Halo

Vicki Graboys cares for
her busband, Tom.
He has an aggressive form
of Parkinson’s desease.
Life in the Balance
is the book he wrote
about their story.
He needed to write it promptly
before his dementia made it impossible
to pull his thoughts and memories together.
He included this about his wife,
whom he married just before he was diagnosed:
“I will try, often to excess, to express my gratitude and profess my love, which only makes her burden heavier, for it reinforces the unequal distribution of power in our marriage, power she doesn’t want and wears uncomfortably. I sometimes call her my angel, but she doesn’t want me to hang a halo on her. She feels she can’t—and doesn’t want to have to—live up to such lofty, unrealistic expectations.”

I find this to be a common feeling
among the caregivers with whom I speak.
They don’t see themselves as angels
or as saviors
and they don’t want to be seen
in that way by others.
They’re not do-gooders.
They’re simply loving family members and friends
who have risen to the occasion—
the occasion of doing what they can
to support, guide, and encourage,
to cook for and look after,
to walk with and sit beside,
to hold the other’s well-being
as a sacred trust.
Is what they do laudatory?
Yes, very.
Do they fulfill a role
that is life-giving, perhaps even life-saving?
Absolutely.
But do they wish to be stuck on a pedestal
for what they do?
Not really.
Most caregivers I know
are content with being recognized
from time to time,
and validated,
whatever the source of that validation.
But they’re not prepared
to serve as saints.
They have more important things to do.
Like give good care.

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2 Responses to “Halo”

  1. onegirlfriday Says:

    I continue to find your blog very comforting.
    I have posted this photo on my blog onegirlfriday@blogspot.com

    I do not want to do so without checking with you however. If it is not appropriate for me to post your photos I will take it down and link to your blog instead.

    Thanks, Anne Webb

  2. Richard Anderson Says:

    As a former spousal caregiver (“well spouse”) and now a serial SC(WS), I would change your last line:

    “They have more important things to do. Like give good care.”

    To: “They have more important things to do. Like give good care to themselves and to their loved one.”

    This is true of all family caregivers, I believe, and particularly spousal caregivers. In the case of the Graboys, Vicki went ahead with the caregiving, in spite of learning, after they married, of Tom’s illness — that he could have spoken about before. That requires an extra level of caregiver resilience — that comes from knowing that one must look to one’s own needs, in order to be a good caregiver for your partner.

    This is the premise of the peer emotional support the Well Spouse Association can give.

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