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Friday, August 5, 2016
Personal Reflections ...

I was going through some file cabinet shelves in my apartment, and I came across a cache of old marble notebooks containing my written diary entries from the 1990s and early 2000’s. I don’t want to start going through them right now, as I don’t have much time right now for memory lane. Just staying alive and gainfully employed these days is more than enough to soak up my remaining mental and physical energies. But I found one of them in the wrong place, and while moving it back to where it belongs, I decided to take a quick look. So I came across this little mini-story from early September, 2001.

At the time, my mother was still alive but was just starting to lose her ability to walk. Part of that was because she had steadily gained weight throughout her adult life, and was now pushing her aging muscles and joints beyond their limits. She was living in her own house with my younger brother, but she needed more and more assistance. She could still get up on her feet, but mostly needed a wheelchair to get around. We had just hired our first part-time home health assistant, who stopped by for a few hours most days of the week (generally when my brother was at work). One weekend, my brother was having a day out in Manhattan, and I was sitting in at the house so to keep an eye on mom. I would stay until the home assistant arrived in late afternoon.

Here is my diary entry for that afternoon:

I had to wheel Ma to the bathroom before, and while backing her our out (in her wheelchair), I heard the TV, the narrator of a PBS special about polar bears. As I struggled with the wheelchair, I heard the TV man say “now the problem becomes how to move such a large creature”. Couldn’t help but have a mental grin at that moment.

On looking back 15 years later, I’m sorry if I wasn’t being entirely charitable about my mother’s weight problem. But in elder-care situations, a little mental humor often helps to keep you going.

Ironically, this bit of home-care humor came just a few days before September 11, 2001. I wrote about it the next night, and here is how I started my diary note:

Well, Black Tuesday happened. The WTC in lower Manhattan is gone. A symbol of the business world, a place where Top Gun people wind up. [I had recently completed Chubb’s “Top Gun” computer training camp for mid-career people looking to become business programmers; however, the Chubb placement department had failed me, and so I was back at the non-profit agency in Newark where I had spent the past decade before Top Gun] So yea, I was shaking in the office on Tuesday AM after seeing the one tower standing, pouring out smoke like a chimney at a power plant. Chic [the colloquial name that I used for my boss back then, mostly behind his back] was grim, wouldn’t say hello. Our world was under attack [Chic had worked for a big corporation, and had just made a mid-career change of his own by joining with the non-profit group]. The social fabric was torn.

After reflecting on how my cousin Mike and I used to take little walking tours of lower Manhattan while in high school in the late 60’s, and how we had often passed the business district site where the WTC was being built, I concluded as follows:

Maybe its just as well that Top Gun didn’t transport me into that world.

For now, I’ve put the diary books away. Hopefully, though, I’ll be back.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 2:42 pm      
 
 


  1. Jim, I’ve had my share of being caregiver for 2 people (1 as the main caregiver), and I know it’s not fun or easy. It’s a lot of responsibility and difficult to watch a love one decline.

    My sister, for whom I was not a caregiver, was a very large person. I think it’s a matter of accepting someone as they are, not caring what the current “trends” are re how large or small a person is, but loving a person unconditionally and accepting that person as he/she is.

    While the trend these days is to be very thin (as in: one can never be too rich or too thin), I once read that people who carry “extra” weight live longer when they do get sick. Recently, I was sick for several months, simply could not eat, my appetite was non-existent, and the sight of food simply turned me off. It was a lucky thing that I carried some extra weight; if I had been a thin rail of a woman, I’d have died of starvation. But luckily I had those extra pounds and am still here. (Then again, it’s possible to look at the situation as “unlucky” too; depends on one’s point of view.)

    While I admit that a large person may be more difficult to care for, that’s part of the whole situation when it comes to being a caregiver for the person’s body. I am well aware of the major sacrifices you made for your mother’s care, and I salute you for them. I am absolutely sure that almost any other person would not have made the sacrifices for your mother that you made. You went above and beyond what almost anyone else would do for her. Somewhere she’s thanking you. It’s likely you gave her extra time in her life to gradually become used to the next life and be accepting and ready for the change that was to come for her. Few people would be willing to make the sacrifices you made for your mother.

    Please do NOT take this as you took a previous comment of mine. To wit: I gave with one hand and took away with the other. It’s possible that is true but that’s life. Simply acknowledging the part that may be less good in life is not a “taking away”; it’s a part of the humility of life; it’s the Truth. Nothing is perfect and trying to make things perfect is a waste of time and energy. (And I might add this holds true in a lot of different situations.) The TRUTH of the situation is the totality of how you did contribute to your mother’s last days in a way that was profoundly helpful for all involved. The good of your contribution is something I’m sure your Mother will remember forever, wherever she lives. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — August 7, 2016 @ 7:12 pm

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