The yellow umbrella

The yellow umbrella

Rain.

Not the kind rain kids like to run in and lovers like to walk in, but the unkind rain that kids run from and lovers shun. The hard-driving cold rain no one wants to be out in.

They were out in it.

A mother and her young daughter, alone, at a bus stop, arms wrapped each other, heads bowed against the wind and the water going through them like they weren’t even there.

A car drove by.

‘That’s so sad,’ the passenger said, looking out at the mother and daughter.

The driver said nothing.

Two blocks up the road, the car pulled into a Walgreen’s parking lot. The driver got out, went inside and returned carrying two umbrellas, one of them a kid-size yellow umbrella. A few minutes after that, the car was parked on a side street next to the bus stop. The driver got out, walked through the driving rain to the mother and daughter, handed them each an umbrella, turned and walked back to the car. Other than a squeal of delight from the child not a sound was heard, not a word was spoken.

The passenger’s name was Empathy. The driver’s name was Compassion.

Compassion was a caregiver.

We talk a lot about the caregiver.

We talk about oxygen masks, oxygen tanks, oxygen tubes, suction aspirators, nebulizers, blood pressure kits, catheters, glucose meters, insulin pumps, lancing devices, and blister packs.

Day after day.

We talk about cleaning, wiping, dressing, undressing, transferring, lotions, meds, cooking, shopping, and doctors.

Day after day.

We talk about anger, fear, frustration, the feeling of hopelessness, inadequacy and sleeping with one eye and both ears open.

Night after night.

The thing we don’t talk about is the thing that drives them – the difference between empathy and compassion. Look it up – you’ll find something like this; While empathy refers more generally to our ability to take the perspective of and feel the emotions of another person, compassion is when those feelings and thoughts include the desire to help.

Compassion is the caregiver.

Compassion is the kid that cried when Bambi’s mother died. Compassion is the kid that couldn’t kill a bug on the sidewalk, the kid that adopted the runt of the litter. Compassion is the person that attracts people with a need, financial, physical, even just the need for a good listener.

Compassion is the caregiver.

Compassion is not weakness. It takes perseverance to get up every morning knowing the challenges of the day will likely be more demanding than those of the day before and still move toward them. It takes loyalty to stand by the person who has become someone you no longer recognize and worse, no longer recognizes you. It takes the heart and soul of someone who hears someone else cry out in pain, feels their pain and wants, more than anything, to rid the world of pain. And it takes the impossible strength to hold the hand of someone you love while they move from this world to the next.

Compassion is the caregiver.

The one carrying the yellow umbrella through the rain.


By: William McDonald, Author of Old Friends (Endless Love)

Moments

Moments

I want to do this.

I don’t want to do this.

I love doing this.

I hate doing this.

I can do this.

I can’t do this anymore.

The Caregiver.

By choice.

Or no choice.

You will be frightened.

You will be alone.

You will have doubt

And you will want out.

But only you will ever know.

And only you will ever know the moments that make it all worthwhile.

 

Diane/caregiver/Colton, California


 

I am my 85-year old father’s 64-year old caregiver. He is bedridden now and rarely speaks. His eyes do his talking for him. His eyes speak of how tired he is. He holds my hand and teaches me to be quiet and just be there. Do I talk too much Daddy? Barely a smile while nodding his head, “yes”. I laugh and try to be quiet. Our time together is growing shorter and there’s so much I want to say.

But we just hold hands.

One time he said, almost shyly, “You’re a good girl”. I stood there, suddenly 5 years old again, grinning like an idiot through my tears.

What will I remember of this last leg of his journey? All the pain and morphine? His silence? The way he reaches for my hand? I will remember all of it and treasure every moment.

For now, we just hold hands.

 

Mari/Caregiver/Burbank, California


 

Nearly all of the people I’ve cared for, in the last part of their lives it turns out, the care was mine, but the giving was theirs.

It was not my gift to them, but their gift to me. It was pure grace.

Grace, that Don allowed me to read to him, even though he didn’t need, or maybe even want me to. He knew how much it meant to me to do it.

My mother watched in quiet acceptance and love as I tried everything in my power to give her comfort and attempted to lessen her pain. 

My father knew as his strength ebbed, mine had to grow.

Each of them gave far more to me than I ever gave to them.

 

Deanne/caregiver/Kingston, Ontario


 

My husband was diagnosed with early stage dementia in June 2015. My heart was broken. A month later our son, Steven, died. How can a heart break twice?

My husband and I cared for each other but we were arguing more and more.  

I wanted out.

But I could not dessert him. I could not put the responsibility for his care on our daughter. These circumstances have brought us closer. Our shared memories have brought us closer. We have found love again.  

We live one day at a time, not thinking about the future because we have no idea if there will even be a future. Today we hugged and made a list of things that need doing so he would not forget.  Then we hugged again.

It felt good.  

Pat/caregiver/Tucson, Arizona


 

In the autumn of 2006, my beloved husband was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Aphasia, a form of dementia.  I’d noticed that this witty, funny, intelligent (two Masters degrees) man was beginning to struggle with, of all things, language. I had no idea then that nine years later he would not be able to communicate via language at all.

But the language of love and touch never left him.  

On the evening before he died, a baby goat was given to him to hold – one that had had her forelegs injured during birth.  He stroked and comforted her as he would have any living being.  That is the moment I carry with me.

The language of love and touch never left him.  

The Caregiver.

By choice.

Or no choice.

You will be frightened.

You will be alone.

You will have doubt

And you will want out.

But only you will ever know

And only you will ever know the moments that make every moment worthwhile.


 

If you are a caregiver with a moment to share, send it to williamcd75@gmail.com. I will happily share it in Part 2 of this blog.

By: William McDonald, author, Old Friends (Endless Love)

Available at: amazon.com

Go ahead and vent

Go ahead and vent

The letter below is from a caregiver ready to give up.

I am 67 years old, sleeping once again in the house I was raised in. I have given 6 years so far, caring for my 92-year old mother who has Alzheimer’s. My husband, children and grandchild live in another state, without me. People say this is the responsible thing to do.

I attended support groups for years and have read every printed book on Alzheimer’s and caregiving. It seems nothing helps anymore. I am just “stuck”. So I carry on each day, cooking, cleaning and handling the perpetual emergencies. One step at a time; one more day, and the days turn into years. This is my life’s sentence and one I had not planned.

I just want this to end and it seems hopeless. I am giving up. I no longer respect life in the end. The cost is too much for everyone. Do I give another 6 years? I have missed all these years without my grandchild. I’ll never have those years back again. I’m giving up.

Nobody said it was fair. Nobody said it would be easy. And it’s not fair and it’s not easy. Frustration builds, anger builds, resentment builds, aloneness, emptiness, hopelessness … it builds and builds and builds until you want to scream.

So go ahead.

Scream.

The lady – I’m going to call her Anne –  who wrote the letter emailed me afterward that she felt better.

She’s not alone. How many caregivers need, every now and then, to do what Anne did – let it out? And how many of you think you’re in this on your own?

Do what Anne did. Go to www.oldfriendsendlesslove.com, find this blog and, in the Comment section at the end of it … let it out. Let Anne know she is not alone in her occasional thoughts of giving up. If enough of you do it, you’ll find you’re not alone and you’ll find yourself in good company.

But you won’t give up.

That’s not who Anne is.

That’s not who you are.

You are a spark of something greater than you. A spark that pulls you, like the moon pulls the tide, toward Alzheimer’s, cancer, Parkinson’s, toward all that threatens life. You are not superman or Wonder Woman. In the big picture – no – in the biggest picture, the truth is you are Love and, after all the venting is done, you simply cannot be something you are not.

You

Can

Not

Quit.

So go ahead – walk away for a day, vent, let all the frustrations out. You’ve earned the right to do that and you’ll feel better.

But you won’t quit. It’s not who you are.

A rock is a rock.

Love is love.

You are you.