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I Feel Pampered


Too often, when someone asks me how I would describe my caregiving life, typically a word with negative connotations springs to mind: exhausting, beleaguered, frustrated. Maybe you can relate?

But lately a different word has come to mind: pampered. It’s because of my mom’s stellar caregiver, Juanita.

I have always viewed Mom’s caregivers as just that: Mom’s caregivers, not mine. Sure, performing tasks like vacuuming the living room benefit me, but I have always wanted the caregiver to focus primarily on Mom.

And Juanita has done just that, from the first moment she arrived in our lives. Four days a week, she shows up before Mom awakens, does some dusting or other quiet housework and the minute she hears Mom stirring she puts the kettle on, so Mom can be greeted with a fresh, hot cup of coffee.

Throughout the day Juanita takes the time to help Mom shower and dress, find her reading glasses and share gossip gleaned from the tabloids (a favorite activity of Mom’s). Juanita gets an A-plus for doting on Mom just the way I asked.

But as our relationship with Juanita has extended across weeks and now months, a little shift has taken place. Juanita has started doting on me, too without even realizing it. And it’s marvelous!

I consider myself a stoic and practical person. I have no trouble asking for help on Mom’s behalf, but I cannot see asking for help for myself. Honestly, I don’t feel I deserve it. My life really is pretty good, all things considered. My attitude used to be that any caregiving should be reserved for someone with a much greater need than mine.

Then one day I came home from work to find all the towels changed out in my bathroom, the soiled ones having been replaced with fresh, fluffy ones. I also noticed the sink appeared to have been scrubbed and the vanity straightened up. Such relatively small gestures, and yet it felt like a large weight had been lifted from me. It meant I didn’t have to think about spending part of my Saturday cleaning the bathroom.

Another day, I arrived home after work to discover my bedroom had been dusted and the sheets changed. I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t know when I had last laundered my sheets. My goal since losing my husband and then shouldering a massive relocation from Houston to Albuquerque has been to simply get through one day at a time, despite the exhaustion, grief and even physical pain. Stripping the bed and re-making it too often felt like a Herculean task. But this night I would have clean sheets to slide into, and it was all thanks to Juanita’s thoughtfulness.

In some ways, Juanita is a phantom in my life. I never see her in person because I always leave for work before she arrives, and I return home after her caregiving day has ended. But we write messages to each other in a spiral notebook that resides on the kitchen counter.

One day I wrote, “Thank you very much, Juanita, for cleaning up my rooms. I’m so grateful.”

Her response? “You deserve it.” And a smiley face scrawled in blue ink.

I never expected that hiring a caregiver for Mom would result in improving my own life so much, but that is just what has happened. Beyond doting on Mom, Juanita makes me feel cherished and pampered, too. Deserving. And now I realize even the most stoic and practical caregiver among us can benefit from a little TLC.

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