I am living my life in 30 to 40 minute increments. Sometimes it’s shorter. It really depends on how often my mother-in-law rings the caregiver bell. She needs help with virtually everything; the minute details of life that we do so quickly and mindlessly? Those same tasks take all her effort and oxygen. Personal trips down the hall for a bathroom break can take 15 minutes – employing a walker and our patented “leverage/rotation method” to get her back in bed.
Ultimately this all means that the bell rings a lot.
Because of this, my world is cut into fragments. I focus on things which I can walk away from at a moment’s notice, can be completed within 30 minutes, or done quietly enough for me to hear the caregiver bell. Doing the dishes is too loud, because I can’t hear over the rush of water; that task I must do quickly. Listening to music is out of the question, which explains why I can’t get Hurdy Gurdy Man out of my head. My nights – while not fragmented as heavily, are still susceptible to the ringing bell; life happens 24/7, which means the help must be available. Because of this I sleep on the futon in my son’s room to be closer to my mother-in-law’s door. And her bell. At night I must have the ability to step of away from movies on Netflix, so I choose bad ones with marginal plots.
I don’t write this to ask for pity.
I write this because it’s all a new experience, one which I never expected and which is gives a person a newfound appreciation for those who do this as their chosen career. Compassion is always more valuable when the actions match the desire. As Americans we can talk a good game about our need to feed the masses, or for helping Little Rolando for the price of a coffee each day; help an elderly citizen lead a comfortable life sometime, and that bell you hear becomes one calling you to be a hero.
Long may it ring.