Hello, Roos. In early March 2012, one month before Emma’s passing, I posed this question to a LinkedIn women writers group: “Caregivers: What are your experiences? As a sole caregiver for my mother, 97, who has dementia, I find caregiving to be spiritually life changing, among other things.” I thought it would be a good way to promote the book I had just published about Emma’s and my long journey through these turbulent nighttime seas.
To my astonishment, these writers’ response was overwhelming. I am profoundly touched by their caregiving experiences and their honesty. Comments flooded in from all over the world, from Camaroon and Kenya, from Turkey, from every continent. The discussion group continued for two years and gathered over 7,500 comments, until LinkedIn changed its group format.
The outpouring of comments and loving support is due largely, I feel, to the catharsis of caregivers being able to tell their stories to likeminded, sympathetic listeners – there seem to be not just one story per caregiver, but many and varied, at once sad and funny.
I had thought long that these caregiving stories needed to be told – not only for the caregivers but also for the suffering for whom they care, the ones who were once vibrant, leading vital lives like the rest of us, the ones who have lost their dignity, who feel trapped and that they have become burdens, the ones whose tickets have been collected, those just ahead of us in line. Scary, isn’t it. Lifeboats can sail only so far. But here in our group we had reached a safe harbor of unconditional love and support.
Early on our discussion group journey eight, extraordinary, caring women jumped onboard and the nine of us embarked on a lively, almost daily conversation, beginning with caregiving and writing and evolving into gardening, family, recipes and sometimes just downright silly stuff. Three years later we remain close friends.
The daughter of one of us works with kangaroos in Australia. Some of us sponsored kangaroos, therefore, and we began calling ourselves The Roos. Each of us took a color; for example, I am Turquoise Roo. We are all the colors of the iris, the rainbow, if you will, and the flower that represents spiritual evolution. We are far flung, living in New Zealand, South Africa, Germany, Canada and on both coasts of the United States, North and South.
Although we talk on the phone and Skype, none of us has met in person, but all of us believe one day we will. Thelma & Louise dreams persist even among — or maybe especially among — us women of a certain age: a road trip in a VW bus (multicolored), winning the lotto, meeting in each other’s country as soon as the my private jet gets out of the hangar with the mechanicals fixed. I even thought of swimming to New Zealand from Delaware.
I had decided I was pretty much done with writing about caregiving, I thought. But my Roo friends wouldn’t let me drop anchor in that cove. They prodded me with the stem end of a deep purple iris to join them in taking up the A-Z Blogging Challenge for 2015. I didn’t want to go all back through my caregiving experience, but revisiting it has been enlightening and I have met some superb writers along the way.
I need to give a special nod to my three prodding Roo friends who have taken up the 2015 A-Z Blogging Challenge: Susan Scott, Garden of Eden Blog; Patricia Garcia, Everything Must Change; and Gwynn Rogers, Gwynn’s Grit and Grin.
Thank you, Roos, as always, for your continued unconditional love and support. Truly, without you I don’t know how I could have gotten through those last days with my mother and the months following her passing.