Luke has been back in school for about a week now.
Experts claim that special needs caretakers often experience PTSD, and I particularly notice this tendency when I don’t have him on my radar for an extended period of time.
Every 30 minutes or so, I ignore the sounds around me – the whir of the washing machine, the chattering of my four year old, the constant buzz of lawnmowers outside – I ignore the background noise and selectively pinpoint my hearing to the basement – listening intently for Luke – listening for either a scream of “ALL DONE!” or, lately “WIGGLES!” which really just means I don’t like what I’m doing or watching so please offer 500 additional options, and then I’ll agree to one of them by telling you – “BYE! BYE!” Or I wander aimlessly to my bedroom where I check the 24/7 surveillance monitor, but there are no screams and the image on the screen is empty.
And every couple of hours I find myself in the basement, lost, having forgotten what I came for, but my body can’t forget the summer routine, and I breathe deeply – quickly checking for any indication that there may be a diaper to change but there isn’t. There are only the remains of Luke’s favorites: his iPad – in need of charging before he arrives home and numerous sippy cups scattered about that need cleaning – the only cups he will drink from.
And like clock work, morning, noon, and night I ask myself “What am I going to feed Luke today, and do we have those ingredients?” Due to sensory issues, I often prepare his meals separately, and due to my desire for him to eat healthy food, I will go the extra mile to hide the zucchini and green beans.
This is the process of PTSD for caretakers – always being on, always having our senses at high alert; always being at the beckon call of another. It is a refining process like no other; a constant laying down of our life and our desires for someone who is unable to care for themselves. It is a holy calling; it is an exhaustive undertaking. It takes patience and self care and sometimes righteous anger and unrelenting faith – faith in meaning beyond ourselves for that’s why we do it, right? Why we rise to the calling and fulfill the mundane and monotonous tasks day in and day out.
And somehow, gloriously – miraculously really – as the sun appears, or maybe it doesn’t some days, we are greeted yet again with the gift of time which will bring fresh grace and new mercies served alongside lots of lukewarm coffee as we hurriedly offer a familiar prayer – “Give us this day, our daily bread” – like fresh manna from Heaven – manna for the moment – and that is enough. It has to be enough.
Just keep livin.