When I stepped out on the deck a short time ago, the snow squeaked when I walked.  I have seldom heard that squeak since I headed off to college in the fall of 1961.  Actually, I did have opportunity to hear that squeaking for my undergraduate years, since they were spent going to school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Northern Indiana.

The wind is howling through the trees.  The snow is blowing.  There is potential for over a foot of snow by morning and gusts of wind up to 50 miles an hour.  I felt an odd sort of nostalgia when I stood out there listening to the wind and feeling the cold and snow on my face.  I have no wish to live in a cold climate again.  When I step outside, I come back in right a way to enjoy the warmth.  Nonetheless, there are flashbacks to a time when I played endlessly in the snow, built snow forts, went sledding down every hill I could find in flat Northern, Illinois.

The Kentucky Crew, Daughter Lisa, Denis, and little Abigail and Ashlyn, headed off this morning to avoid the blizzard.  Otherwise they would have missed Denis’s family gathering and maybe a workday or two depending on travel conditions after the blizzard.  There is always a bit of separation sadness when the kids leave.  My Mother, even when we were older adults and she was in her 80’s, said that when we left after a visit, she would get in the car and go somewhere, maybe invite someone to meet her for lunch, to mitigate the sadness in the pit of her stomach.

I am almost glad for the blizzard.  It is distracting enough to take our mind off the time of separation sadness.  I am not glad for the timing of the blizzard.  We have missed out on every Celebration of Christmas in a corporate worship setting this year.  I am hoping to find something on the television or computer to help provide at least the illusion of worshiping in a corporate setting.

The changes in plans caused by the weather, something outside of our control, brings to mind a thread of discussion in the online group made up of Caregiving Spouses of those with some form of Lewy Body Dementia.  One of the members included the following quotation.

“The carrying out of a vocation differed from the actions dictated by reason or inclination. … The most beautiful life possible has always seemed to me to be one where everything is determined, either by the pressure of circumstances or by impulses such as I have just mentioned, and where there is never any room for choice.” Simone Weil.

The quotation was made in the context of reflecting on the acceptance of the Caregiving Role, immersion in it, and thoughtful wonderings about the prospect of having choice again should we outlive our Loved Ones.

The responses that followed included some blunt rejections of accepting the loss of choice and giving up other dimensions of the Caregiver’s life.  That thread has been very thought provoking.  I have written lots of words in earlier posts on this.  It was good for me to think again about what I am doing, the way I have chosen to do it, why I am doing it, and its impact on my quality of life.  I recognize that what I am doing as I reflect is very self-centered, but my reason for doing this blog is to help other Caregivers make sense of what they are doing.

Mary Ann’s needs are basic and constant.  It is not her choice that she have those needs.  They are just a fact of her life, and on that account, as her husband, my life.  Those needs do not leave much in the way of choice.  If I don’t respond to a need, there are consequences for her and consequences for me.

As in the quotation, there is not a lot of stress resulting from being conflicted about what to do from one moment to the next.  I simply respond as effectively as possible to the needs that arise.  There are few choices to be made.  What is at issue, at least for some of the respondents online is the struggle with giving up choice.

As I think about my circumstances, what has given me comfort and peace in living as a Caregiver, with few choices, is the reality that I have chosen this role.  There were other alternatives with varying degrees of difficulty in making them a reality.  I chose this role.  As I have said many times before, I chose it for my own benefit as well as Mary Ann’s benefit.  It does need to benefit her to accomplish the very thing that gives me satisfaction and creates meaning in my life, but when all is said and done, I am doing it for me.  I love her, I promised to live that love whatever came, I want to do things that help me feel good about myself.

I am also convinced that the quality of life does not depend so much on externals.  If we were traveling the globe together, we would be happy sometimes, sad other times, angry sometimes and at peace other times.  I am not so foolish as to suggest that people who are in horrible circumstances should buck up and be happy.  Even with our challenges, there are way more frightening realities out there.  I don’t know how I would feel or what I would say if things were worse than they are.  All I can say is that at the moment, I am convinced that I have as good a quality of life as I would have doing much of anything else, including playing all the time (which sounds boring to me).

There is one dimension to my situation that raises a question for me.  When I get up in the morning and look at our clear schedule, instead of longing for things to fill the day, I celebrate that I am not overwhelmed with too much to do.  For 40 years in the ministry, my average work week ranged from 60 to 70 hours.  I was on call (sickness, marriage and personal counseling, deaths) 24/7 to anywhere from a thousand to three or four thousand people when adding together members and their immediate circle of relatives and friends.  In the last years, while I did not take a directive approach, I was ultimately impacted and responsible for and responsible to a fairly large paid staff and a huge staff of volunteers.  Again, I did not relate directly to all of them, but by virtue of the role lived with the consequences of their choices.  The vast majority of time I had the joy of benefiting from their good choices.  That was not always the case.

In the last few years before I retired, Mary Ann’s needs consituted a full time job all the hours there was not a Volunteer with her.  There were regularly sleepless nights and always nights of interrupted sleep.  The job of Senior Pastor in a comparatively large congregation was exceedingly demanding in terms of time and personal stamina.

What I am wondering is if I might still be resting up from what had become an overwhelming load.  Even small tasks now can bring an almost PTSD sort of flashback to feeling overwhelmed.  Maybe I am settling in to having one focus of need since it is such a relief not to have loads of needs coming from numbers of directions.

One thing about the circumstances we are in, and the loss of choice in what I do minute by minute and hour by hour, is that I do not feel like a victim.  The circumstances are just that, objective realities that we must deal with.  Everyone has circumstances.  They just differ from one another.  These are ours.

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