Life After Caregiving, Re-entering, One Step at a Time

By on July 24, 2015

Life After Caregiving Re-entering Life, One Step at a Time was written by Sharon Clayton, a caregiver and friend.

I want to tell you a story and it’s not a bad one, a sad one, or an angry one, which I know my stories can often be. It’s a happy one, at least for today.

You all know that because Mother was so fragile, I didn’t leave her side for almost two years for fear something might happen to her and I wouldn’t be there for her. She was my priority and everything else suffered dearly, including my car. She’s a red 1990 Nissan 240 SX that I drove off the lot new, and it didn’t take long before Sophie, which is what I named her, and I knew we were meant for each other. She handles well, has good weight for a small car, and is tight as a drum, even to this day. She’s dependable, gets good gas mileage, and even runs on regular. What more could a girl want? I really dreamed of buying her big brother, the 300, but couldn’t afford it so I settled for Sophie and never regretted it. She still has good sporty lines and is the perfect size for me. We just go together. It’s that simple.

Sadie sat for the last year without being started and the battery was deader than a doornail. I decided last Sharon Clayton's momweek I had to bite the bullet and let Steve, the fellow who’s taken care of our cars since ’84, look her over and tell me what it would cost to get her up and running. He owns the Mobile station here and takes care of all of us on the island, and I trust him.

He personally walked over and tried starting her with just a jump and she popped right off in typical Sophie style. He didn’t charge for it and saved me a tow charge. First favor. The battery wouldn’t hold a charge when he took her back to the station, so that meant a new battery, which was expected. Both he and his mechanic drove her. Steve actually drove her home for the night and when he ran his errands the next morning, and then he and the mechanic looked her over together. Second favor, because Steve’s the boss and leaves the mechanical work to his employees.

Long story short, poor Sophie had a lot of problems, mainly from sitting, and one of them meant replacing a pipe somewhere to fix a leak (Don’t ask me.), which was going to be expensive because of the labor involved. I explained I couldn’t afford to do everything she needed, really couldn’t even afford to replace the pipe, but he said he had a solution. They had talked it over and felt sure they could repair the pipe instead of replace it, but it would take time because it would be a big job. Another favor. Notice the “they”, bless his heart. We agreed on a price to fix the pipe and then do just what it would take to get me safely on the road for now, with the understanding that the things that weren’t fixed would soon have to be done if I wanted to remain safe.

Black and white portrait of a very sad old woman

He called this morning to say Sophie was ready. Yes, he actually called her that. He’d left by the time I got there but the mechanic who helped with it was there, as well as a second fellow. They were both beaming when I told them who I was and inside we went to take care of the bill. That was rough because I’m now flat broke, but, hey, I have wheels! The mechanic said I really had a good little car and that five or six people had stopped by just to see her. He said they were amazed at how sound she was (Told you.) and surprised that after sitting so long, the AC still worked like a charm. He walked me to the car after I paid the bill, smiling like a chessy cat, and I soon realized why. They had hand-washed it, which they don’t do there. Another favor. When I jokingly said I hadn’t driven in two years and he’d better hope I didn’t take out their pumps when I pulled over to get gas, he volunteered to do it. Think I scared him? He did, and even pumped the gas at the cheaper no-service pump, still smiling.

Sophie sounded brand new when I started her up and I drove around our island a while to see if I remembered how, smiling from ear to ear the whole time. I KNOW Sophie was also smiling and saying, “Thank you, thank you! I’m so glad you’re back! I thought I’d been forgotten.”

stress-cd1

Do you know what went through my mind while I was driving? I thought that I had just made my first positive step back into normal life, or as normal as one could be without Mother. And then I thought, “Wow! Now I can get a McDonald’s every now and then! And tacos, even if only at Taco Bell!” Yes, I’ll die from it because of my stomach problems, but what a way to go! And I don’t have to keep getting my clock cleaned by Publix’s high prices because now I can buy groceries somewhere else! And I can take my poor cat to the vet once a week to get his IV fluids! I can probably save their $5 charge on my grocery bill! And I can try to get my storage bin cleaned out and closed, which will save money! Those thoughts just kept coming, and then came the big one:  “I AM FREE!” After over 15 years of being housebound as Mother’s caregiver, I am free. What an awesome feeling. Sad and lonely, yet awesome. I’m indebted to my buds at Mobile and intend to do without something on my grocery list so I can buy something special for them, maybe a dessert, as a small token of thanks. Heck, I might even hug ‘em. I hate the thought of having to selling our condo and leaving so many good friends here. Darn! Darn! Darn!

Meet Sharon Clayton

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