Monday, January 30, 2012

Role Reversal - As a caretaker, I need some practice.


I mentioned in an earlier post that the cold and flu bug had made an unwelcomed stop at our house this winter. Turns out he wasn’t quite finished with the Gormans, as of my last posting on the subject. Turns out Johnny had a very up close and personal visit with Mr. Flu Bug – and man, did he suffer. Johnny was down and out for almost a week. He had a fever and was achy and fluish for at least 5 days, confined to the bed for most of that time. By the 6th day, he still wasn’t himself, but there was hope. And for those of you wondering, no, he did not get a flu shot this past fall. But ask him his plans for next year – I think his feelings on the subject have since changed.

What did this mean for me? It meant that I had a crash course in Caretaker 101. Now – for the record – Johnny’s a good patient. He doesn’t ask for much – and when he does, he tries to ask for everything (i.e. toast, a cup of coffee, a glass of orange juice, some water, a new Kleenex box and a medicine refill) all at once, rather than calling me in every fifteen minutes for something new. And he’s a discreet sickie – no complaints, heavy sighs, or excessive moaning and groaning. He just lies there and takes it like a grown up. But, the fact that he was sick still required a skill set that I haven’t exercised in a long time, if ever.

Sure, I take care of my girls…but that’s different. They’re…my girls. They don’t know enough to ask me to get some medication from the drugstore, or to call the doctor, or bring them more fluids. I initiate all of the caretaking in the case of Deirdre and Bernie, and it’s very different from catering to a sick and homebound adult.

So I had to brush up on a few things, primarily the virtues of patience, consideration, and kindness. I learned how to put someone else’s needs above my own personal agenda, and hopefully, not make it seem like I was doing so. I was reminded of the value of conversation (because Johnny was in no condition to chit-chat), the benefits of running a household with the help of someone else, and sharing the responsibility of child-rearing. As I retrieved extra blankets, water bottles, and cough drops, I was reminded how many times Johnny had taken care of me. How many days on end he’d tucked me into bed, sat with me while I took my temperature, brought me warmer pajamas, or filled up my water glass. I remember Johnny doing everything he could to make me as comfortable as possible – and never making me feel like I was asking too much. And most importantly, doing that day after day after day.

A bout of flu typically lasts a week, and both Johnny and I are ready for this flu bug to get on its way for good. And yet, a lupus flare doesn’t have the luxury of being confined to a week. A flare can last for weeks, if not longer. That’s why I’m committed to keeping those flares at bay. I certainly won’t hesitate to put Johnny in the role of caretaker if need be, but if I can do anything to prevent it, I’m certainly going to try!

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