My younger son lives about twenty miles away. He just graduated from college and is working 70-80-hour weeks. He’s weary. Even young healthy people need sleep. But he comes. He eats Thanksgiving dinner in the hospital with us. He gives up his New Year’s Eve to be with me at home because I can’t get an aide and he knows I am afraid of Dad at night. He listens to me, sees what I see.
My older son is in California, light years away. He calls and he listens. He emails. He makes me laugh.
My brother also in California. He listens in emails, supports me with thoughtful feedback. Never criticizing, never second-guessing.
My dear friend Dorothy lets me vent. The only friend I have who knows about caregiving, she listens and vents back. Daily she saves me with her empathy and humor as we email frustrations and absurdities.
My dear friend Sandy leaves a message: “Just wanted you to know I’m thinking about you.” No “call me back.” No requirement from me at all. The message of a listener.
My dear friend Mary Jo stands by for anything. I’m out of chocolate-covered raisins and Doritos; she brings them. She gives no lecture on how I need to eat better, does not substitute carrot sticks and kale. She listens and does.
My gentle cousin Betty calls and we discuss caregiving, she for a husband with cancer, I for a dad with dementia. Why don’t people get it? we ask each other.
Listeners are the caregiver’s lifeline. I know I will forever be grateful for these listeners. I survive because of them. I hope for more of them for all the caregivers to come.