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Memories from the past


swilkinson

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As a caregiver for thirteen years I lost my personality. I became Sue, caregiver to Ray. I wore sensible shoes, practical outfits and had my hair cut short so I could just wash it and brush it and it dried by itself. Ray was the focus of my life. What Ray needed was routine, regular sleep patterns, more time at home, and because as he had stroke after stroke my workload increased and I spent my days waiting on Ray. I was an independent working woman when he stroked in 1999 and it was hard to adjust and I took a while to settle down into the nurse/housekeeper role but I did it. In the end you do it out of love you have for the one you care for. I would give up anything for Ray and I did give up a lot.

 

In a way I lost my femininity too. I remember the first time I broke a heel off a high heel shoe on a grating. When you are pushing a wheelchair it is hard to see the hazards so I trod down, got the heel caught and broke it off getting it out. Out went all my high heel shoes and I settled for those with flat soles, I tried to get some pretty ones but in the end wore what was comfortable and practical and cheap because by then the costs of living with an invalid was evident. So, adjusting to being that caregiver was hard. My heart goes out to every person on this board in that position. It is not one we chose but for a variety of reasons we choose to stay and take on the new role. Not everyone does. I often heard the stories of the partner who moved out. Sad, sad stories a lot of them.

 

Not everyone can cope with the changes not only physical changes but mental changes too. My thoughtful man turned into an introvert with not a lot to say and that "can we go home now?" look started to cut out our social life. Our friends gradually dropped away as they realised we could no longer join in the activities they had shared with us. We did have some social life and still did some travelling with the coach holidays which stopped in 2006 because I knew Ray wasn't coping with changing rooms night after night. I wanted to go on cruises but his balance issues would have made that too dangerous. Now with the ships more stabilized I could have done that. It is all about timing isn't it?. So our lives became more restricted.

 

I am not going to go further into the woes of a caregiver as I have a lot of blogs on here about that subject. Just started this to illustrate what I feel about my life now. I am finally getting my life back. Not the work part of it now though as I am 69 but the freedom to be me part. It has taken four years from when Ray died to get to this point but at last I am free to look feminine, wear more colorful clothes, even wear a small heel. At barely five feet tall now that is not a big deal but somehow it makes me feel better. I like to look like a woman and to me that means color and style. Okay I am not a pretty woman but appearance is more important to me now. Pity my social life is mostly coffee or lunch out with other widows but that is okay, it is a social life. But I know it will never replace what I once had. No-one will replace what I had with Ray.

 

I have a photo of Ray and I on our 40th wedding anniversary, I have an unflattering hairstyle and I look so OLD. I think older than I do now. It was partly exhaustion and partly the worried look of a caregiver who knows that the party she has given to celebrate an event, the 40th wedding anniversary, is simply too much for the partner sitting beside her. I am glad I did it as I have those precious memories and so do all of the people who attended. Men from my Lions Club had a group called the KB Singers formed to entertain at nursing homes and other similar facilities and they sang for our guests. Occasionally one will remember and say: " I remember singing at your 40th anniversary, what year was that?" Yes, it is good that we all have those precious memories and someone to share them with even if it is not the ones closest to us.

 

One of my New Years resolutions is to take more photos. I gave that up in my caregiving years as it was always Ray with a worried look on his face. One of the strokes took away his ability to smile. I think that is fairly common but it means the attractive grin that he had in his younger days disappeared. As did his ability to make pretty speeches and express his loving nature. I know it was still there but he was unable to express himself as he had before the fourth, fifth and sixth stroke. Women might understand when I say that was very hard to bear. It is hard to work constantly for someone who no longer says: "thank you".

 

I know Ray did appreciate what I was doing for him, in my heart I knew that lovely Ray I was married to was still there, but was no longer able to articulate what he wanted to. In the end the neurologist noted him down as having aphasia - a sad diagnosis. And the added diagnosis of dementia. I look back now and I wonder how we survived, as a couple, as a family and as members of the church and community. But somehow we did. Four years later I still bump into people from my past and they look at me and say: "And Ray?" and I say: "Sadly he died four years ago." and they smile sadly. What do you say to a widow...at first and then later? A sad smile has to fill the gap. That sadness does not go away, the pain dulls to bearable but the sadness does not go away.

 

This is not meant to be a sad blog. With the holidays approaching and the preparations in full swing it is impossible not to think of the past, the family events, the events that stand out in my mind, Christmases past in particular. I am going to my daughters place on Christmas Day. I have my younger son Trevor coming to stay for eight days. I am sure it will be a good time with many happy memories to share. I need to take more photographs. I need to capture the precious moments because sometimes that is hard to recall when you have no-one to share those memories with. The past stands out but the present slips past filled with uneventful days. That is part of being a widow.

 

 

 

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Sue, you are a pretty woman as your beauty radiates from the inside out, Speaking of looks sometimes improving as we age, Lesley and I both agree she now has fewer lines and wrinkles than when we got married. Close up pics prove it. She uses a facial cream and I would say it is working.

 

Very happy to hear you are moving on. Although I was a caregiver for only six years, I know it is very hard. Moving on is the only cure, best wishes.

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Sue, 

 

I have read your blog several times now and I gotta ask you, but you are not obligated to answer at all.... Do you feel now that you will ever have another male friend that you feel close to as in a husband like Ray was??????

 

I'm in my fourth marriage now at 75 years of age and at times I wonder what if??? What if something happens to her would I ever have another woman in my life????

 

I just can't come up with the answer to my question..... Sex is not everything but I wonder when a man is finished with that side of a marriage???? Any answers or suggestions you can text me or email at fking1@hot.rr.com Thanks for your answer......

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wow you go Fred! You have a great wife and I think she knows she has a jewel.

 

Sue I think that you were carrying a great deep sadness and grief as Ray changed because of your great love for him in addition to the workload and sensible style. Your time was spent on making his life meaningful not just comfortable. Only a mature compassionate wife would have become what was needed and now she reinvents herself to be what she needs.

I hope to have your courage.

 

By the way your photo is very pretty and beauty is there because Ray would not have settled for less.

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