One who drags herself to safety, or survives intact on her own, is an anomaly. Yet we make heroes of people we think do, people who survive on their wits, courage, and will, and nothing more. Hence the popularity of lone survivor books and movies, usually about men, such as Robinson Crusoe, The Revenant, Cast Away, Buried Alive, and The Martian. But some are about women, such as Gravity, and Wild. These heroes sometimes contort with angst and agony while hovering on the brink of human endurance, and they aren’t typically portrayed as falling asleep whimpering Mommy. But it happens. A lot. One of my most haunting memories as a Nurse’s Aide is that of hearing an elderly palliative patient sobbing inconsolably for her mommy in a little girl voice. Instead of being warmly embraced by loving arms, she lay cradled by a hospital bed behind the linen curtains in a cubicle, the caring but busy staff feeding, changing, and cleaning her, and gently brushing her hair as they found time — a token gesture of comfort. Some, like myself, lay awake nightly under a heavy blanket of unmet needs. Mine, my family’s, and hers. Hence the phenomenon of caregiver burnout. This story, played out every minute of every day, wouldn’t be a box office hit. Withered old women surviving pain and isolation are burdens, not heroes.

See also: On aging.  and Dinner for one.

 

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “Draw the linen curtains

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