by Terri Corcoran
I've never been too interested in the Olympics because I'm just not interested in sports. But I know that if my ill husband could talk, he would want to see them, so I've had the Winter Olympics on TV for him to watch.
For years, I have managed my husband's medical care, plus every other thing in our lives, since he can do basically nothing. The courage to get up every morning, change Depends, and go through the days of doctor visits, pharmacy and home health aide trials (of which there are many!), and the myriad and often unpleasant caregiving chores takes the same perseverance as the sports stars who relentlessly push themselves to Olympic glory.
However, as the athletes have made the choice to pursue gold medals, forsaking all else " they have MADE the choice, and are free to give up the struggle at any time. They strive for perfection because they want to be the best, they want the personal glory. We caregivers have NOT made the choice to have ill spouses, and we have forsaken all else out of love for our spouses, not for our own personal gains. Every day we are striving and struggling just to keep our ill spouses comfortable and give them the best lives they can have under the horrid circumstances of chronic and debilitating illness.
In the past weeks, as I have been wearily plodding through the difficulties and destructions caused by two major back-to-back snowstorms in Northern Virginia, where there is not normally a lot of snow and so people don't really know how to deal with it, I feel like I deserve a gold medal. In addition to the normally exhausting caregiving routine, I have been shoveling snow, taking care of all my husband's needs without the aides who could not get here in the snow, and trying to contain the water leaking into my laundry room from ice dams on the roof. I have been placing towels and containers in strategic places, wiping up water from floors and trying to rub it out of the carpet for eleven days " so far, and it's not over yet. If it ever does end, I will have to make repairs inside the house as well as have tree limbs removed that have fallen down in my front yard. And the caregiving, of course, never ends and never lets up.
So where is my medal, my flowers, the press interviews, the public adoration for all I have been doing? Even if I received all of those things (which I won't), I could not retire from caregiving in a blaze of glory. People like to talk about how the Olympic athletes inspire others; in my opinion, there are no people more inspiring than those of us who labor in obscurity, adult diapers and broken lives out of unselfish love for our ill spouses.
I have to believe that gold medals, flowers and singing angels will greet us well spouses in heaven someday!