A little play on words...
This is a picture of Jim, sweeping the driveway and the yard(!) with a large sweep broom. I think I have mentioned before how meticulous he is with our yard. If you look closely, you may see a few leaves on the grass. He will get every one of them! With each passing year it becomes more of an intense focus for him, to make sure he is out there chasing down every leaf that falls. We've talked many times about waiting until they build up a bit, or even mulching them with his mower, but he will have none of it. While there is no harm in what he is doing, it does represent the level of anxiety he experiences if everything is not just right.
Jim had to replace our leaf blower this year. It is a little different from the old one. Wouldn't you know it, he is not able to operate it. The guy who helps us with our landscaping was kind enough to give Jim a lesson the other day on how to operate it. You can be sure that I was all ears, taking note, knowing that Jim would never retain what he was being shown. When the leaves actually start really falling and building up, I'll get out the leaf blower and go over it with Jim. It's a pretty heavy duty blower; I'm not sure I could pull the cord to start it. But I certainly can talk Jim through the steps.
The other day we were leaving for the grocery store. As I pulled out of the garage and started down the driveway, he yelled "wait!". I thought something was terribly wrong; his voice was filled with anger and anxiety. I stopped the car, he opened the door, picked up the shells from a nut that had fallen onto the driveway and tossed it into the wooded area. I cannot imagine what it is like inside his brain, to live with this kind of worry and anxiety.
While Jim was outside sweeping the yard and driveway this morning, his closest friend, Mike, happened to call. I picked up the phone and explained that Jim was outside, but that I'd have him return the call. Mike asked me about the changes he had been seeing in Jim. What a relief! I was certain that Mike must have noticed, but it didn't feel right for me to bring it up to him. We must have talked for 20 minutes. He said he noticed the changes quite a while ago. He said all the right things. He encouraged me to call him for anything, even if it is just to talk. What an amazing friend. I feel so grateful.
I've ordered the "oops" cards that I spoke about here. I'm not sure how this will work, but I'll have them on hand for those awkward moments. (Thanks Amy!)
My idea of leaving a note with my return time and cell phone number is working well. It was an easy fix, and leaves me feeling more comfortable with going to the Y, helping my mother etc.
One of the blogs I enjoy reading is Kathy's Retirement Blog. You can check it out here. She recently wrote a two part post about the role of caregiving. It was a good, thoughtful discussion with helpful comments from other readers. It was a good reminder that as caregivers we need to find time to take care of ourselves to minimize the stress and strain that come from this challenging role. My time at the Y and the time I spend with my friends are my two main outlets.