When my daughters were smaller I loved to play with them in our yard. Some of my favorite memories are of them running barefoot through the green grass in their pajamas early on a cool, Spring morning. Running so fast their long hair flowing behind, grinning from ear to ear, their eyes shining with delight, giggling with joy.
Finally, worn out from the play, we would collapse in the cool grass. Our yard had the greenest, thickest, lushest grass. Writing this, my heart smiles. I still hear their happy giggles as we chased each other in circles.
I built my daughters a huge swing set, 12 feet high and facing the rising moon so we could watch it peek over the trees at night. Well built, it will be there for my grandchildren.
I built my wife a pergola and planted New Dawn roses around it. Within a year, the pergola was covered with pink roses and green foliage. A moon vine grew up the pergola’s front posts.
Flowers bloomed around the shrubs in the front flower beds. And I had a healthy compost pile. I planted a garden and grew tomotos and cantelopes. The deer nibbled the beans. A pumpkin grew from the edge of the compost pile each year and the vines spread for fifty feet. Each October we had our own great pumpkin for Halloween.
My yard’s not all that anymore. The garden is gone, the compost pile is gone, flowers no longer bloom around the shrubs. The pergola is too far from the house for my wife to enjoy it often enough.
When my wife and I bought our house we quickly struck a deal that delighted us both. The outside was mine to care for and the inside of the house was hers to decorate. That worked well for a few years and we both enjoyed the bargain.
It’s about Priorities
Being a caregiver is much about priorities. Each of us has 24 hours in a day and we decide each day how we will invest those hours. The yard has declined a bit. I gave it to God. If it dies, it’s His fault for not watering His grass!
This Summer’s drought was hard on the grass because I didn’t have time to water the lawn. And that’s okay because if it had grown lush, I wouldn’t have had time to mow it as I once did. I don’t plant zinnias in the Spring or pansies in the Fall. One of my pink dogwoods died this year.
I don’t often miss my work in the yard, but even when I do, I don’t miss it with regret. I know what my loves and priorities are: wife, daughters and work. They fill my life. I simply try to make sure all that needs to happen actually happens and that we have fun doing it.
Roles of a Caregiver
People who consider the roles of a caregiver for a family member with MS (or any other disease) tend to think of the medical aspects of caregiving. Medications, medical bills, appointments, and injections. Caregiving is much more. In a nutshell, it’s often simply the process of making sure all that needs to be done for the family is getting done. And because MS is such a variable disease in terms of symptoms and their intensity, the tasks can vary from week to week.
If your partner is fatigued, you pick up the slack. If her right foot’s not working well, you drive. If both legs are wacky, you fill in, take over the kitchen and cook. If disability prevents employment, you find a way to make ends meet. I’m often reminded of the old Army recruiting slogan about doing “more before breakfast than most people do all day.”
I’ve written before about men and women who walk away. And I shared my perspective on that – if a partner walks away because of MS, he or she probably wasn’t really there to start with. MS is not a barrier to an excellent marriage – even if the chaotic effects of Multiple Sclerosis bang against your marital relationship.
Me? I’m simply a man with too many blessings and not enough time!