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A Caregiver’s Memories:
How to Deal with Moving On
By Patricia St. Clair
(Page 1 of 3)

It was during that period of time after the hungry feasters snaked through the line of platters, bowls and trays of assorted delights, but prior to the point when the reality of the quantity eaten exceeds the norm. Just a glance at the dessert table with enough confections to put even the most sedentary soul on a sugar high is incentive enough to linger in hopes that the consumed food would shift downwards and leave a gap for the addition of a dessert.

Having dutifully polished off the usual turkey and dressing (et al), I took the advantage given me as a first-time visitor to the home of my husband’s cousin for a holiday feast. I strategically positioned myself at one end of a sofa nearest the roaring fire and realized that my location provided me with a bird’s-eye view of all in attendance. The ongoing football game could be heard, but in the background only - not as an attention grabber. Being a people watcher by nature, I found myself observing interactions between friends, between family members and strangers (I include myself in this category), and most importantly, between members of the same families. It was as if an old 45 record had been played at the speed of a 78. No rushing through the meal to get elsewhere. No importance placed on the ongoing football game, other than occasional glances. Children mingled with family pets both inside and out, as multi-colored leaves continued to float gently to the ground from the plethora of trees outside the picture windows.

“Straight from a Rockwell painting” I began to think, until the sight of what was to become my undoing shot through me like an arrow.

Let me first clue-in the reader to the fact that I’m an only child - or I was prior to losing my father in 1981 and my mother in 1999. I no longer am a daughter to anyone. The loss of my mother was devastating to me and still is in many ways. Since the year immediately following her death, during which I refused to participate in any holiday festivities, I have slowly realized that I do have a husband who, although outdoes himself in the patience department, is also a functioning part of my life and one who needs emotional support. Therefore, following the first anniversary of Mother’s death, I have made a valiant attempt during each holiday season to “be there” for him, whether it be a functioning part of me or not. During that first year, I read the grief books on becoming an “orphan”....I attended grief counseling sessions at my church....I gave Oprah my undivided attention when she aired shows dealing with the loss of a loved one. I feel as if I did everything I could do to get past the fact that the one person with whom I had been a best friend with for my entire life was no longer present to share the good or the bad times with me.

I realize the operative word in that sentence is “me.” “Me” is the problem. “Me” builds the walls around which no one can advance. “Me” cries the tears that are in no way meant for my loved one. They are meant for “me.” Who is the one who gets hurt when a memory invades an already-delicate holiday festivity? It’s certainly not the loved one who has transitioned to a place about which I’ve only read.

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