Welcome to Hell: A Caregiver's Nightmare

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Story time

“I might as well tell you the whole story, right? But where to begin? It trips me up every single time. Sometimes I think that this is why I don’t share, because I can never figure out where to start. Or I get so afraid of starting that I never do. So it stays inside me. I can feel it, bouncing around, bashing into my bladder, ricocheting off my ribs. But controlling it, and guiding it up through me, opening my mouth and letting it out. I get scared. Man, is it hot in here?” I flap my shirt, trying to create some air flow on my face, trying to remind myself to breathe.

There is no offer of aid. No encouragement. Just me in the darkness, fanning myself. I count to ten, then twenty, then ten again. I focus on breathing. I regret not spending more time meditating.

Hell is lack of control.

“Anyway, where were we, before my…little…the beginning. Well, whatever, there is no beginning. It’s my story, right? And I am so sick of not knowing where to start – I mean, I am the one who would know – so, there, I just now decided that there is no beginning. I wish I could put up a big sign with that written on it in big blinking capital letters!” I chuckle quietly. “Might liven this place up. Anyway, we are here,” I turn my head from side to side and finally shrug, “I am not entirely sure where, but I know we are here, and we – mostly me – are talking…and living and…this is it. Which is all a long-winded way to say: my family is broken and I don’t know how to fix them. Us. I mean us. I don’t know how to fix us.”

“So, how can this possibly be Hell? Because, despite my momentary meltdown just now, this is not…” And even here, actually in Hell, I can’t utter the words, so I pick different ones. “I watch him die. Inch by inch. Centimeter by centimeter. And everyone, every single person in my life, including my own mother – the one person in this whole mess who lost more than me – tells me that he has been saved. And I am lucky.”

I have never said that all together out loud before. I am pleased by how dramatic it sounds; it should sound dramatic. I pause, hoping to heighten the effect, to let it sink in.

“It was an accident; simple as that. Two cars collided, on a freeway, for no reason whatsoever – maybe she was texting, maybe I was adjusting the radio, maybe she was trying to take a sip of coffee or a bite of a burger, maybe I was trying to read a bumper sticker – and he tried to shield me and he took the brunt of it…and I was fine. Don’t I seem fine to you?” That is the first question I have asked that I hope they do not answer.

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