Care giving

Out of the blue, a violent act. Terrible physical consequences. Then the slow unwinding to figure it out, to understand, to absorb the meaning. Outline of a mystery novel? Not in this case.
After a two-month hiatus I’m happy to resume blogging on Maine Crime Writers. Kate Flora graciously granted me the sabbatical so I could be 24/7 care giver to my wife. In mid-March she was hit from behind by an out-of-control, reckless snowboarder while she was skiing at Sunday River. She’s a life-long and expert skier, but when a big guy on a board crashes into you at high speed, experience and skill can’t mitigate the damage. She was taken by ambulance to Maine Medical Center and underwent a 4-hour surgery that left her with a 14-inch rod, several screws, and a lot of glue to hold together the miscellaneous parts of her broken femur. The trauma surgeon had been a front-line Navy surgeon in Iraq, a posting that prepared him well to handle my wife’s complex injury. We’re grateful. We spent the best part of a month recuperating in our condo in Yarmouth and were then able to return to our home at Sunday River, near what might be called the scene of the crime. Thanks to her initial fitness and her very hard work on physical therapy, she’s progressing well beyond the surgeon’s expectations and is walking, with cane, a mile a day and swimming several times a week. So we’re enormously happy about her current status and future prospects. But the experience was searing, and as it’s reaching a decent end I’m able to begin to think about the meaning of it all. Some random lessons I’ve learned:
*A badly broken femur beats death. At the velocity at which the snowboarder hit her, she could have been killed. Snowboards are truly lethal weapons.
*Revenge is both impossible and ugly. We’ve had many occasions to fantasize about what we’d like to do to or at least say to the perpetrator, but there’s no practical way to do that—and even thinking about it brings out bad qualities in ourselves. What’s over is over.
*Caring for a loved one is its own reward—and a huge one. My wife too often tries to thank me for small and large tasks performed for her. It’s true that the two and a half months of her recovery stopped my own life in its tracks, and there was barely a moment during that period when I wasn’t on call to attend to her. But in all honesty I never felt resentment or anger. After 49 years of blissful marriage, a couple of months of care giving seemed a very small price to pay for all we’ve had together.
*Living in the present is better than reviewing the past or projecting the future. Thurber said we should not “look back in anger or ahead in fear but around in wonder.” Amen. What happened this past ski season and may or may not happen next ski season is irrelevant to how we live right now.
These and other lessons learned may seem too personal, but I record them here with the hope that others who face similar—or even worse—situations will recognize some common thoughts. As I think about where we’ve been, I’m nearly ready to draw a line under this experience and take a little peek ahead, including whether I’m going to finish the still brewing mystery novel that was at the top of my to-do list before a snowboarder recklessly changed our lives. What we underwent has certain elements of the mystery plot described at the beginning, but in fiction you get to control the action, whereas in life you don’t. But in both you move on and try to learn whatever lessons you can. And look around in wonder.

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11 Responses to Care giving

  1. Two-and-a-half months of caregiving seems like a dream to me as I have been doing the same for three years for my husband with Alzheimer’s. I try to find moments here and there to work on my murder mystery, “Sugar Pie and Moonbeams,” but I also keep a journal on my caregiving experience and hope to turn it into a blog called “Stone Path to Nowhere.” It is difficult to determine if I want a shorter or longer period of caregiving as anyone can imagine.

  2. Positivity is a powerful energy force, smoothing out many bumps in our life travels, particularly as we age. Plenty of that in this post. Thank you for sharing and may the path ahead be replete with more good thoughts and success.

  3. Tina Swift says:

    I am so happy that your wife is progressing well! And I’m happy you have each other; I am sure she will return the your loving caretaking with every breath she takes.

  4. goetjen says:

    Beautifully written, William. Sorry to hear about your wife’s misfortune. The upside of such a horrific, life-pausing event is how it underscores your relationship with each other. Certainly reason to look around and wonder. All the best to her for a full recovery.

  5. Lois Bartholomew says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts.

  6. Lea Wait says:

    We never know what will hit us, or our loved ones — physically or otherwise. I cared for my mother for about 25 years and my husband for four. I have a friend whose wife was also hit — in her case, by a car — and now, five years later, although physically healed for the most part, is still dealing with PTSD. Don’t forget to care for yourself, when you need to. And all care givers need to. (Although saying it is a lot easier than doing it.) Thinking of you both, and wishing you a summer of smiles.

  7. It’s clear you and your spouse have worked hard to recover from this terrible accident and have managed to do so with grace and gratitude. I send you all best wishes for continued healing. Thank you for writing this very personal post to remind us all to look around in wonder. Life sure can (and does) turn on a dime.

  8. louy castonguay says:

    Tragedy,. so much a part of life, so devasstating, sometimes, so sudden most times. It will truly give you insite into the lives of so many others. It will sharpen your writing skills as you understand the non-Hollywood version of phsical injusty. One doesn’t just stand up and get on with life as you see on the silver screen. Knives, bullets, broken bones, soft tissue unjury from a fight, or car crash, or ski accident, these are all real, as are different illnesses. I have steel in my pelvis and know how much an injury can change life for you, and those around you. Continued good luck to both of you as you progress with recovery.

  9. louy castonguay says:

    Exactly how does one join Maine Crime Writers?  

  10. Kammy McCleery says:

    Expect the triggers of PTS/PTSD to show up, and try to be prepared. PTS is not for war only..
    I know… I have it. I served in Vietnam with the ARC staffing centers and visiting troops in forward areas back in ‘67-‘68. I brought it home with me. It has affected every day of my life since. Please watch out for intrusive thoughts, nightmares, mood changes, and extreme reactions to people around her when she starts skiing again. Give her many cherishing TLC-filled bear hugs for comfort and strength. You’re right about her surgeon… Combat makes or breaks the doctors and nurses who go through war. she was blessed to have him. Best wishes for you both. I’m rather surprised the Ski Patrol didn’t take the snowboarder into custody for reckless, harmful behavior.
    More hugs for you, the caregiver…
    Kammy McCleery

  11. William Andrews says:

    Thanks to all for your warm and thoughtful responses. I feared my post was too personal, but the responses show that folks with similar experiences understand the problems–and rewards–of care giving. The supportive comments are much appreciated, and I’m happy to say my wife’s progress continues well. We’re lucky and grateful!

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