You wake up in the middle of the night and find that he’s not in bed beside you.
“He must be in the bathroom,” you mutter to yourself.
You go into the bathroom, and there he is, on his 90-year-old knees, trying to clean up urine that accidentally dripped onto the floor while he was trying to urinate into the toilet.
He’s a proud man, despite his age and faltering body. He didn’t want to wake you up, so there he is trying to clean it up himself.
It’s not a pretty picture. Being a caregiver is often messy. It’s also tiring, frustrating, and heartbreaking.
You’ll get to the end of your rope, only to find there’s more rope there.
You never know how long and sturdy your rope is until life brings you to places you’d never choose to go.
It’s messy. Incontinence, food on the floor, drooling, falling. And it’s messy inside your head because you’re trying to do it right, but so often you fail to live up to your own expectations.
It’s like someone else is living your life, and you had to give yours up. It hurts like hell because the person you once knew is disappearing.
You become the person’s hands, feet, and even brain.
All you can do is let go of expectations and take care of things. As lovingly as possible. Forgive yourself when you get angry, frustrated, or your voice gets too loud. Apologize if you must, then forgive yourself.
This isn’t easy.
No one plans for it, because no one ever wants to think about the reality of it. Aging. The final years. Dying and death.
Now it’s all right there — in your face, and you can’t do anything but deal with it.
The best you can.
You won’t do it perfectly.
One moment, you may find the love inside you expands to a love you never knew you had. The next moment, that love is seemingly replaced with selfish thoughts. Thoughts of the freedom you’d have if this whole situation would just end.
“Oh, I can’t think that way,” your mind says, “That means they’d be dead!” You’ll feel guilty and try to dismiss the thought.
But then, as you clean up the piss, the food, the drool, and pick them up from the floor, you find yourself wondering,
“Who will take care of me when the time comes?”
But you can’t spend much time there. You have someone to take care of. They need you.
And, they need to know they are loved.
When your love falters, ask the universe for more. When you get frustrated, forgive yourself.
Then wrap your arms around your loved one, and hold them. Cherish their broken body. Let them know they are loved. Give some of that to yourself too. Hold them tight. Let them hold you.
They may be gone tomorrow.
(By Heidi Hutton Rigoli)