Written by Tembi Locke
At 31, I had two major roles. On-screen, I worked as a TV actor and, off-screen, I was wife to a brilliant, Sicilian-born chef, my husband Saro. It was an ideal life for the girl who had always dreamed of a life in the arts and who begged the last bite at the end of a delicious meal.In the restaurant business, a chef’s wife is known as a “kitchen widow” because their partners are lost to the demands of the restaurant business. Yet the paths life puts before us are often marked with unexpected turns. Without any warning, Saro was diagnosed with a rare, life threatening bone cancer, leiomyosarcoma. The floor fell out from underneath us and a new life rose up to meet us. His career as a professional chef was over in a flash. In the course of a single afternoon, I took on a role familiar to millions of Americans, I became a primary caregiver. We did what many people do when cancer hits, we put our noses down and prepared to fight the good fight. Initially, I thought we could merely will ourselves back into our old life with diet, meditation, love, and laughter. If we did all the “right” things, we’d find our way into a lifetime of tomorrows. Cancer would be a part of our narrative, but it wouldn’t define it. I was partially right. Love and laughter are essential ingredients to a life under assault. Eating strategically makes significant differences. With grace, luck, dedicated doctors, brilliant nurses and practitioners, numerous clinical trials, personal and emotional tenacity, my husband defied the odds. In the end, our “lifetime” lasted ten miraculous years. Looking back, we had that time to learn about deep, soulful living in times of crisis. Long-term caregiving means to witness, assist and love someone through a difficult journey. To do that I had to learn how to build a network of friends and family who could go the distance. I had to learn how to ask those people for help. I had to learn to be honest about my own fears, vulnerability, my burnout and even resentment. (Yes, caregivers have all that.) Often long-term caregiving ends in loss. Grief doesn’t move in a straight line. Each person’s grief journey will be unique to their life experience, personality and relationship to the person who has passed away. Saro passed away before I learned how to make a perfect risotto, before we could celebrate our twentieth wedding anniversary, before our daughter could make him tiramisu. But not before we got a chance to say what we wanted to say to each other. Not before he made me promise to continue to live fully and openly, when I felt ready. Today, I am a widow (I always stumble when I say that) and a mother (that always makes me smile). The chef’s daughter is a gregarious, wise, funny, soulful human being with tremendous compassion. The chef’s widow is moving forward in the role of kitchen widow with a mission to give back, one flavor at a time.

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8 Comments

  1. Grow up People..I’m a caregiver to my Daughter..On my own since my husband passed away..& I wouldnt change a thing.Yes there are difficult times. .but life goes on..

    Reply
  2. I agree with many, if not all comments on here. No one can knows how it feels, however the worst is when people who aren’t and haven’t experienced the role say it. They of course mean well, but it’s far from comforting. I think caregiving certainly has it moments when it’s rewarding, however overall it flat out sucks. To need extensive care is difficult to digest for the person (if they can comprehend it/or thinking of them in their well state of mind you know it would be awful for them and far from the situation they would ever want for themselves). There are so many confusing feelings and with each passing moment they change. Caregiving is an experience I will take with me for the rest of my life. Those who have walked in similar shoes say the same, that it changes you forever. Best of luck to everyone on here reading this.

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  3. I use to say I would not wish the journey on my worse enemy. I would so do it to have my mother back that passed away this past January.
    It was the hardest 7 plus years I have EVER experienced. When my daddy’s years of care occurred my mother and I could talk about things. But with my mother , it was me dealing with day after day after very hard days.
    But I would do it again to have her back.

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  4. Well I took a break this past weekend since I can’t get anyone here I took mom to the brothers. Got to visit with some old friends and was away, but still close enough if needed which 1 day got cut short. But was good to feel and laugh again. So there is truth to the old saying if you don’t come to the mom then the mom will be brought to you. Yes indeed, even if she rather be at home.

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  5. I’m actually glad that people don’t know how I feel, because I wouldn’t wish my life on anyone. I love being there for my aging mother, but my life has been hijacked (as has hers) in a way people shouldn’t have to experience. So yeah, don’t say “I know how you feel” because even if you’ve walked a similar path, no one experiences things the same way.

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    • Isn’t this the truth. Not even my siblings can relate to sole caregiving challenges and then the feeling of being a completly lost , lonely soul and the life of emptiness when it comes to an end. Sole caregivers to aging parents can relate but we all experience it differently.

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  6. It is so annoying when people say they know how I feel or that they understand. I know that none of my closest have a clue.

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