Different

The photo is 30 years old.
My two brothers and I
pose with our father
at the family lake cottage.
We’re all wearing almost identical
navy blue swim trunks.
(Our sister is not in the picture;
she must have forgotten to bring her trunks.)
We all still go to the place at the lake,
but Dad’s visits last only a few hours.
Walking is now hard for him;
his sense of balance is compromised;
his mind increasingly plays tricks on him.
When I was there with him last week,
he didn’t realize it was his own home.
Tony, Mike, and I, like Patty, are his caregivers now.
Tony, second from the right, lives nearby and stops in for short visits
at Dad’s assisted care facility.
Mike, on the far right, and I live farther away
and must plan our visits.
The three of us are alike, and yet so different.
One of us cajoles Dad when together,
one jokes with him a lot,
and one tends to be more serious
(except when he’s writing about sisters and swim trunks).
One of us creates entire gourmet meals for Dad,
one cooks with Marie Callender and her frozen delights,
and one carries on in style while his wife cooks up a storm.
One handles all Dad’s finances,
while the other two keep the vacant homeplace shipshape.
One or two are prone to hover over Dad;
one or two keep the boundaries more clear.
One shares his business owner mentality,
one is the effective salesman through and through,
and one cannot escape his professional caregiver roots.
We’re all three different,
we all three love Dad equally,
and we all relate to him uniquely as caregivers.
No one of us provides better care;
we each offer our characteristic way of caring.

What’s true of Herman’s boys is true of all caregivers everywhere.
However much we’re alike,
we each caregive in our own distinctive ways.
All of us.

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