Monday, February 11, 2013

When the Ill Partner Has to Become the Caretaker

For over ten years I have been the sick one.  The one with a pain condition that is sometimes so quiet, I think it has just crept away.   But then it slides back with a build up of pinches and pulls; or it just steps right in with an hard slam to the gut.

I'm the one who is at the center of the life we've created around pain.  I get comforted.  I get spared the onerous household tasks when pain is on deck.

We know how to live this way.

Now, the tables have turned; the arrow is pointing in Richard's direction. Richard is going to get heart surgery.  We've known this was coming, any time between now and five years from now.  We just didn't think now really meant now.

My pain has no meaning in this new terrain.  In fact, my pain is a stressor to Richard and needs to be kept quiet, on a back shelf in the closet.  And if I have to be somewhat stuporous and slurry tongued to keep pain away, so be it.

The tables have turned and fallen right over and landed on their bottoms.

Richard doesn't really know how to let himself be taken care of.  And I'm not sure I really know how to be strong, the way I used to be in the before time.

So we're going back to the basics -- talking and holding.  I ask him questions.  "How do you feel?"  "What do you want?"  "What will happen?"  "How can I help?" And when the talking brings us too close to an edge, we just link arms, hold hands, or hug until the tremor subsides.

Have you been in the situation where the well partner became ill, for a while, and you had to invert your relationship, with the ill partner becoming the primary caretaker?  What  helped you both?

1 comment:

Lynda Otvos said...

I think what helped us was knowing that his malady (thyroid cancer) was treatable, curable and life would resume as before in a few months. It took five months before he could work again and then only part time for a while but we got thru it and are stronger for the experience.