Monday 1 May 2017

Are There Limits To What We Will Do For Love in Caregiving?

A couple of days ago, I saw a play that made me ask the question, "Are there limits to what we will do for love in caregiving? If so, what are they for me? Are there limits to love in care receiving?"

The play was Kill Me Now by Brad Fraser. Billed as a black comedy, it's the story of a close family in which every person is flawed in particular ways. Joey, a young man with severe cerebral palsy, lives at home with his father Jake, whose promising writing career has been on hold since the birth of Joey. Jake's sister Twyla visits often, as does Joey's friend Rowdy. Rowdy has fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Twyla drinks too much and finds intimacy painful. Jake locates solace in the arms of his married lover, Robyn. But as playwright Brad Fraser says in the program notes, "This is not a play about disability. It's a play about love and courage."  He went further in the pre-show discussion by explaining - "This is a play about saying goodbye to one's parents. It's about the limits each of us will go to for the sake of love."

As I watched the story unfold in the play, I found myself reflecting on how we choose to exceed limits in caring for those we love every day. As we set new limits, they remain intact only until the next time our loved one's needs change. This is true of our loved ones too, as Fraser sensitively portrayed in his play. They have limits of what they will give and receive just as we do. Their limits are equally challenged by the messy business of family life and everyone's changing needs.

The poignant end of the play in which father and son reverse their caring roles drove home to me how we are all compelled to constantly push the limits of what we will do to care for the people we love.

Are there limits to the loving care I will provide to my family members? Certainly I haven't experienced any limits to my love; not yet, and I don't believe I ever will. But I have experienced hard limits to the care I could physically provide in spite of my love.  Exhaustion and sometimes illness prevented me from giving the care my family members needed. In Kill Me Now, Joey's father Jake is stricken by debilitating spinal stenosis. Back pain so severe that it completely incapacitates is the trigger for everyone to re-evaluate the limits of love and care in this particular family.

Brad Fraser is a distinguished Canadian playwright who writes poetically about the alienated and the marginalized - outsiders. It's no wonder then, that he chose themes of disability and caregiving to examine in this new work. One reviewer clearly understood our daily dual realities of the mundane and the Shakespearean when he wrote: We’re seeing a troubled household here, but not a classically dysfunctional one. It’s certainly imperfect, offering sightings of flabby human bodies and the smell of pee. Fraser, a naturalistic playwright of the sort who would shudder at the thought of writing a traditional drawing-room comedy, finds his most comfortable spiritual home in the world of the alienated and marginalized....Cory Wojcik’s outstanding performance gives us a Jake who proves to be far more courageous, complex and tragic than the sagging, pot-bellied failure we initially take him to be, but even his resilience falters in the face of unexpected new challenges to the already shaky equilibrium of his existence. The abiding constant, however, is Wojcik’s truthful and heartfelt portrait of unreserved paternal love. It’s one for the memory books.

This could be the story of any one of us.

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