“Tired of Watering the Ferns” In Honor of November Being Caregivers Awareness Month
Posted by Heather Krill in Life After Paralysis on November 16, 2020
If you were looking to read something inspiring, this likely isn’t your blog. If you were looking to be reassured, to have your tired feelings recognized, to be reminded that it’s okay to feel life’s fatigue (especially one week before a contentious presidential election when COVID cases continue to rise), to release some of the guilt you may feel as a caregiver who can’t be everything to everyone every day despite your best efforts, then, please, make a cup of tea, pour that glass of wine, or grab that beer and read on. I see you, and I hope you see me too.
November is National Caregivers Awareness Month, and today, it’s official. Today, I’m tired of watering our ferns. As we were walking out the door this morning at 6:55, Geoff asked the kids to water the ferns, but he indirectly asked me to water the ferns– as neither he nor they can reach up that high. I sort of freaked out on him, yelling I didn’t care to water the damn ferns as we were running late for school. But it’s not really about the ferns or their lack of water. I’m tired of keeping the ferns alive, and at this point, I don’t care if they die. Awful, right? How could I say such a thing! They are lovely and green still, well mostly, depending on what side you see them from. One side is pretty brown because the frost burned them back in September. Oops. But it’s the first of November. And I’ve been keeping them alive for a long time.
Due to COVID and at-home learning, we started our garden indoors in March. We watered, nurtured, carried the plants out into the sun on warmer spring days, and then back inside before they could freeze up and die on cold April nights. When they grew bigger, we repotted them until it was safe to plant in the ground directly, which is the end of May in these parts. Our kids are learning to take care of, nurture, and cultivate those lives too, but there are many reminders needed. I’m the hub of the wheel, as are many of our caregivers out there. While most days, we just do what hubs of wheels do– we stay strong, we care for the spokes, and we roll over any kind of terrain in all kinds of weather. However, it can be a challenge the other days when we are just tired of being strong, being the hub, and keeping all those spokes rolling.
Further to this point, last weekend, I pulled what remained from our garden of lettuce. It was growing too bitter for our salads and tossed them into the compost pile. Geoff was incredulous that I did not “save” more of the lettuce. I tried to ignore him, out of love, of course. I know how much he enjoyed having a big garden with fresh lettuce and other veggies to eat every night. But to spite me, as if to agree with Geoff and feel like their “grow season” wasn’t quite finished yet, the damn lettuce started growing again in our compost pile. Their leafy greens, protected from the real cold under the low hanging branches of a giant pine tree, wave at me, reminding, “Hey, look at us still growing over here. Geoff was right; we weren’t ready to be done yet and tossed over here in the compost.”
Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by all that we have to care for as humans, specifically as wives and mothers. Please don’t misunderstand me; this role of caregiving is one I was born to play in many ways. A teacher. A mom. A caring friend. I’m all these roles, but when asked by the Reeve Foundation to write something about November being National Caregivers Awareness Month, I hardly knew where to begin. It’s that word again. Awareness. Only this time, the word is for those of us in the world who are technically caregivers, even if that just feels like a strange title or role to play. As caregivers, we are just humans with others around us who sometimes need tending to, whether we are raising children or caring for the elderly or being espoused to one who is disabled or battling illness or disease. Being a supportive friend is another kind of caregiving in many of our lives. I follow these other articulate blogs written by wives or girlfriends or husbands or boyfriends, both with and without spinal cord injuries– some appear to be “ruffleless” at all times. On the other hand, I am ruffled and disheveled at all times, trying to balance our hub as smoothly as possible. They advocate for taking time out for personal care, self-care, self-love. I wonder where that time comes from? Is it before I get up at five each day before school starts? Is it after 5:30 when I come home from coaching soccer practice and have to start dinner and help the kids with their homework? Is it after 8 pm when I’ve put them to bed, or, more likely, after 9:30 when I’ve woken up after falling asleep in one of their beds?
I know my message should be empowering, and maybe next week, it will be again. But it’s not this week, and that is okay. I let myself be whiny once and a while, and you should too. The hub will roll again, but for today I’m tired of watering the damn ferns.
Heather Ehrman Krill is a writer- wife- teacher-mom who lives in the White Mountains of NH with her husband, Geoff, a paraplegic and professional skier, and their two children, Carver and Greta who are 10 and 9. Please check out her novel True North, website www.heatherkrill.com, author FB page Heather Krill, and @heatherkrill1 on Twitter.