I am not an easy person to live in the same house with. Ask my mother. Ask my college roommates. Despite major flaws in my cohabitating skills, my brother has been outrageously giving towards an often un-talkative and moody me. If I mentioned that I was going to eat breakfast soon, he would get out a bowl and pour the cereal. If we were both heading for the shower, he’d extend his hand and say Please, as in, You go first. Whenever we interacted with each other, he would honor my wants and needs before his own.
When he said he was going to have hip surgery that would leave him slightly disabled for a few months, I thought Yes! This is my chance to be good to him! I told him I would take care of him.
Before you congratulate me—and before I was even able to congratulate myself—on what a fabulous sister I am, please note my internal reaction to the date of the surgery (July 5th). First, that’s going to interfere with my Fourth of July plans. i.e. staying up late for the fireworks and then sleeping in on Tuesday morning. Second, my mom will be out of town. That makes me the nurse on duty. Philanthropic moment officially over.
After 24 hours with the patient, I knew that being a caretaker requires more patience and compassion than I have in a single eyelash. Here’s what you can expect when Nurse Ali is on call:
- When you’re incapacitated, I expect you to stay in the chair/bed/exercise bike I left you on. If you move from that location without my permission, I will yell at you. What are you doing? Where do you think you’re going? Why are you doing that yourself?
- Momentary lapses in my caretaking responsibilities will lead me to feed my dog before I offer you dinner, go to Pilates class before making your breakfast, and hang out on the other side of the house so that I can’t hear your bell ringing.
- When I ask Can I get you anything? I actually want you to say no. If you do give me a list of three things: I will bring the first, have to come back to ask about the second, and completely forget about the third.
While I was physically capable of heating up meals, filling up ice bags and moving fans from one room to another, I was not emotionally or psychologically prepared for the role of caretaker. I struggled with being so needed and the perpetual proximity to another person. If he was privy to my internal dialogue, he would have been testing his pre-packaged, microwaved food for traces of antifreeze. Instead, he awarded me “Caretaker of the Year” as a result of my ability to anticipate his needs, finishing his to-do list in record time, and causing him more hip pain by making him laugh.
I have a newfound admiration for the giving and unselfish attitudes of nurses, mothers of newborn babies, and husbands or wives of a sick spouse who devote their entire day (or life) to another person.
Do you know someone who actually deserves a “Caretaker of the Year” award? Give them some props by commenting below.