By Jeanette Davidson-Mayer
Fall is my favorite season. I look forward to the colors changing to bright oranges, reds, and yellows. The temperature starts to drop. Sweaters and sweatshirts come out of summer hibernation. For me, this time of year is peaceful, relaxing, and joyful.
It’s the start of my break from summer yard work as I clean out the flower beds along with mowing for the last time as I winterize the mowers. Every year, it’s a well-needed break before winter snow shoveling begins. Recently I was raking the leaves in the front yard thinking to myself how overwhelming it can be each year as the trees get bigger, producing more leaves.
Caregiving can be like that. Each year my duties grow, as well as my husband’s abilities for they change. These questions began flooding my mind: “How do I keep these leaves from being so overwhelming?” “How do I keep it manageable?” “How do I translate this task into my caregiving life?”
As I was lost in thought, my neighbor came over. He is a dear man who is a true blessing. He is very good with my husband too. Always willing to lend a hand when in need. My neighbor starts going on about how he and his wife spoke about “the Mayer’s house,” and how it “was snowing yellow leaves this morning.”
First, he commented on how beautiful it was. Then he started asking questions about where my leaf blower was and if it was working… That I should be using it instead of raking and sweeping… it does a better job cleaning up the street and along the fence line, etc. etc.
I stood there in shock on the inside, and a blank stare on my face. When I looked up at the tree still full of leaves, I sank. I knew this was only round two of clean-up. With a pit in my stomach, I looked back at my neighbor and smiled.
Redirect time started — just like with my husband, “Wow, the leaves are still falling, it still looks like it is snowing.”
Soon my neighbor left and I got back to work raking my leaves. To anyone else, the whole conversation would have been innocent, maybe frustrating or nosey, but innocent enough.
HOWEVER — I am a caregiver. I live my days helping others and sometimes a third party weighing in on the way I do things isn’t exactly something I can handle. Managing a household as a caregiver is a lot of work, and although I often enjoy it, I get overwhelmed.
Sometimes one comment can send my mind spinning with a pit in my tummy. After mentally processing his comments, I cried – I’m the only one out here raking leaves. No help, just me, and he is watching my yard thinking I’m not doing a great job.
I got angry – how dare he come tell me how to take care of my leaves without offering to be a part of the solution?
Then I accepted his comments – I am sure my neighbor didn’t mean his words in malice. He may have been trying to say, “it would make your job easier if you used your leaf blower.” I like the exercise, the fresh air, the movement of being outside and my neighbor may not have understood that because I clearly did not communicate that to him.
Every fall there are many rounds of leaf clean-up. My husband has reached a point in his abilities where he isn’t able to help much. So, it mainly falls on me to tend to the yard work. For me, this yard work is my mental break, my accomplishment, my undoing all wrapped up into one. At times I do it because it is a chore. Other times there is great pleasure. Just like in caregiving. This shows the human side of me, of us all. There are days where I overdo it. Then there are days where I know I could have done more. The days I am right on target are nice but rare.
Living with an ever changing daily new normal makes it an interesting challenge to hit the target often. I keep on trying though. I know my husband wants and needs his person.
It is scary to think about, at the age of 51, how many freedoms he has lost due to his traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress. Freedoms we all take for granted. The ability to work, drive anywhere at any time, to create, to rationalize, to remember, to move without pain, and to maintain one’s own schedule, to name a few. He needs someone, he doesn’t have a choice, he requires someone who can maintain a strong secure stable environment for him.
I do everything while remembering he is a person with feelings and emotions that need to be validated continually. Raking leaves is similar to caregiving, because you never know how many rounds you will have over the same topic, there will always be someone with good intentions just poor delivery, and we are all human doing the best we can with the knowledge and resources we have.
Remember to enjoy each season and moment with your care recipient.
Take time to enjoy The Sun, The Smiles, The Colors, The Repetitiveness…
As caregivers, we are doing the best we can, take time to grow and learn. Take time care for yourself so you can be there for your loved one too.
We are a Military Family who is American Made! We Reach Higher, Dream Brighter, and Hold on Tighter.