Fred, and his son Mike, came over for another visit yesterday. I could sense that Mike needed some time to himself, so Fred and I decided to take a little walk. So we started off. It was early in the day, so the heat was still bearable, in fact there was a slight breeze, and also a hint of rain in the air; something sorely needed here at this time. I suppose this is one of the hottest summers I have experienced since I have been here in Georgia. Dog days started in June this year, instead of August.
We did not speak all that much, but just enjoyed the morning in each others company, and traveled down by a small lake that sometimes had geese and ducks in it. This morning there were none, but it was still a nice walk, punctuated a few times by the jumping of large bass in the pond. As we were going for our stroll, I keep going over experience we had in times past. When we first met we were both young; I being 23 and he 33ÖÖ Fred is exactly 10 years older than I am. We were each born in December. I can remember happenings decades old, like they happened yesterday. I suppose in our souls, the past, and the present, can seem very close indeed, even if the event happened over thirty years ago. I remember the first time we went and got some pizza on one of our excursions to get gifts for his children. At that time in 1972 he only had three, so it did not take all that much time, though he was very meticulous in what he got for the little ones. The oldest was four at the time. When we got to the pizza parlor he ordered two large pizzaís, which is a lot, believe me for two men. I laughed when they brought them over, hardly any room on the table. We gave it all we had and I guess ate three fourths of the meal. Well I was very full at the end, and made a note to myself, that best not to try that again. After we waddled to the car I drove us home, and he made a wise crack about my driving. I am a fast driver, but defensive, rather than offensive, in my driving habits. While Fred drives quite a bit below the speed limit; so yes it took forever to get anywhere. I retorted that at least I donít drive like an old man. Well with children I suppose you get into the habit of driving slower; precious cargo on board.
We are both elderly I guess, though I know 57, soon to be 58 is not old, but it is not young either. However I am young at heart and still full of fun, and hopefully will always be that way. Humor is the best way to face life along with faith, since both can keep things in perspective, in their particular areas of life. Fred has a dry sense of humor and a deep sense of God at work in his life, though he is not self conscious about it. It is so much a part of him that I donít think he considers the strength it takes for him to just get up in the morning, sense I know how difficult everything is for him. Perhaps most people donít appreciate their courage in how they often have to face life. I suppose those who have to live with those who are ill, often donít understand, or appreciate either what the sufferer is going through, which can be a source deep frustration. Some do give up, and I can understand that, while others, perhaps the majority stays on course till the end.
I know Fran, who is the main caregiver, struggles a great deal with all of her responsibilities, and I am sure that Fred is not always easy to take care of. Suffering does cause the sufferer to turn in on themselves, and in their need often forget the needs of the care giver. A normal situation, but very painful nonetheless, because situations like this are often very difficult to balance out. Both Fred, and Fran, love one another, and I can see that Fred is starting to understand all that Fran does for him, and hopefully things will get better for both of them.
I work with others in my line of work, we have staff on duty 24 hours a day, so I am not alone, but I do know what it is like, I have done that in that past. One on one is much more difficult than taking care of 8, with helpers around the clock. Families often donít understand the burden that the main care giver is going throughÖÖ and to tell the truth donít want to be part of the process at all, though they can be very critical. Many caregivers destroy their health when taking care of loved ones, since they are often elderly themselves. It is not uncommon for the care giver to actually die before the one cared for does. So yes, being the lone caregiver can be dangerous to ones heath. There is often no way to dispel the stress, and often no one to talk to. Caregivers often find themselves isolated, all their energy taken up with their job. Getting enough sleep can be a big part of the problem, if incontinence has to be dealt with. Which is often the case; caregivers can become moody and irritable and often feel trapped with no way to find relief, since it is often difficult to find someone to communicate with.
Some of the problems can be with the caregivers themselves. Some want others to help, but simply donít trust them to do the job as well as they do. Or perhaps the need to play the central role in this kind of drama is also present. In any case, the caregiver has to be willing to look inward and to face some of the obstacles created by their own needs, that are also part of the problem. Not understanding these dynamics can also make communication impossible with family members, who actually want to help but feel pushed out.
In situations like these there is no bad will, it is just something that develops, and lack of understanding is the norm, because caregivers, often donít say anything until the stress builds up to the point were they explode, which does not help, since this can easily become cyclic leading nowhere.
So yes, Fran and Fred love one another, but the stress of his long drawn out illness has, and will continue to take a toll on his loving wife, as well as on Fred. Mike helps out, and is a God send for his mom. This trip not only gives Fred some time out, but also gives Fran some much needed solitude and relaxation.