Caretaker vs Caregiver
You know how there are some words that are easy to confuse on the tongue–you intend to say one but the other comes out? I don’t have many, but the above are mine. Technically (at least, according to Dictionary.com) they’re synonyms. But really, not so much.
Caretaker usually refers to someone who takes care of things, like houses. Or cemeteries. When I hear caretaker in its more accepted context, I think of gothic women-in-peril novels, cover art showing the sweet young maiden running in terror against the howling wind, back of hand to forehead, while the creepy mansion looms over her. Is that he-ro going to save her in time? Oops, just the foolish caretaker, bearing yet another obscure message.
Caregiver, on the other hand…yup, that’s me. Taking care of people and critters. Every day. All day. And let’s face it, most honest long term caregivers will tell you the pay sucks and the benefits are even worse. Yeah, I know, there are some who don’t feel this way, no matter how many years the caregiving extends they feel it’s a noble calling. Vaya con Dios, that isn’t me.
I like taking care of “mine,” doing the best I can to make sure all are as well as possible, even throw in some smiles. But time off would be divine. Time to take care of no one.
And no, I don’t mean take care of myself, either. I mean luxuriate in being a sloth for however long it takes to feel rested. Caregiving that doesn’t end, or doesn’t change within the “normal” time frames feels a lot like being the caretaker of a decrepit, leaky-creaky mansion, complete with its own graveyard. Slap some duct tape over the bathroom pipe, and then the dormer window in the attic blows out.
This being life, what do I do? I choose to add more caregiving to the schedule. I have a reef tank. Always something to be monitored, cleaned, checked, work to be done, no matter the size of the tank. A little over a year ago, I added Little Incredibly Dumb Dog. Sure, I love all these critters, they bring moments of peace and warm fuzzies, but they are living beings who need to be taken care of. Why? What drives me to do these things? And I’m not the only one, I know plenty of other caregivers who make similar choices. Why do you do it?
Even when dreaming about home ownership, do I imagine a neat, new house? No. I fantasize about one of those lovely period homes with the creaky stairs and rattling windows. I may be an idiot, but I’m not dumb, I understand those charming houses filled with character involve endless projects and repairs. Am I a handy gal? Nope. I’m not naturally artistic or mechanical, nor do I have any experience with home repairs.
And the one thing I do that has nothing to do with taking care of anyone else? Writing, of course. That beautiful calling to hunch over the keyboard and open a vein.