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Dr. Judy

For Caregivers

by Judy Richardson | Published July 6, 2021

When the One You Cared for Dies

Its has been nearly three years since my spouse. Chuck Wendel died. We had only a year of our 9-year marriage before his second stroke made him basically a quadriplegic. His earlier stroke, one that affected his left side did not stop him from continuing to travel, write and further his letter press work.  The second stroke just a year after our marriage put him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.  He lived past his 80th birthday, but diabetes and kidney failure eventually took his life.  

During those last years together, I was his sole caretaker. While we had hopes with rehabilitation, he was never able to stand. He was able to use his left hand some, and we gradually adjusted for less and less mobility as time passed. Our biggest help was a drive- in van that allowed us to go places together more easily.

While his children kept in touch, and his son helped often. We were determined to avoid a nursing home. Having had a bad experience in a couple early on in his illness. 

I eventually sold our home in Amana, helped disperse and sell his printing shop and huge collection of type and paper. I moved into a comfortable apartment and tried very hard to start a new life.  My days as a caretaker were over, my health was not good because of back issues and my grief was overwhelming.

I have tried to rekindle my love for drawing and writing which has kept m mind off m grief. When the pandemic hit, I began to live a hermit’s existence. My son was far away. My daughter nursing her husband through cancer and most  of Chuck’s family now no longer really connecting since his passing.

This morning, I was thinking how much I missed taking care of Chuck, even when it became more and more difficult. And despite the hardships, we did our best to make the most of those years when we could travel, spend time at Old Threshers Printer’s Hall and live in our camper. We spent many hours each day in our printshop where he taught me to use the Heidelberg and Linotype.

I have always thought that what keeps many of us older folks going is knowing we are making a difference.  I can no longer teach in a traditional sense, but I can still learn.  So, I often read and study things I have never had time to learn about. Archeology has always fascinated me, as has geology.

I guess what I am trying to say to all those now caring for loved ones, and those who have lost the ones they cared for- It seems for me it has taken a long time to adjust and perhaps I never will. Build all the beautiful memories when they are with you, laugh together and share what your can. You may not miss the hard part of taking care, but you will ever grieve for the one who is gone.

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