I interviewed a really terrific woman today for my caregivers book. Actually, “terrific” doesn’t begin to describe her. “Heroic” would be a much more appropriate word.
She’d been married for many years to an extremely active, outgoing guy when one day he had a stroke. A severe stroke. He could no longer speak or walk or do much of anything for himself. Undaunted, she devised a way of communicating with him, stepped up to run their household and attended to his every need (while commuting to and from her full time job, mind you). And then, when the snowy winters in CT made it too difficult for her to take him out for their regular jaunts, she retired from her job and moved the two of them across the country to CA – plus their two cats. Think about that. It’s hard enough to travel alone these days.
They lived in a motel for a month while she scouted rental apartments in the area, hoping to find one that would be on the ground floor, be wheelchair accessible, allow pets. Once she finally found them a place and got them settled, she taught him how to take the bus downtown by himself. Think about that! She also arranged for him to work at the local hospital as a volunteer, doing minimal clerical tasks.
He was thriving in his new environment – until he fell out of his wheelchair and broke his hip. Most of us would have thrown up our hands and said, “Enough!” Not our gal. She put him in rehab for six weeks, brought him home and picked up their routine as if nothing had happened.
Fast forward to the following January. They were coming back from a New Year’s eve party the next morning (yes, she made sure he had a social life too) when she noticed how tired he was. A few days later, he started coughing. Before long, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and given six months. Her first reaction was: “Did we really need this on top of everything else?” Her second reaction was: “But we’re lucky. So many people have worse things.”
Clearly, our gal is a glass-half-full type.
Her husband passed away pretty much on schedule, about a year-and-a-half ago. I asked her how she was doing.
“I’m doing fine now,” she said, going on to explain that after so many years of caregiving she was lost at first and felt the need to fill her time any way she could, with volunteering, support groups, etc.
“You sound good,” I commented. “Not at all lost.”
“I have a boyfriend!”
She said this with the squeal of a teenager. I couldn’t help laughing.
“It’s been two months, and he’s a wonderful, wonderful man,” she said. “You should see the Valentine card he made for me.”
She said this man had taken care of his wife, who had died a year ago after a long battle with MS, and that it was his caring nature that had appealed to her.
“I’m sure your caring nature appealed to him too,” I said.
It was her turn to laugh. “I guess, but he says he loves that I’m fun.”
She’s fun. Think about that! How many of us would be fun after going through hell and back? A truly remarkable lady.