My boy, Mike, died 15 years ago today (sigh). Here’s a link to a video of an interview with Mike 4 months before he died. (11 minutes).
This anniversary and attending the National Caregiving Conference last week made me think about being a caree, someone who is being cared for. My grandmother, my mother, and Mike were carees. Mike accepted his mortality but didn’t want someone to have to wipe his butt. That was a point too far. As a Holocaust survivor, my mother craved being cared for all her life, yet was deeply ambivalent until her last days. She fought for control and felt deep gratitude for a warm, kind hand. My grandmother wanted more care than she needed (in my opinion, not hers). I mostly sensed fear. I’m only just tasting being a caree.
What does it feel like to need care, to receive care, to want care? I imagine there are many continuums. A person can suddenly go from completely independent and able-bodied to completely dependent – a sudden stroke, an accident. They can inch toward dependence – a progressive disease. And anything in between. A person can have professional caregivers, “nonprofessional” caregivers, both, or none. They could be at ease with receiving care or not. Their care team could function well or not. All sliding continuums. Emotions can range from anger, fear, confusion, relief, gratitude, shame, helplessness, love, loneliness…. Even all at the same time.
I’m in touch with swallowing my pride, fear, helplessness, and gratitude. It kills me that I can’t mow the lawn, shovel snow, do my share of the chores. I freaked when I fell and couldn’t get up. My family is watchful, respectful, and helpful. I’m filled with gratitude.
Unless we die suddenly while fully functional, we will all be carees to some extent. It’s so complicated. It’s hard to receive with reckless abandon.