Since my last posting (“In the Waiting Room”) a thoughtful colleague sent me an e-mail about an occupational therapy scholar — Nancy Salmon — who has written about another kind of waiting in her life (Salmon, N (2006). The Waiting Place: A Caregiver’s Narrative. Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, 53, 181-187).
In Nancy Salmon’s article, she presents a stirring autoethnography of her caregiving experiences during her mother’s final decline into deep dementia. For her research, the author draws from the diary she kept during the final months of waiting for a place to open up for her mother.in a nursing home “The Waiting Place” is one of the themes that she generated from the narrative analysis, along with other themes of Grieving, Coping and the Cost of Caring. The house, where she had lived with her “Mum” for four years, became “the waiting place.”
Using the narrative that her diary provides, Nancy shares her lived experience during this extended time, a time that she refers to at one point in the article as “that time of perpetual waiting” (p.182). She writes of feeling like there was “no rhythm or purpose” to her days. The loss of the usual routines of the day hung over her, and she felt like she was “in the desert wandering.”
Nancy describes being “haunted” by one aspect of the waiting — waiting for a bed to open up, waiting for a space to become available meant waiting for someone to die. As she says, “. . . in order for my wait to be over, someone’s grief has to begin” (p. 183). She says she felt “like a vulture circling the nursing home” as the waiting place continued into its 4th month and then 5th month.
Nancy weaves some of her original poetry into the article. One of her poetic pleas at the end of the article is especially poignant. At this point in her diary, the wait for the nursing home opening is finally over. As Nancy thinks back over the months and years of her caregiving, she wonders if she has lost her self. “Where is the meaning in my life now?” Inevitably, a new “waiting place” replaces the old. “My waiting changes, but is not finished. I am in between, in transition. Wait with me.” And then again, “Wait with me.”
It would be an injustice to the integrity of this author’s expression of her caring experience to continue to pick bits and pieces from it for this posting. I encourage you readers to pull up the article on line. Give yourself time to read and appreciate “The Waiting Place” that Nancy Salmon describes with both beauty and anguish.