From the way they fill out their reservations most visitors to the Respite Penthouse are couples on the down side of forty. If it’s their only marriage they have kids either grown and off the books, or nearly there.
Respite people are old enough to know their parents won’t live forever. A sixty year old man with his thirty five year old wife stayed half a night after paying for two. Seems they had a problem, which is not allowed at DGs B&B, and have to leave early.
“This happens all the time. It’s not your fault. I’m just glad I heard about it this time. My father in law is eighty two. Golden Gloves boxer. World War Two Marine fighter pilot.
“Carl got sick, Parkinson’s, and I stepped up. Volunteered to be his caregiver. You know, the whole deal from wake up to lights out. He wouldn’t work with anyone else.
“He was a Marine. I’m former Army. I broke the function of caregiving down to the buddy system. Everybody knows the buddy system, except people who apply it regularly.”
“He was ready to die in the hospital. I’ve never seen anyone ready to die, but if you asked me now I’d say they’d have blue fingernails, blue lips, an oxygen mask, and enough hoses running under the sheets to irrigate a large side yard.
“He was so ready to let it go that I took the doctor outside the room to ask for an estimate on how many days he had to live. One day? Two? I’d never done it before, so I had no idea.
“The doc said one day, maybe two. That’s two days my mother in law wouldn’t sleep so I asked if I could bring Carl home. Caregiver for two days sounded easy. I could stay up two days if I had to. He looked like he was in a coma so that didn’t seem likely.
“Doctor said yes, take him home, but asked if I knew what I was doing. I said yes. I told him I’d been to Army Medic School, coughing at the right time to make it sound like medical school. He could tell me. We were practically comrades.
“What I learned is if you ever want to stand out as the Golden Boy in your family, do the caregiving for an ill relative. It’s a great thing. All you have to do is set aside your feelings. Family caregivers have certain connections to the afflicted that are healthy, and some that are unhealthy.
“Focus on healthy connections.
“Uncle Bob was a womanizer? He did his friends’ wives, their friends, and Aunt Lois knew?
“Caregiver let’s it go like it never happened.
“Mom got a pair of racy undies at a Christmas party and decided to divorce Dad that night?
“Let it go.
“Dad and a buddy took a fishing trip once a year and spent a week visiting Nevada ‘Ranches’. On the way back they bought a fish at Safeway and stopped at every lake they saw and hooked it to a fishing line and took pictures. They change clothes and take a few more.
“A caregiver lets it go. It’s over. Done.
“I’ve done this three years now. It’s a workout. Takes an athlete to keep a sick guy on their feet. I played basketball, but wish I’d wrestled.
“If I wrestled then I’d know more about balance and tipping points. More about weight shifts and gravity. What did I learn from basketball? How to back an opponent down? How to stop and pop? Maybe pass?
“Life is about grappling with problems and coming out triumphant. You don’t learn that by catching a touchdown pass or canning a three while the clock runs down. It’s about sharing the struggle, seeing how much you’ve got to give, how much you want to give.
“Who helps you with your work? Who makes your day livable? Who do you care about and who cares about you?
“Call it caregiving if you want, but you’re giving all you’ve got. Anything you saved is lost forever.
“That was one of his sayings, “”What I had I gave, what I saved was lost forever.