A Vacation Becomes a Journey from “Caregiver” to “Lifegiver”
Theodore “Ted” Grussing took a 10-day vacation in January 2006.
So, this was his first real vacation after 14 years at his current job: providing full-time care to his wife, Corinne “Corky” Grussing, who was diagnosed with MS in 1966. The former Air Force technician, lawyer and business owner called it a respite break — the term that professional caregivers use for personal time — and undertook it with a bit of trepidation at first. He later chronicled his odyssey in a book, Ten Days in January: A Journey, and a Web site, tedandcorky.com.
In addition to being full of gorgeous photos of the American landscape, Ten Days tells how Ted and Corky realized that to continue being good to and for each other, time alone was not just permissible but desirable. Grussing writes that his trip was “filled with fun, wonderful people and beautiful places. Especially wonderful is my wife and best friend who insisted that I take this trip and take more of them in the future … that is love!”
While a hired caregiver stayed with Corky, Ted traveled by train, evoking fond memories of accompanying his father on business trips as a kid, and in a friend’s Learjet. He visited children and grandchildren in Connecticut and California, did some sightseeing and listened to a lot of audio books, before returning by commercial flight home to Sedona, Ariz. It was his first commercial flight in a decade, and the post-9/11 security startled him.
In an afterword written 20 months later, Grussing admits that he and Corky abandoned the idea of giving Ted more time off because they missed each other. Also they’d had some good medical news for a change: after going on a disease-modifying drug, Corky was in remission. Instead of hitting the road, Ted bought a two-seat motorglider so the couple could fly, exploring the canyons of northern Arizona the way they’ve always wanted to: together.
While acknowledging the benefit of respite breaks, because Corky remains physically weak and still requires 24-hour care, Grussing said that “it just seems more important to make Cork’s life work than to get away. I’d rather have the life that I have.” That life includes outlets for creativity and continual renewal, such as photography and gem cutting.
Grussing said his philosophy about caregiving has evolved. He now calls it lifegiving: “Where caregiving sounds like work, in lifegiving, there’s something of pleasure for both people. I like that definition better.”
Grussing is at work on a second book, Corky’s Story, and he shoots 50-100 photos a day, selling many to stock agencies and distributing several per week to an e-mail list of people who enjoy his visual style and his musings on balancing freedom and duty. To get on the list, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.