Special needs caregivers have to find ways to inject humor into their lives. I think that’s why I’m a huge fan of the television show, Parks and Recreation. To be clear, I am no longer caring for someone with special needs. But I write frequently about my caregiving days, and watching Parks and Recreation is my favorite way to decompress. If Netflix decides to remove it from their line up, the complete DVD series will be at the top of my birthday gift wish list, in case you’re wondering.
Lately I’ve been wondering which Parks and Recreation character comes closest to the person I was during the years when our son was medically fragile. Next I wondered which characters other special needs caregivers would self-select, and that wonder led to this blog series. This week’s post describes 5 characters from the series, and next week’s describes 5 more. It also includes a survey so special needs caregivers can vote on the character they are most like. The final series in the post announces the results of the survey and spills the beans on the character I was most like. Are you ready? Here goes!
#1: Jerry/Garry/Larry/Terry Gergich/Grgich/Gengurch
Jerry Gergich is a bumbling, accident-prone office worker who constantly apologizes for his inadequacies. He is at risk of losing his identity because he let’s others define who he is, even allowing them to change his name at will. He’s like people who allow themselves to be defined exclusively by their roles as special needs caregivers rather than as well-rounded individuals.
#2: Donna Meagle
Donna Meagle is the office manager of the Parks and Rec Department. She finds worth in material things and being perceived as exciting, competent, and mysterious. She keeps her family at arm’s length and doesn’t want to fall in love with a wonderful man because she dreads being considered boring. She resembles special needs caregivers who remain aloof because they are more concerned about maintaining their reputation than being transparent about their needs and struggles.
#3: Tom Haverford
Tom Haverford spends his days creating buzz and spin on social media. In fact, he is addicted to social media and its ability to make a mountain out of absolutely nothing. He looks a lot like special needs caregivers who create an online presence as a means of escaping the reality of their lives, only to watch the reality crumble into nothingness.
#4: Chris Traeger
Chris Traeger is the city manager. He is unrelentingly positive who enlists others to deliver bad news. He is obsessively health-conscious to push back against aging and death. Special needs caregivers who identify with him may expect their spouses to deal with confrontational situations. They may also chase one cure after another for their loved ones because they are afraid of death.
#5: Ann Perkins
Ann Perkins is a nurse and works for the city health department. Though she is a smart woman and a gifted nurse, she lacks confidence. She adopts the lifestyle of whoever she’s dating. Eventually Anne realizes she has to decide who she is and make being authentic a priority. She is most like skilled, special needs caregivers who take excellent care of their loved one, but constantly sell themselves short.
Does one of those characters sound like you? Tuck that thought away for next week, when you can check out the rest of the Parks and Recreation gang in Part 2 of the series.
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