I suspected it would be a busy Tuesday with Terry, and it hasn’t disappointed. Mom-in-law said, “yes” to my breakfast invitation necessitating a bit of extra driving and adding to the schedule of events which already included stops at the attorney’s office, the bank, home to make copies, then the post office and finally lunch and blogging time. Driving the great circle route and making as many right turns and as few left turns as I could plan into the trip resulted in the rather fortuitous choice to stop for lunch at the “other” McD’s in town to enjoy a premium grilled chicken wrap, chilled beverage and some serious writing.
I say fortuitous because it appeared that I may have walked in on “take your grandkids to lunch” day at the one McD’s in town with a play room. An unscheduled but frequent happening, these things often occur on Tuesdays for some reason, perhaps coincidence, or perhaps “God-incidence”, and most often when I need some good fodder for pondering.
Sealing the deal was the mother who, two booths down, called to her daughter, “Cadence, Cadence!” I cast a startled glance in their direction and there were little Cadence, her sister, her mother and dad, and her grandmother, all reveling in her birthday celebration. I said hello and, after an OK from Mom she immediately said, “See my crown?” It had her name printed out in her mother’s nice and frilly handwriting. Holding up two hands, each with all five fingers extended she proudly announced to me that she was five years old. I explained that my granddaughter had the same name and just had a birthday herself. Then I thanked them all for triggering some good memories of our visit with our own Lil C less than two weeks ago.
At least three other tables and booths contained grandparents and grandchildren, and the playroom echoed with the laughter of several other young folk who managed to fit beneath the height restriction and found themselves firmly ensconced in various compartments of the elevated maze.
At one table sat a portly grandpa with his two grandsons, both dressed in identical blue golf shirts and jeans. They hurried through lunch, chatting with grandpa all the while and yet eager to hit the play room. As soon as he gave the OK they were off. He quietly cleared the table, grabbed the tray of trash in one hand and his portable oxygen device in the other and made his way to the trash bin, carefully placing his machine on the counter so he could use both hands to dump the tray. Then he walked slowly and cautiously back to the table and began to patiently wait for the two boys to wear themselves out.
In a booth around the corner sat two women, one a stocky thirty-something and the other a petite and spritely sixty plus with curly gray hair. As they talked it became obvious that their children/grandchildren had found the playroom and were whooping it up with the rest of the temporary tenants. Joining the two in the booth just a few minutes later was a tall, trim and tanned grandpa, with a full head of gray wavy hair, and dressed in jeans and a denim jacket.
I contemplated my own health as I contrasted the two granddads I just observed; one who could have just dismounted a horse after a morning herding cattle; the other for whom lunch alone was likely the limit of the physical exertion he could stand for the day. Hmm, I’ve got to take care of myself so I can be a caregiver to others. Wasn’t that just what I was thinking about earlier today?
I think about that a lot, especially since I’m a sixty-plus overweight diabetic with a heart condition. But even healthy caregivers need to not only think about it but do something about it. We’re not any good to anyone else unless we first take care of our own physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Every book for caregivers advises the same thing. And this includes moms and dads as well as grandparents and grandchildren.
We tend to think of the term ‘caregiver’ as applying to professionals and the sandwich generation like us taking care of aging parents. But it really applies also to moms and dads taking care of their children, and sometimes parents taking care of their grown but incapacitated children, or their capable adult children adversely impacted by tough times.
Every one of us can find ourselves in a caregiving role, planned or not. And families are just one big caregiving unit, raising children, supporting each other, and lending a hand to the aging and often the less fortunate. Very few of us avoid finding ourselves in a caregiving role at some point in our lives.
Back to breakfast this morning when my friend Jim briefly joined Mom and me, his breakfast crowd by chance having selected the very McD’s that Mom and I frequent on our Tuesday morning outings. Ever the gracious and kind gentleman, and a long-time friend of Mom and Dad’s, Jim welcomed Mom back and chatted at length about how he and Connie had missed seeing her in church, and missed Dad since his passing. Jim has been a caregiver himself and his wife has cared for stroke victims for the past thirty years. She’s turned her attention to Jim since his lung transplant more than a year ago and Jim has bounced back to remain the same caring and compassionate man he has always been.
It was obvious that the conversation provoked some thinking on Mom’s part because after breakfast she said something simple and yet profound on our way out the restaurant door, “You take care of yourself and make sure that D does the same!” I will Mom, I promise!
Well, I’m making progress on the healthy living front; losing weight, getting the lab numbers into normal ranges, exercising (but not enough yet), and spending some good chill time with the lovely and gracious soul mate of my life. With our roles flipped from the stereotypes we grew up with it is a challenge for us to take on each other’s typical tasks and responsibilities, at times frustrating, and at other times very satisfying. It’s also tough to anticipate each other’s needs and care for each other with all the busyness in our lives. And we’re not where we need to be on the “taking care of self” front, but we’re making progress there, too.
Want to be a good caregiver, no matter whom you’re caring for? Are you an inactive grandpa, or are you a sports-loving dad? Are you a cowboy? Or are you in less than the best health you can be? No matter where you’re starting, start! Start taking care of number one! And while you’re at it, remember to give yourself and your significant other the gift of time…together!
Doing the same…Pops