The state outlines of Washington and Indiana connected by a letter and a phone

Caregivers Make This Journey Less of a Burden

I love telling stories. In my opinion, storytelling is vital to carrying on family and memories and ensuring loved ones never fade away. If you could ask anyone who knows me, they would assure you that I have a story for nearly everything. So, it is that I tell you of my caregiver.

How I met Janet

Janet (my caregiver) and I have been married 34 years. We were married before social media and cell phones. I was in the army, stationed in Washington State. Janet was living in Indiana, a state I had never been to and only heard of in passing. I did, however, have an army buddy who was from Indiana. He (my buddy) had a wife whose best friend was named Janet and who lived in Indiana. I am sure you can see where this is headed.

I was smitten

One night, as we sat in their living room, Tammy (my buddy's wife) started describing me to someone on the phone. I took the phone and said, “If you want to know about me, ask me.” The reply was a terse, “I don’t want to know anything about you!” My interest was piqued. The witty banter went back and forth, and by the end of the conversation, I was smitten.

We became acquainted through phone calls and letters

Some of you will remember when you had to make long-distance calls off-peak or they were horribly expensive. If you are “cell phone” young, Google “long-distance charges” and then come back to my tale. We would have wonderful, long phone calls late in the evening and write letters. Not e-mail, actual pen to paper letters with envelopes and stamps and postal carriers. Over some months, we became very well-acquainted, and so came the fateful night when I asked her if she wanted to go to Hawaii.

Our conversation

I need to say that we had exchanged letters and phone calls but never a picture. So here is the conversation.

“I am going to Hawaii, do you want to come?”

“Sure."

“I am going for three years when I re-enlist.”

“Okay.”

“For the government to pay for the trip, we have to be married.”

“Okay”

An engagement ring and wedding date

A letter confirmed that she was serious. In early April of 1985, I stood at the airport gate, Polaroid photo in hand waiting for Janet to disembark with her own Polaroid photo. We spent 9 days together in Washington, and I sent her home with an engagement ring and a wedding date of June the first. I called her father for the formal permission, and on a sunny afternoon, we were wed, in her parents' front yard.

That is how Janet Lynn Bachman became Mrs. Howard and my caregiver. I will say that “caregiver” is a woefully inadequate title for my wife. I refer to her, lovingly, as “My Adult.”

My daughter, when describing her mom says, “Mom lives for 3 things. To be a wife. To be a mother and Christmas.”

Janet takes care of everything

Literally, everything. If it isn’t my work, or spider-killing and jar-opening, she has it handled. That is not completely true; I also mow the grass and clean the gutters. If I am being completely honest, she mowed the grass for many years until a back injury forced her into mowing retirement. Even when she retired, she remained a caregiver. She bought me a huge riding mower so it would be easier for me after a long day in the truck.

My wife handles every medical appointment for me

What I am trying to say is, any medical appointments or doctor visits she schedules and informs me when and where to go. Usually, she goes with me.

On one doctor's visit, when I had to go alone, the new receptionist told me I needed to pay a co-pay. I have been going to this doctor for 25 years and have never paid anything. Paying is not in my wheelhouse. I kindly informed the young lady that “My adult” would be in for a visit later in the week and would be happy to pay whatever was required. She became agitated and mocked the “My adult” comment until one of the seasoned nurses heard the commotion and peeked around the corner. “Mac, take a sucker and go home.” To the receptionist, she said, “That is Mac, and his adult will be in. Don’t bother asking him for money, his allowance is for tattoos and motorcycle parts.”

Grateful for my caregiver

I am more blessed than I can describe to have someone who takes care of me like my wife does. I leave for work at 1:45 in the morning 6 days a week. Janet gets up at 1:30 in the morning 6 days a week…to make me coffee.

Caregivers make this journey less of a burden and allow us to focus on healing. If you are a caregiver, I send much love your way. Thank you! Bless you!

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