So I seem to think Chris, who is ill, has more freedom than I do as caregiver. But surely that is an oversimplification.
After all, he is a man, who, with diabetes and severe coronary artery disease, still gets up out of bed once or twice a week and goes out to appraisals, to check how things are going on the work site.
A man who always has and will still get breakfast if I have a morning meeting, or make himself a sandwich if I’m having lunch with friends.
Who really loves to have his coffee brought to him in bed, who wants me to sit and watch TV with him. Who in the past has enjoyed helping prepare and share meals.
And he seems to appreciate the cleaning and laundry that go with keeping a place up. So it’s not like he’s taking advantage of me.
Alma Vaugeois, a friend and clinical counselor, talked about Chris. Although he is very sick, he has not made illness his primary identity, she told me.
The way he has constructed his identity, including his illness but not entirely focused on it, there is a generosity in him. That and his deep sense of humour make him strong enough to allow you to be you, she said.
This will not be every caregiver’s experience, Alma added. Not everyone is like that. Some people who are very controlling will not be able to give their caregivers that support.
So it’s not about Chris, this sense of losing myself to the suction of the demands of his care. It’s more like I’m not making quite the right decisions.
That’s the issue that needs a closer examination. Now. Before his condition deteriorates and his needs escalate.
They wheeled Chris from the operating theatre to the hospital ward, Friday after the angiogram. I was waiting anxiously to hear the results of this procedure where they pump dye through your arteries to check for blockages.
Chris looked pale and stricken. There’s nothing they can do for me, he said.
And I realized that health wise? He’d just hit a brick wall.
We’d known this was a possible outcome. When his kids had advised him against the probative procedure, he’d countered with: So what am I supposed to do? Just sit here and die?
I wanted to burst into tears, to give in and let it all wash over me. But one look at the grim determination on his face, and I knew. The bad news was his to deal with. I could not be the one to let go.
We’ll have prawns for dinner, I said stupidly. What’s for dinner had been the topic before he went in for the angiogram,
Then I got myself together and said; You’re here, you’re alive, and you’re coming home with me. That’s all that matters now.
But the news left me stunned. In my sixties, I have no job, and very little income on my own. We have debts, and our income is greatly reduced due to Chris’ illness. Life insurance? Meagre at best.
As I helped him dress and wheeled him down the hall to the parking lot, I worried about how this news would affect him.
After all, if I was in shock, I couldn’t begin to imagine how Chris felt. I only know that whatever lies ahead, I need to be strong for him.
Pray God I am up to it.