I had a Neil Young song stuck in my head as I got dressed for my third attempt at attending a caregivers' support group two minutes by car from my home. I also had my sister's voice saying, "You've never had any fashion sense." She only started saying this after her divorce ten or fifteen years ago when she had already started her manhunt for a new mate, even though she and her husband had been separated for almost a year when she finally told the family. I remember bopping her on the head with a sofa cushion while saying, "You could have told me. I'm the black sheep of the family for tons of reasons." By then I was married to my third, current and final husband, the quiet atheist, whom I love now more than ever.
Farmer John, I'm in love with your daughter,
I love the way she walks, I love the way she talks,
I love the way she wiggles, she wiggles when she walks
Perhaps it had to do with my choice of pants, a saggy old pair of blue jeans, probably once one of my sons'. A cool morning, I chose a long sleeved pink cotton top for the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, pink and black striped knee-high socks, with silver, glittery skulls for Halloween. My sister would never be caught dead, or alive, in such an outfit, not even the new 80 dollar black bra underneath. Black suede guy boots, no make-up.
I have been overwhelmed and lacking energy, but had made five phone calls prior to the 1:30 pm meeting. There seemed to be some confusion as to whether a meeting was even being held. Since I had made arrangements for my sons to be here in my absence, I took a small leap of faith and just drove over.
Turned out despite three of the phone calls claiming there was no meeting, there was. I was not only the youngest by twenty or more years; I was also the new kid on the block. An attendance chart was passed around, while a vivacious Stepford Wife type said she would be speaking on the new Affortable Health Care Act. Inwardly, I groaned, having watched hours of commentary on various TV channels, plus reading a wide variety of internet and newspaper articles while I had the flu.
I gazed around at approximately twelve people who all looked frazzled. There were plates of decorated Halloween cookies and a pot of coffee. I didn't need the coffee, but got half a cup as the woman hurried through her presentation. I wrote a note to the woman sitting next to me, "Is this a usual meeting?" She nodded no. After we were given pages and pages of supposedly helpful information, a few people asked questions, then the presenter said she had to leave.
The only other person at the table who did not look haunted and had a salon hair style, addressed me and announced that there was still time for a normal meeting. "Since we all know each other, how about you tell us your name and why you're here." I shifted into why I thought I was there and introduced myself by my first name and said, "I've only just realized I've been a double caregiver for too long and I need help." I went on to briefly explain my situation regarding my mother and my husband. Knowing smiles, encouraging silence, then we went around the table, most people giving short updates on how they were coping or not.
This was what I needed, to be among people who were going through similar sadness and exasperation. As the last person spoke, she shared that she too was 14 years younger than her (94 year old) husband, who currently acted more like a 2 year old. All of them used respite adult daycare or had paid caregivers come into their homes 6-8 hours per day, but they looked and sounded worn down. The woman in charge told me there was also a different group, just for spouses, which meets next week. Almost all of them said it only gets worse, which I already knew, but somehow I felt hopeful, as if I have finally found a ragtag army of fellow fighters, none of whom cared what socks I was wearing.
lyrics written by Don Harris and Dewey Terry,Jr.