Essay: Caretaking

Jan 22, 2018

Last summer, my husband had a serious heart operation and was in the hospital for a week.  While visiting him there, I marveled at the efficiency of the staff—doctors, nurses, attendants, food servers, custodians.  Everyone so capable, courteous, upbeat.

Then Dick came home from the hospital and it was me.  Just me, the primary caregiver.

“You’ll have to do everything,” a friend told me—and everything turned out to be more than I had imagined.

My husband’s activities were restricted for a while—and suddenly all the tasks he had invisibly performed, the things he had carried from the car to the house, fell to me.  Why does a box of cat litter need to weigh so much?  A box of detergent?  A case of beer?

And why don’t we have enough pillows?  At the hospital, there were dozens of pillows for every purpose, along with cunning little trays to glide the food over the bed, a bed which went up and down at the touch of a button.

And in the midst of it, I was trying so hard to be capable, courteous, upbeat.  Trying and often failing.  But I as the weeks went by, I came to realize that taking care of each other is the most important thing we ever do.

It’s the reason we’re here.