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A Caregiver's Challenge as Caretaker

Most married couples establish a division of labor that sticks with them throughout the relationship. For example, we agreed early on I would manage the family budget and meal planning, and Bob would be responsible for electrical work and removal of all home invading pests. Now before you call us old fashioned and sexist, just remember that when you control the meals you never have to eat another lima bean for as long as you live.

Anyway, like everything else things don’t always work as planned. Like the time when the kids were little, Bob was away on business and there was a snake in the basement playroom. I did the only thing any sane person would do: I called my next-door neighbor, a twelve-year-old boy scout. Wearing my fireplace gloves, Andy had that thing caught and out into the woods in about 15 minutes. It would take another two days for my heart rate to get back to normal.

Bob’s brain injury changed the division of labor three years ago, and in Semper Avanti I talk about the challenge of not only becoming a caregiver to my strong, athletic husband, but suddenly finding myself both catcher and backstop for Team Bucceri. It has not been easy, but I have adjusted fairly well over the past three years. A little over a year ago I fixed the mailbox, remounting it on its post after getting battered by a snowplow in the winter. And I successfully dealt with the “Million Ant March” event that was held in the mailbox this past spring. I did have an electrician come out once to check a faulty light fixture only to find out the problem was solved by properly screwing in the light bulb, but hey, no one’s perfect.

But this week I met my match in the form of a two-inch field mouse. Bob and I were watching TV when all of a sudden it appeared from the kitchen. My feet immediately went up onto the coffee table and I froze. “Oh, my God! Oh, my God!” I cried out. Because I knew immediately I was going to have to do something. We tried trapping it under a coffee can. My attempt failed when I had the coffee can about 12 inches over the mouse but could not penetrate the invisible force field that had suddenly developed between us. Bob’s attempt failed when he was within range of the mouse that by now was cornered on the kitchen knee wall. No longer having reflexes like a cat, as he used to say, Bob could not keep up with the quickly darting mouse and it managed to jump from the knee wall to the floor and scurry to safety behind the TV.

Over the next three days the mouse proved to be a clever adversary. No matter how I placed the peanut butter in the snap trap the damn thing managed to eat it all and live to tell about it. Finally the exterminator arrived and talked us into placing sticky boards along the wall. One was placed behind the couch and one was in a trap box under the kitchen window, where we knew was the mouse’s daily path.

Bob checked the trap and sticky board for the next 36 hours. Nothing. On Friday morning, as I sat in the kitchen drinking my coffee, I heard a soft shuffling noise behind me. My heart sank as I turned my head toward the couch. There, on the floor, slowly making his way toward me, coming to get me of course, was the mouse, stuck to the sticky board. I didn’t think of it then, but it now reminds me of the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, who keeps fighting even after losing both arms and legs.

I quickly run upstairs to get Bob out of bed. Trying to maintain my composure, I tell him I need his help. “It’s time to get up! You know all those deep knee bends you’ve been doing in therapy? It’s your chance to shine, Sweetie!” He laughs as he works his way out of bed, seeing right through me.

Our strategy is to have Bob pick up the mouse and put it in a box, I will then take the box out to the trash as the exterminator instructed. Thank God it’s trash day. But something goes terribly wrong when Bob’s cane accidentally sticks to the sticky board. “Oh my God! Don’t tell me I’m going to have to get that thing off your cane!” I scream. But Bob manages to pick up the stuck mouse using his cane and is able to dislodge the cane from the sticky board once it is in the box. Now it’s my turn, and that damn force field appears again. I can’t pick up the box. I devise a new strategy whereby Bob picks up the box (“Please don't let him drop it, please don't let him

drop it!” I urgently pray) and puts it into a garbage bag I am holding as far away from my body as I can. For some reason the force field is deactivated, and I can carry the bag that is holding the box that is touching the mouse.

The drama is over, though I am exhausted and remain just a little rattled for the rest of the day. That is, until our next appointment. Up next: bat exclusion. Semper Avanti.

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