by Darlene Cah
Except for five years as a hospital EKG Technician, Vickie West has spent most of her life as a homemaker, loving every minute of it. Now grown, her sons–Josh, a science teacher and Jeffrey, an Air Force pilot stationed at Ft. Dix–have families of their own.
But the nest didn’t stay empty for long. Seven years ago, her father’s failing health led her parents to move in with Vickie and her husband, Peter, building onto their Pennsylvania home. Once again, Vickie was cast in a caregiver role—and introduced to INSP by her mother, Barbara. Within a year, Vickie’s father passed away and three months later, Barbara was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Surgery and years of rehab were on the horizon.
“I went to my support groups to learn more about caregiving,” Vickie says. “It’s really providing comfort…When you go into being a caregiver, it’s not about trying to change things the way you want them to be. You go into somebody’s home and you try to make an environment that is not only going to help them heal, but soothe them. That’s what your station does.”
Vickie explains further that INSP’s effect on her family goes deeper than just cultural differences or preferences.
“It’s comfort. It’s comfort seeing your children around you in a day when families are not staying together anymore.”
“I know it’s clean, there’s no cursing, there’s no sleeping together. We understand all that…. What is it about the healing part? It’s comfort. It’s comfort seeing your children around you in a day when families are not staying together anymore.”
In her mother’s time, going out to a movie was a big event and television was the new technology.
“That was how her generation dreamed, by what they watched on TV. Because you really didn’t have an opportunity to leave your area, or be exposed, the way kids are traveling today. You grew up in the town, you were raised on the farm, and she was probably one of the few in her family that finished college, and worked outside the home. And she only really worked outside the home because my dad became disabled with a cyst on his spine. So she was a caregiver to my dad for years.”
With her four siblings living at a distance or unable to be around much, Vickie is the constant in her mother’s daily routine.
“I’m the only one she sees,” Vickie says. “When it’s only me, she can watch The Waltons and feel like everybody else is there. And that has helped her in her healing.”
Now, two years after her surgery, Barbara at 82 is walking again, and INSP still figures large in everyday life. Vickie talks about the similarities of the show and her mom’s antique business.
“When you watch The Waltons, and you go in the general store, and you see all those things, well, I grew up with all those things in her house. I have an old Coke machine, so when you go into Godsey’s store, and you see the Coke machine, we have one of those red, 10-cent Coke machines. And it’s comfort for her,” Vickie says.
“We’ll laugh when we see the butter churn, and we’ll laugh when we see the old hay rakes that they used and the old yokes around the horses’ necks, because those are all things that she sold in her shop–the old dishes, and the crockery, and especially the bowl and pitcher and the oak wash stands that they had in the hotels. On The Waltons, every child had a different quilt on the bed, and she has lovely quilts. Again, it’s just the feeling of comfort. Caregiving and comfort go together.”
“…when you go into Godsey’s store, and you see the Coke machine, we have one of those red, 10-cent Coke machines. And it’s comfort for her.”
While Vickie and her mother can both find joy reminiscing with shows like The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie, or laughing with Matlock, Vickie, a former Western rider who works with horses and kids at a summer riding camp, can also relate to INSP on a personal level.
“In my support group, they tell me all the time, the caregiver cares for themselves last. You’re always giving to everybody else. But then, here on your station, comes JAG and I’m a military mom, with a pilot son, and I can still watch the shows that I can relate to. Or The Big Valley comes on and it’s got the horses and everything I want,” she says. “And it soothes my heart, and having to spend so much time over there in her healing and her therapy, and the chores that I do over there, and cleaning for her, and we’re able to interact and we’ll laugh about my horse when we see something on The Big Valley with a horse. Every day there is something you can laugh about and relate to.”
There are also life lessons in tragedy, Vickie points out, as she recalls a recently-aired episode of Little House on the Prairie in which Albert and a friend are smoking in the basement of the School for the Blind. The school catches on fire, resulting in the deaths of Alice Garvey and Mary’s baby.
“And as a parent it just reminds you that kids do stupid things. It reminded me to go back in my life and–oh boy!–how many times could this have happened to me because we do stupid things growing up. As a parent you still love your child unconditionally even in such tragedies. So it doesn’t hurt to see the tragedy story along with the good stories,” Vickie says, and adds that her mother, now a great-grandmother advises her to have grace when the grandkids visit because “…they’re going to do some things.”
The youngest of those grandchildren might be coming over very soon, and this new generation will be introduced to life on the prairie and on the mountain. Younger son Jeffery and his wife welcomed twin boys into the family, appropriately named by this military couple, Jefferson and Theodore, for the former presidents.
After giving birth, Vickie’s daughter-in-law’s deployment to Afghanistan had been cancelled. However, now that the babies are six months old, she’s back on the list to deploy. So Vickie will add babysitter to her caregiver responsibilities, characteristically, with a giving heart.
“I’m excited that with the new little twins, now, there’s still going to be some of those shows,” Vickie says, “another reason I hope your station stays family friendly.”
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