Caregiving

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a mandala of the supermoon and trees in a kaleidoscope of tears.It was late when we got the discharge papers and I drove my friend Annette home from Cayuga Medical Center. Even my son was fast asleep by the time I pulled into my own driveway. But I was wide awake, my head pulsing with something like pride. With memories: home from the hospital. It transported me back to the times in and out of hospitals with my daughter during her almost-three years of cancer. Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester is the place I last “left” Marika. The hospital is where I first learned I was a caregiver.

When one you love becomes sick, you become a caregiver. No references or prior experience necessary. You learn on the job. Patience. Attentiveness. Compassion. You learn to let go of what you cannot control. You learn how much there is to lose: breath, balance, mobility, independence, …hope. The certainty of being able to go home.

“When can I go home?” is what everyone asks in the hospital, sitting around waiting, watching the world pass you by while you’re stuck there. The goal is to get out. But for me, for almost three years, my whole world was right there in the hospital. Whenever I left without Marika, my heart was tethered to that place. Maybe it still is.

In the end, I did not bring my daughter home. Instead, I dragged home the heartbroken remains of who I was, and the beginnings of the person I would grow into over the next years: one who loves life and doesn’t discount it by who or how much she’s lost, but rather gauges good living by what she can put right and save.

“It feels good to be needed again, to be able to help,” I’d said, when I delivered Annette to her apartment and she thanked me like I’d given her gold. Then the waning supermoon followed me home across two hills and a valley, peeking through clouds and bare branches. It made a giant mesh of moon-shadows in my driveway. Almost midnight, everything was silent and still. Except for me. I felt like skipping. Dancing in the moonlight. And I don’t know if I was speaking to the moon, my daughter’s spirit, or God when I whispered, “Hey. I brought someone home tonight.” The moon, the branches, my pride, longing, love, and gratitude were all kaleidoscoped by my tears.

 

What makes you want to sing and dance in the moonlight at midnight?

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9 thoughts on “Caregiving

  1. Annette Corth

    Robin,

    Having a friend like you is definitely like receiving gold. Thanks for all you have been doing for me.

    Reply
  2. Monica Sword

    “I brought someone home tonight.” Oh, my how powerful and joyful and bittersweet. I so love the way you are experiencing your life of “after.” Very inspiring, Robin.

    Reply
    1. Robin Botie Post author

      And thank YOU, Monica, for inspiring me to travel again. I don’t have the time to wait around for a travel companion to materialize. But maybe a retreat. Maybe even Jennifer Pastiloff’s.

      Reply
  3. SusanBs

    I could see the spiderwebs of shadows on the road as you traveled. When taking Nicholas back to the hospital after a short reprieve his little – boy 12 year old self was devastated. It broke my heart every time. You brought your friend home but you also left as well. Every time I walk out of a hospital I’m grateful and my heart is light that I can leave, that I don’t have to stay. Yet I choose to work in a hospital. Go figure.

    Reply
    1. robinbotie.com

      I understand perfectly how you choose to work in a hospital. I am so drawn to the local hospital a short distance up the road from where I live. Some day, maybe even before I give up my volunteer job at Ithaca’s Hospicare doing the bereavement calls, I will do something at the hospital. Even with all I’ve been through saying goodbye to loved ones at hospitals, they still feel like places where hope lives. And even sadly bringing our children back all the time after such short times at home trying to be “normal,” there was hope. At least until the very end. For me, maybe I’m still running after hope.

      Reply
  4. Elaine Mansfield

    Powerful, Robin. I think you’re doing what we all need to do–show up for each other right now.
    Thank you for reminding me to honor the energy I put into caregiving.

    Reply
    1. robinbotie.com

      That’s the important thing – showing up. For each other. So now I’m going to go back to the hospital where my friend has been for several days. She got admitted shortly after I published the blog. Her tiny family is mostly out of town for the holiday now. And I’m very pleased to be the one bringing her a turkey dinner.

      Reply
    1. robinbotie.com

      Thank you, Lynne. Many thanks for keeping up with my posts. A weekly dose of tears, joy, or whatever. It means a lot to me to know you’re out there.

      Reply

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