I never saw myself in the role of caregiver.
Never trained as a nurse. Never watched my parents care for their parents.
And if I’m to be truly honest, I don’t have a caregiver’s personality. I’m more selfish than that. And, as a creative person, I protect my psyche and guard my time with a certain fierceness.
I came home two decades ago, when Domer was a baby. It was supposed to be temporary, a chance to get back on my feet after a divorce.
When I got a full time job, I offered to leave and get a place of our own.
‘It would kill your daddy if y’all left,’ Mama told me.
Daddy agreed. ‘Save your money,’ he advised. ‘Your boy needs a real family.’
So we stayed.
About the time Domer entered high school, Daddy was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. And because Daddy had to travel some distance away for his treatments, Domer and I pretty much fended for ourselves for long stretches at a time.
Like living on our own.
Still, we both helped Mama care for Daddy, doing whatever we could to make his time more pleasant.
Then Daddy died and Domer went off to college, leaving me with one thought — Now, it’s time to leave.
But I couldn’t. Mama needed me.
Most of her life had been wrapped around my dad. With him gone, she was a woman at loose ends. Her friends were couples; her siblings slowly died off, and she found herself with one medical issue following another.
She doesn’t drive; I became her chauffeur. She loves to read, giving me small blocks of time to myself.
We’ve made it work, though it hasn’t been easy or entirely peaceful. Truth be told, she’s bucking for sainthood by putting up with me!
And while she definitely doesn’t want to go to “a home,” I’ve been adamant that I won’t do certain things — bathing her, for instance.
Yet she’s starting to show (and feel) her age. She’s more frail now and sometimes has trouble hearing me. Her doctor, financial, and personal appointments interrupt my train of thought too often.
But her mind is sharp and she’s mobile.
And neither of us will pass this way again. So it seems fitting to do what’s feasible while we still have each other, don’t you agree?