Last Tuesday was a busy day. I had an early morning hospice meeting, my weekly yoga session followed by lunch with my daughter, a doctor’s appointment and in the evening, my monthly Women’s Circle. Because I’ve given up driving, Keith was my chauffeur to each of these activities. Additionally, the day before I asked him to do some grocery shopping while he was out, as well as run a couple of errands. Then before he came home I called him and said I was too tired to even think of supper, so would he pick something up?
Keith is my primary caregiver—a new role for him, one which he has accepted with graciousness. He never displays any signs that I ask too much of him and readily changes his schedule without complaint to accommodate mine.
Of course, I’m extremely grateful for all he does on my behalf, but a couple of days ago I realized I needed to change how I respond to his caregiving. I had gotten into the habit of apologizing for nearly every kindness Keith did for me: “I’m sorry you have to drive me everywhere. I’m sorry I forgot you weren’t going to be home for dinner and I kept calling you during your business meeting. I’m sorry I’m asking the same questions I did just an hour ago. I’m sorry I’m a burden…”
For the first time I noticed my repetitive “I’m sorry” as a phrase that had become tiring, trite, and stale. While I did appreciate all that Keith did for me, I realized I didn’t need to feel apologetic about needing his help, or undeserving of his care, love, and attention.
I thought back to the many times I had been Keith’s caregiver: during his surgeries and recoveries from prostate cancer, early esophageal cancer, and bladder cancer. Never once did I consider it a burden to be his Florence Nightingale. In fact, I would have fought off anyone who tried to take my place. It was my honor and privilege to nurse him and give him the loving care only I, his life partner, could offer. Never had Keith apologized for being ill or used the term ‘burden’—and neither should I.
So I’ve changed my ways. I no longer say “I’m sorry” for needing the care Keith gives me. Instead I say with all sincerity, “Thank you,” or “I appreciate the ride,” or “I know caregiving can be tough at times—I’m grateful for your patience.” I often add a hug and kiss along with, “I’m so grateful to have you.”
My new behavior has had a positive effect on my attitude and disposition. Instead of feeling unworthy and undeserving, I focus on being grateful for how loved I am. Grateful that marriage comprises a continual flow of giving and receiving. And grateful that right now it is my turn to be a gracious recipient.