Tuesday, October 26, 2010


"The capacity to, through consciousness rather than physically, share the sadness or happiness of another sentient being."

No matter how long you have been a caregiver or how confident you are in your choice to be a caregiver, reassurance and re-evaluation are always appreciated.  Sometimes that "attitude adjustment" comes most unexpectedly and at a much needed time. 

"Between our birth and death we may touch understanding as a moth brushes a window with its wing."
christopher fry

Last week I was having a small internal struggle with self pity.  It happens.  I'm sure it happens to everyone and it doesn't happen to me very often but there are triggers.  There happened to be a "perfect storm" of triggers and while I wasn't dwelling or wallowing, I was preoccupied .  

Firstly, it's Fall.  Yes it is beautiful.  Yes the leaves are pretty.  Yes I like the crispness in the air.  But.  I have been known to get "seasonal affective disorder" or "SAD" when the days start getting shorter and summer is slipping away.  I know winter is coming and I get "the blues".  I have my self-help tricks to lessen the symptoms and I'm usually pretty good at picking myself up.

Secondly, I had just returned from a very nice brief trip to visit friends in New England.  {if you can't avioid Fall, plunge into it head on}  It was a terrific trip.  I had a lot of alone or "me" time which is rare for an at-home caregiver.  It was just enough of a taste of freedom to remind me of how restricted and structured my life has become.

Thirdly, and this may seem petty but, a dear, much younger friend got a wonderful job promotion.  I'm very happy for him and I'm not jealous but it did contribute to my thinking about how my life might have taken a different path.

"Once we discover how to appreciate the timeless values in our daily experiences, we can enjoy the best things in life."
harry hepner

It was a nice afternoon and I had gone outside to wrangle the trash cans that had been so thoughtfully tossed into the middle of the street by the "sanitation workers" when a car pulled to the curb, horn honking and driver waiving and smiling.  I was busily swearing at the cans and muttering my usual litany about my tax dollars at work when the lovely woman emerged from her car.

"Christopher" I heard as I looked up from my wandering trash cans.  I was in a daze but the face was familiar.  "It's Eileen"  she said effervescently. "Yes, of course" I said as I came into focus.  It had been years since we'd seen one another but I knew that we had a common bond.

Eileen told me how glad she was to catch me outside and that she had recently had a dream about my mother.  She asked how Adelaide was doing and told me a familiar tale of how my mother had so positively effected her own life and how fondly she remembered her.  She regaled me with anecdotes of my mother as teacher and human being.  I always love those stories.  I've been so fortunate to hear so many of them from people responding to this blog.

I knew that Eileen had lost her mother who was also an Alzheimer's patient.  I didn't know that Eileen had been her caregiver.  We immediately understood one another with that special shorthand that only caregivers understand.  Eileen told me about her experience as caregiver.  I didn't even have to talk about mine.

Eileen is so upbeat and positive and caring.  She spoke of the joys of caregiving as if it were a gift.  She expressed my usual thoughts of not wanting to trade the bonding and shared time spent with our mothers for any other life path.  

I told her that my mother had been having a really great day and asked if she'd like to visit with her.  I knew that she understood my definition of  "having a great day" and she quickly accepted the invitation .  When she approached my mother they both lit up.  Eileen looked like and angel and immediately began speaking to my mother in French [the language my mother had taught her some 40 years earlier] and my mother beamed.  

"Cherish your human connections: your relationships with friends and family"
barbara bush

As Eileen was getting into her car she said "what I wouldn't give for one more hour of taking care of my mother". 

Thank you Eileen for helping me to regain my perspective and to center myself.  At the end of every "perfect storm" there is a beautiful ray of sunshine and all is right with the world once more.


  1. Glad to see that you are writing on the blog since I dont cook. Today's blog really applies to all of us in the health care field. We all need reafirmation of why we do what we do when things get us down. The best is how it comes when we least expect it.

  2. Christopher, This is a beautiful post. So honest and meaningful. Thank you.

  3. That brought tears to my eyes....as a caregiver to my dad, who had Alzheimer's, and my mom, who had cancer, every day is a gift...and while there were days that I could tear my hair out, I miss them every day....I'm not sure where you live, but on Nov 7th in Chamber Park in Mahopac, the Alz Assoc. does a lovely 'Luminary Ceremony' to honor and remember all those who have died, and all those suffering from the nightmare called Alzheimer's...

  4. As always Christopher, thanks for sharing your life with us and giving us things to think about!

  5. Thanks for sharing, Chris.