It’s early evening. The sun is setting over Birmingham. My wife and I are out for dinner at a nice restaurant, which is a rarity. I am wearing a sport coat.

Even bigger rarity.

It’s been a long time since we’ve gone out for dinner. Too long. This is because my wife has been my mother-in-law’s primary caregiver for the last few years. And in the months leading up to the end of her mother’s life, we didn’t get many opportunities to paint the town.

No, when you’re a caregiver you pretty much say goodbye to a personal life. You bid farewell to fancy restaurants and movie dates. Instead, you end up eating a lot of leftover meatloaf on the sofa while watching HGTV with your mother-in-law who often shouts, “This meatloaf needs salt!”

But tonight, here we are in the big city. And it’s nice. Actually, it’s better than nice. Tonight, I actually remember what it feels like to be human. Which is a sensation easily forgotten among caregivers.

We are sitting at an outside table, enjoying the autumn weather when a Chevy Suburban pulls to the curb. A middle-aged guy with salt-and-pepper hair hops out of the driver’s seat and trots around the vehicle to open the rear hatch.

He unloads two large wheelchairs, one walker, and an oxygen canister on wheels. He parks the chairs on the sidewalk, then positions the roller-walker beside the corral of equipment. It looks like he’s about to stage a geriatric chorus line.

“Hold on, Mama,” the man shouts back to the car. “I’m coming for ya.”

Next, the man places women’s purses into each wheelchair. A large knit bag sits on one chair, a Burberry plaid handbag sits in the other chair.

My wife and I exchange looks. We’re both thinking the same thing. My mother-in-law used to have a plaid handbag.

It’s the little things.

Next, the man throws open the rear passenger door and helps an elderly woman dismount from the vehicle. The lady is white-haired, bent, and not very mobile. The man practically lifts her in his arms like you would carry a small child. He places her into the seat of the wheelchair, then massages his lower back.

The man races to the Chevy again and retrieves another old woman who he calls “Aunt Leslie.” This woman is tiny, like a bird. Also, she is decked in sequins and a nice-looking wool skirt straight out of the late ‘60s. Red pumps. Pearls.

He half carries the woman across the sidewalk and places her into the second wheelchair. Then he holds a small mirror before Aunt Leslie’s face while she reapplies her lipstick. The lipstick shade is what my mother would refer to as hussy red.

When the old woman is finally situated, he leaves her for the final passenger who waits in the idling vehicle. An old man.

I can see that the old man is large. Not heavyset, but tall. He must be six-seven, maybe six-eight, although he can’t weigh more than a buck ten. He is gaunt, so lean I can practically see his blood pressure thumping beneath his thin skin.

The old man is wearing a full suit. Dark blue. Gold buttons. His hair is fixed the way all men from his generation used to fix their hair—with enough Brylcreem to lubricate an industrial pump axle.

The middle-aged man painstakingly helps the old man to the walker and then helps him shuffle forward, saying, “That’s it, Daddy. That’s it.”

My wife takes my hand and squeezes. We are both watching the scene before us, and it’s hitting us where we live.

After several minutes all four of the dinner guests finally enter the restaurant, moving slowly. There is a sweat patch on the middle-aged guy’s dress shirt. He approaches the hostess counter and says, “We have a reservation for four.”

He is slightly out of breath from exertion. All he’s done tonight is work. God love him.

The hostess leads the dinner party to the table near ours and I can see that they are practically glowing with enthusiasm. Because, hey, everyone loves going out to dinner.

Our own supper is delicious, and after we pay an exorbitant bill, which is roughly the same price as a three-bedroom house, we are on our way out to the car when my wife stops walking in the parking lot. She turns to face me but says nothing.

“Are you alright?” I ask her.

I can see strawberry-sized tears in her eyes, threatening to rain upon her chin. And I know what she’s thinking because I am thinking the same thing.

“God, I miss her,” she says, wiping her face. “I miss her so much.”

I draw her close and squeeze. “So do I, honey.”

So do I.


  1. Steve Winfield (Lifer) - October 28, 2021 7:35 am

    I loved mom & dad so very much. Just can’t wait to see them both again.
    God bless you both. I really love you guys.

  2. Glenda Williams - October 28, 2021 7:46 am

    Oh my goodness, how I could relate to that. My mother lived with us ten years following a stroke. She died at 102.5 years. I could feel her once again as I lifted her into her wheelchair as I read your article. I am thankful I could hug her every day, kiss her, and say ‘I love you.’ Thanks for the memories.

  3. Leigh Amiot - October 28, 2021 10:07 am

    After a season of caregiving (meshed with childrearing and a part-time work-at-home job in my case), wide swaths of time on my hands was a difficult adjustment. Demands in life seemed to be all-consuming or almost non-existent, no balancing them out. I have both yearned for a little breather and floundered with too much time on my hands. Figuring out how to relax and enjoy the reward for sacrificial work is an ongoing process. I hate to admit some of this time has been wasted waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop. All that said, joy really does come in the morning after a season of grief. Allowing ourselves to grasp it is the challenge.

  4. Norma Den🇿🇦 - October 28, 2021 10:23 am

    God love all caregivers. They deserve it. I’m one of them so,I know.

  5. Chasity Davis Ritter - October 28, 2021 10:38 am

    Hugs and love and prayers for you and Jamie both. It’s never gonna go away but it won’t always be as hard. There will always be triggers and memories but eventually you get to more smiles than tears.

  6. Karri Misky - October 28, 2021 11:28 am

    I’m in the same boat. Dropping strawberry size tears myself. My mom left March 4th. Like your Jamie, she was my world and it’s tough learning how to maneuver life without her. God Bless you two.

  7. dianakinser55 - October 28, 2021 12:48 pm

    Oh the flood of memories! My precious mama died from Alzheimer’s seven years ago tomorrow. It wasn’t easy being a caregiver, but “I miss her so much.” Yes, I do.

  8. Ruth Mitchell - October 28, 2021 1:00 pm

    What a beautiful observation! Bless that middle-aged man and all caregivers out there. Some of my most challenging times in life have been giving care to loved ones with needs. However, those times also became some of the most rewarding.

  9. Richard Ray - October 28, 2021 1:16 pm

    This article really hit home. I was my wife’s caregiver for many years. Often, I found myself exhausted and wishing this was not my lot in life. But, as with most long term caregivers, I soldiered on. And on. And on. Until one day she was taken from me in an instant lying on the floor of a restaurant choking. I would give everything for one more day as her caregiver. But it’s not to be. My humble advice to caregivers everywhere is to just soldier on. There are worse things than being a loyal and steadfast soldier.

  10. Marilyn - October 28, 2021 1:26 pm

    I can relate and would do it all again. God help me on the journey that I am now experiencing. Thank you Sean for sharing. Bless Jamie and you as you mourn your loss.

  11. Christina - October 28, 2021 1:31 pm

    Such tenderness in that man and in Jamie, even in her missing Mother Mary… and you too, Sean. You all love deeply.

  12. Cheryl Andrews - October 28, 2021 1:59 pm

    This is so sweet! Thank you, Sean!

  13. beachdreamer1 - October 28, 2021 2:01 pm

    Thank you once again for sharing your heart. I could picture what you were seeing and hearing….just pure love! God bless them and God bless you and Jamie. ❤️

  14. Harriet - October 28, 2021 2:38 pm

    I saw the whole even happen as you were writing it. I missed mother Mary when you said the meatloaf needs salt, while watching HGTV. I remember all your stories about Mary.

  15. Cat - October 28, 2021 4:09 pm

    I miss her everywhere I look, in everything I do. Grief comes in waves washing me off my feet and takes me away. I love you Sussie and I miss you.

  16. Gordon - October 28, 2021 4:54 pm

    Such a sweet, sweet post, Sean. Your life events help us all remember our life events and special family memories. I still miss those precious family members who help shape who I am and have become. I’ll always miss them.

  17. Ann Moyers Syfert - October 28, 2021 5:32 pm

    Whenever I see white hair being pushed in a wheelchair or with a walker being cared for by a middle-aged woman, I smile and I want to ask “Is that your Mama or Daddy? (I’ve found that it is usually a daughter with her Mama.) And then I want to say “Cherish every single moment of this time with them”. Because I know that one day there will be an emptiness that they will never be able to fill. .I’s been 11 years since I lost my Mom and 14 since I lost my Dad. I will never, ever forget and I will always be grateful for the time I had with them before they left us. Thank you for all of your columns, Sean. They each touch my heart in different ways. Love to you and your sweet Jamie.

  18. Tom - October 28, 2021 5:51 pm

    Care giving is hard, but losing them is harder. I miss them everyday but time has softened the blow. But, reunions day is coming.

  19. Janice - Silverhill, AL - October 28, 2021 6:09 pm

    This Thanksgiving morning will be 28 years since I lost my Mother, known as Bangle to everyone who loved her. Even now, there are moments that I’m hit in the gut with a memory and wish so much I could just pick up the phone and call her. God bless you and Jamie as you journey without Mother Mary. We all miss her.

  20. MAM - October 28, 2021 7:22 pm

    Sean, you sure can turn on the faucets in eyes with your words—so poignant. They bring back many memories. Thank you!

  21. Joy Dollar - October 28, 2021 7:41 pm

    Shoot! There you go again! Bringing tears to my eyes but it’s a good one. Thanks!

  22. Linda Moon - October 28, 2021 8:12 pm

    I miss your mother-in-law’s shouts, even though I never met her or heard one. But I would’ve loved both…the meeting and the shouting. I wish I could hug you and your wife right now, and if I’d have run into you at a nearby restaurant’s parking lot, well…I would’ve given you both a big squeeze of love!

  23. Jo - October 28, 2021 8:39 pm

    Guess what.. I have strawberry size tears myself. My husband and I are caregivers for the long haul. We have a special needs son. We hardly give it a thot until someones says hey, you need some time to yourselves and takes our son for a few days. We hardly know how to act. Extra stars in that someone’s crown.

  24. Stacey Wallac - October 28, 2021 10:51 pm

    May God bless you and Jamie. Love you!

  25. Susie Murphy - October 28, 2021 11:41 pm

    And now I have strawberry sized tears in my eyes.

  26. anne - October 29, 2021 5:24 am

    Thank you, God, for giving us human love and empathy so strong that we cry for others.

  27. Debbie g - October 29, 2021 11:04 am

    Amen Anne Love to all

  28. Dolly - October 30, 2021 1:33 am

    Somehow it just happens. One month after my mother died 11 years ago my husband and I decided to treat ourselves to a nice dinner outside of Birmingham to distract our sadness from the 8 years we had cared for my mother and particularly the hard grueling 7 weeks of daily visits to her hospital room. A similar scene to yours and Jamie’s happened right before our eyes that night. The walker the feebleness the hard days all came to mind. We cried but they were tears of thankfulness that we had helped give quality of life to one that loved living and enjoying things in this world that we so often took for granted. God bless you both and all those that sacrifice part of their lives for those they love♥️


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