Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, 26th president of the United States of America, conservationist and creator of the National Park System, advised, “Make preparation in advance. You never have trouble if you are prepared for it.”
EDC, Every Day Carry, refers to “small items or gadgets worn, carried, or made available in pockets, holsters, or bags on a daily basis to manage common tasks or for use in unexpected situations or emergencies. In a broader sense, it is a lifestyle, discipline, or philosophy of preparedness.”
Long before I became a HANC (Housekeeper, Activities director, Nutritionist and Companion) for my mother, I knew the value of being prepared and the adage promoting “A place for everything and everything in its place.”
I am still working on the place issue and have abandoned a few ideals along the way. I’m learning how insignificant some of my personal quirks and preferences are.
It does not matter if the cups and glasses end up on the same shelf. If the teaspoons and tablespoons end up where I wanted the forks, who cares? Towels dry just as well from the third shelf as they would if they were placed on the second.
My mother often repeats a story she heard as a child whenever she wants to commend me on my preparedness.
Betsy often went with her sister who was a midwife. One time, the midwife was delivering a baby and discovered she had left her scissors at home. Betsy, who was not a midwife, pulled a pair of scissors from her basket and said, “Betsy’s ready. Betsy’s got her scissors.”
I might seem as if I am organized and know where everything is, but some days I don’t feel as if any amount of planning or preparedness training will equip me.
I haven’t been prepared to hear some of the things my mother has said to friends on the phone.
- Oh, I never go anywhere.
I make a point to take her as often as she is willing to go to places she needs to go – stylist, doctors, church, family – and places she might find interesting such as museums, farmers’ markets or just driving to see landscape and homes.
- I can’t go see her and she won’t come to me.
Now, I feel like a warden in a prison. I’ve recited names of family and friends I’d like to visit with her and she tells me she does not want to go see them, can’t make the ride that far, won’t be able to climb the steps into the home or they should come to her.
- Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy having them here, but . . .
- I don’t do anything. Every day is the same. I just sit in my chair and do my puzzles.
I have scheduled my editing work around my mother’s day. I usually work long after she has gone to bed.
What’s a HANC to do?
Take a deep breath and realize that whatever happens between girlfriends on a phone call – even old girlfriends – is between girlfriends and shouldn’t be taken personally. Often, these calls, especially among the elders, are just for passing time together.
Try to find reasons for those drives. Need milk? Bread? Cookies?
Do you have something to return to a sibling or friend? Turn simple errands into expeditions by taking a new route and look for streets with slow speed limits so you can take in the sights or discuss your surroundings.
Keep asking. Eventually, you’ll hear
“That sounds like a good idea.”
Make memories that might stick for future phone calls and perhaps one day, you’ll overhear:
I’m not sure when, but she took me to the museum and we saw things that reminded me of my childhood. … One day, we went out to some parking lot and just gazed up at the clouds, just like I used to do with my cousin, but we stayed in the car instead of lying on Momma’s porch. … We went to the church festival and it was nice to see all the people there; I didn’t know so many of them missed me. … We do so many things together; she and I bake cakes and cookies and we go shopping together!
You might not hear these things, but it won’t hurt to make the memories for yourself – just in case.
Take the steps necessary to prepare yourself for what awaits. Study, read, research and talk with other HANCs. Get ready for the good days and the bad and know there will always – and I mean always – be something you didn’t expect.
Some days, being a HANC is so damned difficult I don’t know what to do. Other days I think my duties are ridiculously commonplace. I have been a housekeeper and activities director since my first son was born. I’m aware of nutritional needs and don’t mind being my mother’s companion. Still, when we abandoned our former lives to care for my mother, I faced other difficult choices.
The possibility of a serious burnout scares the hell out of me. I resent being the only one who empties my mother’s potty. Yet I’m infuriated when I recall the foul odor that prompted us to put our careers and lifestyle on hold.
I want to be inspiring and motivational, but when I’m frazzled and weary, it’s difficult to remain upbeat. At night, I often collapse into bed, exhausted physically, still reviewing things undone. After an hour or so, disturbing dreams or body aches begin, or I am awakened to attend to her needs.
Taking adequate restorative breaks requires advance planning and coordination. Gone are my days of spontaneity. I no longer come home from a hard day at work and announce, “Dinner’s on your own,” as I trudge toward a hot bath with a glass of wine and a book. Because of my mother’s condition, structure and routine are essential for a peaceful life.
Recently, I held my first serious pity party. After all, who knows how long this could go on? My siblings are confounded I have taken on this role, and trust me, today I was doubting my own good sense. When I felt my pending calamity, I called on five members of my large support system. My husband, two of four brothers, one of three sisters and a nephew listened and gave me their sense of understanding. One had an undertone of, glad I’m not in your shoes, and one promised to give me some relief – tomorrow.
When I mentioned my rising frustration to my nephew, I didn’t think he paid particular attention, but later, his dad approached me as I pruned a blueberry bush. He said he wanted to trade what was in my hand for what was in his, and he held out the keys to his car and a little cash.
He said, “I have half a tank of gas. Take it as far as you can and get a drink on me.”
I accepted his gesture and his keys. No planning. No discussion. No procrastination and no collapse!
I told my husband we’d been reverse-kidnapped and we took my camera for a sunset walk through a nearby wildlife sanctuary, though the wildest thing we saw were some human snowbirds. As the moon rose, we ate burgers at a local favorite and then went for those drinks.
Since then, I have renewed my promise to walk more, garden more and make more time for myself. The roses don’t have a chance. I plan to smell each one of them this year!
One of the best things about caregiving, or being a HANC—in addition to knowing you are providing much-needed Housekeeping skills, directing some new Activities, providing healthy Nutritional options and being a Companion—is having the honor of hearing stories and historical remembrances.
Even more so, are short stand-alone sentences, or what I call Mommasez.
Because I now live with my mother and spend time with her, going to doctors’ appointments, to have her hair styled, to visit family and out for meals, we talk on our way to these places. Naturally, we also talk at home.
“When I am on my deathbed and they hook me up to whatever it is they hook people up to before they die, make sure to pour one last cup of coffee in a bag. I want to die with coffee in my veins.”
Mommasez things that make me laugh.
“People say ‘I’m pretty sure.’ Have you ever heard anybody say they were ugly sure?”
Often, current events spark memories from her childhood. One such memory came after I brought her a large bowl of grapes harvested from the scuppernong vine in her back yard.
“When I was a child, every fall, there was a man who would stop our bus driver and tell him, ‘Bring the children back tomorrow for grapes.’ The next day, our mothers would give us paper bags, because we didn’t have plastic in those days. Sometimes, the paper bags would have a wax lining, but not usually. So, after school, the bus would stop at his house and all the children got off and picked all the grapes we could take home. Our mothers made jelly and it didn’t cost anything. Well, they had to buy sugar and jars, but that’s how we did it in those days. We all helped one another.”
Mommasez things that make me wonder.
“No, I do not want to visit my cousin in the hospital. They might lock the door and never let me out.”
Mommasez things that would have shocked me years ago, but I have learned she often wants to see if I will have a witty remark.
“Ooh, this shower is better than sex,” makes me reply, “Obviously you truly have lost all your memories, or you always slept with the wrong men.”
She and I both know she has had sex with a total of two men, each her husband; the second following a forty-year marriage to my father, more than twenty-five years after his death.
My goal is one belly laugh each day. Now that we’ve settled into our own rhythm, we sometimes achieve more than one good guffaw.
I have started to enjoy her simple needs without imposing my desires upon her. Relaxed in my instinct to take-over-the-reins-and-aright-the-world, I take pleasure in her happiness. I certainly share her frustrations.
My mother is fiercely independent, even in a state of disability. Less than a decade ago, she maintained her own home and worked outside the home. Family members assisted with yard work under her supervision.
She cooked, cleaned, handled her finances and was one of the healthiest people in the family. She recovered from her first serious fall well and managed with a cane.
Mommasez things that are profoundly sad, at times.
“I can die now. I know I will never be this happy again,” she told me the night of her eightieth birthday, six years ago.
That was the first time in twelve years all eight of her children were together, most with our children and her great-grandchildren attending.
She fell again and broke much more than one bone, as in her first tumble. Still, her independent streak fights her limits. She uses a walker for every step she takes, yet there are times, she attempts chores by leaning on other things, some that are not sturdy or steady. When I offer to take over a task that seems too much for her, she scolds me.
“Let me do what I can, while I still can. Soon enough, you will have to do it all for me and you’ll wish I could do it, even if me have to fweep it twice.”
“Fweep it twice,” is a reference to my youngest sister who longed to do anything she could to feel more grown up. When she was four years old, she started sweeping the kitchen and someone took the broom from her and told her she was too small to do a good job, as she had left some crumbs. My sister reclaimed the broom with the statement, “Me fweep it twice!”
Youngsters and oldsters need to feel useful and important. It’s the responsibility of those of us in the middle to help them in their quests. We, who are more experienced or healthier, may indeed do the job faster or better – but we can always sweep it twice. We must remember the important things are not the tasks we do for our loved ones, but the time we spend with them.
Momma says she wants to be more helpful in the kitchen and I don’t mind. It’s my job to set her up for success and to enjoy the time we have together. If I’m lucky, I might even hear few more things Mommasez.
I’ve worn some interesting hats over the years, but of all the hats I’ve worn, a nurse’s cap was never one.
Ask my brothers and sisters and they will tell you that I am not a nurse. I’m the family erudite. As a child, I played school, not hospital. I pretended to be a teacher, not a nurse or a doctor.
So, why did I volunteer to become a caregiver? Why am I my mother’s HANC?
She needed help with Housekeeping, because her limited mobility prevents her from doing all but basic cleaning and home maintenance. This same handicap, brought on by the fall that broke her hip and precipitated an entire shoulder replacement, controls the amount of Activities in which she can participate.
Her dependency on a walker and her failing memory restrict her ability to prepare Nutritious meals. Although she has lived alone for nearly three decades, it was clear her limitations were preventing her from many social interactions; she needed Companionship.
She needed a HANC, not a nurse.
Every day requires I employ my Housekeeping and Nutritionist skills, but the need for me to be her sole Companion changes if friends or family call or come to visit.
Her willingness to engage in activities other than watching television, crocheting or working word puzzles is contingent on her energy levels. If her overall health declines, she needs a nurse, not a Companion or Activity director.
She’s had a few bouts of illness. Only one, so far, resulted in hospitalization. That’s when I realized I am not a nurse.
Nurses run on schedules and panicked calls from patients. My shifts run twenty-four, not eight or even just sixteen hours. Some nurses taught me how to control her pain by adjusting her body and supporting it with pillows. Other nurses taught me the strength in a gentle touch and the power of a calm demeanor. Some taught me they care more for a patient prior to receiving discharge orders than they do for those eager to go home.
One nurse displayed a preference for medication rather than providing attentive nursing care.
Unfortunately, I learned my mother respects a nurse’s authority more than her daughter’s opinion. Still, no matter how caring, compassionate and qualified a nurse can be, family is always better.
Even a family as goofy as mine!
Since becoming my mother’s Housekeeper, Activities Director, Nutritionist and Companion (HANC), I face new challenges daily. In some ways, on some days, it’s as if I am responsible for an 85-year-old toddler. Without family intervention, her meals would be meager and lonely, her health declining rapidly.
Prior to moving, my sister, Jane, or my brother, Joe, cooked for her, but they weren’t able to be on hand daily to ensure she ate what was prepared. That’s my job, now.
Without my support system, I might have burned out quickly. By far, my biggest supporters are my brothers and sisters. Each in his or her way has provided invaluable assistance. Some have taken us out to dinner.
Others have brought food or even tea parties to us. Some have helped with yard work. All have given words of gratitude and encouragement.
Jane offered to give my husband and me one weekend off each month.
I had no idea how important that would be, but Jane knew.
What a gift!
When we first moved in, I needed some time to unpack and assimilate.
We all needed to adjust to the new lifestyle. We were here three months before our first weekend away, which meant it was all the more important – but what a fiasco! We’d started planning a trip to a local resort town, but something didn’t feel right, so we decided my husband would follow his instincts and use “the force” to direct us on our spontaneous adventure. My well-intentioned sister didn’t realize that my night-schedule husband wouldn’t wake at dawn, as hers would have. I knew this, so I promised her I’d call when we were leaving, but she came early. It all worked out well, but it seemed as if we were being rushed that day.
That evening, we enjoyed a sumptuous meal and sat outside our less-than-ideal hotel/motel room watching a feral cat colony. The next day, we drove to historic downtown Charleston and the Battery where we started making plans for a future trip.
A short drive to the Isle of Palms, where we toured the island and I took photos, took us past the Windjammer Beach Club and we modified our plans. My husband then drove us to Sullivan’s Island. He stopped so I could take some photos of the historical monument that described an early battle during the Revolutionary War.
Then we saw him.
A young man was rising out of the water, a hose attached to a jet ski. He rode on a stream of water, hovering the inlet. It was the highlight of our day.
I have wanted to travel, for as far back as I can remember.
Wait. That’s not accurate or truthful.
My first memory is of my sister Bernadette “Bernie” and me making cucumber pies. I was five and she was almost four. We lived in the largest house I can remember for my family of ten, although at that time, the “babies” had not yet been born.
The house was situated on a corner at the intersection of two major thoroughfares. Long before interstate travel sped by on freeways created for the purpose, travelers used these small-town highways.
On one hot summer morning, our house roused to the sound of a collision and we knew a large truck had been involved. This one had been filled with cucumbers. Housewives and older children rushed to the intersection to help clean up the debris so traffic could resume as soon as possible. My mother pickled what she could and those too bruised or broken became playthings for Bernie and me for a day. We made the best-smelling mud pies in town.
When I wasn’t making mud and cucumber pies, I was reading. I don’t recall a time in my life without books. Once I started school, I read even more. That’s when thoughts of travel first entered my mind. I longed to visit exotic places I’d read about and for many decades, I believed travel meant passports, airfare and foreign countries.
I’m reconsidering my perception.
To be certain, I do own a passport. It’s in almost pristine condition, though it will soon be time to renew it. I have traveled outside of the United States, but barely.
Although I enjoyed it thoroughly, traveling on a cruise ship is an extremely limited sort of travel.
My husband and I have dreamed together of being able to spin a globe to stop it with a finger on “Where shall we go next?” knowing our dream is tied to our budget. Outside of a few cruises and some outings while visiting family, our travel has been limited – in location and ambiance.
As another month approaches, we are faced with a dilemma.
- Where should we go?
- What will we do when we get there?
- What kind of restaurants will we find?
- Do we want to visit the typical tourist venues or go off that path?
- How can we avoid another iffy hotel, when the online rating system is flawed?
- Can we really afford to spend the night away each month?
- Can we afford not to stay overnight?
- How much can we, with our current jobs, afford to disconnect?
Scaling down our global travels dream (until we win the lottery), we’re going to put names of cities and towns in a hat or a box or a basket or maybe just stack them like playing cards.
Each month, we’ll draw out the name of that month’s destination for our weekend away.
There are no rules, but we do have some guidelines.
- No location should be more than a three to four-hour’s drive from home. This will ensure we can enjoy our destination as well as the journey to get there.
- We’ll spend a little extra for nicer accommodations, even if we have to skimp on our main meal out.
- Some months, we will pack a picnic basket, depending on our final destination.
- Each location should have some draw: a museum, an aquarium, a historical monument, a botanical garden or some other special amusement.
- We reserve the right to change our minds.
Now, my task is to locate cities and towns that fit our criteria, set up the cards with options for entertainment and search out accommodations.
If you have any suggestions for exciting destinations or locations within a few hours from the Charleston/Columbia South Carolina or the Savannah Georgia areas, I’d love to know about them. Please, leave me a comment with your suggestions.
Being caregiver to an elderly loved one is similar to parenthood. The demands don’t end after an eight-hour shift. Downtime is minimal. Some days, no amount of expressed gratitude can compensate for the private sacrifices and personal exhaustion.
Married HANCs who choose to provide Housekeeping, direct Activities, prepare tasty, Nutritious meals and offer fulltime Companionship may find privacy especially precious. It’s vital to seize moments of intimacy and search for opportunities to be alone with your spouse while maintaining balance in your care-giving roles.
Conversely, it is essential to find time to be alone, with friends and to seek personal activities that sustain and support emotional stability. This is particularly important for the solitary or single HANC.
The role of companionship for yourself is no less important than providing healthy meals or stimulating activities and maintaining a well-kept home. Remember why you made the decision to become a HANC but don’t let the decision monopolize your life.
From time to time, you will hear things that affirm your decision.
A sister said, “Thanks so much for being there—1,000 times.”
When a friend learned of our move, he wrote in an email:
“I think what you’re doing is fantastic. I wish I could have been there for my father more than I was at the end.”
A business acquaintance told me, “You are doing a wonderful and selfless thing.”
A brother wrote, “Thank you again for your being there. I am so grateful to you for taking this leap in faith to move in with Momma.”
A colleague wrote, “You have sacrificed a lot to be there for your mother.”
Yet one of the briefest and most profound statements came from my sister-in-law.
Better You Than Me!
At the time, I needed to be absorbed into the city’s anonymity, to feel the pulse of cultural diversity. Several years later, I downsized the city but upgraded my lifestyle.
We moved from a small two-bedroom apartment on a fourth-floor walk-up into a three-bedroom house with a two-car garage. About one-fifth the size of Atlanta, this city was still fourteen times larger than where I returned to report for HANC duties. As a HANC I am my mother’s Housekeeper, Activities director, Nutritionist and Caregiver.
Much of what I’ve done has been typical for a homemaker or a HANC. Cooking, cleaning, stimulating conversation; memory work; driving to appointments, refilling prescriptions, answering the telephone and coordinating with family and friends who want to visit; these are all things that for more than a decade, I have resolutely eschewed.
Why am I now thinking of sewing myself an apron?
I have fought to be atypical in all my endeavors. I never thought I was superior, yet I felt somehow different from others. One sister has called me the family dictionary for ages. A friend told me my knowledge is encyclopedic. A co-worker nicknamed me the breathing style guide. An employer thought I had moved to South Carolina from Chicago or Manhattan, because of my demeanor and lack of strong southern dialect. No wonder I sought to escape my small town.
Yet, here I am.
Thomas Wolfe wrote,
“You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”
Yet, here I am.
I left my little house in the country for one of the largest cities in the U.S.A.
Filtered by my environment, I’ve lived my dreams of writing and editing.I am pleased that I seem to have achieved some level of glory and fame. I have no desire to escape time or memory. In fact, my mother’s fading memory is one of the things I hope to help her preserve. As Alzheimer’s begins to scar the surface of her recollections, I went back home, to my family, but not to my childhood.
I miss the culinary delights that are typically found in large cities, the hidden spots frequented on rare and special occasions. I do miss my friends, the bonds forged while working on our individual novels and short stories or as we groused about deadlines or unmet expectations. I miss my infrequent lunch and after-hours buddies.
I will have to find new photography field trippers and cultural outlets. Now, instead of one or two grandmothers, I am surrounded by them within my own family and it feels different. Good, but different.
I did not return to the Little House in the Country as a child, seeking anything but peace of mind. For myself, primarily, as I ached every time I had to leave my mother, knowing her health declined daily. For my mother, secondarily, because in order for me to have peace of mind, I needed to provide her with a level of care and companionship that might ultimately improve her condition somewhat.
I did not consider that I would provide peace of mind to my large family, but I have. Each one has conveyed in his or her own way how grateful they are to know that our mother is no longer alone.
I tend to act quickly to situations. I try to be prepared enough that I don’t overreact, but at times, I don’t work out all the scenarios. I had not considered how my transition to HANC-dom would impact others in the family. I just knew I had no option but to go home.
My parents built The Little House in the Country and we moved into it when I was in the sixth grade. I was over-dramatic when I thought I would never see my best friends again. I thought I hated the new house and who could blame me?
I have four brothers and three sisters. The house had four tiny bedrooms. Now, it has two! The day we moved in, the house was “dried-in,” which means it had a sub-floor, four exterior walls, a roof and studs for interior walls. The electricity had been turned on and the plumbing was installed. There were no walls or doors inside the house. We had no privacy so my mother stapled sheets to the studs around the bathroom. Little by little, cardboard walls were also then stapled to the other rooms. As time and money allowed, sheet-rock was installed.
My mother told me she had moved frequently once she married my father and when they moved into the newly-built, but unfinished house, she told him,
“This is the last time I am moving. If you want to live somewhere else, you will have to do it without me. I am not leaving this house until I am dead.”
She has “made do” with whatever she could and has improved The Little House in the Country as much as she has been able.
Now, it’s my turn. The city girl has come home to her roots and I rejoice when I find grubs or red wrigglers in my compost bin! A recent trip to buy a simple piece of hardware turned into a field trip for me, when I started setting potted plants and hanging baskets into the shopping cart. My urban-bred husband shook his head and waited.
I spent hours arranging and repotting dahlias and mums near the mailbox and I fretted over which soil to use for the rosemary and pepper.
I traded in my small country home for an equally small apartment in a thriving metropolis that was later traded for a spacious home in the suburbs and I pursued my career as city editor. Returning to my roots, I have swapped all I held dear for what is most precious to me. With that, came The Little House in the Country.
There are some things you can expect when you make the decision to become a live-in caregiver – or as I call myself – a Housekeeper, Activities Director, Nutritionist and Companion (HANC) for your aging or seriously ill loved one.
Count on an increased stress-level.
Count on sore, aching muscles from unexpected chores.
Count on additional paperwork, schedules and medical-related trips.
Count on resistance.
Count on television programs that require little interaction or attention span.
Count on some sleepless nights as you will be the only one holding sickbed vigil.
Count on euphoria when you receive mail or a call from a friend.
One reason people choose to become HANCs is because it is ultimately easier than managing two households, especially when one is hundreds of miles and several states away.
Don’t count on it, but if your rising planet aligns with the sun, the moon and 27 un-named stars; your karma is high; and you have enough universal brownie points, you won’t have to relocate out of your current zip code. If you do have to relocate and you’re one lucky so-and-so, you’ll move to a similar demographic, but don’t count on that, either.
Many caregivers are forced to make a choice when a loved one’s health makes a sudden decline.
Some have watched a beloved parent, grandparent or other relative battle an illness and then came forward to offer help rather than placing their loved ones in assisted living facilities or hiring strangers to care for them in their homes.
Some work with hospice and some work alone.
At a point in time, you made the decision to become a caregiver. You may not remember the exact date or time and you may not remember the details of the situation that led you to the decision. You may not even like considering yourself a caregiver.
For me, the idea of being my mother’s caregiver was difficult to accept.
I’m an editor, a writer and photographer. I’m not a nurse or a caregiver! Am I? How did this happen?
My mother, always so strong and independent, raised eight children to adulthood.
To think that she needed someone to care for her made me extremely emotional.
When she first fell, about eight years ago, no one in the family considered anything other than temporary help during her recovery. After her release from rehab, she stayed with one sister for several months. I spent many weeks with her after she returned home and watched her grow stronger by the day. Her second fall, five years later, didn’t bring speedy recovery. Her entire left side had nearly crumbled: hip, ribs, shoulder were broken or shattered. Brittle bones splintered and broke as she hit the floor. Her left knee had been replaced years earlier and her right shoulder had been rendered nearly useless from years of folding fabric – similar to tennis elbow.
Her doctors suggested we start looking into nursing homes.
For most of those three years, I came home as often as possible to visit and offer respite.
The sitter moved on and family members filled in, doing their best in part-time capacities. They prepared meals, helped with appointments, cleaning, medical needs and socialization. Her overall health has always been excellent, but age makes her frail.
Still, we’ve seen the signs that tell us things we don’t want to know. After her second fall, she grew fearful of falling again. She felt less confident in the kitchen, due to her blood thinner, but continues to maintain as much independence as possible, insisting on doing as many personal chores as she can.
Our occasional visits confirmed our suspicions.
We could no longer ignore the fact that our once strong, powerful, independent mother would eventually need someone to help her with her daily care needs. Eventually became sooner than later.
One day, it became clear. The time is now. The who is “us.”
My husband and I made the easiest hard decision of our lives and we became my mother’s
Each day bring a new adventure, a new challenge and a new lesson. As the entire family adjusts to the new dynamics in our household, we redefine our ideas of family and relationships, we grow closer as mother and daughter, husband and wife, mother-in-law and son-in-law and we deepen our love and respect for one another.
Since becoming my mother’s Housekeeper, Activities Director, Nutritionist and Companion (HANC) I face new challenges daily. In some ways, on some days, it’s as if I am responsible for an 85-year-old toddler. Without family intervention, her meals would be meager and lonely, her health dwindling rapidly.
Prior to our moving in, my sister, Jane, or my brother, Joe, cooked for her, but they weren’t able to be on hand daily to ensure she ate what they prepared.
That’s my job, now.
When I told Jane of our decision to move in with Momma, she told me, “You have no idea what you are getting yourself into. It is much more work than you think it is and it’s not going to get easier.”
She was right. Being a HANC is a tremendous honor and an enormous responsibility.
Without my support system, I might have burned out quickly.
By far, my biggest supporters are my brothers and sisters. Each in his or her way has provided invaluable assistance. Some have taken us out to dinner.
Others have brought food or even tea parties to us. Some have helped with yard work.
All have given words of gratitude and encouragement.
Jane offered to give me and my husband one weekend off each month.
What a gift!
I had no idea how important that would be, but Jane knew.
When we first moved in, I needed some time to unpack and assimilate. We all needed to adjust to the new lifestyle. We were here three months before our first weekend away, which meant it was all the more important.
We’d started planning a trip to Hilton Head, but something didn’t feel right about it, so we decided my husband would follow his instincts and use “the force” to direct us on our spontaneous adventure.
We drove an hour to North Charleston, where he surprised me by taking me to the Fire Museum, a wonderful visual tribute to firefighters all over the world. That evening, we enjoyed a sumptuous meal and sat outside our less-than-ideal motel room watching a feral cat colony.
The next day, we drove to historic downtown Charleston where we started making plans for a return trip.
A short drive to the Isle of Palms, where we toured the island and I took photos, took us past the Windjammer Beach Club and we modified our plans. We then drove us to Sullivan’s Island.
My husband stopped as soon as he saw the historical monument depicting the Battle of Sullivan’s Island.
Then we saw him.
A young man was rising out of the water, a hose attached to a jet ski. He rode on a stream of water, hovering over the inlet. We watched him until he stopped his water and air show.
It was the highlight of our day.
Revived by his enthusiasm and athleticism, we returned home with great memories and hundreds of photos to share. We can relive the weekend with Momma, which should spark some stimulating conversations.