Mental Illness

Caregiving: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas

I’ve been watching Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. I’ve laughed, cried, felt my heart soar and ache, and wondered how it is that fiction can be so deeply touching. I keep coming back to something Emily Gilmore says; I wonder how this character, this fiction, has struck me so thoroughly in the heart. She says that, since Richard’s death, she can’t remember which side of the bed is hers.

Mr. Juniper is alive and, well, as well as he can be. That line though. I realised I am still grieving for the losses our relationship has had to live through. To learn to weather amidst the storms. To adapt to the alterations. It’s around five years that we’ve been sleeping apart now. I can rationalise why, at this point, it’s easy. I accept that. But oh, how I miss him.

I miss the way we fit together in bed. I miss the tug of war over the duvet. I miss resting my head in the curve of his shoulder, his arm around me.

His conditions, his illnesses, his disabilities have seasons, it seems. Some seem to improve marginally only for another aspect to come crashing down. There is the transition through one pain to another.

We’ve weathered this year and all that we’ve been brought. There have been lots of tears. Most of them mine. Lots of medications taken. Most for him. I complain about a headache, a cough, a cold, and think I shouldn’t. That it’s not right or okay to detract attention from his suffering. His compassion encompasses my struggles, too; there’s enough room for us all to feel pain. My pains pass, his don’t. I feel helpless. I sort medication, I make phone calls, I bake the bread each day, I make beds, I give him safety.

We listen to a lot of Percy Jackson audiobooks in this house. I’ve grown fond of Hestia, in all the hours I’ve listened. While our boys play, when bedtime rolls around, when it’s a little too quiet for comfort. Hestia is the goddess of the hearth, home, domesticity, family. She keeps the fire going. There are many times when I feel that all I do is keep the home fires burning while my husband is at war with his head and body.

Hestia is a maiden goddess, and on that note, she and I somewhat part ways in similarity. Perhaps it’s where I come back to Emily Gilmore, though. Wife, mother, keeper of the home. Within her epic grief is the loss of smaller, more ordinary pieces of life like which side of the bed they each slept on. She wades through her grief and I am quietly in awe of her determination. I am quietly deep in reflection, too.

He is still here. He’s asleep just now. As winter has come to our door, though, I feel the darkness of the year come around us. We’ve survived another year. Candles are lit, evergreens brought in, the aroma of warm spices fills the house. I can’t keep the darkness out of our lives, but I will endeavour to keep the light, the warmth, the home fires burning until we see the sun again.

By Juniper

Rarely to be found without herbal tea nearby. Team Unicorn. Often in pyjamas. Also: TEAM KATNISS!

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