Distance

Patty is my sister,
six years younger.
She is a natural caregiver,
wonderfully so.
She was so during our mother’s long illness.
She is so now with our failing father.
Unlike the three brothers
who live a manageable drive away,
Patty’s drive is 1219 miles to the homeplace.
This is what I have heard her say:
“I regret missing out on the day-to-day details.”
“I feel guilty I am not there to help more.”
“I feel unworthy to make decisions about Dad’s care
because I am not the one who must implement those decisions.”

Undoubtedly, long distance caregiving has a unique character.
Everyday particulars go missing.
Eyes cannot easily verify.
Fingers cannot soothingly touch.
Arms and hands cannot lift and pour and wash and comb.
And yet…
And yet, vocal and written communication can still be clear and close
and quite engaging.
Many caregiving responsibilities can still be handled,
even from a distance,
and if not personally managed, then at least lovingly overseen.
The distance itself can foster creative ways of being together
that someone who is right next door might never consider.
And when there are opportunities to be together physically,
these times can have a special quality that’s remembered long after.
Then the miles between have nothing to do
with whether or not the bond remains strong,
whether or not the relationship grows and deepens,
whether or not the love keeps flowing back and forth.

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