Today I went to the Stroke Recovery group WAGS that Ray and I used to go to, I don't always attend the monthly meetings and today one of the members came late and slipped into the seat beside me and said: "I am so glad you are here today I take so much strength from you." This girl has just been diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer so I know she is going through a bad time. She always seems happy but I know it is not always as it seems and she is struggling. We have had long talks from time to time so know she finds it hard sometimes to make sense of life, she has had a stroke and now her cancer is back. It must seems very unfair to her.
She has visited me several times during my convalescence and we have had some good conversations so I hope that has helped. She brings her small dog Daisy and I enjoy Daisy's visit too, she is a happy little dog. I wrote years back in one of my blogs : " Who cares for the caregiver?'' and the answer depends on what you are looking for. For me in the last eight weeks after the operation my help has come from friends, my church group and members of the Stroke Recovery Group, caregivers and stroke survivors alike, have all been thoughtful and contributed in some way to my well being. From many the flowers and cards were so lovely and some of the less mobile people phoned me as well. It is another example of “if you want something done ask a busy person” as all of those who helped me ARE busy people, but they are also generous people with good hearts.
I know now if you have been a caregiver you will go on being so in some way. With long term caregivers who lose their partner once past the grief you will find ways of making a contribution in your own way. I am a born volunteer so it was not hard to find an outlet for my caring instincts. The pastoral care work in the church is one outlet for this, the nursing homes visits another. I have the Lions Club projects like the BBQs and other fundraisers to help with too. But you don't have to make a formal commitment or join an organisation to be a caring person, that person on the bus seat might need a listening ear and that young woman with the baby might need some motherly advice or just someone to admire her baby. Opportunity is not something you need to seek, it simply comes your way and you can use it.
Every few months I sit around and have a "woe is me day" a day when I wonder what life is all about, what I am doing with my life etc. This is not as often as when I was first widowed but the triggers are always there to set me off. This week I got a couple of nice compliments and that helped me see life from a different perspective. One was in one of the nursing homes I visit, one of the nurses told me she loves it when I visit one of the people there as "it really brightens her up". I love to visit my ladies but sometimes it is just another chore so it is nice to hear it is appreciated. There is always bad news to make us feel sad, I went to another funeral this week,which is hard when it is an old friend of many years standing. So some good news or having someone pay me a nice compliment can help make my day and make what I do seem worthwhile again.
I know from Ray's time in a nursing home that some people have very few visitors and so a visit from someone like me fills a gap. It is sad in a way but the life that we lead in our old age is often sad. Once you go into a nursing home so much of your old life has to be left behind and it is hard to see a good future ahead of you An old friend of mine who is going blind has recently moved out of her home of many years and into a nursing home. She said to me yesterday: "I wonder what there is left to live for." and I understand that statement. She knew she was no longer coping living alone, even with help so she made the decision herself. She is in her mid-90s. She said her daughter is good to her and visits frequently and that makes her happy. She has settled into her new environment but still misses her old home very much.
I enjoyed my time at the Stroke Recovery group meeting today. It is only a week now until our WAGS Women's Weekend so most of the women were talking about that. We had a Podiatrist as guest speaker and he explained how a good orthotic in the form of a shoe insert can correct gait. Unfortunately it is all very expensive but I wished that those sort of orthotics had been available when Ray was first relearning to walk as I could see they might have helped keep his left foot straighter. Walking was always a struggle for him and he had so many falls, some of them requiring hospitalisation. The AFO helped to counteract the foot drop but maybe with an orthotic shoe insert as well he might have had less of a struggle. It is all academic now after all it is five years since he passed away. But we can't help thinking of what might have been.
November is always a busy month for me and my calendar is full of squiggled reminders of where I have to be on what days. I can be a bit muddle headed with all the activity so strive to remember if I have to take a cake, or give a talk, or arrive early to set up in all the places I have to go. It is the start of the Lions Club Christmas Stocking ticket sales on the 13th and of course all the usual activities plus a few end-of-year activities so I have to keep an eye on my diary. Am I pleased to be doing all of this, yes I believe I am. I have had a health scare and the repercussions of that will last a while but life has to go on and I have to be able to enjoy it. I seem to be walking better now, I walked down a set of steep stairs with ease today so the muscles are starting to build up again. I may not be the Dancing Diva this year at the Women's Weekend but I do intent to enjoy myself.