It was our first Christmas with our first born, Matthew. We were in Dalhart Texas some 600 miles from our fairly new home in Paris Texas. Matt was only 3 months old and Marty took the call from our new nanny in Paris. The news was bad, catastrophic, as any new working parent can understand; the sitter wasn’t going to be able to keep Matt anymore due to some health issues. Christmas was turned on its head as we tried to figure out child care for our new born baby.
We are going through a similar upheaval with our current caregivers, only this time I’m the one dealing with it. I suppose its a little payback for that Christmas years ago when Marty took the brunt of the responsibility.
We have four caregivers. Two, Renea and Nykkie, who are sisters, have been with us over seven years. They have been with us from the start of this odyssey. That’s really pretty remarkably in the care giving business. We have two more, one, Erica, has been with us over three years and the last, another Renee, has been around almost two years.
When you have to trust the life of your loved one to other people, when you have other people essentially living in your house with you, continuity and consistency are a God send. We have been lucky.
Renea recently finished her PhD in psychology and not so remarkably is going out in the world to ply her new trade for much better compensation. Marty and I are very happy sad about this. Renea came to our house when we were in turmoil trying to find our way in our new life. I needed someone I could trust, I needed someone who I knew would be there to help me, we found Renea and she brought a sense of calm to my life.
Nykkie has been with us for two stints but is the one who has been working all day most days for the last five years. She loves Marty, she loves our family, she is a constant in our lives and is like our 2nd daughter. Dr. Renea has inspired sister Nykkie to go back to school to get her RN. She must now work nights only to go through a compressed and rigorous nursing program, more happy sad times for Marty and husband.
It’s an upheaval.
I have always jealously guarded my personal space. Its uncomfortable having someone in your home with you 24 hours a day, it makes it hard to run to the fridge in the middle of the night in your boxer briefs. You have to learn when and how to do that, it takes time to acclimate yourself to the extra body. Having someone there that you know, that sat in hospital rooms with you, has held your wife’s hand as she went through difficult procedures, that has given you the confidence you are doing the right things is incalculably valuable.
Changing all of this, changing the personalities, changing the guard is a big deal.
I don’t mean to intimate that it is the same as losing child care when you desperately need it. I can cover with Marty, I don’t have to leave the house to work, I can do all of the things the caregivers do, I just can’t do it all of the time and have any ability to take care of the rest of life. Caring for Marty is not a one person task…it just isn’t.
Renea, Nykkie, Erica and Renee do more than just watch and bathe. They are the buffer to my frustration with our life’s situation and keep me in check and they are the people who do the dirty work every day every hour work with Marty. They spare me, they save Marty.
It’s a big deal when we have a defection. We have kissed a lot of caregivers to find the four princesses we now have and I’m not sure I’m up to kissing that many new faces to find another keeper.
Fortunately, we have found a cousin to Erica, LaShonda, who just completed her first work week with us. She came to work, she was cheerful, she was careful, she was on time and she didn’t scare Marty. She appears to be a keeper.
All the same, it takes time, energy, effort and repetition for all of us to start to establish the kind of trust I(we) need for this to be truly successful. It will take us days of being with La Shonda, it will take weeks of working with La Shonda and weeks of dealing with Nykkie’s new night schedule to get to a place of comfort and trust.
Life moves on, people, people you love and cherish, come into your life move on and do different and better things. We learned from Renea, we will continue to learn from Nykkie and Renee and Erica and now La Shonda.
We will continue our life with this company of people, people who never would have been in our lives if not for Marty and her journey. It’s funny how love for strangers can come to you.