Carers Week (June 6th to June 12th) aims to raise awareness of unpaid carers, to make caring visible, valued and supported. A special thank you to Maggie for responding to our call-out for creative writing pieces and sharing her thoughts to help others understand what is is like to be a carer.
I have never given much thought to the line “Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes” until by chance I discovered it was a line from a poem written by Mary T. Lathrap in 1895. The poem is called “Judge Softly.”
Do any of us know exactly what it is like to live my day or your day, every day? We can try, and other carers will have a good understanding of this.
Judge Softly asks us to consider, to try to understand, to think how you would feel or react, to think of others.
A very few years ago, I wore my stilettoes, my suit, make-up, my normal working clothes. Every day I knew what I must do and in what order. I would make coffee, head to my desk saying my good mornings. Along the way, we shared a joke, or a gossipy piece of news. Sitting at my desk, I waited for the familiar sounds of the computer, followed by ping, ping, ping as emails rolled into my inbox. After listening to my messages, checking my emails, and contacting my team, the day had begun.
Days are so different now.
Unlike my previous life, now my unkempt self dashes downstairs, boils the kettle, quickly getting cups ready. I let the dog out, he’s my companion who likes the first hour of his day to be filled with my attention.
I take a morning drink to my husband. He appears to have been involved in an accident hmm! Oh, its chocolate, yes chocolate, thank goodness, and I’m reminded of a photograph of him feeding our daughter with chocolate pudding. Both were covered from their heads to baby’s toes.
Reminiscence over, I ask what has happened. He’s totally unaware! “You’re covered in chocolate!” “Yes, coffee and milk he smiles”, ah not quite ready for the day, he hasn’t put his hearing aids in. “How do you feel today. Have you been dreaming?”
Our conversations are …novel, yes that is possibly the best adjective. We talk for fifteen or twenty minutes, for my husband television is all important now. “Its gone again, I said, its gone again, I won’t pay for this rubbish, it happens every day. Last night at 7pm it turned black”. After a few minutes checking sockets, Wi-Fi, and appearing to know what I am doing, all’s well. We have TV.
The daily necessities are not so difficult to follow. However, my well-intended structure has hit the first stumbling block. Thrown out of order, the usual tasks seem to resemble bingo balls loose in a velvet bag. Where is number one? I search in the bag, but it’s impossible to see and everything is knocked back little by little.
The everyday events: Four bed changes, two sets of clothes, his and hers, are just finished spinning at 1600rpm. Meals, medication, phone calls, are completed, that is except for five and possibly four. The kitchen, hmm! Well, sometimes the kitchen must be another room.
I hear a voice asking me to watch television together. “Leave the dishwasher, for tonight, it’ll be there in the morning.” Inwardly, I groan, but we don’t have a cleaning fairy so it will wait for me. We watch television, interspersed with my getting drinks, and asking “what happened?” “Nothing”, he says, you’ve have been anywhere.” He laughs, “I think you’re losing the plot; I hate to say it my memory is far better than yours.”
I have finally come to accept, every day must be different, flexible, its events unexpected.
After all Bingo is a game and you will hopefully win a prize. At the end of the day, my day, I can hear the tone of my Soldier boy, singing, “Your face is a well-written page Maggie, and time all along was the pen.”
What do I know? Tomorrow will be wrapped in a velvet bag, important with a beauty of its own making. Perhaps my husband’s size 11 army issue boots will be in there, and I’ll walk that mile again, in my veteran soldier’s boots.
Mary Lathrap’s poem is often known as “Walk a Mile in his Moccasins”. Whether it be trainers, boots, what you will, the essence is sound. Humanity must remember empathy and walking in our own shoes is often the hardest thing to do.