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CARE ENOUGH TO THINK OF CAREGIVERS

My hand is poised over the wastebasket but my fingers won't release the card. I am forcing myself to live the motto, "If it is older than your socks, throw it out." I use socks as a gauge because the elastic in your socks gives out within a reasonable time.

But, these aren't socks. I save all kinds of greeting cards, photos, pieces of paper with witty sayings, and programs from graduations, plays and funerals. I love to rummage through these items to remember the person who sent them or to visualize the child who had a tiny part in the Christmas pageant.

What I am holding is a Valentine's Day card from one of the grandchildren. It was handmade with X's and O's written with a red crayon. It is one of a pile of Valentine cards I have collected. I am now trying to sort out the ones to keep. At the bottom of the pile is the first Valentine my husband ever gave me. It looks a little forlorn, but it is safe from the shredder.

We have so many holidays that involve greeting cards. Thanks to computers we can even make our own cards. The people in the card business are working hard to come up with reasons for us to buy cards. Cards now talk or sing to us. I buy a certain brand of card or people will think I don't care enough to send the very best.

When we were in grade school, Valentine's Day was a big event. First we had to shop for the right cards. We bought cards with puppies and kittens for the girls and airplanes and superheroes for the boys. We waited to see if we got a card from that special boy or girl.

Again this year, the cards will be mailed and delivered to our special loved ones and family, but there will be a group of people who will not get a card this year. This may be the first Valentine's Day they do not get a card or it may be just another year in a long string of years.

These wonderful and special people are the caregivers of the world. The people they care for cannot get to the card shops or operate a computer. I remember the first time my mother missed sending me a birthday card. She did not know it was my birthday because time had stolen her memory. It was a genuine reality check for me.

Caregivers are real heroes in the trenches of daily life. They deserve to be recognized and applauded for their loving service. Often they are called on to give up a good portion of their personal lives to care for a loved one. Many a man has learned to do a load of wash, fry an egg or help someone to bed. Women have learned to tighten a screw, change a tire and read a mind.

Caregivers get tired, lonely, frustrated and sometimes they don't even get a Valentine's Day card.

Mary Partington lives in New Port Richey

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