Elaine Soloway's Rookie Caregiver Series: Take Care of Yourself
It’s 8:45 in the morning and I’m at the living room window watching my husband enter the passenger side of a car that is not mine.
The driver is an attractive young woman. In some other scenario, I’d be the jealous wife, tearful at Tommy’s choice of a new companion. But since this is my life, and the driver is my aide, my feelings are of relief, not wrath.
Hiring someone to spell me from full-time chauffeuring was sparked some months ago by directives from friends and relatives. “Be sure to take care of yourself,” they had said when they learned of my full-time responsibilities. Primary progressive aphasia, a brain degeneration that has shattered my husband's speech, has also changed me into his interpreter, advocate, and guardian.
To be honest, when I first heard that “take care of yourself” advice, I thought, easy for you to say. That sounds petulant, I know, but I wondered how I could do that with my home and work responsibilities, our budget, and my stubborn spouse.
Then, I had a second thought: I deserve it. So, I decided if I could be untethered from driving, let’s say, by arranging a substitute for the three days I ferry my husband back and forth to the YMCA, I could count that as fulfilling my loved ones’ order.
I went online and booked a taxi that would pick up Tommy at 8:45 in the morning on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and drop him at the Y at 9. Then return at 11:45 to get him from the coffee shop around the corner of the Y. I arranged a month of these round trips.
“Honey,” I said on that day before my first day of Taking Care of Myself, “I’m going to a spa early tomorrow. A taxi will be outside at 8:45 to drive you to the Y. Be sure to be downstairs.”
“Okay,” he said. He looked glum.
The next day I left the house early. Tommy was still asleep awaiting his own alarm. Off to the spa I went. First a massage, than to my locker to change for more pampering. As soon as I twirled the combination lock, I heard my iPhone ringing. This was not a welcome sound.
“Come home!” Tommy struggled to get out. (He still had words back then.) I looked at my watch, it was 9:15.
“Honey, what are you doing home?” I said. “Didn’t the cab arrive to get you?”
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