In my opinion

Caregiving: smiling as you hang on for dear life.

One of the duties of a caregiver turns out to be a task no one ever mentioned to me, not even in passing. Call it, for the lack of a better term, the oral progress report.

When you live with a person recovering from a serious illness, you’re not only in charge of ordering medication refills, ferrying him to doctors, keeping track of vital signs and encouraging him when he’s down, you also become the official spokesperson whenever friends and family ask about his health.

“It’d be so much easier if we could issue a press release,” I told The Hubby last week after I delivered the umpteenth update to a concerned relative. “Or host a press conference.”

He understands. I’m sure he wants to be defined by something other than a catalog of symptoms.

The Hubby is recovering from sepsis in fits and spurts, and we are lucky — incredibly fortunate, really — to have so many wonderful people concerned about his health. That’s the silver lining, the rainbow, the unexpected bonus. At least once a day, and usually more, I’m stopped in the hall, at a store or in the gym, long enough for a gentle, caring hand to land on my arm.

“How’s he doing?” the person will ask.

I dutifully detail the minute improvements.

Then, inevitably, the next question: “How are you?”

I’m fine. Really, really, I am. I’m sleeping well and eating healthy food. I’ve been through worse and in the process, like most women I know, I’ve managed to hang on. Sometimes by the skin of my teeth. Sometimes by sheer will. Sometimes because I didn’t know better.

I refer to “women” hanging on not out of some deeply ingrained prejudice. Plenty of male caregivers deliver hope and balm as well as their female counterparts, but the reality is that even in these egalitarian times, women are usually the ones providing care. To husbands, to parents, to siblings, to friends. Women applying the ointment, crushing the pills, reading the blood pressure gauge.

And because of this, women learn, early and well, how to hang on. They clutch, they clasp, they clench, sometimes with white-knuckled intensity, alternating between grace and resentment, triumph and despair.

Over time, I’ve grown confident that I’ve perfected the grip, managed it in such a way that now it’s almost second nature, my first reaction to morning — tight enough to maintain the grasp but loose enough to shift and swing.

Friends tell me you don’t have to be in a caregiving situation to know the true meaning of hanging on. We hang on to jobs, to marriages, to children, to places, to pets. Sometimes to ourselves, or to who we thought we were.

People refer to the same concept in different terms, too: In times of trouble, we persevere, we overcome, we keep a stiff upper lip, we put up a good front. By any name, this courage feels the same, defiance unearthed.

In the past three months, faithful friends have quoted me every inspirational saying about adversity, and each one rings as true as an old church bell on a Sunday morning. My favorite, however, is from Shakespeare: The robbed that smiles, steals something from the thief.

Here’s to hanging on, while smiling .

Follow Ana on Twitter @AnaVeciana.

Read more Lifestyle stories from the Miami Herald

  • What do you recommend?

    “The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton — it’s a book built around characters and plots inspired by astrological principles. It’s a neo-Victorian murder mystery and a mere 832 pages long, and it made 28-year-old Catton the youngest person to win the coveted Man Booker Prize. The voice is natural, easy to understand and ambitious; she’s a novelist who is seeking to reclaim the authorial, a writer who seeks to entertain and enlighten.”

 <span class="cutline_leadin">The Boom:</span> How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World. Russell Gold. Simon & Schuster. 384 pages. $26.


    Book considers the pros and cons of fracking

    Author considers both sides of the controversial issue.

  • Southern Cross Stargazer for April 20-26

    By nightfall Spica follows fiery Mars, in Virgo, higher in the east. Telescopes reveal the white ice cap shrinking in the Martian summer and subtle dark details on the iron-rich red Martian desert. Binoculars enhance the planet’s bright color. Mars sets in the west about dawn and will remain bright for a few weeks.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category