting there laughing intermittently.  She was enjoying it and so was I.  A new story was unfolding within me.  It got better and better as I realized that she was not going to ask what I was laughing about—but was content to laugh because I was “a humorist” and because I was laughing.  That seemed to be enough for her.

I continued my editing, laughing occasionally, and she laughed each time, but she never asked what caused me to laugh.  I thought I should have a short joke ready just in case she asked, but she never did.  That she laughed each time I laughed, but didn’t ask why, was one the things I began to laugh about.

My definition of a caregiver was enlarged.  I began to conjecture that earlier, she was anxious because she was running late.  She had feared missing the plane.  Because she arrived just before the door was closed accounted for her being short with me, and all but ignoring me when she sat down.  Later, when she had time to cool off, she warmed up and became friendly and outgoing.  I was like a caregiver to her in lightening her spirits.  She began to enjoy my humor—staged though it was.

She was also a caregiver to me.  I often fancy myself as a humorist and wish to be known as a story-teller.  Even so, it was unusual for me to let loose my fantasy that day and to actually claim to be a humorist.  I had never done that before.  As she responded to my laughter with her own laughter, I took delight, and the experiment became more and more humorous to me. For a while, I felt like a real humorist, spelled with a capitol ”H.”

Caregivers?  Yes, both of us to each other.

When we landed, she walked out of the plane immediately behind me.  I laughed a couple of times on the way out and she laughed with me.  I imagined she told whoever met her that she sat by the funniest man—a Humorist, of all people.  I imagine she told how much fun she had—laughing—and how good she was feeling. 

(Why can’t I imagine her saying that to someone?  After all, this is my fantasy!)

 

Caring for The Community

by Richard Roberson
 told in what he describes as the language of his childhood up-bringin’.

 

I was born and raised in St. Joseph, in the middle of Tennessee.  I lived there from early 1940 through the ‘60’s.  Everybody there had forty acres and a mule.  That’s how everyone made a living.  In this little town there were 518 people.  About 1960, Mr. Henry Perry moved away with his sixteen kids.  Another family or so had already moved, and when Mr. Henry moved, that just ruined our census.  It knocked us down to under 500, and that ruined our school system.  We had eight grades in the grammar school and what we wanted was eight teachers.  When Mr. Henry moved away, we ended up with eight grades but only six teachers.  So we had to combine the first and second and the third and forth grades.  You had to scrap to make a good grade ‘cause the teacher didn’t have a whole lots of time to spend with ya’.

We had a State Senator named Marvin Bryant.  He cared a lot about St. Joe.  He was trying his best to get St. Joe on the map.  He knew some people that worked for T.V.A.  You know T.V.A. was a big entity in that part of the world.  People who worked for T.V.A. made lots of money.  They had a car.  We didn’t have a car, but people who worked for T.V.A. had a car.

Mr. Marvin said, “What we really need in St. Joe is a fire truck.  Man, we have houses burnin’ to the ground here, and we need a fire truck.”  Mr. Marvin knew a feller who worked somewhere down in Alabama.  The man knew lots about used fire trucks. 

The man found one, up in Virginia.  That thing had twenty-four cylinders in it.  It ran on twelve and pumped water on twelve.  They had never heard of anything like that.  Several men got together and went to Virginia and brought it back.  The big red fire truck had letters on the side, and them big hoses, and all them brass fittins’.

They didn’t have a city hall or nothin’ like that.  They roped a place off right in the middle of town and kept the fire truck there for quite awhile.  Some feller rented ‘em a building for $40.00 a month and that’s where they kept the fire truck from then on.

Sarge Wilford had retired from the Army and moved there to St. Joe.  He worked in the fire department in the United States Army.  He knew how to train people on puttin’ out a fire.

So, they got a volunteer fire department together.  Little Bud Springer and Big Bud Springer, and Elmer Lee Chandler, and Mr. Walter Shelton.  Mr. Walter worked for T.V.A. somewhere down in Alabama.  He was a good man.  A smart man!  Well, he worked for T.V.A., for goodness sake.

The first thing they had to do was raise money because they needed some coats and some hats that turned around backwards to keep hot coals from going down ya’ neck—like we had any office buildin’ or anything—but the whole town made up the money.  We passed the hat at all the ball games ‘cause we really wanted them coats and big fire hats for our firemen.  People from all over took up money everywhere.  Mr. Marvin come into town and he helped raise money.  He had Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt playin’ music there.  They drawed a big crowd.  Took up three or four hundred dollars, tryin’ to get everybody one of them fire hats and a coat so they would be safe when they was’ fightin’ them fires.

Mr. Sarge Wilford was trainin’ ‘em how to use that truck.  They would drive it down to the mule barn.   The mule barn was built on a creek.  Sarge would take Little Bud Springer and Big Bud Springer, and Elmer Lee Chandler, and Mr. Walter Shelton, who had a lot of sense.  He worked for T.V.A., for good ness sake!

First, they made a lot of dry runs.  Sarge said, “Listen, this is a serious piece of equipment.  You know it pumps on twelve cylinders.  That’s a powerful thing you’ve got here.”  They had a big old hose.  That thing was three or four inches in diameter.  It took two men to hold the end of it just to hook it up.  Had a brass nozzle on it with a big handle.

They got in two or three little scuffles ‘cause everybody wanted to hold the end of the nozzle to spray water on the fire.

Finally, one day Sarge said, “We’re goin’ to throw the other end of this hose in the mule barn culvert, where the creek runs, and we’re goin’ to pump some water.  Point this thing up stream.”  Billy Ray and Elmer was on the front end of it.  Little Bud Springer was supposed to run the hose out there while holdin’ the nozzle.

Sarge timed ‘em, because in a volunteer fire department, you had to be quick.

All you could see on Billy Ray and Elmer was teeth—all forty-five or so teeth they had between them.  There were grinnin’ wide open.  Now this was a commercial fire truck.  Somebody turned that thing on and Billy Ray and Elmer Lee found that holdin’ that hose was a four-man job.  They didn’t know what to expect and didn’t know how to hold on.  It beat them all over that highway.  It injured two or three of the volunteers.  They had to call in a doctor for sprained ankles, bruises, and cuts.

Sarge had to start all over again, teachin’ his volunteer fire department. They worked and worked all summer.  They finally got enough knowledge that that they felt like they knew how to use the truck.

Then they had to raise money to get a si-reen.  It wasn’t a siren; it was a si-reen.  They put it high up on a pole so everybody could hear it when it went off.  The deal was that when they had a fire in town, whoever first knew about it would run up there and set that thing off.  All of these volunteers who had been trained by Sarge Wilford, that had been schooled by Mr. Walter Shelton, could hear that si-reen, and they would run down there and get that truck and go put the fire out.

It was a good volunteer fire department; a lot of good, carin’ people.  They were doin’ it for the community.

Of course, the truck had a water reservoir—three or four hundred gallons of water.

Everything was ready.  To tell you the truth, I think everybody was prayin’ for a fire.  They were ready!  They had their hats, they had their big coats that firemen wear.  They had a fire truck, and they knew what to do with it.

Somebody said, “Now, when we have a fire, I’ll drive the truck to the fire.”  The whole bunch nearly got in another fight.  Sarge finally was able to bring calm to the place.  He said, “Now listen, I trained everybody.  It ought to be me drivin’ the truck.  I’m the only one that’s got any experience ‘cause I was in the United States Army.”

Mr. Walter Shelton would have none of that!  He said, “Now listen, for all practical purposes, T.V.A. donated this truck.  I ought to be the one to drive it.  I work for T.V.A.”

Well, Billy Ray and Elmer Lee didn’t like it and they bowed up.  “We ain’t missed one practice.  We got hurt down there trying to use this thing.  We ought to be the drivers.”  They got in a scuffle and couldn’t decide how there were going to decide—draw straws, shuffle cards, they couldn’t decide.  They finally decided that the feller who got there first would be the feller that got to drive the fire truck.  That way, it could be a different one each time, depending on where each one was when the si-reen went off.

Weeks went by, and months went by, and they kept practicin’.  They got better and better and better.  They could run in there and get them hats on and them coats on and have that truck out there in four or five minutes.  Finally, one night, Miss Mable Bryan’s house caught fire—there she was the sister of the State Senator, Marvin Bryan, who helped ‘em get started.  They set that si-reen off.  Two of them were not a Hundred  yards from where the thing  was parked.  Thay had four wrecks tryin’ to get to the fire truck—and I mean bad wrecks.  Tore up their cars and  a pick-up truck.  It was awful!

All the time they were arguing about whose fault it was that this one and that one wrecked, and who was going to drive he fire truck, poor old Miss Mable’s house was burnin’.

They got the truck down there to Miss Mable’s and went through their drill.  They pointed that hose toward Miss Mable’s house and cranked their twelve cylinders up and it pumped all of the water out of that truck in three minutes.  They all stood there and watched Miss Mable’s house burn to the ground.  It was a sad night for trained fire fighters.

Then they decided they would have to have a meetin’ and decide what to do.  Mr. Walter said, “You know, we’ve got a truck, we went through trainin’, but we’ve got no water.”

They started raisin’ money again.  They decided they needed to get a tank truck like was used for hauling oil and stuff.  They could fill that up with water.  Then they had to recruit another volunteer to two to hook this tank truck up while the others were hookin’ up the hoses and other stuff.  It took Sarge two or three months to get ‘em wired into that.

Then, Mr. Fred Bradley’s General Mercantile and Refrigerator Store downtown, caught on fire.  They now had two trucks that people could drive, so everybody felt better about that.  They drove both trucks to the fire, hooked everything up, and  they were shootin’ water. Oh, boy!  Everything was working real good.  It sucked the water out of that tank truck in just no time.  They had about another eight or ten minutes to shoot water, and then it quit.

Again, they didn’t have enough water to put out a decent fire.  They had to stand there and watch Mr. Fred Bradley’s store burn to the ground.

We didn’t have city water and no hope of gettin’ any.  So they decided if a house on fire ain’t close to a creek, there ain’t no way to fight it.  They bought about 200 feet more of the hose and prayed that the next fire would be close enough to a creek.  They trained another two people whose job was to take a pickup truck, load these big old four-inch hoses and drive down to a creek, throw one end of the hose in the creek, and bring the rest back up the hill.

It must have been three years later before they had a fire that was within a hundred yards of a creek.  They fought it.  Did they ever fight it!  There were two or three runnin’ down to the creek to throw the end of the hose in, with a couple of them hookin’ up that tank truck, they fired off all twelve cylinders, and started spraying water everywhere.  They had enough equipment, and enough hose, and a fire truck, and a tank truck, and enough trained volunteers, they could put the fire out.  Although they saved part of the house, they ruined everything in it will all of that water, but it didn’t burn to the ground.

It was Mr. Johnny Hutto’s house.  When they finished, they said, “Johnny look, this is the first house we’ve ever saved.”  The old feller took his hat off, scratched his head, and said, “I tell ya what, ‘bout all we saved was the outside walls, but I appreciate it.”

Volunteer fire departments are great things because the people who volunteer really care for their community.  It just takes lots of trainin’, lots of commitment, and lots of specialized expertise to run a first-rate volunteer fire department like this one!

We salute these caregivers to their community.  The whole lot of ‘em—Sarge Wilford, Little Bud Springer and Big Bud Springer, Elmer Lee Chandler, Mr. Walter Shelton, (who worked for T.V.A., for good sake), Billy Ray, and all of the others—were not only caregiving survivors, they actually helped to write the Survival Manual for Caregivers of all Kinds!


 

Part Three – The Laughter Part

The Anatomy of Laughter

 

 

Levels of Laughter

Level One—No Laugh
(No Level)

Level Two—Non-Laugh
(Low Level)

Level Three—Inside Laugh
(Poor Level)

Level Four—Snicker Laugh
(Good Level)

Level Five—Belly Laugh
(Top Level)

Level Six—Tears and Laughter
(Classic Level)

There is such a thing as Funeral Home Laughter.

What makes something humorous is hard to define, and I am not going to attempt a definition here.  I prefer not to focus on the humorous event as the source of laughter, because a thing is humorous, not in and of itself, but because of how it strikes you. If you see someone slip and fall, it may make you laugh, or it may make you cringe. The choice is yours.

Let’s think instead, not of the event as being humorous, but of the person being humorous. 

While buying some flowers, I heard the rapid patter of feet running on the road behind me.  I looked up and saw a pickup truck with the motor running and no one driving in it.  The truck was moving along the busy road, with the traffic.  The would-be driver was running to overtake his vehicle and bulldogged it just before it hit an oncoming car.  There was nothing funny about the event; it had been a near-accident.  But within less than two minutes, four men who saw the incident broke out in uncontrollable laughter.  There was little humor in the event; the humor was in them.

Humor inside us often leads to laughter.  In recent days, have you been laughing a lot or a little?

My thesis is that you can be a humorous person even as a caregiver.  In fact, being a humorous caregiver is almost a must for survival.  Your humor is not so much in what you say but in what you see and hear.  It’s fun to make other people laugh, but it may be more important for you to laugh.  Consider the level or quality of your own laughter.

Where are you on the following Laugh Index?  Are you experiencing humor only at a surface level (levels 1 and 2) or enjoying humor (levels 3, 4, or 5)?  Laughter and tears are healing agents (level 6).

Wherever you are on the Laugh Index, you can move all the way to level 5, and even reach level 6 when you need to deal with pain or grief. 

Remember, you get to keep all your laughs along the way!

Levels of Laughter

 

Level 1: No laugh
(No level)

It is sad when a person goes for long periods of time without any reason to laugh.  There are probably few other people gathering around that person for fun.

Is this you?

 

Level 2: Non-Laugh
(Low level)

The non-laughing person reminds me of the proverbial two-headed man in the circus:  Everything he heard just went in one ear and out the other!  In one ear and out the other!   The non-laughing person probably hears and sees as much humor as the rest of us, but is so burdened-down, or insensitive to it, the humor goes in one ear and out the other without registering or being processed.

Are you at this level?

 

Level 3: Inside Laugh
(Poor Level)

For some people, humor tends to be an inside job.  There may be special times when a person at Level 3 laughs out loud, but his or her general practice is to have a totally silent laugh.  This is the “introverted laugh.”  The only way to know if this person finds a bit of humor is the slight appearance of smile dimples, or an occasional full-blown smile.  Even then, we can’t know for certain that the person is laughing.

Is this your primary way to laugh?

 

Level 4: Snicker Laugh
(Good Level)

The snicker laugh is probably the most frequent.  This is a standard laugh.  The snicker indicates the person is “with” you.  Got the joke!  You have connected, and her/his laughter usually makes you laugh.  Then your laughter makes the other person laugh.  Healthy laughter is a communal thing.  The snicker sounds good compared to the first three stages, which never sound at all.  At least the snicker is audible.  It may be “hey hey hey” or “ha ha ha” or a long groan.  Whatever the sound, it is an authentic laugh.  There may even be strange sounds put forth as laughter.  That makes the laugh funny by itself.  When this phenomenon occurs, laughter increases among all who are present.

Come forth with genuine, generous, raucous, wholehearted laughter—and watch the eyes of those around you.  Do you think they are laughing at the way you laugh, or at something else?  Are they laughing at you or with you?  (You may never know, because this is not something one usually asks.)

You can stimulate genuine snickers by the use of a “laugh machine.”  I bought mine—in the form of a large set of false teeth—at a toy store.  When the machine is turned on, the “teeth” laugh and laugh and laugh.  Sometimes when I’m alone and need a lift in my spirit, I turn it on and it starts me laughing.  It is exceptionally funny when used in a small group.  Consider getting a laugh machine for guaranteed laughs.  When Rosalie is occasionally miffed and unloading on me, I turn on the laugh machine.  She remains peeved, but laughs and says, “Turn that silly thing off until I get through with what I am saying.”

Does the snicker sound like you?

 

Level 5: Belly Laugh
(Top Level)

The belly laugh is one of the best kinds.  With a Good belly laugh you get your money’s worth.  Everyone needs a belly laugh at least once a day, not less than every two days.  Belly-laugh humor can cause you to laugh so hard you hurt—in a good sense of the word.  The belly laugh is therapeutic to general health.  Physically, it does wonders for you/it releases pent-up endorphins.  (Whatever they are, everyone says they need to be released!)  It puts a positive strain on your heart.  (Contrary to what people say no one has ever died from laughing.)  A good laugh purges your system of anxiety.  It forces you to breathe deeply.  It has been said that a-laugh-a-day, “keeps the doctor away.”

Everyone has a belly (some more so than others!) and everyone needs a regular, deep laugh every day. St. Augustine said, “Each of us is made with a God-shaped emptiness in our heart that only God can fill.”  What if it is true that God has also made us with another God-shaped emptiness that only a good laugh can fill?  There is no way to know for certain, but you will want to meet the recommended daily requirement of belly laughs just to be safe.  Are you having enough belly laughs?

 

Level 6: Tears and Laughter
(Classic Level)

Tears and laughter are like two sides of the same coin.  There are (1) tears  and  laughter and (2) tears of  laughter.

Tears and laughter.  A belly laugh is like a massage to the body, and tears have the power to cleanse the soul.  Tears and humor are often closely related.  Who among us has not witnessed or been involved in an event that embarrassed us to tears at the time, but later became refreshingly humorous?  I hope you can remember a time when you laughed so hard and so long that tears rolled down your cheeks.  Such events may not happen often, but they are memorable, because they are wonderful! 

Tears of laughter.  The old man had an infectious laugh.  He laughed often and freely.  Persons around him were usually drawn into his delightful laughter.  Someone asked him why he laughed so much.  In a very solemn tone, he said, “Laughter can cover lots of deep pain.”

Laughter may be a safety valve located in the region of the fountain of tears.  Tears may come, followed by laughter, or tears may come as a result of laughter, or the two may be freely intermingled. 

How is it with you?

           

There is Such a Thing as Funeral Home Laughter

Our family members were at the funeral home making arrangements for the burial of a deceased parent.  It was a sad event and tears frequently flowed unbidden.   Then, someone mentioned that it would not be long before we would have to return to make arrangements for the other parent, and for a favorite aunt.  Through her tears, she concluded that we should probably make arrangement for all three, and avoid having to go through this pain again and again.  The thought of making additional/multiple, quantity funeral arrangements for people who were still alive broke our tears into laughter, and turned them into tears of laughter.

When the funeral director returned to the room, we felt we owed him an explanation but no one could adequately express it without bursting into laughter. The tears of laughter flowed freely.

Tears and laughter come from deep inside where they are very close to each other.

Laughter is also close to the tragic.  Being an alcoholic is tragic, but sometimes seeing a drunk may lift us above the tragedy to laughter.  How many family members have had to move from tears and tragedy to laughter, in order to survive?  Clearly, laughter may come before or after tears, and laughter may accompany or cover pain and the deeply tragic.  All are closely related.  Perhaps tears and  laughter, and tears of  laughter are the healthiest and most healing expressions of grief.  This is the most significant and functional level of humor. 

It is great when humor is recognized and appreciated, but it is a deeper gift when tears and laughter come, for laughter has the power to release pent-up emotions and bring back happy memories.  Also, tears have a power of their own: cleansing, washing, purifying, and baptizing a deep inner place.  It may be that it takes the powerful combination of tears and laughter to reach a place so deep inside us. 

We’ve all been there!

All caregivers:  You may wish to view the levels as different ways to express laughter in your ongoing caregiving challenge.  Perhaps you remember times when the “No Laugh” of Level One, or the “Non-Laugh” of Level Two, or the “Inside Laugh” of Level Three was the only response you could muster.  At other times, your laughter might fit one of the other levels.  We tend to laugh on different levels at various times.  To determine where your laughter focuses along the continuum of laughter, specify one or two levels that most frequently punctuate your caregiving time.  The further you are along the continuum, the more therapeutic your laughter will be, i.e., a belly laugh is more beneficial to you than a chuckle.

 

Part Four – The Practical Part

Practical Matters in Caregiving

 

 

A Caregiver Needs A Slow-Moving Clock

A Car Is Nice

A Separate TV Is Good

A Separate Toilet Is Mandatory

Every Caregiver Needs A Job Separate From The Caregiving Site

Steps You Can Take So That Removing Your T-Shirt
 Doesn’t Become Your Life’s Work

Guidelines For Potty Training On A Trip

A Fruit Fly In Your Ear

 

A Caregiver Needs A Slower-Moving Clock

 

Time races forward out of control for the caregiver.  Since there is no way to control time one must take the next best step and try to manage it.

It helps to begin early with virtually everything.

                      —Preparing a meal

                           —Giving and taking a bath

                                —Getting ready to go somewhere

                                     —Tidying up the house

                                          —Doing the dishes

                                               —Almost everything

Controlling or managing time is very difficult for the caregiver. Here is a scenario about the care-er and the care-ee getting ready to go out to dinner.

Logic is not worth a toot here.  This is why:

The care-er gets the care-ee completely ready, first.

Before the care-er can get ready, the care-ee wants the care-er to straighten up everything that has just been messed up.

The care-er cleans up everything before getting ready, taking more time than was previously allotted.

Now that the care-ee is ready and has nothing to do while waiting to leave, the care-ee thinks of several more things to ask the care-er to do.

Tensions arise within, and eventually between the two people.

Getting ready takes more time than either anticipated so, “We are late again!”

The care-ee says, “Why does it take you so long to get ready?  I’ll be waiting for you in the car.”

As they drive away, the car-er realizes that starting early does not always help in controlling or managing time.  Before another day begins again, perhaps what is needed is a slower-moving clock.

 

A Car Is Nice

 

Every caregiver needs a car.  When a car is parked nearby, it is a comforting reminder that there is a way to escape.  And, who knows, the care-ee

may want some ice cream;

or, want to go for a ride;

or, need to be rushed to hospital;

or, just need some fresh air.

 

And for sure, the care-er needs to know that he or she

can get away;

can be away;

can stay away.

 

A car is necessary equipment for a caregiver.  The battery likely will stand up for six or eight weeks even if the car is not driven.

                      

A Separate TV Is Good.

 

Every care-er needs a separate television not being used by the care-ee.  If two people always watch the same programs, they will soon have little to talk about that both of them do not already know.  A separate TV (and the car) may be the caregiver’s only hope for escape.

 

A Separate Toilet Is Mandatory

 

This is a rule that must not be broken. 

The care-er and the care-ee should never use the same bathroom.

 

Why?  I have no idea.  This is a private subject that most people are reluctant to talk about—especially in public.

 

I can see that two toilets are necessary if both want to go at precisely the same time.  But there seems to be more weight on this matter than shared urgency.  Just let the matter rest!  Don’t sweat it!

 

The maxim is fixed: If you want to be a first-rate caregiver, separate toilets are a must.   (But don’t talk about it a lot.)

Every Care-er Needs A Job Separate From The Caregiving Site

 

Caregiving is, by nature, confining.  The routine can put any person into depression.  When you, as the care-er, have had enough. . .  you can’t take it anymore. . . or you need a breather. . .  ask someone from work to call and say that you are needed on the job, immediately!  After you hang up the phone, very calmly say one of the following statements to the care-ee.  (Remember now, you are trying to survive):

Š      “The plant is on fire and my friends want me to go down there to watch it burn.”

Š      “We are being robbed at work and my staff does not want me to miss it.”

Š      “Tomorrow, the bank is foreclosing on us at work and my supervisor wants me to go right now and pick up my belongings.”

Š      “There is a big fight in our office.  If I hurry, I can get there before it’s over.”

Š      “Some of my co-workers want me to go to the office and check the color of the car I just won in the company raffle.”

Š      “Someone called to tell me that I have just been promoted or fired, and everyone will know which it is by the time I get there.”

When you are called from work, go quickly.  On days like this, you will be thankful that you have a job that is separate from being a caregiver. Remember, one thing a caregiver must do for the care-ee is, be truthful!

 

Steps To Take So That Removing Your T-Shirt Doesn’t Become Your Life’s Work

 

Rosalie had a broken arm and I was tending to her needs.  It was while serving as a top-rated caregiver that I made a great discovery in the laundry room.  It had to do with the aimless work of having to turn every T-shirt inside out after they are washed.

My secret to saving hours of such work over a lifetime is to alter how I take off my T-shirt.

I like to wear a clean T-shirt—that is 7 days a week, 365 days a year, or 3,650 days in ten years.  Just think how much time is wasted in turning T-shirts inside out, day after day, after day.  If I had discovered earlier how to avoid this drudgery, I could have saved lots of time over the past fifty years.  I have used 18,250 T-shirts.  If my parents had taught me this technique when I was a child, I could have saved thousands of hours over seventy years, while using 25,550 T-shirts.  No one wants to make turning T-shirts inside out into a life’s work.

I am not suggesting one eliminate the use of T-shirts.  I am advocating that shirts be removed in such a way that they do not have to be turned inside out.

The trick is in how the T-shirt is taken off.  Cross your arms in front of your face and hook your thumbs under opposite edges of the shirt, above your shoulders, next to your neck.  Gently lift the shirt and do a little upper-body boogie woogie.  The shirt will come off, draped on your outstretched arms right side out.

All of these years, I have been making the colossal mistake of crossing my arms in front of my hips—instead of in front of my face—and lifting the T-shirt from the bottom which automatically turns the wrong side out every time.  Then it has to be turned again before I can put it on.  Whoever hears of wearing a T-shirt with the wrong side out?

When I am folding clothes and I come to a shirt that I took off the wrong way, everything has to stop.  I have to re-grab the shirt and turn it inside out, to get back to where I was in folding.  After doing all of that grabbing and turning of the shirt, I am worn out.  This is wasted looking, grabbing, turning and re-grabbing.  That’s a lot of wasted time over seventy years.

When I told Rosalie what I discovered in the laundry room—how significant it was, and how excited it made me—she looked at me in a funny kind of way, as if she could not believe what I was telling her.

 “All of these years you have been wasting so much of your valuable time.” she said.  “If you had become smarter, earlier, and had been doing the laundry all these years, both of us would have been better off.  Why don’t you see what you can learn about how to save time while taking out the trash, now?”

Later, when her arm was hurting less and she had time to think more clearly, she hit upon another time-saver.  She said, “Danny, for forty years I have taken your clothes out of the dryer, folded them, carried them to our bedroom, and put them in your drawer.  I like your idea about saving time, and that started me thinking about ways to free-up some of my time.  Beginning now, you will find your clothes in the dryer or on the shelf above.  Take your clothes from the shelf, fold them any way you want to, carry them to the bedroom, and put them into your dresser drawer.  I don’t know why we didn’t think of this sooner.

Then she said, “There is a dryer full of your clothes you can practice on.  When you are finished, I will be sitting in the rocking chair on the patio, waiting for you.”

 

Guidelines For Potty Training On A Trip

by Dan Miller

 

Š      DO NOT put the potty chair on the ground without checking for fire ants.

Š      DO NOT let a two-year-old child have apple juice during the first twenty minutes in the car.

Š      DO NOT try to save time by driving with one hand while setting up the potty chair in the front seat—or the back seat.

Š      DO NOT say, “Oh, sure, you can wait.  It’s only a mile to the next exit.”

Š      DO NOT buy a car with a non-washable interior.

Š      DO NOT attempt to empty a potty out of the window while driving down the interstate.

 

A Fruit Fly In Your Ear

 

I don’t know if it is true but I’ve been told:

If a fruit fly flies into your ear, there are several things you do not want to do:

Š      Do not try to get it out with either end of a pencil.

Š      Do not try to get it out with your little ginger.  You will only push it deeper.

Š      Do not try to rinse it out with water.  When a fruit fly drinks fruit juice, it swells up.  If it drinks the water you are using the fly could swell up inside your ear canal.

 

Best Solution:  Fruit flies are attracted to light.  Shine a flashlight into the ear canal where the fruit fly is lodged to coax it out to the light.

 

Worst Solution:  Do not shine the flashlight into the opposite ear.  Since the canal goes all the way through, the fruit fly will be attracted to the light from that direction and will crawl toward the light.  It may get stuck in the middle of your head and give you a headache.


 

 

Part Five – The Forgiveness Part

The Important Matter of Forgiveness in Caregiving

 

 

Part Five considers the important (and heavy) matter of forgiveness in caregiving, with guidance about how to do it when we feel we can’t.

 

“How Do I Forgive When I Can’t?”

Non-Stick Answers

Hard Sayings On Forgiveness

Forgiveness Experienced

A Forgiving Spirit Is Essential

What Some People Have Done

Principles

Tough Forgiveness Is Possible

Forgiveness As A Science

There Is Also The Art Of Forgiveness

Ultimately, Forgiveness Is A Gift

 

“It May Be That The Gift Enabling You To Forgive Is God’s Favorite Gift To Give You!”

 

“How do I Forgive when I Can’t?”

 

The caregiver is a giving person.  Giving, by its nature, tends to be like a one-way street, although there is an abiding equation of giving-and-receiving that is frequently operative in a caregiving relationship.

But what about those times when the caregiver finds the equation slanted toward giving, giving, giving . . .and more giving?

Even in the relatively few days I was Rosalie’s caregiver after she broke her arm, I began to feel the negative force of continuously giving, giving, giving.  I soon discovered that little annoyances, frequent repetitions, imposed confinement for me, and constant weariness caused the build up of feelings of negativity, self-pity and resentment. These draining influences rose within me in just a few weeks of being a caregiver. I thought, how do people cope when they have months and years of this kind of stress?

It does not take long for “one way” caregiving to take its toll on everyone’s emotions.

Because there is necessarily so much giving required, lots of forgiving will also be required.

There is a progression in forgiveness:

Š      We want to forgive.

Š      We are forgiving.

Š      We have forgiven.

Š      We are free.

 

A woman was devastated that her husband had been unfaithful in their marriage eleven years ago.  When he died last year, she had not been able to (or had not wanted to) forgive him.  Because she has not been forgiving, and felt she could not forgive, she is hooked on hurt and hate. These negative feelings have taken over her life and she is an emotional cripple. She admitted that she no longer relates well to her children nor even to her grandchildren.

Many people have told her that she must forgive her husband or she will never be free of hate, or free from him. She agrees that she should, she has tried, but she has been unable to forgive. A painful hook has pierced her spirit for more than eleven years.  A visible result of her inability to forgive is the deep scowl etched on her face.  Her countenance is so empty and forlorn, one wonders how long it has been since she laughed.

If it had been possible, she would have dealt with his betrayal at the time it happened, but she could not forgive.  During the intervening years she continued to find no way to forgive, and when her husband died without her forgiveness, it was like another painful nail was driven into her soul.  Now, she fears that she will be forever be enslaved by her husband—and she has the scowl to prove it.

Her story, her sense of brokenness, and her appearance cry out, “What can I do?”

 

Non-stick Answers

 

To her devastating question, many non-stick answers have been offered:

Š      You have to forgive your husband . . .

Š      Forgive him for what he did. . .

Š      Forgive him for hurting you so deeply. . .

Š      Forgive him for dying before he was forgiven. . .

Š      Forgive him for lashing you to a seemingly permanent enslavement to a hurtful wrong!

 

All of these are not-stick answers.  She continues to anguish and weep over a question that many people have asked, “How do I forgive when I can’t?”

I have no easy answer, only some shared experiences and discoveries along the way.

 

Hard Sayings on Forgiveness

 

Her question prompts a hard reply, “You have to forgive!” Let me say it another way, “YOU MUST FORGIVE!” To forgive is often difficult and painful.  But not to forgive has draining consequences.

Š      Not to forgive means forever being lashed to the person or the deed.

Š      Not to forgive creates a permanent enslavement to the heinous memory.

Š      Not to forgive drains away the rest of one’s life.

So, not to forgive is unthinkable!

 

Forgiveness Experienced

 

Rosalie and I have stood on the brink of non-forgiveness.  Nothing has produced in us a greater sense of panic.  Since I am no longer there at such a place, I can remember some discoveries that helped when I was there.

FIRST: I realized that forgiveness is difficult, but possible.  Many people have forgiven worse things that I have faced.

SECOND: I discovered that forgiveness is a science. Certain conditions are necessary in the process of forgiveness because they are causal.  For example, it helps to begin with an intention to forgive. Although the intention to forgive may be tentative and passive, it is a start, a place to begin, because it causes something else to happen.

A growing intention to forgive creates a desire to forgive. Unless forgiveness becomes a desire of one’s heart, forget it—which is exactly what you will do!  A desire is far more powerful than an intention, because the intention may be flighty or flimsy.  But, if there is a desire to forgive, it is solidly anchored within.

Desire is also causal because it produces action, and action is an essential part of forgiveness. Forgiveness is never passive or docile, and it does not happen when we are not looking.  Forgiveness does not drop out of the blue.  Forgiveness happens as a direct result of something we do.  Forgiving another person requires total involvement in the process.

THIRD: There is an art to forgiveness. When Rosalie and I were first married we were deeply hurt by a close friend. He defiled our relationship by willfully spreading the rumor, within the congregation I served, that our first child would be born out of wedlock.  We laughed when we first heard the rumor because we knew that an unwed-delivery was not a possibility. He persisted with the rumor and the result was ugly and hurtful.

In the end, just over ten months to delivery was close, but we were vindicated.  Close is good enough in pregnancies and horseshoes.

As I later reflected on the episode, it was as if we stood before an empty canvass. We could choose what to put there—broken spirits, despair, hate, continuous anguish—or forgiveness.

Like an artist applies paints a little at a time, we applied a little forgiveness, which is all he had at the time. Rather than being eaten up with hate, we chose to forgive.  It was all we knew at the time.  It was best to forgive him and move on. We took it in stages. For several weeks, our intention to forgive was our only place to stand, so we began to try to forgive.

Eventually, after many weeks, we could say, “We have forgiven him.” We severed our relationship, but not because we hated, or even disliked him.  We had learned to stay away from a very hot stove.

That happened more than forty-five years ago.  Because we made the right choice of what to put on our canvass, we have had forty-five years of freedom from a terrible betrayal of friendship.

We used four colors from our artist’s palette.  At various stages of forgiveness we could say:

1.    We want to forgive.

2.    We are forgiving.

3.    We have forgiven.

4.    We have freedom from the hurt.

There is an art to forgiveness and forgiveness is a beautiful picture worth painting.

FOURTH: Initially, we said forgiveness is a science, and that it is also an art, but ultimately, forgiveness is a gift. It is a gift from God that provides a person with a mystical power to forgive.

There are attitudes to hold, steps to take, conditions to meet, and accomplishments to attain, but all of these are only preparatory to receiving the gift of the power to forgive, which God is eager to give to the brokenhearted.  One does not grunt up forgiveness by “lining up the stars,” or taking a few steps, or jumping through certain hoops to become enabled to forgive.

How we forgive when we can’t forgive is through the gift of a spiritual power beyond human capacities to generate. Forgiveness power is an ultimate form of spiritual power. It is a power to be prayed for: “. . .forgive us for our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors . . . Matthew 6:12 NRSV.”

It is a power to be coveted! The following is an eternal truth: God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, all the Company of Heaven, and people all around you, want you to receive the gift of the power to forgive.

 

A Forgiving Spirit is Essential

 

A visitor in our home said, “I don’t do forgiveness!” She said this three times in a relatively brief afternoon visit.  Saying, “I don’t do forgiveness” is far worse than saying, “I can’t forgive.”

Unless you are saying, “I don’t do forgiveness,” there is hope for you.  Any one of the previous listings will help you to eventually forgive: intending, desiring, acting to forgive; realizing that forgiveness is possible, practicing the science and the art of forgiveness; praying to receive the gift of forgiveness.  All of these are essential.

We wish that forgiveness could happen swiftly, but it usually requires time, which all of us have.  We must devote all the rest of our allotted time, if necessary, to developing a forgiving spirit and continue to pray for the spiritual gift that will empower action to forgive. A forgiving spirit is a “definite upgrade” over a hateful or vengeful spirit.  A forgiving spirit is a wonderful place to begin. A forgiving spirit will enable you to receive—and give—the gift of forgiveness.

 

What Some People Have Done

 

The Alcoholic Anonymous book says time and again: Pray for the best for the person . . . Pray that all of his/her needs will be met . . . Pray for the person’s total well-being . . . Continue to pray until, when you think of that person, you think only of her/his good.

It may be that the gift enabling you to forgive is God’s favorite gift to give you.

Even a little caregiving can produce lots of negative feelings. The caregiver may often remain burdened with negative caregiving feelings that need to be handled through forgiveness.  The person being cared for may be the last person we would turn to for sharing or ventilating.

The caregiver’s question is “Who is the first person I will turn to for help in sorting out my feelings so I can get on with forgiveness?”

It may be a spouse, a spiritual friend, a pastor, or a counselor.

Recognizing negative feelings that surface and need to be dealt with, may be the first step toward the ultimate experience of praying for and receiving the gift of forgiveness from God, who is eager to give it to all of us.

 

 

 

Part Six – The Tender Part

Survival Stories

 

An Experienced Care-ee

A Second Opinion

She Visited Her Elderly Mother

A Slanted Pulpit

After Sixty-months with a Non-union

Caregiving from Afar

The Memory of Banky of the House of Bemis

Caring and Caregiving in Morning Worship

The Trumpet Lily

Going Fishing

Mary remembers Duane’s Last Wonderful Days

Caregivers to One Another

 

Part Six presents humorous and tender stories by, and about, caregiving survivors. Successful caregiving is not just about Who, What, Why, Where, When and How, it is also about with Whom.

 

An Experienced Care-ee

 

While relaxing one evening, Rosalie and I talked about how hard it is to be a caregiver, and also how hard it is to be cared-for.  We remembered particular times and events on both sides of that ledger.  Some remembrances were occasions for laughter and some were not.

Rosalie said, “I had you as a caregiver and I never felt really alone or forgotten.  But there are many people who are sick and hurting who do not have anyone to care for their daily needs.  When I think of that, it makes me want to weep for these persons,” and she blinked back a tear.

I said, “You sound like a “reformed” care-ee who was first, and is again, a classical caregiver.

 

A Second Opinion

 

Granddaddy was almost 100 years old.  On several occasions we received a phone call from one of Rosalie’s sisters, “Daddy is not doing well. We don’t see how he can last much longer. If you want to see him alive, you had better come now.”

We would load our family of five into the car and drive ten hours to South Georgia.

After making the call, they would tell Granddaddy that Banky (as they called Rosalie) would be arriving in a few hours.  He would be so elated he would begin to rally.  By the time we arrived, he would be sitting up and “taking nourishment,” as they called it.  We would usually stay a few days.  He was always feeling fine when we left.

This happened three times over a period of two years. Upon our third arrival to see a perked-up Granddaddy, Rosalie said, “Daddy, several times they have called to tell me you are about to die.  Each time, we rush down here and find you greatly improved.  When they call me again I am not coming until I get a second opinion about how bad off you are.”

He would usually cackle with laughter and get better and better.

 

She Visited Her Elderly Mother in the Nursing Home

by Edna Whitehead

 

Her mother said, “You know my good friend, Henry!  The nurse said they had to take him to the hospital this morning. Something about his heart!”

“Mother, how old is Henry?”

She said, “He’s about 40.”

“Oh, Mother, I’m 46!”

“Do you mean you are older than Henry?”

 

A Slanted Pulpit

 

If you ask Wendy how to be a caring person, she will probably not speak right up and tell you. But, if you ask Ann how a caring person looks and acts, she will likely point to Wendy and speak right up.

Ann had undergone an emergency operation on Maundy-Thursday night and the surgery became more complicated than a routine appendectomy. It was successful and the tests were good, but by Easter Sunday, recovery had already become difficult and painful. Ann would not be present at Malibu Church where she and her husband, Larry, are co-pastors. So some special attention was appropriate. Since Ann could not be in church on Easter, neither was Wendy.

She went to Ann’s room, arriving at 10:30, the usual time for morning worship. But the hospital attendants had not given Ann her morning bath.

Wendy took Ann to the shower and assisted with her bath. Back into P.J.s; back to bed; back into comfort and relaxation after a strenuous morning for Ann. No hurry. All is well. Plenty of time!

Wendy waited until just the right time and suggested to Ann that they have an Easter worship service together.  Wendy raised Ann’s bed to a gentle slant; set up the small cross and two candle holders, and lit the candles that she had brought. Wendy took the lead and did most of the talking until it came time for the sermon in their little service.

With Ann now rested, Wendy sensed that she was ready, and she asked Ann if she had some words to say for the sermon.

Ann took her time and she and Wendy worshipped and celebrated, and they experienced the presence of the Risen Christ. Ann’s bed made a slanted pulpit and it was everything either of them could have wanted for a time of Easter worship.

 

After Sixty Months with a Non-Union

 

A Cheerful Lament

The orthopedist originally said it would take eight weeks for Rosalie’s broken arm and shoulder to heal—later he changed it to twelve weeks.  At fourteen months, the scan showed a “5.0 X 0.9 defect of the right humerus” (which means a portion of the break was not healed.) It has now been five years, and the bone has not fused. We expected better results from the placement of a long rod, four screws, and bone-grafting during two surgeries... (God, have mercy!)

We naturally anticipated that the fracture would heal, that she would be free of pain, and would be able to resume normal activity. She has grandchildren to lift, to rock, to tussle with, and she has basketballs to shoot. She has trips to make by car and by plane. She has vacations to take and a dog to wash. She has a husband with whom she longs to be her exuberate, fun-loving self again. She wants to resume her nursing career. She wants to feel like a normal person again and to be rid of the constant reminder that her arm is still not healed after five long years. (God, have mercy!)

The surgeon said he seldom sees a non-union—meaning a fractured bone that does not produce calcium that knits the bone together. He said that when a non-union occurs it is usually with the tibia, (the long bone below the knee) or the humerus (the bone between the shoulder and the elbow), the one that is broken in her right arm.

He also said that the humerus and tibia require a large blood supply and that for healing to take place, a series of things must occur in the right sequence. We don’t know why, don’t know where, don’t know when, don’t know if healing will occur.

Here are some things with which she has been coping: recurring pain in one spot; soreness in her upper arm; constant, daily energy loss; obvious limitations; anger and frustration.

But her biggest cope is the uncertainty about when, and if, her arm will heal. There is a nagging possibility that it will not. Although it is rare for a bone not to heal, it happens. When asked what happens when a bone never heals, the doctor said, “The person always has a sore arm.”

Rosalie has gone through several stages during this ordeal:

Š      The original pain and anguish of having a broken arm;

Š      The anticipation of two surgeries;

Š      The intense pain after each surgery;

Š      Hope that could never be sustained;

Š      A long season of daily crying “for no reason,” except the big one;

Š      Dozens and dozens of expressions: “Rosalie, I am praying for you.” Or, “I will begin again to pray for your arm to heal.” (I usually remind everyone to spell her name right when they pray so the prayer will be certain to go through.);

Š      Many prayer groups, healing services, and genuine personal expressions of concern;

Š      Late-night pillow talk about why? why not? when? how? what if? what if not? and many other questions for which we also had no answers;

Š      Frequent walks into, through, and out of the pit of despair and heartache.

 

All of the above and more! (God, have mercy!)

But, bless her heart, she has never given in, given over, given out, or given up. She says, “Although my arm is injured and sore and hurts, I still have it. I can partially use it—and that is something to be grateful for.”

But she has done more than utter passive reflections. She is thoroughly optimistic, even if frustrated:

Š      One day she asked me to get her a tennis bracelet for her birthday.  She doesn’t play tennis, but she gleefully put it on her right wrist and proudly announced, “This is my tennis arm, broken or not!”

Š      She asked me to put up a basketball goal so she could look forward, again, to working on her right-handed shooting range.

Š      She said, “You go to Hawaii by yourself this time and when you go next year, I will be going with you.”

Š      And although no one has mentioned it, I know she would welcome a newborn grandchild or two to lift and to hold. (God, have mercy!”

 

The depth of her pain was actually voiced when, against her nature, she commented about recent treatment that did not produce any healing. When asked how she felt, she said, “I’m as mad as hell!”

Rosalie says, “That is the way I felt that day but, for the most part, I have lived in the Light. Sometimes the Light has been radiantly bright leading me on the right path, even if it has been a most difficult path. On one occasion the doctor said that everything would be all right and that I would not continue to have pain. The Light within gave me the intuitive sense that ‘something’ was not right, and I spoke my conviction and insisted that the doctor look further. He found that a bone fragment had not been secured.”

She said, “To have a ready supply of prescription narcotics available and to be enabled by my Higher Powder not to choose them, in spite of the pain, is a miracle of healing. With multiple bottles on the shelf, God gave me strength to overcome the inner urge to take the drugs.”

Rosalie continued, “At other times, the Light guided me through the pit of anxiety and depression, to a higher ground of mental and emotional strength and peace. The Light continues as the Comforter’s Presence and encourages me ‘To do the best I can with what I have.’”

She said, “I am now convinced that the next step for me is to have continued hope. The Divine Presence is like a balm within my spirit.”

I am her principal caregiver. I am not yet good at it—how could I be, in just five years?

But I am better than when I started. Maybe the most important thing I do is to gently rub her upper arm and silently pray that healing will occur. I hope it will! Rosalie hopes it will! That is why—at the point of a year into her plight—her tennis bracelet bought for her tennis arm is so important to us.

Every time I notice the bracelet, I am delighted it has not turned her wrist green. (Thanks, be to God!)

 

Caregiving from Afar

 

It was not unusual to receive a long distance call in the evening. But the reason for the call was a surprise.

“Is this Danny Morris?”  I said, “Yes.”

He said, “My name is _ _ _ _ _ _ and I’m calling from Baltimore. I have an unusual reason for calling. Did you graduate from Florida State University?”

“Yes. Why do you ask?”

He said, “Mr. Morris, I work at a hotel in Baltimore. I work in the housekeeping department, servicing rooms. A couple of days ago I examined a college class ring from Florida State University that has been in a drawer in a small desk in this office for about two years. The letters D.E.M. are printed inside the ring. Are those your initials?”

“Yes.”

Well, by this time my jaw had dropped and my mouth was wide open. I had been without the ring for so long I had forgotten about it. I couldn’t remember the time when I first realized I no longer had it.

He then said, “The policy of the hotel is that we keep a lost item for thirty days to see if anyone calls for it. If not, we can keep what we find. We do not usually call someone about a lost item because that could cause problems.”

I asked, “How so?”

He said, “Well, let’s say I called your home and told your wife that we had found your ring in the hotel room. She might not know you had been in the hotel. It could cause problems and we just don’t run that risk. But since you answered, I felt I could tell you.”

”How did you find me here in Tennessee?”

“I called the Alumni Office at Florida State and they gave me your address and phone number.”

“I’m amazed that you called me.”

Then he said, “Would you be willing to verify a little information for me?”  I said, “Sure.”

“What is your address?”  I gave him the house number, street, city, and zip code.  He asked, “Is the name of your street one word or two?”  I said, “The street name is one word, followed by Ferry Road.”

”What is your zip code?”  I gave him the zip code, but transposed two of the numbers. Rosalie reminded me of the right zip code and he overheard the correct number. He said, “That is the right number. And when did you graduate?  I said, “In 1955.”

He chuckled and said, “I believe you are the owner of the ring. I will send it in the mail within a couple of days.”

I said, ”Thank you! This is very kind of you. I want to send you some money in appreciation. How much should I send?”

There was a pause . . . Then he asked, “Mr. Morris, do you go to church?”  I said, “Yes, every Sunday.”

He said, “I tell ya! When you are in church again, just put in an offering for a special cause and I will be well paid.”

I was about to choke, but was able to say, “I’ll be glad to do that, but may I also send some to you for your trouble and expense?”

He said, “Just put some in the church offering and that will be fine.”  I said, “Thank you! This is a wonderful thing you have done.”

“Good night, Mr. Morris.”

I sent him a letter of appreciation and a check for $50.00.

In about four days I received the ring in a little velvet sack with a draw-string.  He’d had the ring polished, and it had never looked so good—for several reasons!

What a call!  What a caring person from afar!

 

The Memory of Banky of the House of Bemis

 

Thirteen years ago, Rosalie and I gave our Shi Tsu female puppy the high sounding name of “Banky of the House of Bemis.” Our new pet was named after Rosalie in two ways. “Banky” is Rosalie’s nickname. Rosalie grew up in a house located not far from the only two stores in downtown Bemis, Georgia. We thought the name had a nice ring to it, especially for everyone who had never been to Bemis. Banky had a good, long life. A few months ago, we calculated that she was actually ninety-one in dog years.

One night, not long ago we found ourselves driving to the emergency veterinary clinic just before midnight. Only a week earlier Rosalie had commented, “Banky will not live much longer.” Rosalie has the intuitive sense of a career R.N., and she had attended Banky daily for more than four years.  She had been putting drops in Banky’s eyes twice a day hoping to stop the other eye from turning white. It was a losing battle, but Rosalie remained faithful. She was reading the multiple signs of Banky’s failing health when she said, “Banky will not live much longer.” That was the first time she had spoken those dreadful words. It was a shock to both of us. We could not speak for quite a while.

Two years earlier, a veterinary specialist had told us Banky’s liver was failing. “This medicine and the special blend of canned food will help, but only for a few months,” the vet said. As we drove to the emergency room, we were far beyond two years. That longer period was a testimony to Rosalie’s daily faithfulness in providing tender, loving care to promote her comfort and well-being. But the medicine, the eye drops, and the special diet were not as taxing as the repetitive baths that Banky had required every five to seven days over the previous year and a half because of her liver condition.

As we drove in the darkness, I thought about the early days of Banky’s time with us. From the time we selected Banky, I had known that Rosalie and Banky had a special bond. We were told that she was the runt of the litter. “She is healthy and will make a fine pet, but she will likely not get as big as her siblings,” said the owner. That news was not a problem for Rosalie. In fact, it probably made Rosalie love Banky all the more.

I looked over at Rosalie and was jolted back to the memory of  Banky’s journey of failing health. For several weeks she no longer met us when we returned in the evening through the kitchen door. She would simply wait at the top of the half-flight of stairs in our home. For the past week Banky had been sleeping a lot and she always wanted to be in Rosalie’s lap. We couldn’t remember the last time Banky played and romped with her previously characteristic playfulness. As we continued our drive to the emergency room, Rosalie held Banky very close in her arms. Banky was gasping for breath, and uncontrollable tears were streaming down Rosalie’s face.

Finally, we arrived at the clinic, and Rosalie carried Banky inside. The two staff members were very tender with Banky and with Rosalie. The x-ray revealed Banky’s enlarged heart and liver. The attendants couldn’t get a blood sample because her blood pressure was too low. They gave her a couple of shots, put her on oxygen, and promised to call us if she failed to make it through the night.

We called at 6:00 the next morning, and they said it was time—time for us to come. When we arrived, Banky seemed glad to see us. But she soon lowered her head. It appeared to be too heavy for her to hold up. The doctor said, “Banky needs a new heart.” Rosalie knew before the doctor spoke. We both knew. Rosalie knew what had to be done, but she telephoned Banky’s regular vet. After hanging up the phone, Rosalie stood still for a moment and then said, “It’s time!”

I said, “Rosalie, let’s go out into the waiting room.”

“No, I want to hold her.”

“Dear, that is not necessary!”

“It is for me—and for Banky!”

The injection worked in only five of six seconds . . .the stethoscope . . .

and it was over. Rosalie and I both cried unashamedly.

 

While I drove, Rosalie held Banky’s lifeless form close to her chest just as she would hold a newborn infant. Banky’s body was wrapped in a white blanket. We were both still crying. I could barely see the road ahead. I mentioned a couple of times that we could have Banky put in a pet cemetery in a nearby town. But Rosalie said, “No, Banky will be buried at her home, right in front of the garden angel, in the flower bed, in front of the house. That is the spot that was her favorite place to go right before bedtime each night.”

I dug the grave. Rosalie wrapped Banky in the old red robe that was Banky’s favorite for sleeping. She put a glittering red cap we had gotten in New Orleans on Banky’s head. She placed her in a pasteboard box and closed it. After the mound was flattened, we had a prayer of thanksgiving for Banky’s “ninety-one years” with us. I thought that would provide closure, but it didn’t.

The following couple or three months of grieving were significant for me, but the grieving was deep, deep, deep for Rosalie. She put a door wreath on the grave and propped it up with a dowel stick. As she planted pansies on the grave, she remarked, “We won’t mow over the spot until the pansies are gone.” Inside the house, she moved her reading chair so she could look through the glass door to where Banky is buried.

Rosalie has been eager to share the details of our experience with special friends who phoned.  She telephoned several others to tell them the news. She stopped by the vet’s office and the kennel to talk with Banky’s former caregivers. Rosalie grieved deeply, but she freely talked about her grief and ritualized it in tender ways. All these actions seem to be healthy and healing for her. But healing from this loss will require more time. The loss of a cherished pet is not like losing a child in death, but now I know that it is certainly as painful as losing a close member of the family. Throughout the house and the yard, we are constantly reminded of Banky. It seems we can almost hear her and see her in familiar ways and places. She is deep within our memories and our consciousness.

Amidst the reminders, Rosalie and I have discovered numerous reasons to be thankful. Banky had a very peaceful life in our home and in our affections. The other day Rosalie commented, “Banky was never attacked by another dog or by a cat. She was never run over by a car. No one ever mistreated her. She had good neighbors who loved her, and she had our nine grandchildren to play with her. She loved their company. She had the full run of the house and yard through her own private door. Although about the only places she ever went in the car were to the vet, the kennel, and the groomer, her small world was safe, secure, and friendly. I’m most grateful that she never went totally blind.”

“All dogs deserve to have it good,” I said. “Banky had it very, very good, Rosalie, because we planned it that way!”

Finally, Rosalie needed an answer to a heavy question: “Is there a heaven for dogs?” She called a friend who has great tenderness, profound wisdom, and deep maturity in his faith. Somewhat tentatively, Rosalie asked him her question. After a comforting silence, he said, “I have never considered that question, but I do know this: The closeness that you and Banky felt was real, and it reflects a genuine and powerful relationship. God honors genuineness and caring. You will carry Banky’s memory in your love and in your heart forever, which means through eternity in heaven.

A couple of weeks after we buried Banky, Rosalie remarked, “You know, Danny, as I held Banky close to my heart on the way home that morning, I could feel the warmth leaving her body.  I held her close hoping that the warmth leaving her heart would enter my heart and not be lost. And I am confident it did.”

 

Caring and Caregiving in Morning Worship

by Minta Mc David

 

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Jesus came to your worship service? Would you recognize him? Would he feel welcome? Would you feel uneasy? Would the two of you feel at home together? I’ve wondered. He came today and I recognized him. We both knew we were at home.

Jesus came in the person of my friend, Ronnie. Ronnie is a child of God of fifty-four year of age. He has Down’s Syndrome. He has brought many gifts to our faith community as he lives among us.

He loves to come to church, most often late, for he has lived alone since his mother died. Everyone knows when he enters the church, for he usually comes in talking and greeting various people as he makes his way down the aisle to his front seat. There he goes though his ritual of removing backpack, glasses on a chain, and his sweater. He hangs them all on the end of his pew. Ronnie’s next priority is to remove his offering from his change purse and to decide whether the offering has been received. Whether it has or not, he walks up the altar, bows, crosses himself and places his offering in the plate.

No matter if the preacher is preaching, the choir is singing, the Scripture is being read, when Ronnie arrives, he follows his regular ritual. He has a way of bringing a presence with him. Apart from his ritual of entrance to the worship service, we are made aware of his presence in additional ways. Some persons become irritated or embarrassed as Ronnie passionately participates in the singing of hymns, or in reciting the creed, or praying The Lord’s Prayer in a loud, piercing voice, trailing several words behind the congregation. Some people feel uncomfortable as Ronnie leaves his pew to greet and welcome people during the greeting time, looks them in the eye, and greets them with a handshake or a bear hug.  He says to some of the women as he kisses them on the cheek, “Boy, you sure are pretty.” Others experience his presence throughout the service as they watch, from behind, his body movements coinciding with some of the hymns. It is difficult for Ronnie to be still, for he seems compelled to move to the music within, even when there is no music without.

And some people recognize his presence as a child, remembering Christ rebuked the disciples, saying, “Let the children come to me and don’t hinder them, for to such belongs the Kingdom of God.” Ronnie has been given the gift of opening our eyes to the presence of the childish, selfish child with us. For there are times when we wish that Ronnie wouldn’t come to “our” well-designed, well-rehearsed worship service. The service has become comfortable and does not require much energy, thought, or change.

Yes, Christ came to our Palm Sunday worship service today in Ronnie. I had shared an interpretative dance/movement in the two previous services to the song, The Rose. I seated myself on the second pew near the front and was expectantly awaiting the coming of children waving palm branches as they had done in the earlier services. When the music began and I heard the children, I looked back and what I saw was a beautiful sight! There, in the midst of the children, was Ronnie making his entrance as usual, but today he was waving a palm branch. He was lost in the celebration of Palm Sunday worship. He came and sat in front of me in his usual place and went through his usual ritual. My immediate thought was to ask Nancy (who sits with him most Sundays) to hold onto him when I began my dance, for I felt he would want to dance too. I know that Ronnie often feels a need to move to music that is within. I momentarily questioned whether it would be appropriate or inappropriate and immediately felt uneasy. The matter was decided for me; Nancy got up after the children’s time and went with them to Children’s Church.

As I walked up to the front of the altar where I began the dance, the minister’s words from the two previous sermons rang in my ears. I knew his script well, “Have you ever lost yourself in something? Like the disciples and followers of Jesus did on that first Palm Sunday?” he asked. I was thinking to myself, Yes, I often lose myself when I dance.

In my dancing, I combine some signing as my own personal interpretation to express the meaning of the message in worship with my body. The music and the song began,

“Some say love, it is a river that drowns the tender reed,

Some say love, it is a razor that lead the soul to bleed,

Some say love, it is a hunger, a never ending need,

I say love, it is a flower and you its only seed.”

I stepped down from in front of the altar and was on even ground with the rest of the worshippers. As I did, I was interpreting these words:

“It’s the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance.”

At that instant…I became aware that Ronnie was signing what I was signing while he was still seated in his pew. And the song continued:

“It’s the dream afraid of waking that never takes the chance,

It’s the one who won’t be taken who never learns to give,

It’s the soul afraid of dying who never learns to live.”

By this time, Ronnie was up beside me, facing the congregation. He was making every move I made, in sync, in rhythm. It was as though he anticipated; he knew the next move. We were moving together to the music within us.

Our hands touched and momentarily we held hands and the song continued:

“When the night has been too lonely, and the road has been too long,

And you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong,

Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snow,

Lies the seed that with the Son’s love, in the spring becomes the rose.”

The words ended but the piano continued for about twenty beats, like the sound of a heart beating. Our right hands, symbolizing the seed, were extended up and out in front of us, and with each beat of the piano, opened a little more, and more, and more, until they were completely open, symbolizing a rose.

We sat down, but this time I sat on the front pew next to Ronnie. He learned over and kissed me on my cheek and I knew we had been visited by—and I had danced with, and had been kissed by—the Lord of the Dance, Jesus.

Amen and Amen. Let the people of the Dance, say, . . .Amen!

 

The Trumpet Lily

by Mary Louise Del Oleo

 

The Trumpet lily, often referred to as the Easter lily, bloomed in our Wilmington yard the week of my Mother’s passing last June. I cannot ever remember having an Easter lily that I planted one year to come up the next. I definitely never had one that came up and bloomed. This one did, in June, with four magnificent, white, trumpet blossoms. Trumpets of announcement! God was speaking to me. (According to Robert D. Johnson’s Numbers in the Bible, the number four represents God’s creative work, earthly completeness. . .and represents the wilderness journey of the believer through this world.)

The week it bloomed, I was in Wilmington. I had been home, infrequently, since early May when my Mother became critically ill. Since the beginning of that crisis, I had been in Georgia as much as possible, so I could be with her and my Dad. Early that particular week, however, Joe was in Georgia with them and I was home tending things here. Because I had been away so much that spring and summer, I had seldom even looked at our garden. But that day I was impressed to go into the back part of the garden. To my surprise, I found this lily beginning to bloom. As I kept watch over it through the week, it continued to bloom profusely.

As I watched that week, I was also waiting for Joe to return from being with my parents in Georgia. My plan was that when he arrived home, I would go to Georgia to be with them. As the week progressed, there was a stirring within me that I was not to wait for Joe to return, but with some urgency, I was to get back to Georgia as soon as I could. Through the beauty of the lily, I was being called back into her presence.

To make an abrupt return meant tending to numerous details, such as obtaining airline tickets, and rearranging many appointments in my counseling practice. Once I began to move down this path of reordering my plans, all of the details came together quickly. Because the two us shared a deep love for flowers, it became increasingly clear that the blooming confirmed my inner prompting to hurry back to be with my Mother.  One of my prayers had been that when my Mother was to depart this life, I wanted to love and honor her by being present with her at that particular time.

How faithful God is! One step at a time, God progressively revealed the path I was to take and helped me to walk it out. On Friday, I arrived in Georgia. On Monday, as I was singing to Mother the old hymn, “He Leadeth Me, O Blessed Thought,” Mother went home to be with the Lord. Had I waited to return according to my original schedule, I would have missed being with her at her time.

How I appreciate the prompting of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s confirming presence through the lily. It is especially meaningful, and gives strength to the blooming as my confirmation. God not only prompted me, God spoke clearly in language and imagery that Mother and I shared. God spoke to me in the gentle, lovely, and fragrant language of the garden.

Jesus said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in, trusts in and relies on Me, although she may die, yet she shall live; and whoever continue to live and believe in Me shall never actually die at all. Do you believe this? John 11:25-26 Amplified.”

 

Going Fishing

 

Control issues are a constant demon in the life of caregivers and patients alike. On the one hand, the sick person needs more than ever to have some control over what is happening. On the other hand, the more time the caregiver spends assuming responsibility for someone else’s care, the more responsibility the caregiver feels for everyday decisions about the life of the patient. Obviously, two people can’t be in control at the same time without: 1) working out a plan to share control or 2) letting God be the One in control or 3) talking out who is to be in control.

Decisions can be shared, and although the caregiver has the job of carrying out many of them, the patient can still give input and make final decisions. Especially comforting is the ability to control one’s own food intake, monitor one’s own medication schedule, choosing when to take baths, dress, move from the bed, watch TV, etc. These may be small details to an outsider, but the shrunken world of a house bound person is less constricting when that person does the choosing. Fine-tuning of the relationship must be done when the caregiver has concerns about forgotten medication and pain management, overestimation by the patient of the patient’s stamina, cleanliness, or proper food intake. Extreme mistrust arises when the caregiver feels the patient is not consistently rational, but still attempts to make decisions.

My experiences along these lines were blessed with the Holy Spirit’s insight into how patient and trusting I must be with God and His ability to work with my sick husband Duane to prompt him to take proper care of himself. One thing I kept foremost in my mind was the need to allow Duane to be in control and at least attempt to do as many things as he could, thus retaining some normalcy in his life. The supreme test for my spouse and me came in two events: 1) One was the day he decided to go fishing when he could no longer walk alone to the bathroom and 2) when he had an episode of extreme pain while I was away from home.

A fishing trip seemed like a small challenge since we lived only three miles from the river’s edge, accessible by car or truck. However, Duane had deteriorated to the point where he was unable to get out of bed by himself, and a frightening episode had occurred just five days before when he stopped breathing. The hospice nurse Joann and I were alone with Duane just before the episode. She was teaching me how to move him to a chair and change his bedding. We left him sitting upright beside the bed in a strait back chair and turned to work with the sheets. Upon turning back, we saw that his head was thrown back and he had obviously quit breathing! I fell apart! I was sure he was dead, but the nurse quickly directed me to help her return him to a prone position on the bed. His breathing and color returned, but this wife was shaken to the core. After a good cry in another room, I sat down with Joann to talk.

“This is not unusual, and not a bad way to die, Mary,” she carefully explained. “Duane’s blood pressure is so low now that just moving him from a lying to a sitting position can kill him. You have to realize this, but do not let it make you afraid to move him around.” Thinking this through, I accepted the randomness of such a leave-taking and vowed to make each day as enjoyable as possible. I had no idea if Duane heard what she said but decided to keep this startling news to myself. Duane had been planning a fishing trip the minute his new grandson, son-in-law, and daughter arrived, and I wasn’t going to be the one to keep him from going fishing because of my fear.

Four days later our little family came, and we both enjoyed holding and talking to our new grandson. Duane had not forgotten his fishing plans. The new father Wade did not know much about fishing. Duane felt it was necessary to teach him all he knew for the future benefit of his grandchildren. Before retiring that Thursday night, Duane and Wade made a long list of things for Wade to purchase and collect before the trip. On Friday morning, the plan of action continued to unfold. By bedtime that night, everything was in place for an early Saturday morning fishing trip.

We have a videotape of the grand exit from the living room to the car. Duane wore his biggest smile, fishing clothes, and a hat. Wade carried Duane’s frail body out the front door to the waiting car, carefully arranged his legs, and placed a pillow behind his head to make him comfortable. No one else was allowed to go. This was a guy thing. As they drove away, I realized I might not see my husband alive again, but what a great way for an outdoorsman to go, among the cypress trees on a river bank on a beautiful spring day.

The next three hours were the longest of my life. I watched out of the windows of every room I happened to be in, for the little blue station wagon. Finally, the fishermen returned triumphantly, without any fish, but with big smiles, and stories to tell of what they saw, how they argued about where to fish, and how they struggled to get themselves to the riverbank and back up the steep grade to the car. Duane announced joyously, “This is the strongest LITTLE man I ever knew!” Wade had packed all the gear to the river’s edge, then a folding chaise lounge, pillow and blanket, and finally, Duane. Wade teased Duane for dozing on the job, but Duane had enjoyed teaching Wade what to do, seeing the wildlife, and talking about his days as a foreman on the ranch straddling the Blanco River. Finally, the true test of strength came when Wade had to haul everything back to the car. Neither he nor Duane realized until then how steep the grade was from the river up to the car. There was even doubt about being able to navigate the boulders and fallen trees without getting the car stuck in a hole, but the Lord’s hand had brought them home safely.

I was overjoyed that I had not tinged the day with gray by telling Wade to be careful or begging Duane not to go because of my fear. My gift to them had been the “peace that passeth understanding.” They had wrestled with Duane’s physical limitations, pushed those limits, and won.

There was a physical price Duane paid. Extremely exhausted by the trip, he slept most of the remainder of Saturday. However, on Easter Sunday morning, he was able to enjoy the banquet and gathering of family members from near and far. Still tired, he sang joyfully and enthusiastically as we closed our Easter service around his bed with “Amazing Grace.” He sang the last verse so well I teased him about the fact that he sang tenor better lying down than standing up. Again Sunday evening and Monday, he slept so much that his blood pressure dropped more, alarming nurse Joann. She said he would not live through Monday night. On the contrary, after much prayer and a comatose rest, he lived another five ½ days full of chatter and playfulness with his grandson and daughters.

 

Mary Remembers Duane’s Last Wonderful Days

 

Warner Duane Powell died of cancer on April 28, 1995. His is wife, Mary, described how they chose to live toward the last.

Our support system was extensive, for we were surrounded by a wonderful collection of friends and family. God did have “skin on” through our home church, the Body of Christ. The emotional roller coaster we were on stopped every week when our Emmaus reunion group met at church; then during the second year in our living room; and finally beside Duane’s bed. There were prayers and anointing for healing, frequent services of communion, and times to talk about feelings and fears. I learned that our reunion group was the safest place for both of us to talk about our pain and our need to feel in control of Duane’s illness. Even without a physical healing, there came healing for emotions and relationships. Surrounded by our friends, we could say things that we could not risk saying at home alone without the spiritual support of this group. Our families and old childhood friends also surrounded us with prayers, supportive letters, gifts, jokes, and visits. Shared pain is easier to bear. “When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow” (Rom. 12:15). “Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).

Through this support network, Duane and I were reassured of our value to our friends and to God, and confident of the commitment by our friends to be available any time.

We began to focus on the uncertain future and the present at the same time. We wanted meaning in each golden moment and memories that would nourish us through hard times ahead. We made each day count, relishing the time together, creating special moments in the time we had left. We chose not to dwell on the cancer spreading to other organs, an unknown challenge ahead. We stopped to watch deer in the fields on the way to the doctor’s office. We picnicked at the part where we had become engaged thirty-three years before. We took time to eat breakfast on the front porch as the sun rose and colored the sky. We listened to praise tapes and watched nature scenes with praise music on TV.

We wanted to be a witness to others whose faith might be shaken if Duane did not live, for did not Jesus say, “(the blind man) was born blind so the power of God could be seen in him” (John 9:3)? If God’s power could be seen in our life together, there was meaning to the evil we were battling. Just as Dr. Seamans suggested, “God uses suffering.” If our love for each other and for God were to shine through our lives, we might draw someone closer to God by our witness.  We claimed God’s presence to see us through whatever was ahead, and we found something to praise God for every day. We spent hours enjoying friends, telling stories from the past, sharing jokes and games. We faced each day calmly and took each day one at a time, relishing the opportunity to talk about God’s comforting presence in our lives. Somehow, through all of this, we believed that God could be glorified through our obedience to God’s Word. Once we turned that corner, we saw many ways that God was using Duane’s illness to witness to others and draw them closer to God. We also realized that our ability to let people serve us in big and small ways was allowing God to use them and strengthen them spiritually in their service to us.

 

Caregivers to One Another

 

I was with two top-rated caregivers today. Yes, two—they affirmed that they are caregivers to each other. Now that they have been married fifty years, I’ll take their word for it.

Ross became blind at nineteen. The following year he met Arlene. Within two years they were married.

I asked what it had been like for Arlene to be a caregiver all those years?

She said, “It is true that I have been Ross’s caregiver, but Ross is also my caregiver. Caregiving is just about mutual for each of us. You see, Ross is a wonderful home-made psychologist. He’s good at encouraging me and keeping me focused. When people first meet us, they think, ‘Poor Arlene, having to take care of her blind husband all of the time. She probably has to feed him and bathe him.’ But none of that is true. Ross takes as much care of me as I do of him. We just do it in different ways.”

To be with them is to see two sensitive and caring people relating to each other in many beautiful ways. When we stopped for gas, Arlene said, “Ross will pump. He always pumps. I go in and pay.” While pumping he said, “There are many things I can’t do, but we are always looking for things I can do. I love to pump.”

As I was paying at a restaurant, I asked, “Would either of you like a piece of peppermint?” Arlene could have reached into the box and handed Ross a peppermint. Instinctively, she guided his hand to the box and he took the candy. When I commented about what she had done she said, “I could have handed him a piece, but he might have wanted one or four pieces. This way, he did it like he wanted to.”

At an earlier time while I was visiting in their city and they were driving me to the airport, Arlene asked, “Ross, which way should we go?”

He asked, “Is the traffic heavy?”

No, the traffic is light right now.”

“Then, let’s go Ventura Boulevard.”

“Okay. Ventura is coming up in the next block.”

As we entered a seafood restaurant, Arlene said, (as if speaking directly to Ross) “Here is a large aquarium with about a dozen large fish in it. This is a rustic-type restaurant. They have hundreds of men’s caps stapled to the ceiling.” Then she said to us, “I let my eyes do the talking.”

After we were seated, I asked, “Since you are together so much, do either of you ever get on the other’s nerves?”

Ross said, “Yes, we do sometimes. But Arlene has her women-friends and groups that she attends by herself.”

Arlene said, “And Ross has his men’s groups. We are not together all of the time.”

Ross said, “People talk about being co-dependent. I’m not sure I know what that means. I guess we are co-dependent on each other—but in a positive way.

Ross is one of two Lay Leaders in his church of about 800 members. Each of them teaches various classes and leads groups, singly and together.

I asked if they tended to worry about each other? Arlene said, “No, we don’t worry. Sometimes I can’t find him, but it is because he is working in the yard behind a bush or quietly doing wood-work in his shop.”

Ross said, “I always mop the kitchen floor.”

“How do you mop the floor?”

“I mop it on my knees. I put a bucket of water out in the middle of the floor in front of me. After reaching the walls on either side, I move the bucket forward. It’s pretty neat. Arlene says I am a good mopper. At least, she has no desire to re-mop after I have finished.”

“Ross, do you ever feel sorry for yourself?”

“Not often. It is not very helpful.”

Ross said, “One thing we have learned about caregiving is that it is done best when the one being care for is expected to help.”

Now, both are near seventy. They ride their tandem bicycle just about every morning, beginning at 5:30. They usually ride from six to sixteen miles. Twice a year, they ride in a bike-a-thon for a distance of fifty-five to sixty miles.  They do not wish to ask people to sponsor them so they pay the $65.00 per person. Arlene rides in front and controls direction. Ross rides in back and controls speed by shifting gears. He usually makes all of the decisions about shifting, but occasionally, she will tell him that they are approaching a long hill either up or down. Otherwise, Ross decides through the feel of the pedals when they need to shift. They both chuckled when he said, “When we are on the bike, Arlene is shiftless.”

For their fiftieth anniversary they were making a cross-country trip during which they planned to have fifty parties with friends and relatives to celebrate their fifty years of marriage. They spent one night with us. Arlene said, “We don’t like big parties. Just two to eight people are enough for us. You and Rosalie are our thirty-seventh party.”

Arlene spread a white tablecloth and we cut a carrot cake—like at all of their previous parties. She brought out the bride and groom dolls that were fifty years old and placed them on the cake, like they had been placed fifty years earlier. She showed us her wedding dress and nosegay she carried down the aisle. She had replaced the original roses with “cloth-flowers”, but the nosegay had a quaint, nostalgic feel about it. She even had the receipt for their wedding cake. Ross could relate to all of these artifacts of memory and both of them beamed with delight as they showed us. We were invited to write our names on the white tablecloth.  She told us she will embroidery our signatures as she has all who signed before us during this trip. The embroidery will feel like Braille to Ross.

Caregivers? You bet! We felt it between and we felt I from them. With Arlene and Ross, being a caregiver is not just something they do, it is something they are.

As they were about to leave I said, “Arlene and Ross, it has been wonderful to have you bless our home. Our home will always be different because you have been here!”