For Better, For Worse, Till Death Do Us Part is Not Just a Promise
This morning I read “Questions from an Unsuitable Caregiver” by Orrin Onken. Orrin asks a number of partly tongue in cheek questions about caring for a partner with a chronic disease. He asks questions such as “Should dinner be what the cared for person wants to eat or what the caretaker wants to cook?” and “After meals, should the kitchen be cleaned to the specifications of the caretaker, the cared for, or some middle ground?”
I am in very much the same situation. My wife is consumed by pain from arthritis, congenital skeletal problems, and broken bones from multiple falls. I am far more healthy than she, so I am her caretaker.
Almost exclusively, I take her desires as law because she has a very diminished life. I want to give her whatever happiness as I can and not add to her misery.
There are exceptions. I have severe GERD, so I insist upon eating my last meal of the day by 2:00 PM. If she’s not ready to eat then, I’ll stretch it to 3:00, but beyond that, I will eat alone. My own health is important too.
When I bend down and straighten up frequently, I get dizzy and later will get a painful headache. Therefore, gardening, especially weeding, is an odious task for me, one that I do in very short spurts and that seldom meets her desired quality standards. Because she loved her gardens and cared for them so well, I hate disappointing her in this, but I have these physical limitations.
All other chores I view as hopefully mitigating her unhappiness. We work together on meals because I’m not good at it, she does laundry because she amusingly doesn’t think that I understand the machinery, but I fold it and put it away. I do all shopping except for things where I cannot judge quality to her satisfaction. She can’t drive, so I run all errands, including satisfying any sudden urges she may have after we are settled down for the night — again, her happiness matters more than my inconvenience.
I do make time for myself: for exercise, for studying Spanish, for reading, and for my two sisters. Ninety minutes of daily exercise, a half hour of Spanish, an hour of reading, and…