Last week we discussed the lack of control with aphasia and throwing yourself into work. But Biden talks about another way the family copes with Beau’s health issues, outlining a common caregiver’s charade.
Joe Biden spends a lot of time pretending everything is fine in his book, Promise Me, Dad, which is the latest installment of our online book club. We are focusing solely on the parts of the book that cover aphasia and caregiving.
Fake it Until You Make it
It’s not terrible advice: Fake it until you make it. Pretend everything is fine until everything is actually fine. But Biden also points out that this coping mechanism can be used not just to fool the outside world but to bring comfort to the inner circle.
On page 116, Biden explains that running for president becomes an emphatic statement for the family that everything is going to be okay.
It was as if we were all keeping up an elaborate and needful charade. Steve and Mike knew it as well as my sons and I did. We all understood how much Beau wanted me to run for president. We all knew that, more than anything, Beau did not want to be the reason I did not run. He would be there for me. He could handle it. Beau was trying to reassure us, and we were trying to reassure Beau. So what were the five of us to do that night but put everything else out of our minds and talk about next steps?
Running for the position has always been a possibility, but it becomes almost a necessity to prove a better future ahead.
The playacting spills over into Biden’s job as his son’s cheerleader. He admits on page 173, that, “What I felt, most of all, was helpless.” Still, he quickly turns around and explains how he approaches each hospital visit on page 174:
And just before I got to his room I would begin to psych myself up. Smile, I’d say to myself. Smile. Smile. Smile.
Being upbeat is exhausting, but Biden’s smile serves as protection against the fear and hopelessness he feels as he faces his son’s health crisis.
Even with his family’s relentless cheerleading, Beau begins to troubleshoot his own feelings by removing himself from the charade. On page 115, Biden writes,
Beau had been losing recall of more and more proper nouns lately, and he seemed less willing to fight through it. Ashley had told me that Beau was no longer inviting her into the room for his speech therapy because his decline really bothered him. Beau said almost nothing that chilly February night in Washington. He would whisper something to his brother instead, and Hunter would speak for him.
Biden points out the importance of holding hope but tempers it with the admittance that it is difficult to relentlessly pretend that everything is okay. Sometimes the only thing a person can do is to pull back and face the facts.
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