I remember when we first heard about Dee's illness and how devastated we were. We went through ups and downs as we learned about the diagnosis and its terminal nature, then going through the process to determine transplant eligibility, and finally being told that she was not eligible for a transplant. Through the entire process, I was Dee's caretaker. We went to all of her doctor's appointments together. I toted her oxygen tanks and wheel chair, kept track of her meds, made sure she ate (even if it meant cooking 10 different meals), bathed her, and held her in the middle of the night when she woke up with yet another coughing fit. And, if I had to do it all again, I would in a heartbeat. That's what it means to love - even when love hurts.
Fast forward almost ten years, and now I'm married to someone who dislikes, no - HATES - the idea of me being a caregiver or caretaker. She believes caretaking connotes that she can't care for herself. She's an independent woman, who wants to take care of herself... until she doesn't. Unfortunately, I'm not a good reader of when that shift happens, and I have been known to miss clues that she needs me.
Needless to say, the two relationships, as well as the two women, are completely different. Here's the rub, though, I'm the same person. I am a caretaker. Taking care of my wife is how I cope, and I'm left without that ability right now. So, I'm flailing around trying to figure out what my role is in my wife's illness. What, exactly, is it, that I'm supposed to do? And, make no mistake about it; I need to be doing something. Doing nothing means I'm feeling helpless, and I hate to feel helpless almost as much as she hates the word caretaker.