Guest Post by Vickie Cammack (Originally published in Safe and Secure: Six Steps to Creating a Good Life for People with Disabilities by Al Etmanski)
For one glorious summer in the '70's, an old tamarisk tree with wide sweeping branches down to the sand of a Greek beach was my home. Its branches opened like welcoming arms to form my front door. When friends came to call, they knew I was home if they saw my sandals carefully set to one side. Inside there was a special crook in one branch that held my cup and toothbrush and plenty of twigs to drape my scarves on. My tree gentled the sun's rays by day and let the stars peek through at night. I felt safe and sheltered by this kind tree. My tree space felt lived in, by me, by others before me and of course by various wildlife who shared it with me. It was definitely the place that felt the most like home during that sun-kissed summer.
One of our treasured family stories is the account of my mother, who upon reading a letter containing my starry eyed account of my life in Greece, burst into tears and wailed, "She's living in a tree! A tree!" For her, my breezy home was not and never would be a home.
That's the thing about a home. It is a very personal feeling. Not so much a place as a space. It is a space that breathes and nourishes us. A space becomes a home when it opens to us as we are, and when we in turn, get worn into it. Creating this kind of home space when a person is vulnerable or isolated is complex. As families, we are often caught in the paradoxical challenge of finding spaces that both open doors and secure locks. This is why cultivating and consulting caring connections beyond us is so important for our loved ones. Standing together, we can peek out, open the curtains of our own comfort zones and imagine the living, breaking spaces our loved ones can grow their way into. And out of.
Just as no tree lives forever, no home, no matter how well planned, financed and built, is ever permanent. True durability lies in the long arms of others who will care for our relatives beyond our lifetime. It is an embrace that will nourish and honour the spirit of our loved ones wherever they may live.
Note from Donna: Vickie Cammack is my friend and colleague in caregiving whom I hold in very high esteem. Vickie is a recipient of the Order of Canada for her pioneering work in developing models of personal support networks for vulnerable people at risk of social isolation, including the creation of Tyze Personal Networks. Currently, Vickie and I are co-writing a book about caregiving. We don't have a title yet, but we guarantee that it will be interesting.