Caregiver by Megan Wildhood

Our team of doctors gave us a choice for recovery: sleep on a bed of nails, walk hot coals with a refrigerator strapped to your back or swim the Arctic with hungry sharks and we chose bed of nails because it’s close to work. You just wish you could take ten seconds and do the moment over again. Our routine becomes: sometimes I’ll remember the meds and the cat food, sometimes just the cat food. (Our routine before: sometimes I’ll remember the cat food.) There’s just got to be something good in a universe where good takes so long to create and evil so little to overcome it. When I start billable hours at 8:00pm – I’m self-employed, so I get this luxury – I can usually get to bed by 2:00am. She won’t need help until 11:00, usually. No earlier anyway. Help: set up around bathroom sink, glass of room-temperature water, hand towel, body towel, Q-tip, bottle of Bergamot essential oil, I’m forgetting something; supply a steady support from the bed to the bathroom; guide her shaky hand with pills one through 14 to her mouth; make egg-white omelet mushrooms basil salt no pepper or warm up cardamom muffins while she showers and runs hot water over her shoulder; reheat omelet or muffins when getting movement from the shoulder takes longer than we budgeted for; make note to self to increase the time budget (which inevitably means decreasing the other budget); see her off in a Lyft and wait for the text that she got to her office at the university down the hill okay. Maybe the good is in the bonding of building something together. She has a light teaching load this quarter, less because of the surgery and more for the school’s financial reasons, which means she’ll need to be picked up at 2:30pm. My client meetings are in downtown, across the Lake, 12 miles north, downtown, I’m forgetting somewhere, the university campus, respectively. I’ll usually remember to check my texts for her list of items she’d forgotten she needs for the evening but not until 2:00-ish so I’ll have to choose between picking up her aloe supplements and picking her up on time. On time becomes: within the hour of target time. (On time before: I wore a watch.) To the friends we have plans with tonight: we’re having some mondo side effects and basically splat at home. (By “tonight,” read: for the foreseeable future at random.)  I probably remembered to gas up, but she’ll need lunch at some point in there. She’s a hard feed, a hard grader, a hard fighter (though I’m forgetting somewhat). Me: interior designer. Me: wacky uncle. Me: husband. Me: caregiver. Caregiver: I’m forgetting someone.

Megan Wildhood writes about isolation, disability and the misfit experience; her work has appeared, among other places, in The Atlantic, Litro Magazine, America Magazine and in her chapbook Long Division out September 2017 from Finishing Line Press. She lives in Seattle, WA, and is working on a novel and several poetry projects.