Caregiving Can Be an Act of Waiting

It has been my unexpected pleasure for the past ten years to date a Parisian, a wonderful man named Bernie, or “Bernard” in French. He is seven years my senior and will be turning 75 years old in just a few weeks. He’s really more American than anything, but his native land and language (as well as his heart!) are pure French.

My life before Bernie (BB) was uneventful, staid, predictable and lonely. You might say it was wall-papered in taupish gray-browns, not horrible but not particularly filled with anticipation or joy. I did all the right things: traveled, played golf, volunteered in my community, attended church  (sometimes), read, listened to good music, wrote poetry and enjoyed being a grandmother to my now four adorable ones. But, the empty chasm was persistently there. Now it is more than filled; it overflows with energy and spontaneity and forever memories. We travel to Paris for two months out of every year. It’s like a fairy tale oasis for me after a bone-chilling wasteland.

I’m a lucky one, don’ t you agree?

The other night Bernie said to me as we were sitting in our Paris apartment in the Marais, “Well, if this article I’m reading is correct, we have one more year to come to Paris since the life expectancy for a male in the USA is 76 and a half!” My heart stopped and I’ve been thinking about this word bomb ever since. Of course, it was said in jest but cut to the core of my fears for the future.

Someday, I will be Bernie’s caregiver. Someday, I will watch this dear, dear man begin to deteriorate – hopefully slowly and without painful disease. I will watch his joie de vivre wither like a fading rose from its pedestal of beauty, and I will only have the memories of these precious times together.

I try to embrace this hovering reality without sadness or bitterness. I will be honored and touched to be his caregiver. I’m not his wife; I’m not his life-long mate or his highschool sweetheart. But I am the chosen one, who having been given the gift of his presence will be called upon to endure the longer,  harder piece of the journey together.

This dear man takes me to dinner every night of my choosing. I know that evenings and dinnertime will haunt me when he is gone. In the meantime, I’ve made a pact with myself to treasure every moment with this vibrant, charming Frenchman of mine.