There are many conflicting emotions I find when looking after a sick spouse. Worry, confusion, despair, depression all figure high on my weekly concerns.
However today I want to mention the feeling of having failed. I may have an old fashioned view, but as a husband and father I feel I should protect my family. Actually, I feel we should protect each other, and as a family look out for each other. We should help our siblings when they are struggling. We should lend an ear to their worries.
But I feel I have failed at this. I feel I cannot help my wife get better. I feel I cant protect my children from their worries about their mother. And so I feel I have failed.
Is this true though? One thing we have to accept is that we cannot ‘fix’ everything. And that is especially true when faced with a terminal illness, and long term disability. The way we help in this situation is not by trying to solve the illness, rather by helping our spouse or partner.
I do not have the ability to cure cancer, however I do have the ability to get the right drink and food for when my wife has a bad stomach after chemo. I can clean the house, and take care of the chores so that when she gets home from a day at the hospital the rooms are clean and tidy, and she can relax without sitting looking at a pile of dust on the table.
I also do not have the ability to ensure my children will always have their mother growing up. Unfortunately I believe more and more these days that the time is getting closer when she will leave us. But I can ensure the children are at school on time, are collected from clubs and lessons on time, and also make sure they have a home cooked meal in the evening. I can help with homework, and teach them to drive, and play board games or football with them.
We view ‘winning’ in our lives as the big events. The awards and the promotion in work. Scoring a goal for our football team to win a match. Singing at a school concert in front of hundreds of people, or presenting to the board of directors at work.
But really, when faced with an exceptionally stressful and hopeless situation, winning is making sure the small things get done. This is how we don’t fail.
In the 90s the French football team had a number of big stars, such as Zidane and Henry and so on, who would score the amazing goals, and gain the headlines. However one player was in the midfield and didn’t get that acclaim. Deschamp was derided as a water carrier by Cantona, an unglamorous position. However, that team would not have won without him.
Similarly a band can be seen as the lead singer and guitarist, with a few hired hands behind them. Some would say AC/DC are one – the band is Angus on guitar and Bon Scott or Bruce Johnson on vocals right? But you ask those and the band was Malcolm Youngs, the rhythm guitarist who held it all together.
So I have to tell myself that I am not failing. I am playing the rhythm guitar in my wifes illness, carrying the water (literally at times), and making sure everything else gets done to allow the doctors and nurses to do the big stuff, and try and cure my wife.
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