My husband’s aunt, Margee Kountz is his mother Joann Schulenberg’s youngest sister. When Joann developed Alzheimer’s disease, Margee was a vital part of our team of caregivers for her. Whenever I had to take my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg to the doctor, Margee happily gave of her time to come and sit with her sister. People may not realize just how vital their visits can be. When a family of caregivers are working hard to keep their loved one in good health, the caregivers can find themselves feeling exhausted. That visit, while it make seem such a little thing, allows the caregiver time to get necessary things done, and a little bit of time to take a break from the work, and at least a little bit of the stress of caring for their patient. Caregiving is about love. You do it because to love your patient, but it is not without it’s stresses, worry, and exhaustion. The nice thing about the Respite Care worker is that they are a huge part of the team of people who perform two services…companionship for the patient and time off for the caregiver. They are priceless, and Margee always stepped up to help.
My mother-in-law, Joann passed away on January 4, 2018. We are no longer caregivers or respite care workers. She is at peace, but we are left behind to mourn her loss. For Margee, it means that she is the oldest member of the family…something she did not want to be. Not because of the age, but because it has been so hard for her to say goodbye to her older sisters. I think that in many ways she feels like “the last of one standing,” and that’s not what she ever wanted. I know the feeling. It is not so very much different from being orphaned, which happens to all of us when our parents pass away. Still, we hope our siblings will live, at least, close to as long as we do, because when your parents and your siblings are gone, you feel truly alone. Of course, Margee isn’t really alone. She has her children grand children, and a great grandson too, but there is just a strange feeling that goes along with being the last of the original family.
While Margee was a big part of taking care of her sister, and the caregivers who worked during those years, I’m not entirely sure she ever knew just how important she really was. She was, sort of, an unsung hero. I’m sure I could have taken my mother-in-law to my father-in-law’s doctor’s appointments, but it would have been a huge undertaking for one person. Margee took half of that load off of me, and gave my mother-in-law a much needed social session too. She can to visit, and it gave my mother-in-law a new perspective on life. Their conversation stimulated her mind some. They talked about the old days, their kids, all the fun they had. They didn’t share their growing up years, because just six months after Margee was born, my in-laws were married. Nevertheless, there was much to talk about. Each could compare their childhood to the others, maybe. It wouldn’t really matter what they talked about, because after all, the visits were Margee’s gift of love for her sister. And that is what makes respite care priceless. Today is Margee’s birthday. Happy birthday Margee!! Have a great day!! We love you!!