I have been on vacation in the British Virgin Islands. For a caregiver, this is a dream – something we need so much, but it’s so hard to find a way.
I’ve loved travel since I took my first plane ride at age 22, and I’ve been a traveler all my life: vacationing with Bo, with friends, by myself. In fact, I organized many trips to Europe as the tour guide.
But sadly, things changed, and after these past four years of staying home ( one overnight trip to my hometown to bury my mother’s remains) the idea of going on vacation was only a dream. I could see no way that I could leave Bo alone; I couldn’t ask friends or relatives to relieve me.
Then in November Jon and his family came here to live and life changed. I started getting out to do things that Bo can no longer enjoy: the Philadelphia Orchestra, lunch or dinner with friends, a play, a board meeting, book club, even shopping. The restorative effect of these events cannot be measured. No matter how much you care for the person you care for, the unrelenting feeling of near suffocation is there.
But back to Jon. He’s always there now to give me support, as are his wife Adriana and their two children. When Jon hears the rising tension in my voice as I try to stay calm with Bo, he comes to my aid. More than once he has come into the kitchen and said, “Hey, Bo. Let’s take a little walk.” Or he has heard me upstairs getting Bo up or ready for bed, and suddenly appeared, saying, “I’ll take over. How about if you take a shower now, Bo.” And I relax.
So in November when Mary Anne called to say she wanted to charter a boat in the BVI’s and three of us would go for nine days – could I go if I started planning then? – Jon immediately said, “GO. You need it. I can take care of things here.” I can’t describe how it felt to begin planning a trip. Of course, I felt guilt at the thought of leaving Bo home while I went for a good time, but I needed it so much. A caregiver forgets normalcy.
So now I’m on a US Air flight back from Tortola on my way home. I’ve had a fabulous time. Yes, occasionally during the week I felt sad to be away from Bo and wished so much that he could be enjoying life on the water that he loved so much, but at the same time I know that he has no idea what it even means to take a boat trip. He has lost all of those wonderful memories of past cruises. I stood in a gift shop one afternoon and nearly cried, realizing that I wasn’t even looking for a shirt or hat to take home to him because he wouldn’t understand.
One night I dreamed that Jon told me he would be leaving in 12 weeks, and I actually awoke in a panic. I texted Jon to tell him this, and he wrote back, “Don’t worry. I’m not leaving.” Such relief!
So, within hours my plane will land and I will return home feeling relaxed and refreshed, and I’m sure I’ll find everything at home in great condition – cared for by Jon and his family.