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An Interview with Susan Morse (Page 2 of 4)

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An Interview with Susan Morse


I found it was comforting to me and restorative to make my emails entertaining—not just for myself, but for my siblings.  As I was doing that, they kept saying, “You’ve got to save these things.” One sister in particular said, “This is a book.  You have to write this as a book.”  When the book was finished, I realized there was a lot of introspective stuff that I hadn’t put in the emails about our relationship, my perspective of my mother’s stories about her childhood, and just family dynamics. It did bring up impressions that other people had and led us deeper into our own thoughts, sharing with each other about our feelings and our family.  It has been incredibly healing to work on our relationship together that way, especially with my mother. 

Gary Barg: Absolutely.  We always like to say here that once you become a caregiver, you become the CEO of Caring for My Loved One, Inc.

Susan Morse: We had the CEO thing, too.  When we started helping my mother after my father died, the first thing my sister said was, “We are starting a company.  This is Operation Ma and you, Susan, are the CEO; we are the worker bees and we’re here to help you.”

Gary Barg: That’s a very nice change from a lot of stories I hear about how families do and don’t interact.  How did Operation Ma work for you and how did it work for the family?

Susan Morse: Well, we didn’t really have anything written out.  But people had their own things that they brought to the table and looking at it as an organization made people feel like they were a part of it without even having to do anything. You can be a part of an organization and be just the person that shows up at some of the meetings and has some thoughts.  The boss sends out the reports and says this is what’s happened and you just kind of file it away and look at it when you have time. And maybe somebody actually does reach out to you and say, “I could really use you.  I have to be at the hospital all day and I can’t make these phone calls; I really need to catch up on this, that and the other thing.”  And they would do that.  My siblings really were doing what I asked them to do.  Sometimes, it would be funny things because I had a sister in England on a different time zone. I’d be driving in a car and I couldn’t call England from my cell phone, so I’d call my brother in Vermont and say, “You’ve got to call Collette and ask her to look up blah-blah-blah.”  And he would do that for me.  It was amazing to get people from all over the world who are all focused on getting this thing sorted out.

Gary Barg: One of the other things I really believe in is the power of humor when it comes to family caregiving.  I love some of your chapter titles, like “Pulling the Plug for Dummies.”  How did approaching the subject humorously help you, your mom, and your family?  I know that’s the nature of who you are, but how did that help?

Susan Morse: Well, this is something that people keep asking me: “Why did you make this funny, because it wasn’t a funny story?”  But, in truth, my mother is very funny.  And I tend to turn everything into humor. I’ve been thinking a lot about why I do that.  My sister says that for as long as she can remember, I’ve always been this kind of Lucille Ball stand up person dancing through the house while all these serious things are going on, kind of forcing everybody to laugh for a minute.  But I think all of our family has that need to laugh.  All of us do.  For me, it has been something in my bag of tricks that makes it possible for me to get people to actually stop and listen. They know that interspersed amongst all of the information I am determined to transmit to them, there will be humor and they will get a joke.  They pay attention because they know there’s going to be something funny coming up pretty soon.

Gary Barg: You write about the acronyms that are everywhere in the healthcare system. We always like to say you go through the looking glass once you become a caregiver; all of these acronyms are floating around your head and everything’s like the Mad Hatter’s tea party.


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