No regrets. And when the caregiving is over, love remains.
Although the final chapter of Geezer Stories is written and my eldercare journey is over, thought I’d share this blog post that just went live on HealthCentral.com. It’s an interview with my Twitter friend, blogger and author, Carol Bradley Bursack, aka The Candid Caregiver, a veteran family caregiver with more than two decades of experience.
Read the complete interview here:‘Geezer Stories’: Caregiving With Humor and Honesty
Here are excerpts from our conversation:
The Candid Caregiver and Laura Mansfield met through our daily meander out in the Twitterverse. I was intrigued by the handle @geezerstories, thinking that this must be a couple of older gentlemen poking a little fun at themselves and their generation.
By the time I found out this Twitter handle belongs to Laura, a caregiver who tweets about caregiving issues, I was already hooked. Laura and I messaged on Twitter and she sent me her book “Geezer Stories: The Care and Feeding of Old People.” Laura’s book beautifully combines the whimsy of her blog with a more sobering view of her journey through caregiving.
Laura and I had the following conversation recently about her book, blog and caregiving experiences:
The Candid Caregiver: I’ll start right off, Laura, with the title of “Geezer Stories: The Care and Feeding of Old People.” As a forceful proponent of elder dignity, I was at first a little put off by the irreverent title though I eventually came down on the side of your book title’s irreverent brilliance. What has the general reaction from caregivers been toward this catchy title?
Laura Mansfield: Carol, that’s a very insightful question. DooDaddy (Laura’s dad) will be the first to say he’s actually more of a “codger” than a “geezer” — but he has embraced the term, which seemed to resonate with my Facebook community who were the first to read my #geezerupdates, many of whom shared their own “geezer stories” with me.
I certainly never meant it to be derogatory in any way. One of my friends has taken to calling her mother “Geezer Lite,” because she’s in such good health and seems so much younger than her age. And the term has spawned a series of hashtags: #geezerlove, #geezerlife, #geezerwisdom, etc.
I read something recently about the importance of humor in the grieving process and I absolutely concur. We have to laugh to keep from crying, or sometimes we laugh while we’re crying. It’s part of the process. My father, aka DooDaddy, was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer three months ago — the same exact cancer as my mother — and was given six months to live.
My son was the one who said, “Well, let’s make it the best six months ever, ” and we all laughed, relieved that we could release our fear and sadness in a positive way, if only for a moment. As DooDaddy’s symptoms worsen, he looks at me with Big Eyes and says: “I guess this is just part of it, isn’t it?” And we shrug our shoulders and smile and get on with it.
When our eyes well up with unshed tears, we share an unspoken understanding of what lies ahead, what we saw with my mother, aka Gmamma, at the end. It wasn’t pretty. But she went out on her own terms, with dignity. And that’s the end goal for my father. Humor helps us face our fears about what lies ahead — not death, per se, but the getting there.
TCC: We are all changed by our caregiving experiences but I don’t know that I’ve ever read a story that illustrates so much change as Geezer Stories. Could you tell us how you would sum up these changes in the person you have become?
LM: Wow, I hadn’t thought about it that way. I still have a lot of work to do and struggle daily with my perfectionist tendencies and my need to achieve. I still have feelings of not being good enough. But I can see it now. I’m mindful of my emotional triggers. I hope my caregiving experience has made me kinder and more accepting of others. I hope I am more accepting of myself.
…I believe there are no mistakes in life, only lessons. And the lesson of my childhood is that love comes in all shapes and sizes and we have to open our hearts and minds to receive it. I cherish my parents and the love and the pain that shaped my character and made me who I am today. I am forever grateful for the privilege of caring for them in the twilight of their lives.
Read the complete interview here: ‘Geezer Stories’: Caregiving With Humor and Honesty