“Are you his caregiver?” The young nurse whispered over his bed.
“I’m his fiance”, I snapped back.
Caregiver? Isn’t that an old person in scratchy polyester pants? That’s not me. I’m 28 years old. I’m not a caregiver.
I went on to sign my name on a billion lines. Yes, I’ll be his decision maker when/if he can’t. Yes, I’ll be picking up the prescriptions. Yes, you can call me if he doesn’t answer his phone. Yes, I’ll put my name on the clear bags with all of his belongings.
Yes, I’ll take care of it. Yes, I’m the person.
Holy shit, yes, I’m the damn caregiver.
It’s the worst and weirdest of titles but dang I was good at it.
No one knew what he needed more than I did. No one could recite his meds and times he was given them or knew that the smell of Thai food would make him gag. No one could see the darkness cover his eyes and know it was time to call a counselor. No one knew it or did it the way I did.
Maybe the title- Dominator of all Care- would have had me more excited. I’m still brainstorming.
Taking care of my husband Joe was the hardest and best days of my life. I’d resent him, love him, fight for him and with him all within a matter of an afternoon.
There were so many times I felt like the invisible girl as friends, family, nurses and doctors passed through our home. Every ounce of care and attention went to the patient, as it should, but there were times I wanted to yell, “I’m here too! Does anyone see me fading away?”
Joe saw me. Even at his sickest he’d shoot me a text to remind me to go take a walk or let someone else take the baby.
When Joe died I sat staring at the blog we’d created.
“10,000 followers,” I’d whispered in his ear just days before.
“No way…really?” he said back, “We’re changing the world, babe.”
And he believed it. And so do I.
So, the word I dreaded most became my focus.
Caregiver: The invisible person on the front lines holding it all together. The steadfast fighter demanding the best care for the person they love. The person left behind.
Once a caregiver, always a caregiver. It’s a world you can’t un-see. It’s the mamas fighting for their kid’s care, the wives washing sheets in the middle of the night, the husbands crying in the car, the sons and daughters making the big decisions.
We see you. I see you dominating all the CARE and GIVING all you got.
And when I come up with a better word- I’m buying us all t-shirts.