There are times I am amazed at the wonderful man I have for a husband. It’s not that I didn’t date good men when I was young and single, but because I didn’t have a good self-image, I would sabotage those relationships and end up obsessing over men who, frankly, were trouble.
But I did a wise thing in my youth. I prayed a very fervent and sincere prayer. Seeing many of my friends doing foolish and destructive things for ‘love’, I knew that on my own I would make the very same mistakes. So, I cried out to God not to let me settle for second best. In spite of my foolishness and willfulness, He honored that prayer; but I did not make it easy for Him.
Nonetheless, I ended up with a man who is kind and supportive beyond measure. He has been a studio assistant, a copy editor, a compassionate caregiver, a lifter and mover of heavy things and whatever else I’ve needed along the way. He cares for me, encourages me, he’s helped me care for my mother as she descended into Alzheimer’s and now he’s caring for his parents. Just this week, he took care of me as I went through some medical procedures, he cared for his dad as he had to relinquish his driver’s license, and in the middle of the night he cared for his mother’s geriatric cat who is diabetic and was in serious stress of an unknown infection – going to pick up the cat and his parents, taking them to the animal hospital, and caring for his mother as she had to leave her beloved pet for the night. Now he is making sure the cat lives another day by going over twice each day to get antibiotics down her throat, ointment into her eyes, and give her shots of insulin.
His sacrifices for love are monumental. I am truly blessed. I will leave you with this....
Sonnet by William Shakespeare
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments; love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O, no, it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his
height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy
lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.
You know your life is out of balance when you are looking forward to a colonoscopy, knowing that for one day you will be unavailable and blissfully under anesthesia. I recognize this feeling. This is how I often felt when I was taking care of my mother. This is called “compassion fatigue” and it is a form of burnout. It happens to those who serve others without giving enough thought to their own needs. I have reached this point. It is not because I am unaware of my own needs, but rather that things have to be taken care of and it’s up to my husband and myself to care for them.
This past week my sister-in-law and her husband were here from out of state and they were a big help. We were able to search for some care facilities that would provide memory care for Dad, but also provide a space where he and Mom could stay together. There are precious few facilities that provide that sort of service. After many appointments, phone calls and visits, we were able to find one that we could all live with and are in the process of getting on the waiting list.
Tomorrow, I take Mom to a doctor appointment. Of course, Dad will come to “help” which makes the process longer. After the appointment, I take them back to their apartment, get them safely squared away and then go to work for eight hours. Tuesday is an equally busy day, but Wednesday…ah Wednesday! I’m scheduled for a colonoscopy. I will sleep for most the day and no one can expect anything from me.
The apostle Paul wrote in the book of Colossians to ‘clothe yourself in compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience’ (Col. 3:12 ISV). I love the metaphor of wrapping myself in the garments of kindness. I don’t love the fatigue that comes when I don’t show the same kindness to myself.
When I was caring for my mother, there were wonderful people who came along side me and helped me helping her. The very best was when someone would come and visit her to give me time off. God bless each and every person who did that. Taking a therapy dog to visit her, spending and evening making dinner and sitting with her, taking her to church or into their homes for a holiday so we could spend time with Mike’s family. Priceless, priceless gifts of their time.
If you know someone caring for someone with dementia or some other disability, have compassion on the compassionate. Clothe yourself with kindness and give them some time off to catch their breath. They’re in a marathon and they need you.
The entire month of September was dedicated to elder care. Mom is out of rehab and home, rejecting in-home care as I predicted. My sister-in-law is coming into town and we are going to start looking into facilities for the not so distant future.
All this has tapped me out. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. I can't paint, and I can't write.
So....until things are back to a somewhat even keel, this blog is on hiatus.
Thanks for stopping by.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.