There are a group of super humans out there that live among us. A greater population than we may realize. Society likes to call them Caretakers, I call them silent heroes.
The women and men I have encountered in life taught me that basic humanity still exists. These individuals may not march in protests, vie for society's acknowledgement, or even have names we see in lights. They do what they do out of love. Plain and simple.
I had the most interesting conversation with a gentleman today that was so profound it rocked me to my core. He asked a simple question, "Who takes care of you?" This is a basic concern. Who does take care of those who take care of everyone else? How do they get their needs met, or do they ever really?
Caretakers often get overlooked, putting their own personal needs aside to sacrifice their time, money, and sometimes dreams to care for those who cannot do it for themselves. The reasons may vary, the length of time may be different, but they all have basic things in common.
Now that I too have first hand knowledge of the life or should I dare say lack of, these wonderful people experience, I have come to see them in a new light. Simple tasks that we take for granted are now luxuries for them. Here are just a few:
1. Hot meals- I list this first because of it's need to be seen. Often caretakers are too busy making meals for their loved ones that they have to put their meals in microwaves, or wait till they have taken care of everyone else's food first. By the time there is a chance to eat, it is cold. Either hurry up and eat it as is, or hope for the two minutes it takes to warm up.
2. Time- Have no time for to oneself, and if by the off chance one gets a break, it is either hope to sneak in a nap, or take care of other items that have fallen behind.
3. Peace of mind- Living in constant fear that a loved one's final moments could happen at any time. That if they sleep in, it could mean that our worst fear has become reality. Doctor's on speed dial. Mapped out routes to hospitals stored in phones, or burned into memory. Questioning if sleep will be an option tonight and making sure the phone is charged just in case.
4. Sleep- We fall asleep late, wake up early. Try to mimic our "patient's" patterns, just to rest when they do. Yet lightly sleep, jumping up at the sound of the smallest noise. Oh no, they are awake!! Their goes my time with the pillow.
5. Vacations- Scheduling time "off" is often rare and hard to find. Who will take my place? Do they know the routine? Do they know what to do if A, B, or C happens? Refer to number 3.
6. Socialization- What is this? Socialize? Reminds me of an episode of Will and Grace, where Will was taking care of his mother after she broke her leg. He meets up with (Dylan McDermott) who is taking care of his mom. All of Dylan's worse fears come true the night he and Will finally have some alone time. Yep this episode sums it up.
7. Weakness- This is not an option. Caretakers can not show vulnerability, God forbid someone knows we are sad, lonely, or slowly losing patience. We have to be strong, in control, and on the ball. No time to be meek!
8. Gratitude- I am not saying gratitude from others. It is often those we are taking care of that either forget, cannot say or show gratitude, or grow expectant of actions that we as caretakers are left to pray for patience or added kindness.
As a newbie struggling to manage it all, one thing became apparent. We are out of our freaking minds. Our sense of humor is often off the wall, we hold conversations with animals, or objects. I now fully understand the necessity of "Wilson" from Cast Away. We look for small adventures in the mundane. The weekly grocery trip is now a safari and I am looking for a zebra...
Oh, wait. I am sorry, that could just be me. :)
Above all else, I am grateful to each of you who are caretakers. Not just because I now am getting a taste of what you all have been doing for a long time, but because each one of you have taught me something. Time with family is precious. Each moment, even the trying ones, will be a memory to be treasured. Good or bad, happy or sad, life must go on and we all need a little help at some point. Thank you to those who give with all they have. You are each angels/superheroes/saints in my book. :)