My mom was my dad’s caregiver throughout his battle with mesothelioma. I don’t think there is a more noble profession or a more altruistic notion than caring for a loved one facing a serious illness.
Dad always tried to convey his appreciation for her through small gifts. He was particularly attentive around holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Sweetest Day and Mom’s birthday.
When a patient is fighting cancer, showing appreciation isn’t always easy.
Cancer patients may not feel up to taking extraordinary steps to recognize their caregiver’s efforts. Shopping for gifts and party-planning are not usually a priority compared to cancer treatments. However, being creative helps patients make their caregivers feel valued.
Dad was a year into his 13-month battle with mesothelioma when my mom turned 40. It was October 1993; they were hopelessly in love, and nearing a 22-year wedding anniversary. Dad wanted to do something special for her birthday. The trouble was he was sick and didn’t feel like having a party or shopping for the perfect gift.
Dad Wanted to Show His Appreciation
My father was so thankful for having her as his soul mate and his caregiver.
He wanted her to feel valued and appreciated on her birthday, but a special occasion called for a more meaningful gift.
Dad stopped me as I was walking down the hall, and asked me to sit for a chat. He whispered to me, asking what Mom would like for her birthday.
We struggled with ideas. She already had perfume. She didn’t wear a whole lot of jewelry. “Flowers, maybe?” I suggested. Dad thought that was a pretty good idea and sent me to the store a few blocks away. I returned with a bouquet of fall flowers, and we hid them behind the couch.
Dad decided the one thing my mom needed was a break. He wanted her to have a relaxing evening — a rarity for any caregiver.
He needed her, and honestly, she wouldn’t have left him alone for any reason. My dad, the hopeless romantic, came up with the sweetest gift idea!
Creating the ‘Instant Spa’
Because he knew Mom wouldn’t be comfortable leaving him, a well-deserved trip to a relaxing spa was out of the question.
But with my help, he converted our bathroom into an instant spa where she could relax, unwind and still be available if he needed her. Dad and I put our heads together to make it a memorable night for Mom.
I added some tea lights, bubble bath, nail polish, facial scrub and fluffy towels. Dad sat in his recliner and watched television, while I finished the spa transformation.
When I was done, Dad piped up: “I forgot one thing.” He told me to take the flowers from behind the couch and leave a trail of petals from the living room to the “spa.” I smiled with tears in my eyes. Even at 14, I knew what a loving gesture his gift truly was.
The Big Reveal
Dad called Mom into the living room and told her he wanted to give her the night off for her birthday.
She laughed and said, “Now, Rick, you know I’m not going anywhere.”
He wearily stood from his recliner and slowly walked with her to the trail of flower petals that ended in a steaming hot bath. He told her that I would take care of him while she relaxed for a while. Mom just cried. I’m sure her heart skipped a few beats as they embraced.
While Dad and I watched our nightly game shows and newscast, Mom spent the evening soaking in a long hot bath and pampering herself. She emerged a few hours later in her bathrobe. Her toenails painted, her face beaming, and her hair wrapped in a fluffy white towel.
She was a new woman.
Dad told her she looked amazing, and I took that as my cue to let the lovebirds have some alone time.
Tips to Show Your Caregiver Appreciation
When your caregiver is also your spouse, it’s all the more important to let them know how much you love and appreciate them.
Even the smallest notions of love and gratitude go a long way. Some gifts don’t cost anything more than a bit of your time.
Creative ideas to celebrate your caregiver might include:
- Calling for some takeout: Having a special meal together can be a nice gesture, and it will get your caregiver off the hook in the kitchen.
- Plan a special movie night: Most cable and satellite providers have a pay-per-view movie option anyone can select. Spouses will appreciate the time together.
- Online shopping: If you are feeling up to it, you might browse the web and place an online order for a special gift such as flowers.
- Write a love note: A few intimate words on a simple sheet of paper can show your special someone how much you love and appreciate all they do for you.
- A loving gaze: Some married couples can almost speak to each other without saying a word. It can be the unspoken gestures that touch the heart the deepest.
However you choose to express your love, gratitude and devotion to your caregiver-spouse, it is sure to be well received.
Sometimes it is the littlest notions that make the biggest impact.
Life still happens, even when families are facing cancer. Holidays and birthdays still come around when patients don’t feel like celebrating. It can be helpful to take a step back and focus on abilities, rather than obstacles.
Dad couldn’t go out and shop for the perfect gift, but he could conspire with his daughter to make special memories with his wife.