In the Quiet Time

Sarah Stankorb
6 min readJul 18, 2022

A prescription for a solo break for the exhausted caregiver

Photo: Milos Kreckovic

For a couple weeks, I’ve been peppered with gentle friends offering hugs and asking what they can do to help. I am not sure what to say. My father passed away at the end of June following a fight — with him, most things were indeed a fight — with cancer and dementia. I’ve needed help, so much help, this past year. Now when offers are pouring in, I don’t know what to ask.

It’s all so quiet.

The constant calls and demands stopped abruptly. My own complex emotions, I had placed as well as I could to one side as I cared for a parent who had not treated me well, but couldn’t even remember within a given conversation that he’d just blown up. He didn’t know who he’d been to me.

It made for a noisy mind for me. His voice called up the past; his present needs, whether urgent or not, were voiced as immediate.

A friend of mine, a nurse, stopped me about a week ago to give her sympathies. As we talked about what this time had been like, she let me know that she hopes someone, somewhere is keeping score for the people who choose kindness as they tend after those who fight that care. After the hell she’s witnessed in this pandemic, choosing each day to grit her teeth and apply compassion, I hoped for her sake that she’s right. But I had little other than that wish to offer. I suggested she watch The Good Place, both for its moral score-boarding, but also a well-needed laugh.

She did make one suggestion: that I find some time to go away by myself. Even if it was just for work. To be briefly responsible only for oneself — no kids to chase after, no parents to caregive — is a luxury, but one she saw I needed.

For a few months I’d been planning for a writing retreat over last week. I had fantasies of renting a cabin in the woods with fast wi-fi and zero insects. I figured I’d have to double the care-team in place back home. Realistically, there was no way I could be any distance away or without phone contact.

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Sarah Stankorb

Sarah Stankorb has published with The Washington Post, Marie Claire, Glamour, O, and The Atlantic (among others). @sarahstankorb www.sarahstankorb.com