There is a scene in the film, 'Guess who's coming to dinner?' in which the father of the Sidney Poitier character attempts to dissuade him from marrying a white girl and ruining his life, throwing away his career as a doctor. He reminds him of the sacrifices made by his parents to put him through med school. His mother, he says, went without a decent coat to put the money towards his schooling. Poitier tells him 'I owe you nothing. You did what you were supposed to do.' It's a classic scene.
Although the context is entirely different, I had something of a Poitier moment over Christmas, and it occurred to me that the role of a partner who is also a carer has something in common with a parent's role - you could say we too do what we are supposed to do.
I'd like to share my thoughts on this with you and I'm going to try to be honest about it. I realised at some point during my festive preparations that I was feeling hurt, a bit resentful. I didn't recognise these feelings immediately - I just knew I felt a bit impatient with Roch at times - there I was rushing around 'doing' Christmas and little thanks I was getting, it seemed to me. Now, I need to be clear about this - in terms of the carer's role, we have not yet reached the stage where I need to assist Roch with dressing or washing. He may be slow, but he's determined to do as much as he can for himself, for as long as he can. Occasionally I've had to do stuff and I hope he would say that when called upon, I come up to the mark, willingly. No, I'm not talking about the tasks one usually associates with the carer's role - obviously there, we do what we are supposed to do - I am talking about the work I felt I did to create our Christmas. He didn't ask me to do the extras, he didn't expect me to pull out all the stops - but I took it upon myself to do so and hey I worked hard and it was all lovely. But I found myself feeling unappreciated by him. There came a moment when I had to stop and give myself a shake.
You know what?
I did what I was supposed to do. I stepped up. My husband has MND and he can't do all the things he used to do to help and I think now that made him feel sad. So I worked hard to make sure we all had a good Christmas - just how grateful did I expect him to be? Maybe I worked too hard at it. Maybe I worked so hard to make it 'perfect' I made it more difficult for him to cope with the contrast to other years, where we worked together to make sure we all had a good Christmas.
Isn't it funny how you get ambushed? I hope I would never feel resentful or expect heaps of praise from him for helping him to dress or wash or go to the toilet (remind me of this when the time comes folks) but I was taken by surprise at how hurt I felt - that he wasn't more appreciative of my efforts over Christmas.
Sidney - I owe you one. Roch, just the occasional bunch of flowers will do...