Care Giving

Happy third birthday to all members of the Loose Bloggers Consortium, those who write and all who faithfully comment and follow our efforts.

‘A baker’s dozen of mixed buns’ may well describe the members of the LBC, with a wide range of  life’s experiences under our various belts.  Many are in care giving roles of one type or another, but the common factor with all, is a great sense of humour – one of the greatest assets a person can have. Humour helps us to defuse difficult situations and reduce our stress levels and cope with whatever life throws our way.

‘Care giving’ is a term that arrived in my lexicon in very recent years. Mind you, it is something that has been part of my life from as far back as I can remember.  It may well have begun with helping my younger brothers to put their socks on or tie their shoes, carrying bundles of freshly ironed clothes up stairs to help an overworked and tired mammy, or finding the reading glasses that an elderly relation had mislaid for the fourth time in one hour.

Winter coats were a normal and well used part of daily apparel in Ireland, we often needed to wear them right round the year when summer skipped past without stopping. We helped our elders to don them and close the buttons, so became familiar with slow ageing limbs and stiffening joints. Walking sticks or canes were handed to frail elderly and we quickly remembered which hand to put the cane in. We learned the correct way to guide them into a chair or up and out of it.  We lifted heavy legs into or out of bed and opened and held doors for safe passage through.

Picture the bed above with wooden head and foot boards. We had one when I was young, and it plus a mattress moved up and down the stairs like a yo-yo.  My brothers and I became past masters at assembling/disassembling, humping and carrying that bed up and down the stairs when needed. With a large extended family we always seemed to have somebody inside in the bed! A room with a fireplace became the dedicated ‘sick room’ for the duration. It had sliding doors to the main living area, so when company was part of the cure, the doors were opened and the patient became part of the family buzz. If the patient grew tired or needed rest the doors were closed once more and our noise level reduced.

Felled every winter by severe bronchitis, that bed became my home for three weeks or a month, with daily visits from our local doctor.  Back then rest and an even temperature were considered the road to recovery. Medication was always something I reacted badly too, so the Doctor struggled at times to find an effective cure. The fire burned 24/7 since it was long before we had central heating. Meals and tempting treats were carried to me and my pillows were checked and puffed up by my brothers. They handed me items that were out of reach, told me stories of their day and made me laugh.

That bed taught me plenty.  I learned how to be a patient, and have patience for others who suffered and were in pain. I learned the weariness of weakness and difficulty with finding breath. I learned how taking three or four steps felt like a marathon race.  I learned how to bed bath my granny, mammy and an elderly aunt, all before I had reached middle teens.

I was eight years old when my sister was born, giving me the opportunity to feed, change and bath a living doll. A year later mammy had a serious heart attack when my father and older brothers were out. I had to quickly deal with mammy and sort out my three younger siblings. My father’s long road through illness began when I was eleven and he did not make for an easy patient.

Never once was any of the above considered as ‘care giving’. It was doing what was needed to the best of our ability and as quickly, quietly and smoothly as possible.

All good training for the future that lay ahead of me.

I was blessed with the gift of my own living doll and enjoyed every moment of caring, playing, teaching and indeed learning from her. It was only when she reached 18, that I pushed her out of the nest (for university) and changed the locks! 😉 Thankfully Elly has become a well balanced hard working capable and caring daughter, wife, and friend to all she meets.  She sees. She cares. She gives!

As many of you know the curse of cancer entered my home twenty years ago when I became a sole 24/7 care giver for my husband Jack, over the next six years. In that time Elly was at school and later University.

The training I had as a child certainly helped me along this road and to a whole new level of caring. Since we had no relations for a hundred miles, I switched off from the outside world for the duration, resigning from all organisations that I had served on, in order to devote all my energies day and night to the task in hand. It was long before I had a computer or heard of the internet.

My neighbour and friend was also diagnosed with cancer, after wrongly been treated for gall bladder over a period of nine months.  There were many times and days following chemo, when I sorted Jack out and made him comfortable before crossing the road to my friend’s house, to bed bath and cream her feet & legs. This gave her great comfort.

Compared to the road other friends are walking, my tasks were easy.

OK, so my having three consecutive hours sleep, instead of an hour at a time, was a rare occasion to celebrate.  We had the odd day when Jack would tell someone that ‘We washed the car/cleaned the windows/cut the grass’(you pick), when in fact he had been sitting inside the window watching me complete the task. He never complained, had total faith is any suggestion I offered and always knew who I was!

Right to the end he was the best thing that ever happened to me!

Master care giver, Ramana chose this week’s topic for the Loose Blogger’s Consortium. I suggest you bring along your thermometer and cooling wipes to check how the other active members give care to the subject: Anu, Delirious, Maxi, Maria/Gaelikaa, Maria SilverFox, OCD writer, Padmum, Paul, Ramana, Shackman speaks, The Old Fossil, Will Knott..

23 thoughts on “Care Giving

  1. Nancy


    You’ll be proud of me today.

    I read your entire essay on Care Giving and I didn’t cry once until I read this line:

    “Right to the end he was the best thing that ever happened to me!”

    That was beautiful….

  2. Grannymar Post author

    Nancy – You met Jack and know how I felt about him.

    Delores – I am sure you do. If all parents did so, we might not have so many disturbed young people turning to drugs and drink.

  3. Maria from Silver Fox

    When I was first widowed, I oftened wished that John and I had had the time to say good-by. He was here one minute and gone the next with a rapid and fatal heart attack. Then I joined a widows’ group and realized that it truly made no difference. The grief, the loss, the spiraling down feelings were the same whether there had been six seconds or six years.

    I loved seeing your family, elderly relatives, and your beloved husband through your very caring eyes. How very lucky they are/were to have you in their lives. You are very special, Grannymar!

  4. Grannymar Post author

    Maria SF – I agree. I do not dwell on my loss all the time and hope that Jack would be proud of how I have rebuilt my life. During his illness he did have a wish that I would find someone else to share my life with. It didn’t happen, but who knows what the future will hold!

    WWW – Glad I have a heart, since I certainly have no gold!! 😆

  5. Rummuser

    I salute you dear friend. In the obsession with current care giving responsibilities, I had forgotten the early years of being the eldest in a home with three younger siblings. You are right. It was not called care giving those days, and even now the same attitude of accepting that what needs to be done has to be done by some one and if that some one happens to be me, so be it, is the attitude that I have used to carry out what I do. You flatter me by calling me Master Care Giver. All care givers end up being Master Care Givers within their scope of responsibility. The key words are ‘attitude’ and ‘responsibility’. Circumstances bring about situations and it is our attitude towards those circumstances that makes the difference and taking responsibility for that attitude and more importantly the decision itself enables us to do what is necessary. Without fail, I have seen this among all care givers and from your account, in you too. I am glad that I was inspired to suggest this topic.

  6. Grannymar Post author

    Ramana – As you say we did what was required as and when it was needed, in the same way we eat when we are hungry and drink when we are dry.

  7. shackman

    we did what was required as and when it was needed, in the same way we eat when we are hungry and drink when we are dry.

    That sure captures the essence of the situation. It’s nice to see it boiled down.

    Great post GM.

  8. Grannymar Post author

    shackman – Gift wrapped in fancy words or not, it boils down to the same thing: Being there and doing what needs to be done.

  9. Cathy in NZ

    Even though I’m from a family of siblings – I was out on a limb as they were much, much older when I was born. And for that matter my parents were even older, grandparent status!

    I didn’t learn much from that period of my life other than self-reliance and self-management. All of which are key aspects in my present circumstances…

  10. Grannymar Post author

    Cathy – Life has a peculiar way of preparing us for what lies way down the line, without us ever realising it.

  11. Alice

    If Heaven is real, then you have a crown waiting for you with many many stars in it. You family life was and is inspirational. Somehow I think many families–in this country anyway–miss out a lot because so many parents try to spare their kids of real life. I remember the “care taking” all around me as I watched my mother (father, too) put herself out to take care of whoever needed help. She took me right along with her to those often smelly bedrooms where sometimes the only good we could do was by simply being there. Lovely post!

  12. Maxi

    Your story took me back to the day, Grannymar. I grew up much like you; we had this day bed and out it would come when needed.

    As the third eldest in a line of seven, there were many chores. Especially when the two youngest came along.

    You have my heart when it comes to your beloved husband; the ache is always there.

    May you be blessed always – Maxi

  13. Grannymar Post author

    Maxi – Thank you. the ‘caring’ we gave in the early days was good preparation for the lives we later faced.

  14. blackwatertown

    I salute you.
    That’s how I was going to begin before I read Ramana’s comment, but I decided to do so anyway.
    The story – part of the story – of a life so far.
    Eloquently told.

  15. Baino

    Ah well, caring for someone you love is a labour of love, not a chore at all. I was very proud to care for my dad during his terminal illness, and like Silver Fox, I didn’t have the opportunity to do that for my mother or my husband. I think some of us are naturals at nurturing, you certainly are.

  16. Grannymar Post author

    Baino – I never stopped at any time to question why I was doing something to help or care for another, it was a way of life and how I was trained from early childhood. If I was to stop and ask the question ‘Why?’, there would be no point in any of it.

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