I am a six-foot-one, 220-pound alpha male, born and raised in Texas, and I believe in care giving. As you might imagine, I didn’t come easily to this belief. I was dragged there. I used to believe if you worked hard and never gave up, you could accomplish anything. And then one day, my beautiful, never-give-an-inch wife Joan announced she had a degenerative nerve disease.
We didn’t have a lot of care-giver heroes in Texas. John Wayne and the other cowboys in the movies weren’t ones. All I could come up with was my grandmother. My crazy aunt (a crazy relative is required in the South) was taken care of by her all her life. That helped. I could talk to my grandmother like a man. But mainly, I had to find my own way.
Twenty years ago, before men were allowed in women’s dressing rooms, I barged into one with an arm full of clothes because Joan needed my help. I guess it was my voice that silenced the whole place. There may come a time when undressing and dressing my wife’s lovely body won’t affect me, but that time hadn’t come. Her perfume didn’t help any. All the females in all those other cubicles were right. Even though I was behaving immaculately, I wasn’t thinking immaculately.
I got angry at that disease. It was demonic and sadistic, but mainly it was unfair. Joan had done none nothing to deserve it. I got so mad I vowed that as long as I was able, she would live as full a life as I could make for her. To that end I have fought a lot of battles. When I returned birthday tickets to a fancy restaurant I told the owner it was because my wife would have to ride the service elevator. Even though the Americans With Disabilities Act has been law for more than two decades, I had to urge local businesses and tax-funded institutions to put in ramps and doors to give Joan access. On occasion, I had to strongly urge.
As I look around now, I can see there is nothing special about what I am doing. I see caregivers everywhere. Teachers, doctors, nurses, of course, but most spouses and all parents are, too. I must confess there was a time when I didn’t think I could do it. I thought about running away.
It would have helped me to have had a care giving hero or two I could have used as a model for my behavior. It might help you, too, because if you live long enough, you will either need one, or be one.
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