Getaway

A woman named Deary
is slowly dying
in Annie Dillard’s newest book.
Deary’s husband and two friends
care for her at home
around the clock.
All three take turns going out, at least once a day.
In Annie Dillard’s words,
“Dumping garbage was an outing;
they breathed the wind.”

Staying nearby is integral to most caregiving.
Usually closeness is required—
for the serving of meals,
for the handling of all things medical,
for conversing, for holding, for physically soothing.
Yet important as it is to stay in proximity,
it is equally important to get away.
We human beings are hardwired to crave a certain variety.
Life without any change becomes life without much vitality.
Work without any letup or relief becomes grueling.
We cannot wait around for others to step in
and make sure we receive exactly the relief we require.
Often these other people don’t understand how much we need
to refresh our eyes, refill our lungs, replenish our spirits.
They don’t always know what will enable us
to regain and renew,
to rejuvenate and reinvigorate.
We must take responsibility for finding and making ways
to step back and step away,
to take a break and escape awhile.
We must assume responsibility ourselves
to find again, to catch again,
what we’ve had before,
what the pressures of caregiving have taken from us.
We need to get away, however best we individually do that,
whether it’s for minutes, hours, days, maybe even weeks.
It’s not wrong or selfish to seek such recuperative diversion.
It’s the natural way we restore ourselves,
the way we regain the energy to keep going,
the way we make sure we keep offering
the very best care we can.

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