Mom has taken to riding the stair lift up and down the stairs, though Dad’s disability was the urgent impetus for installing the lift. She does suffer with arthritic knees, and the 21 stairs have become increasingly difficult to take on. And even if her need is not yet equally acute, the lift is easy and pain-free and even fun, as much of an adventure as she cares for at 83. Dad’s wheelchair routine, on the other hand, is anything but easy. A quick trip to the dentist for a checkup and cleaning involves dozens of indispensable sequential steps, such as, transfer him from his recliner to his wheelchair; swing the foot support “arms” into forward position, and lower the foot rests; raise his legs by pulling on the tongues of his shoes; roll him in his chair out the front door, which Mom opens ahead of us and closes and locks behind us; roll down the ramps—with new confidence on the new grip-paint surface—open the front passenger door of the Mighty V8, lower his legs by the same shoe tongues, raise the foot rests, and swing out and remove the foot support arms; position and lock the chair as close to the front seat as possible, and lift by the armpits as he pulls himself mostly upright; lift his left foot into the car from behind his left knee, and push his hips with my available knee as he heaves against the handles to slide into the seat; fold and lift the heavy chair and stow in the back of the suburban. Then reverse the whole process at the dentist office. Then do it all again on the return trip, except that I must gain momentum to make it up the ramp, which frightens Dad in his powerlessness as I push. Then do it all again for the eye doctor, the heart doctor, the skin doctor, the foot doctor, the diabetes doctor, the divers tests…. After depositing him again in his recliner at home, I retreated to the kitchen, and soon heard him call, “Rog, are you there?” He wanted to tell me something from the day’s New York Times. If I am in the same room while he is reading the newspaper, he delivers to me a verbal new reel, like today: S. Army admits botched drone strike that killed civilians in Kabul…Nineteen protesters sentenced to death in Tehran…Six-year-old brings gun to school, shoots and kills teacher…Draft pick scores 71 points in first game with new team. “I’m here,” I reported, but thought with condemning self-examination: Are you really there, Roger? I cook their meals, make home repairs, shop for the groceries, landscape the yards, place the decorations, run the errands, fix the computers, solve the problems, and am otherwise at their beck and call when I’m at home. But am I really there, serving and giving, cheerful and sincere? Or do I chafe at the chores and move through the motions and withhold real devoted love? In many ways, my life is not my own. I live in their house. I eat what they eat. I watch what they watch. I rarely read. I feel always tired. Dad told me that he feels so very tired by the end of the day, and feels so very tired waking in the morning, and feels so very tired throughout the day, his reading often leading to napping. “One of these days I might go to sleep in my recliner with my book and just not wake up. That’s how it should be: that’s how death should come.” He shows excitement at seeing a movie I have selected for him, then falls asleep ten minutes in. Upon referral, we set out to watch a new murder mystery movie, our dinners growing cold on our folding TV trays. “We should pray,” Dad reminded us, and I found myself laughing. “Yes,” I chimed in, “we had better pray over our food before we watch our murder.” The prayer took two minutes and the movie two hours, two wasted hours, two hours distracted from things that really matter. I am glad we prayed.
(Pictured above: roasted vegetable bisque made from scratch without a recipe but with tips from my daughter Laura, a wonderful cook.)
Tough times but love not wasted. Years from now, you’ll remember moments of magic. Have a good night, Roger.
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Thank you for hope Kelly Louise Allen.
I cared for my dad who could do nothing, nothing for himself. Imagine everything one does in a day, wipe, shower, eat, brush… yeah, none of it. I did it all. “Be grateful for this time.”
I was told this, and I was angered. This is no kind of time. “You are doing God’s work. ” I was told. And I was angered… “Well, isn’t that good, because he’s not doing it.” I didn’t speak that aloud. I quietly accepted what I assume is some type of compliment. It is Godless for all of us. It was suffrage, especially for my sweetest father who did not deserve this. I would care for him again if it killed me just to have him back. And it would. The stress, the physical labor, he was 50 lbs heavier than me and I lifted him often. I had little peace and constant work. Dad had no joy in news, t.v., reading, nothing. I tried. I tried to find joy or release from agony. Food and conversation was his only relief, & I could not be an every second companion. And then he forgot how to eat on his own. Believe me, it could be so much worse. You have beautiful people that will be gone soon enough. I would do it again if it killed me.
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Roger, I hope you accept my apology. My comment was only terribly negative. The way you write, the manner in which you convey what is happening & being felt is very powerful. It simply brought it all back for me. I am deeply saddened when I read what you and the family is going through, especially when I get an impression of everyone’s special personalities. Thank you for sharing your heart and family. Wishing you all healing and peace.
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I appreciated very much your comments, both of them. I highly admire and respect your own profound sacrifices for a loved one. And I believe you are right: I will never regret what I am doing and will cherish the memories in years to come. I am writing for the purpose of preserving these memories but also to process through the challenges in real time. Thanks again for you and for your comments. 💛