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Beuna May Bugel: Caramel corn and caregiving

Arvid founded a business that would employ three generations of family members for nearly 70 years. Arvid served as his town's mayor. Arvid brought a Dairy Queen to town.

Arvid was my great-grandfather. Arvid lived a few blocks from me in Lindstrom when I was growing up.

Arvid had previously been a caregiver for his wife, Mabel. One of my joys as a young child was riding up the stairs in Arvid's house in their chairlift. Once Arvid turned 90, he began to move slower. Getting out of bed and going to the bathroom became real chores that eventually required assistance.

Arvid had previously been instrumental in the founding of the local nursing home. Yet, Arvid wanted to stay in the house in which he had lived for nearly 60 years and raised his children. My grandmother, Beuna May, moved in as Arvid's primary caregiver. Caregiving is such a chore that rarely can one person do it alone.

So when I was in junior high, I would spend afternoons at Arvid's. These afternoons would eventually become semi-frequent overnights. With the assistance of my grandma, other family members, community members and social service agencies, Arvid was able to stay at his home until the last year of his life.

Time spent with Arvid is why I care so deeply about the work of North Shore Area Partners and community partners in supporting caregivers.

Many caregivers throughout Lake County are facing similar challenges to keep their loved ones at home that my family faced with Arvid. Full-time caregiving is by no means an easy chore. Depression and anxiety are common due to how emotionally draining that caregiving can be. It is not uncommon for caregivers to pass before their loved ones.

We live in a world where broken family and personal relationships surround us. Caregiving stands in contrast to this as one's spouse, partner or family member becomes placed at one's existence 24 hours a day. Leaving one's home often becomes a chore. Depending on their loved one's ailment, sleep can often become sporadic.

All of this takes place so they may respect the personal dignity of their loved ones. Many caregivers feel that they are all alone in their struggles.

One of the most difficult challenges that I face with congregational members is they dread having to move their loved ones into a care center. They might see themselves as a "failure" in keeping vows to their partner in both "sickness" and "health." Too often, there is hesitancy in seeking to support.

The good news is both the Two Harbors and Silver Bay areas have support groups for caregivers to utilize. Community members also have the opportunity to volunteer in providing a few hours of respite care so that caregivers can remain both physically and emotionally healthy. Even just stopping by to see your aging neighbors with a friendly visit can make a world of difference in the life of a caregiver.

Arvid would die at age 95. These nights of assisting Arvid have shaped me every day of my life.

I will never see a bucket of Arvid's favorite snack, caramel corn, without thinking about his influence.

Arvid's life instilled in me a sense of pride in the small town.

Arvid's ability to never speak ill of others regardless of the situation is something that I try imperfectly to model.

Eulogizing at Arvid's funeral was the first time that I had ever spoken in front of a church. When I was a senior in high school, and I was feeling called to enter into the ministry. My church's pastor encouraged me because of Arvid's influence over my life. Arvid's story serves as a reminder that the presence of those we care for blesses us even after they leave us.

Special thanks to North Shore Area Partners Caregiver Consultant Mary Aijala for assisting on this article.

Pastor Stew Carlson is the grandson of Beuna May Carlson of Lindstrom, Minn. He is also the Board Chair for North Shore Area Partners and Pastor of Sychar Lutheran Church in Silver Bay. He can be reached at sycharlutheranpastor@gmail.com.

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