Joys of caregiving

April 8, 2008 by  
Filed under Archives, News

I knew I was losing my professor position when my aunt told me that she was diagnosed with cancer again. She had just lost her husband after he did not recover from a surgery a few weeks before she found out. There was no thought about how I was going to get back and forth between CA and WA. My life had revolved around teaching and my dogs. I never thought about how I was going to deal with the dogs. My aunt did not have a yard. I just knew that I wanted to make sure that my aunt had someone to talk to, someone to do her yard that loved that task as much as she did, someone who knew her likes, dislikes, and demons.

We were always exchanging tips about gardening. We both loved our riding lawnmowers. That was one of the things she lamented about. She got a brand new riding lawnmower just a month before she began feeling bad. She would point out that I had more hours on it than she. One of my joys was to make sure that her yard was always kept up. She could look out the window and see could still see the results of her 4 years of labor on a 4 acre piece of land. With my cousins, we even did some work she wanted to do in the future so we could discuss the future. Even though, I knew; she knew. But we never discussed her dying directly. We just talked about how others in the family were not getting how serious it was.

It made me happy that she did not have to feel guilty because I had to take off work. I did not have any. One of the biggest joys for me was that I could pay her back for her love, respect, and friendship that she had shown me all my life. She also knew that I could take her negativity, her hours of silence, and her frustrations because I knew her so well. I knew it wasn’t her. It was the disease. And as hard as it was and it has been, my biggest joy is that she died at home with family on her terms, not with strangers or in the hospital.

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