Wading — a poem about the emotional impact of spousal caregiving for a stroke survivor

Wading — a poem about the emotional impact of spousal caregiving for a stroke survivor

I have yet to fully address my partner’s stroke here on the blog, instead telling the story in bits and pieces of poetry, and perhaps it is best told that way. She is a private person, and at this point in my life, nearing 40, so am I. But I know I am not the only one out here caring for a loved one who survived a stroke. The spousal caregiver’s experience, according to a study done in 1997, involves “experiencing a profound sense of loss, adjusting to a new relationship with a spouse, taking on new responsibilities, feeling the demands of caregiving, having to depend on the support of others, and maintaining hope and optimism.” Indeed. I’m too tired to try and say it better myself.

It’s an exceptional challenge to take on the role of caregiving for a spouse or partner. But I’m really not complaining. Not even a tiny bit. When you come so close to losing your better half, you become hyper grateful for every breath. You’ll see by the end of this poem how the compulsive worrying, with enough mindfulness, can eventually be transformed into infinite peace. Time teaches us that, well, “We got this.” When the seizures happen that we’ve been so terrified of, we’ve got it handled. We know what to watch for and we know what to do. We’ve been prepared so well by her inpatient and outpatient therapists, as well as by her doctors and nurses, that we can handle nights like these. Nights when seizures happen and medicine increases take her straight from light laughter to heavy slumber.

And the anxiety? Well, it’s right there in the job description. This poem is for the caregivers who know that unique pit of fear as well as the peak of joy… for the stroke survivors who worry too much about being a burden when they are undeniably the light of our lives.

Wading

Deep into recovery
of two blown brains
and hearts gone haywire,

I find my role
split uncomfortably.

Post-stroke,
I am half partner,
half doctor—
full-time
spousal
caregiver.

Covert, I study your pupils—
perform neurological exams
mid-conversation,
between kisses,
amid friends.

Device always at hand
to time a seizure,
to dial three digits
if anything seems
too reminiscent
of the incident—
the trauma-filled night
of which we rarely speak.

I tightrope my way
from weekdays
to holidays,
balancing lightly, tenderly
upon the glimmering love
that makes
all the work
so worthwhile.

Check less,
trust more.

When you feel joy,
my ever-present hurt
bursts into a sun shower—
pure cleansing rays.

I cherish the tiny sparkles,
the infinitesimal fractals
that light the souls
that chose to stay.

Not all counting,
not all waiting.
Sometimes wading.
More often than not,
celebrating.

Deep into recovery,
your placid lake
a sanctuary.

False Deity — a poem about the disappointment of celebrity idolatry

False Deity — a poem about the disappointment of celebrity idolatry