Through Irish Eyes: Giving thanks for a great caregiver

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November 2008 — we are halfway through, with Thanksgiving straight ahead. As usual this time of year I try to recognize what I am most thankful for. There are so many things, but top of the list must be a lady named Jamie Anderson. Jamie came into my life as caregiver in early July. I had come home from the convalescent hospital June 30, confident that I could manage on my own, a confidence that was quickly shattered. I realized that I would need some assistance at least getting my legs in and out of bed, so I turned to PIRS and my friend Tim Cooper. Tim was reassuring: he had just the person I needed — she needed work and — blessedly — was available right away. I should have known how dedicated and sincere she would be by the fact that she walked from her home on Dry Creek Road to my digs off Luther Road to perform these tasks each morning and evening. Her car was incapacitated. It soon became apparent that we would both benefit if she moved in with me to provide 24/7 care. And what wonderful care it has been! As with policemen and firemen, the life of a caregiver is not an easy one. There are difficult and less-than-pleasant intimate tasks of tending commode and bed pan to giggling recollections of visiting firemen who graciously and efficiently got me back on my feet after a real-life rendition of “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” Knowing that acceptance into Hospice meant I could anticipate less than six months of life, Jamie and I set out to make them really count. Early in September we invited family, neighbors and friends to attend my wake. It’s an old Irish custom of speeding the soul on its way, usually AFTER it has shaken off mortal coils. I had often attended celebration of life rites and thought it was a shame that the person whose life was being celebrated couldn’t attend the party. I was determined to be different. So Jamie and I planned and prepared a Mexican fiesta, complete with a colorful bull piñata brought by my older daughter Lila from San Jose. Son Jim came from Concord and younger daughter Michelle flew in from Boston. By the beginning of October I was ready with my “obituary” and I regaled Jamie with some of the wildest moments of my career. Over my 87 years, there were quite a few. We’re past the four-and-a-half month line now, and Jamie continues to be my mainstay, physically and emotionally. “You are so lucky to have found her,” friends tell me. They are so right, but was it all luck or was my guardian angel at work once more? I only know that I am happy and content. We’ve planned a quiet Thanksgiving dinner catered by LaBonte’s, just Jamie and her oldest son, John, Nancy Hoge and myself. The next day we’ll celebrate again, adding my favorite priest, my son and older daughter, now recovering from double knee replacement to the list. Yes, I have much to be thankful for this year — and Jamie tops my list. Helen Bale’s column appears occasionally in the Journal.