Essaying the Situation
Thursday, December 30, 2004
 
Don't Wait for Heaven to Help Us
    There's an interesting article in this week's edition of Caregiver.com. The link will take you directly to the article. It is one woman's story of taking care of her Intense Needs grandmother for a week. I would say that it should be required reading for all people who have an Intense Needs Caregiver in their family and/or community but, the truth is, I remember being a non-caregiver, very clearly, and if I had read this article then, well, it's not that I wouldn't have believed it, it's that it would have had no effect on me other than some sort of mumbled, thoughtless response like that of the last sentence in the article.
    I can't tell you how many times people, both strangers and not so strange-rs (although not, thank the gods, relatives) have told me that there is a special place in heaven for me because of what I'm doing with my mother. The first time this was offered to me I accepted it graciously and, not being a believer in heaven (or hell, for that matter), chalked it up as the best compliment a dedicated born-again Christian thought she could offer me. I continued to let it go without reaction (silent or verbal) a few more times. Then, one day after hearing it, I was catalyzed into thinking about it while I was wheeling my mother around the old Walmart looking for plastic sheets for her bed. These thoughts follow, not necessarily in deductive or inductive order:
  1. I wonder if there is also a "special place" for all those who know an Intense Needs Caregiver and often think they shoulda-woulda-coulda except that, well, they've got their lives and, you know how important one's life is...even caregivers are scolded about the importance of "the lives" we supposedly "give up" to take care of our Ancients and our Infirm.
  2. I don't want a "special place in heaven". I suspect, if there is a heaven drawn to the specifics that many Christians believe, the last place I'd want to be is in the Intense Needs Caregivers Section. Something tells me that they are cordoned together in case someone in heaven needs intense, special care and, believe me, I'm not interested in doing what I'm doing now once I leave this system. And, if we are cordoned off for special recognition, well, we all know how limiting a life of special recognition is...put me where everyone else is, please; I'm experiencing more than enough separation from others, now, as it is. Don't "honor" me with the same separation after I die!
  3. I don't want any rewards after the fact, I want relief during the fact.
  4. If there is a "heaven", wouldn't it be nice if everyone was there and we were all there because we all "took care" of each other, sometimes in groups if the care of one individual was intense, and we designed our entire lives around the reality that we are a decidedly social species and we all need some kind of care all the time, even and especially if that care means being relieved for some alone time from the rigors of intense caregiving?
  5. Please don't leave my "reward" up to a questionably existent "father-god" so that you don't have to worry about it. I'm not in heaven, I'm right here and, as an Intense Needs Caregiver, I'm in the thick of it. If all you can do is tell me you hope that some benevolent god will reward me in the after-life for what I'm doing, please don't say anything to me. I can accept peaceably co-existing with others in a society that isn't geared toward mutual caregiving. Being reminded of this, as though it's a compliment, by being told that I'll get mine in the sweet by and by, is only an irritation.
  6. If we really believe that there is A Special Place In Heaven for caregivers like me, I can't help but note that there are an awful lot of people who aren't interested in vying for That Special Place. Kind of brings into question the characteristics of That Special Place, doesn't it?!?
    This particular issue of Caregiver.com's newsletter states in the editorial that 54 million of us in this country alone are Intense Needs Caregivers. You'd think, considering our number, that I would not be one of only a few with these troublesome, not-very-caring thoughts. You'd think that I would not be one of only a few who, along with recognizing the extraordinary rewards of the kind of care I give, also recognizes the extraordinary burdens giving Intense Needs Care in a society such as ours engenders. Finally, you'd think that I wouldn't be one of only a few (and, mind you, I have yet to find those few; I'm sure they're out there, I just don't know where to look) who is impolite enough to say, "Whadaya mean, 'take care of myself'?!? Jesus! You may as well tell my mother to take care of herself!"
    I know we aren't going to "get it" as a society until long after my caregiving stint is finished. But, can we at least start questioning Caregiver Wisdom in this country, so that, the next time some non- or ordinary caregiver gets the urge to tell one of us Intense Caregivers that Someone is Preparing A Special Place for Us for After We Die, they think twice and say something else, like, "Here, let me do that for you..." and, as an Intense Needs Caregiver we know, because life is, finally, "like that", that the offerer knows exactly what needs to be done and we have no qualms about letting them do it for us or our beloved Care Recipient?
    "Oh dear," as my mother would say. The Curmudgeonly Caregiver strikes again. Don't listen to her, she doesn't mean it. Just give her a wide berth. She'll be fine. And, think of The Special Place she's earning in Heaven...would that all of us...
    Yes, exactly. Would that all of us. All. Of. Us.
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