Today I launch a new feature – The Caregiver Series.

Serving as the primary caregiver for a child, an ill or injured person, or an elderly relative, takes a tremendous toll on an individual’s wellness, both physically and emotionally.  I am not sure that we as a society do a terrific job of exploring these issues because so many caregivers are in the “thick” of things.  Their voices often go unheard.

So today, I begin to bring those voices to you.  I start with my own mother, Sally.  She shares the story of my father’s cancer diagnosis with her first post.  Subsequent posts will explore his stroke five years later and the struggles she has faced providing him 24/7 hands-on care.

I hope that these posts will encourage others to speak out and seek camaraderie.  The issues that caregivers face hit upon some of the most crucial issues in our society: healthcare costs, insurability, family leave and employment protections, end-of-life, and self-care.

The End of My “First Husband” – A Guest Post from Sally

For nine years I have been on a journey I never thought I would be taking. I have had family and friends with me but, until yesterday never realized that strangers could benefit from what I have learned.  However yesterday and today I was put in a position to try to find words to help someone.  That made me think that blogging would be a good way to help others, too.

I think I will begin about forty years ago when as a newlywed, my husband and I decided to have our children as soon as we could. We decided we could raise our family and then when we could afford it, we could go out and enjoy life in his retirement.
In retrospect, the expression that comes to mind is:
Never put off to tomorrow what you can do today.
We raised our children, and as they left the nest we looked forward to all the things we were going to share. My husband had worked hard and saved some money. Avid golfers, we wanted to travel and play golf together as much as we could.  First on our list was a trip to Scotland to play St. Andrews.  We were also going to a couples’ golf tournament in Nevada where we planned to kick some booty.   We had all sorts of great ideas.
Plans changed on the day that I was standing in a department store and he called for me to come to the golf course right away.
Naturally I thought he was hitting the ball poorly and wanted me to tell him what he was doing wrong. I hurried over, and as we stood on the putting green he said he had run by the doctor’s office and the doctor had said there was something really, really bad going on.
I didn’t understand how he could be talking so calmly.  I asked if he wanted to leave and go find another doctor to get a second opinion.
He replied, “Yea maybe.  But I need to play this round first.”
Little did I know that was the beginning of the end of the man I now refer to as “my first husband.”
*******
More next week, but in the meanwhile, if you are a full-time caregiver to someone who is ill or injured, what do you recall of the moment your world changed?

5 Responses to “The Caregiver Series : The End of My “First Husband””

  1. on 29 Oct 2012 at 8:26 amK

    I always called myself an assistant caregiver because I was helping my grandmother with my grandfather (Alzheimer’s) and my mom with my dad (prostate cancer). But, there were so many times where I was the full caregiver because my grandmother and mother were having bad times when coping with what was going on was hard to do and they fully needed me to be the one the “good head on their shoulders” since they “couldn’t think straight.” They fully admit they needed many times someone who was in the situation but could still be outside the situation to help them make decisions.

    I totally remember thinking that this was it. I would never be just “Pappaw’s girl” and “Daddy’s girl” anymore. I was now fully an adult with adult issues and wasn’t sure I liked it to be honest. I could go on an on and write an essay about my feelings. I was in my early 30s helping my grandfather and mid-30s with my dad so there were a few years when I felt like it was never going to stop. I wouldn’t take back those years for anything though. It was quality time with the 2 men in my life who meant the most to me. Some people don’t get that time and I’m damn lucky I did.

  2. on 29 Oct 2012 at 10:17 amhot Nai Nai

    The men in your life were lucky but your mom and grandmom were also lucky. To have help from people that love you is an amazing blessing

  3. on 29 Oct 2012 at 10:55 amJulie

    Thanks so much for this. We have been walking this road for the past 6 years with my father-in-law. He is in the last stage of Alzheimer’s Disease. It’s been a tough road for all, but especially my mother-in-law. For her it’s been excruciating. And for some seasons, she’s been just as much of a patient as he has. It’s a struggle for sure and I’m anticipating your mom’s posts. I would love to get her perspective first-hand. Thanks! Kristine, who knew we had so much in common — besides being SMU Theta sisters! Love it!
    Julie

  4. […] Today marks the fifth anniversary of my father’s massive stroke.  (For backstory, you can read my mother’s thoughts on caregiving for him starting here.) […]

  5. […] on stroke. As most of you know, my dad had a massive stroke in 2008. It left him unable to care for himself. Watching someone go from competent and capable to utterly […]

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