Wednesday, July 20, 2005

to care and not to care

“Teach us to care and not to care…” T. S. Eliot


I would never presume to teach. However, with nearly two decades as a spouse caregiver hopefully I can squeak by with  ‘share’.


Taking a detour from this journal’s original focus, I will try for awhile to share my philosophy or at least ‘thoughts in general’ about caregiving.


The T-Ball story posted previously has motivated me.. I’m 54; the coach is half my age at 27 the kids influenced are 8 yrs old. … I believe, in general, the essence to care is fading. Or maybe the environment to CARE is out of whack. Certainly something is broken.


I coached a season of T-Ball. It was more than memorable, it was magical. Kids just learning the game bring to baseball the element of genuine unpredictable fun.


Believe it or not, I never coached another season. While the "Pink Panthers" were a blast, the parents were another story. It took too much restraint during games to avoid taking a bat and bludgeoning half of them. I suspected this might traumatize their children. It was definitely affecting my ability to CARE.


We cannot legislate nor enforce CARE. You cannot beat your chest and exclaim “I care the most!” CARE has to cease to be a just a song lyric, or exploited during a political campaign, or only a topic for a Sunday sermon. It isn’t always about the “homeless” or “needy”. If a minivan cuts you off in traffic on a bad day and your car was equipped with heat seeking missiles you know you would send one up their tailpipe and vaporize that van with no thought about passengers. CARE is fading.


The way a child is taught to CARE, or more importantly sees how others CARE, becomes the foundation for future caregiving and so much more. People, families, neighborhoods and groups have to begin to do a better job of learning and teaching to care and not to care. Caregiving is however what this journal is about so I will try to avoid digressing. Now back to the specific extension of CARE that becomes caregiving.


Of course, it is all so easy to talk about versus the actual doing. Each caregiving situation is frustratingly personal. Each ‘person in need’ has unique levels of disability and symptoms and a course of progression then you have to consider each caregivers individual resources from physical health and strength to economics and home environment.


Random variables like these could drive a mathematician bonkers looking for a formula. It’s overwhelming, it’s only logical to “run for the hills.” You cannot commence with your logical mind.


Call it the heart or the soul or whatever. Caregiving is a path chosen and a journey that unfolds …  


... stopping by to pick Patti up for an evening at home Tuesday afternoon I found her in bed.


She claimed she didn’t want to go anywhere she just wanted to nap, she felt like crap. So I decided to just visit a bit and sit while she slept. We chatted a bit before she dozed off.


A couple minutes later she pops up like Linda Blair in the Exorcist and projectile vomits in an excellent 4 ft spray pattern. Best of all somehow missing me! <grin> Impressive!


Since Patti had fallen recently trying to get out of bed she was hooked up to a bed alarm that goes off if she makes a sudden movement with a high decidable whooping alarm. I was unfamiliar with it and could not turn the damn thing off. So I do a typical manly man thing and rip the alarm off the bed. It still won’t go off! Noticing it is also attached to her shirt I try to disconnect it there. I’m equally unsuccessful with the latch so I again do the male thing and rip. With a tear it comes off along with a piece of her shirt. But the damn alarm is still going off!!!!


Now I am holding an extremely annoying alarm and a chain with a chunk of Patti’s shirt hanging from it.


Patti is sitting up in a bed, along with wall, and floor sprayed in vomit. She looks at me and exclaims, “You ripped my shirt!”


With vomit everywhere and the alarm from hell wailing in my hands, Patti's remark struck us both so funny we both just started laughing and laughing and couldn't stop.


Finally, two staff members come rushing in panting to respond to the alarm. They look at us like we have lost our minds.


CARE was certainly tested as it was also dinner time at her facility and needless to say all the staff was busy taking residents to the dinning rooms or working in the assisted dining room. Either Patti could lie there for a bit till someone got a chance or you can guess who got to roll up his sleeves and refresh his home caregiving skills. <grin>


  1. ...I have had my laugh for the day, you doing the manly t hing!  
    You are right, people don't care in the same way anymore. My daughter cares but says she could never do what I am doing and not to expect her to "care" for me.  At least she is honest and believes what she is saying.

    I am not sure we are always doing the right thing, although  Jack says he wants to be at home.  And I am dragging him around with me everywhere I go almost.  I think he likes it too.  I wonder each day what the future holds, and then say to myself only one day at a  time!   We can handle the one day.

    And we roll with the punches, our plans are often changed.
    Sometimes we do things we don't expect to be doing, but we do.  
    Guess I need a day away, it is often promised but never happens.

  2. Patrick, I don't know how you do it but you always seem to brighten my day.

    Bless you, you are a dear sweet "manly" man.  :-)

  3. oh my....Charley would have thrown up right there with me.  We both have weak stomaches and throw up on a dare.  Funny story Patrick.


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