Saturday, March 27, 2010

Role Reversal

The dictionary defines "role" as the actions and activities assigned to or expected of a person. "Reversal" is defined as the act of reversing the order or place of.

"Caregiver" is defined as a person who is responsible for attending to the needs of a child or dependent adult.

As my Kennedy's Disease progresses, I am becoming more accustomed to the role reversal that is taking place in our house. I originally fought it and often ended up injured because of my stubbornness (my wife has a mean right hook). Today, I am finding acceptance, rather than stubbornness, to be far less painful. It is still frustrating at times, however, because my wife's and my priorities are often different. Patience is the key, but I only have a limited supply of it.

Some examples of the reversals in our roles in life include:

  • Opening jars: My wife always came to me for help opening a jar. Now, I am the one looking for her help.
  • Feeding the birds: Since I am not very safe on uneven ground, my wife now has this responsibility.
  • Blankets on the bed: I use to need only a light blanket while my wife needed a blanket and a quilt/comforter. Today, I need an electric blanket plus another blanket across my feet while my wife just needs a light blanket.
  • Removing the leaves from the roof and cleaning the gutters: This was my job because I was not afraid of heights. Well, today I cannot climb a ladder and would not be safe on one even if I could.
  • Opening doors for the other person: I was raised to open the door for others. Today, my wife is the one opening the door for me.
  • General maintenance of the household, cars, and yard: If the repairs, replacements, or cleanup requires standing, climbing, lifting and holding, or repetitious movements, my wife now has the honor. And, she does not like to be supervised. J
  • Family protector: I was the one that considered alternatives in case of fire, threat, etc. Today, it takes me far too long just to get out of bed or up from a chair to be an effective leader in an emergency.
  • Helping hand in the neighborhood: I liked helping neighbors and friends. I enjoyed building and repair projects. My wife is the one that is usually volunteering to help today. I have been relegated to the role of water boy.
One big role that would have been a difficult reversal for me is that of "the breadwinner." Fortunately, because we planned for the worst-case scenario, my wife did not have to return to work after I had to retire early.

I do not envy anyone who has the role of caregiver. It is often a thankless and never-ending job. Fortunately, I have the most wonderful wife in the world. She is an excellent caregiver … unless I try to supervise her efforts.

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