My Bags are Packed
"All my bags are packed,
I'm ready to go.
I'm standin' here outside your door.
I hate to wake you up to say good-bye..."
John Denver's 1966 ballad comes to mind as I stand in Nathaniel's bedroom doorway watching his nap time sleep. I have not heard the song since my pubescent days. Once upon a lifetime ago, I was twelve with a mad crush on a college guy named Dave. He played guitar and sang Denver into the Lake Erie wind at the end of a dock sticking out from the north shore of Ohio. I was not alone. All the girls gathered there beneath the stars on Friday nights thought Dave was singing just to them. We were naive. We were smitten. We were innocent of the harsh realities of leaving a loved one.
I am not innocent of that complexity anymore.
May 15th has been marked on our family Google calendar for months. "Kim out of town" it says in pink. My color since I am the only female living at home now. I am taking a caregiver's break. I am not leaving by jet plane as Denver and Dave sang about or like the break I took last August when I snapped the above photo. A little rented white car is waiting outside. I both desperately want to go and desperately do not.
The timing is hard. Monday night has not left any of us, and the anticipated loss of one caregiver from the mix at home is felt by all. I am very much aware that Nathaniel did so well through the emergency - he has no signs of aspiration pneumonia - because there were three trained caregivers present. I wonder if the outcome would have been different if Rich or I had been home alone with Nathaniel. I replay the scenario in my mind and am puzzled. At what point in handling the crises would I have stopped helping Nathaniel to call 911? I hope I am never in a position where I am forced to answer to that question. I hope Rich or the boys or our nurses never have to learn the answer to that question. Boy Scouts practice two deep leadership. An adult leader is never alone with boys, protecting the youth and the adults. We are sorting out ways to provide Nathaniel two deep support as much as possible. This weekend, my going away, will stretch our family thin and that very reality makes me wrestle with the purpose and need of caregiver breaks.
Every article you read on long term care giving, whether for the elderly or special needs children or when a spouse is ill, claims respite care and breaks for caregivers are an absolute necessity. I get it. Before caring for Nathaniel, our family took care of Rich's aging father in our home for five years. Before caring for Grandpa, Rich and I were the primary local support as his mother battled Alzheimer's disease for twelve years. We raised seven children in the midst of these additional responsibilities. I understand the physical, spiritual, and emotional exhaustion that comes from care giving for months with no break. But I have also felt the truth of God's Word, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Balance and wisdom are needed as we model our lives after Christ. He retreated to pray in solitude and admonished us to "look not only to our own interests, but also the interests of others." His very life is an example of sacrificial living that cost him much for the sake of others. Our prayer is that Rich and I will be sensitive to the place both teachings have in our roles as caregivers.
This weekend I need to walk away from Nathaniel's bedroom, out the door, and into my break: visiting extended family and enjoying my nieces. I need the solitude that will come during the drive. There are no music or books on CD in my bags. I hope to use the time to draw near to God. But I also need these dear little girls this weekend. I need to remind my heart that usually when children exhale, giggles burst forth. Life with Nathaniel's silence can make me forget silly chatter and hiccups and the singing children do when they think no one is listening. When I planned this break, rather than escaping entirely into solitude, I yearned to also escape into normalcy.
Sweet dreams and enchanting days, my sweet little red head boy.
Prayers for stamina and no emergencies for the caregivers I leave behind.
Come Lord Jesus, restore my soul.