Caregiver Burnout

4 min
Image of Short Story

I had just managed to sit down and make myself comfortable for the 6 1⁄2 hour flight overseas.
He was one the last passengers to board our Boeing 737 bound for Honolulu.
Red faced and seemingly flustered, he stowed his carry-on luggage overhead. Apologizing for causing an inconvenience, he then placed his two telephones and I-pad on the centre table and finally sat down.
Exhaling and out of breath he smiled and extended his hand. ” Name’s Alex “..... “Mine’s Murray”. I replied.
“Pleased to meet you Murray. First time to the islands? He asked. “No, actually, been back andforthafewtimes”Isaid. Itwasthentheflightattendantbegantherequiredsafety demonstrations as we taxied to the main runway.
I found myself innocently looking down at his array of cell phones & I pad.
He smiled and explained “Lots of communications between business & friends...”
I just nodded, as I really didn’t care.
“So what line of work are you in”? I casually asked.
Still smiling he replied he was a container ship sea captain on holidays. With that he reached for one of the cell phones and proceeded to show me pictures of his ship. “Wow, that thing is huge!” I replied. It was one of those monster ships stacked high with containers. That’sgottobeanextremelystressfuljobeh?
“Yup, there’s a million things that can go wrong”. Obviously proud of his profession he explained that the last eight years he’s been working on the Great lakes and the St.Lawrence, before that he was all over the world.
“Sounds like an interesting career.” I quipped.
“It’s all of that, and you?”
“Retired Business Owner and now just enjoying my writing and life in general.” I replied. “Really, a writer eh, anything I may have read?” Possibly, I recently published my first book and currently write a column for the “Alberta Caregiver Magazine”.
We focus on the many problems and trials of being a caregiver, a job also, very stressful.”
His continence suddenly changed and quietly said “Boy, you got that right....” Murray, you could be the someone that might be able to help me.
Just then the flight attendant appeared and asked if we would like a beverage.

Withthat,AlexorderedaScotchonice. Ithoughttomyselfwhynot,I’llhaveWhiskyand water.... it could be a long flight....What Have I got myself into? I thought.
“I am really having a hard time coming to grips with my wife passing away. His voice then trailed off “I miss her so much.......
From the time we got the diagnosis, to her last breath took eight months.
I vowed that I would be with her every moment and I was.
I was the main caregiver, watching over her 24/7.
He stopped talking as his voice started to crack, red moist eyes appeared as he apologized. “Sorry about that Murray, I haven’t opened up to anyone about her before, it’s still just too raw you know?
“I understand Alex, been through some rough times myself, They say sometimes talking to a stranger can be easier.
Sounds like you loved her deeply”. I quietly said.
“You may not believe this, but I can honestly say we had never had a serious quarrel in over 18 years of marriage. Her biggest complaint was the time I was away from her at sea.
A beautiful woman, honest, loyal and a hard worker. Even though I made a very good living for us she still saved money every which way she could. Putting it away for our retirement, was what she always said.”
I would have traded places with her in a heartbeat if I could have.”
Reaching over for his glass he downed the last gulp.
“Damn good scotch, I’m really not much of a drinker... Want another? He asked. “Sure, but let’s order something to eat as well.” I replied.
The droning of the engines carried on as we talked. His travels as a sailor had taken him all over the world.
I found him to be pleasant company and easy to listen to.
All the while his phone was receiving texts like crazy.
Smiling as he read them he revealed they were from his girlfriend.
As about two years had passed since losing his wife, he knew it was now time to start living again, and as fate would have it, he met this attractive young lady.
Alex was a talker and somehow decided I was his new best friend.
“Mind listening to my story and giving me some advice Murray? He asked
“Sure, that, and a couple of bucks will buy you a Tim Hortons Coffee “I replied.

He laughed and proceeded to tell me how this new relationship was moving very quickly. In fact this impromptu trip to the islands by himself was because he needed time and some space to think. His new lady friend was quite a bit younger, in fact 34 years younger... also, a single Mom with 3 kids fathered by 2 different men from previous relationships. “Wow”isallIsaid. “So,howdoyoufeelabouther?Iasked.
His reply was she made him feel young again and life was good once more.
“Oh, I know the age difference is large but she says she loves me and wants us to make a permanent commitment to each other”.... She says if we have a child together it will make our bond so much stronger....”
Incredulous silence on my end.....
I know you have an opinion, so just spit it out Murray “
Doing the mental math in my head I slowly replied “Not knowing any of the people involved here, including you, I estimate you will be around 65 or so by the time your shared child goes into school”.
Just looking at the facts, the odds are really stacked against you.
Plus 3 other young children in your life to care for and their fathers involvement also.
“Damn, I really never thought about that, I just wanted to get back what I had with my first wife, a happy loving home before it’s too late for me. That means I’ll be around 74 when my kid gets out of High School. You know I never really came at it from that angle.”
“Look, Alex this is none of my business, but it seems that what you went through being the caregiver for your first wife may have affected you deeper than you thought. I noticed you never declared your love for this new lady, just that she made you feel young again.
You’re doing the right thing though, getting away by yourself to think this through is wise. Take some time, slow things down.
From what you told me you were very fortunate to have had the love of your life to be your mate, it may not come around a second time.
” We all grieve differently and it may take you years to work it all out.”
“Some even equate what you just went though as similar to PTSD.”
He was quiet and just stared, I thought maybe I had crossed a line and should have shut up. Thenquietlyhesaid“Thanks.....You’vegivenmesomethingstothinkabout. Thanksfor listening, I sincerely mean that....
Do you want that coffee and your 2 bucks now? We both laughed out loud.

The flight went by much quicker than normal it seemed. We chatted some more about politicians and the state of the world.
Then we landed and that was that.
We shook hands goodbye.
He thanked me again for everything and wished me well, I did the same and that was the last I saw of him.
I thought to myself “Who takes care of the Care Givers when it’s all over”?


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