Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Caregiver Blues

My husband was the one who was supposed to feel tired, cranky, even depressed.  He was the guy with thyroid cancer who, in preparing for an iodine radiation treatment, had to go cold turkey on his thyroid medication and stick to a low iodine diet that put dairy, almost all salt, soy products, and everything from the sea on the "NO CAN EAT" list.

And that's the easy part.  The real challenge would be the week he'd spend in total isolation, unable to leave the house for anything -- not a few groceries, a book of stamps, a DVD, a movie, an evening with friends.  Nada.

Why?  Because the magic radioactive iodine pill he would swallow would render him . . . well, radioactive.  And being radioactive is not a good thing.  You're a walking mini-Chernobyl or Fukushima Daiichi.  

So, while Radioactive Man lounges on the new memory foam mattress, I'll sleep on the oldie but goodie that we deposited in the guest bedroom for our infrequent overnight guests.  And while the guy with cooties basks in the whirlpool bath, I'll monkey with the old shower that never turns off completely and runs either too darn hot or much too cold. 

I'd planned on keeping a journal, detailing my husband's slow but steady decline.  We were warned that his skin could get dry and flaky, his hair might fall out, and that his salivary glands might become swollen and painful.

To date, he's doing just fine.  

I'm the one whose had a bad ten days and counting.  I've had the worst backache in recent memory.  My stomach has turned against me, and, with the heat wave that shows no end in sight, I'm glum, if not downright depressed.

What's going on here?

Have my attempts at being "strong" for my husband kicked me in the gut?  Am I that stressed for fear of his health that I put a damper on mine?

Or is this all simply a matter of chance?  I just happened to throw my back out and pick up some little bug along the way.

Something tells me that it's Option #1.  I've got the caretaker blues.  Like all other dips, this one will pass, followed, I'm sure, by a time of calm, quiet, and whole body.  Looking back, I'll remember these couple of weeks as a blip on the radar and a testament to "taking one in the name of love."

Monday, July 16, 2012

"Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer . . ."
        "Those Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer" - Nat King Cole

I used to love summer.  Now, not so much.  On days when the temperature climbs into the 90s  -- 30 days so far and counting -- going outside for more than 5 minutes is almost as unbearable as bundling up and facing the elements with a wind chill below 0 degrees.

The grass in my yard has burned to a crisp.  (I know, Californians call this "golden."  I call it piss yellow.)  Too many flowers, particularly those I planted this year, have wilted under the heat and called it quits.  And I'm feeling a bit depressed.  Is there such a thing as having a touch of SADD in July?  Heck, I have a goLite BLU sitting on the floor under my desk.  But the instruction manual says not a word about using it to correct an imbalance in the circadian rhythms in the middle of the summer when there's more sunlight than at any other time of the year.  

It's too hot to take a stroll or ride my bike or picnic with friends.  I don't even hear the little rascals two doors south bouncing on their trampoline or playing soccer.  It's as if a curfew has been declared, and no one dares break it.

Sure, I could head to the beach less than two blocks away for a swim in Lake Michigan.  But that necessitates donning a bathing suit and, well, I think I'd rather stay inside and suffer.  Ditto for accompanying my husband to the local YMCA pool.

I never in my wildest dreams thought I'd look forward to fall with its cooler temperatures and shorter days.  But I've taken to humming "Autumn Leaves" and dreaming of a white Christmas.


Monday, July 2, 2012


They are just days of the year, days in which we celebrate a wedding, the start of a new job, the graduation from some institution of higher learning, or the death of a loved one.

Today is the fourth anniversary of my mother's death.  It hardly seems possible that so much time has passed.  I can still see her lifeless body bathed and adorned in purple silk pajamas laid out on her back, her left eye slightly ajar.  At last, her struggles had ended; mine had just begun.  I scanned her body from head to toe, urging myself to take an indelible photo - an image of her slender fingers still tinged with red nail polish, her thin lips now relaxed for good, her still full head of hair framing high cheek bones, and an aura of . . . if not peace, then of a life well lived, a job well done.

Two nights ago while watching "Real Time With Bill Maher," I got the giggles during one of his "New Rules" segments in which he suggested a host of possible VP running mates for the Mittster:  Rubio, Pawlenty, and some guy from a call center in India.

This is not the guy whose photo appeared on the TV screen, but he'll do

This last choice caught me completely off guard, and I started to giggle.  I couldn't stop.  My husband, who had no idea what was so funny, started giggling with me.  The giggle was contagious.  We were still laughing long after Maher had gone on to his next segment.  I dabbed at the tears dribbling down my face and kept right on.

"I'm channeling my mother," I said in between trying to catch my breath.  "This is the way she giggled.  Remember?"

My husband nodded.

"I loved my mom's giggle.  She could be a toughie, I know.  But when she started to giggle, everything was up for grabs."

I flashed to meals over the years when all hell broke loose.  I remembered a photo of my mother, my cousin, and me at a family reunion.  The three of us are doubled over in laughter, unable to carry on with whatever little entertainment we were presenting.

And here I was, two days before the anniversary of my mother's death, laughing as if she were there with me, sharing a moment of pure abandonment and joy.

So, she's still buzzing around after all.  Not all the time . . . not as often as I'd like.  But here nonetheless.  Here to make me giggle, here to remind me of all the lessons offered and the many lessons learned.