In October, right after Thanksgiving, Paul was diagnosed with untreatable malignant tumours.
I wrote this several weeks ago. Much has happened since then.
It may sound awful but there are moments when the foremost thought I have is "how will the laundry get done?" It's true. My sweetie is critically ill and I'm worried about the laundry. Because Paul has always done the laundry. I kid you not, I don't even know how to run the machines. If I was going out of town, Paul would assess what I would need and just make sure those things were clean by the time I had to pack. The joke in our house always was "if you don't want mom to find it, put it in the laundry room."
Pretty much since we have been together (over 30 years) and certainly since Finn was born (he's 19 now), Paul has been the one who took care of everything. He made sure that Finn had lunches, got to music lessons and had his homework packed. He has done all of the banking, paid the bills and made sure we didn't bounce any cheques. He locked the front door at night and put the leftover food in the fridge. He has been the family care taker for more than twenty years.
I've suddenly become a care giver to Paul. This is a different role, and now the other tasks languish. The other day I woke up just as I was drifting off to sleep and realized that no one would have put away the leftovers from supper. I got up and had to make space in the fridge to shove the pot in.
Paul first had surgery at the end of April. I realize that incrementally the house has just gotten more and more dirty and disorganized. I still went to work and still did the things I do. And while he kept up with a lot of the tasks, the tidying and cleaning, not our forte to begin with, really started to slide.
As I think about what Paul needs right now, an organized, clean and tidy house is right up there. I've started to try to get to all of the clutter that I've put off for years. I am an accumulator as well as a procrastinator so many things have gathered in the corners. Today I spent the day clearing the kitchen. And I do mean clearing, not cleaning. There was too much stuff on the counters to really clean them.
I started this thinking about the difference between care taking and care giving. Not in clinical terms, just what it meant to me. Paul took care of us. He made sure that things were in place so we could go about our days. He was our care taker in the best possible way. I'm still learning how to do this. Even as I write this sitting with my morning coffee, I'm not sure if I remembered to check that the front door was locked last night.
As a minister by vocation, what I do know about is being a care giver, someone who offers compassion, love and kindness, who accompanies others on their spiritual journeys. I'm trying to do this for my family from the mess of our house within the mess of this crappy situation. And many people are supporting us in this. What a blessing. Later today friends are coming over to help us clean the house. Another friend has been fielding phone calls from Paul's friends and fans in the music industry. We are all ministering to each other.
Paul has been our care taker but he also was our care giver. He got things done without fuss or fanfare. And now I am trying to do the same for him, to think of him first. This is hard for me because I've always been fairly independent. But I realize it was an independence bolstered by his very practical acts of love. And I realize that is what it is. Living love tangibly. We have never been wordy about this but I've never doubted his love. It has been a gift. And I'm learning daily. Soon I'm going to even figure out the washing machine.
Please mark your calendars for the Super Duper Show - Triubute to Paul Leahy, January 27.
If you'd like to support the gofundme campaign that Paul's friends have started, you can find it here:
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