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Who takes care of the care giver?

Oh me: I was the closest one around, and I was expected to take care of the My Sweet Al when he had surgery on his foot.

Wait a minute, he’s the caregiver. He takes care of us.

My daughters said, “Mother, you need to take care of daddy. He won’t be able to do anything for two weeks, and you need to be there for him. Wipe your schedule clean. He needs you.”

“Of course I will,” I said, but in my mind I was thinking, “Do I have to? Isn’t there anyone else free to sit in the hospital? I have things to do. If I have to go, I’ll take my projects with me. I can work while Al is in the doctor’s office, I’ll write on my study workbook for the ‘Red Candle’ while he’s in surgery.”

Al and I went to Albuquerque to see the doctor two weeks before the operation. We sat in the doctor’s office and I watched him react to the nurses. The little girl said he needed an EKG. He argued with her. He told her that he had an EKG three months earlier when his brother insisted he go to his doctor for a checkup.

Al said a famous television doctor had already checked out his heart, and it was fine.

She wasn’t impressed.

It was Dr. Ramos, (the pretty people’s doctor.)

The little assistant looked blank.

Al reminded her again that his brother is a good friend with the famous doctor who is on television. Surely, she knew him.

I said to Al, “This young girl doesn’t know about your brother and his famous friend, Dr. Ramos. If it was Dr. McSteamy, she would care.”

Al said, “It’s a racket. They just want to make another two hundred dollars from another EKG and I just had one.”

I said, “Al, the insurance will cover it, let her do it.”

I’m thinking, “I just dropped my supplementary insurance because I refused to pay three hundred dollars a month for myself. I just went to the funeral of my cousin who is my age and who dropped dead of a heart attack. My father died at 39 years old from a heart attack, my older brother has had four heart attacks, and my younger brother just had a heart attack last year. It’s in my line, and Al’s arguing about a heart checkup. I should be up on the table getting an EKG.”

The day of the surgery, our daughter said she would take off work and drive down to Albuquerque with us if we could make it in one day.

I said, “Great, he has to be at the hospital at 2:30 in the afternoon, and he will be operated on at 4:30. He can’t eat or drink anything. As soon as he is operated on, we will drive home.”

We went to the hospital and I checked Al in.

The nurse wanted to know if I wanted to wait with him during the pre-op. I said, “No. I’m going shopping. I’ll be back when he comes out of surgery.”

She looked at me funny.

I said, “You know, I’m from Pagosa, I need to make a Costco run, Sally’s, Farmer’s Market and the usual.”

My daughter and I got into the car, and we headed for the mall.

I said, “Poor daddy, I didn’t want to eat in front of him. Now we can get a cheese on a stick, then go to Costco for pizza and an ice cream chocolate dipped bar with almonds. We’ll save some pizza for your dad; he can eat it in the car on the way home.”

I was there when Al came out of surgery. The nurse went over the details and I nodded. I propped Al up in the car and we drove home.

I’m home with Al, and I’m debating whether I should go to church or not.

I e-mailed a friend: “If I was the dutiful wife, I would stay home and take care of Al. But, if I’m being religious, I’ll be in church. I can leave the TV remote, phone, newspaper, hunting magazines, his pain pills and a drink of water by his bed. I would only be gone three hours. I haven’t decided.”

She e-mailed back: “Ha ha ha ha … I say do what love says!!! Be with that sweet man and enjoy yourself!!!”

I wrote her back, “I guess that means, I need to stay home.”

I’ve stayed home with my Sweet Al. I left the house for15 minutes and that evening my daughter came in laughing. “You wouldn’t believe it, as groggy as daddy was, he was shopping for shoes. He read in the newspaper there was a sale on flip-flops and he called my work to see if we had flip-flops in his size.”

My daughter said she thought it was so funny and told her sister, Allison, and they were still laughing. Allison said, “He is going into winter and he doesn’t need flip-flops. You know, it’s that shoe fetish thing.”

Al clicked through the TV channels and landed on the Home Shopping Network. Oh me, I better keep a better eye on my Sweet Al. No telling, the UPS man will be bringing packages shaped like shoeboxes to our door. I’ve got to keep him away from that shopping channel.

He’s safe watching NASCAR Duck Dynasty, The Hub and the turkey calling shows. He can’t get into too much trouble, hopefully.

Al still has his hospital bracelet on, and I should be wearing my WWJD bracelet to remind me of what Jesus would do.

I think I failed another test.

Final brushstroke: Al’s been too busy taking care of all of us. I haven’t had a chance to watch him incapacitated. I’m waiting for him to get well. I don’t like this caregiving stuff. Plus, he has enough shoes and, right now, he only has one foot to walk on.

Artist’s quote

”You have a clean slate every day you wake up. You have a chance every single morning to make that change and be the person you want to be. You just have to decide to do it. Decide today’s the day. Say it: this is going to be my day.” — Brendon Burchard.

This story was posted on October 10, 2013.