Through the Windowpane
“For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part;
but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known.”
1 Corinthians 13:12
Today, I walked Grandpa wherever he needed to go. When he was ready to eat lunch, he walked to the kitchen, when he needed to get changed, he walked to the bathroom. From there, he walked to his bedroom where he is working on his book.
The idea is to get him out of his wheelchair as much as possible. He seemed to lose some mobility over the last week, so we’re stepping up the exercise routine. He said he can already feel the difference.
But Grandpa is moving real slow, his legs just don’t want to go. Yet, he remains amazingly determined. I really don’t think I would have such a great outlook on life if I were in his shoes.
“I think it’s worse for you, than it is for me.” he said, as I waited for him to walk forward a few steps.
I don’t think so, Dad,” I replied. How could he ever think that, I wondered?
Honestly, he could barely get his motor apparatus in gear, and he was thinking of me.
By his own admission, the four years he spent in the nursing home has given him an empathy for others he never had before. It’s the only way we have been able to care for him. Grandpa is a changed man.
It doesn’t matter how long it takes him to get where he’s going – from here to eternity – just as long as Grandpa keeps trying. That’s all that counts.
“You know, I’m a perfectionist,” Grandpa commented.
“I know,” I replied.
“You know, you’re one too.” he added.
“I know,” I agreed, laughing at his insight.
But truthfully, as I pondered his comment, the thought bothered me. I’m sure his observation stems from the fact that I expect the kids to do housework a certain way when we’re at Grandpa’s, and I have to correct them when they don’t do it right. After all, order in the midst of chaos is comforting. Not that it’s chaotic here like when we first brought Grandpa home (we were navigating through uncharted territory and we often didn’t have a clue what we were doing), but depending on what Grandpa is going through – attitude or health-wise, and the rest of us for that matter – a clean house can bring a semblance of normalcy to overstressed lives. But perfectionist standards can also cause hard feelings.
I remember the year my mother died. Grandpa took care of her ’round the clock in this very house. Our first child, Claire, was 9-months-old and we would come over to visit mom as she lie sick in bed. One day, I fed Claire a cracker in the kitchen and dad got really mad when she dropped crumbs on his clean floor. That’s how stressed out he was from caring for mom for months-on-end. He hurt my feelings, excruciatingly.
I had my moment in this very same kitchen the other day. I had asked the girls to set the table and when we gathered for dinner, the water glasses were not filled with ice or water, and they were severely mismatched. It was a half-hearted job by a child who was surely thinking of other things. I wasn’t happy. I venture to say my attitude was just as upsetting to my children as my father’s had been with me. How ironic that I would have the opportunity 24 years later to be reminded of what it is like to make perfection the object of my affection, instead of the people I love.
I don’t think being a perfectionist is something to be proud of. I had thought the days of needing to appear as if we have “everything together” were long gone. Or maybe it’s because, I’m visual, but I just want things to be orderly at Grandpa’s.
I’m sure that those who really know me, know I am far from perfect. Thank God, He has knocked me down a few perfectionist notches over the years and even changed my understanding of the word. The Greek meaning for the word perfect is: complete, grown-up, a mature man. That brings a godly perspective to the word, doesn’t it?
James 1 says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
I can’t help but think that God is using this situation with Grandpa to perfect Himself in me. Ha! That’s going to take a while.
We had a couple of wonderful weeks with Grandpa. He seemed as content as he could be. But yesterday, due to his lack of mobility, I saw a bit of impatience creep back into his spirit. He has a dream that he’s going to walk around the house all by himself.
I love him for wanting to, but it’s not going to happen. We have to be in the same room with him when he is at his walker with our hands on his safety belt. Rarely do we take our hands off of that belt. That may seem a little extreme, but there is a reason we are so vigilant.
Three years ago, my landlady fell and broke her hip. One Sunday morning, she was coming out of her bathroom with her walker when she tripped and fell in the hallway and broke her hip. She was never able to come back to the farm after that. I share this story with my dad every time he begins to try to to walk around the house by himself. He usually doesn’t get very far, and just a friendly reminder of our landlady’s woes and it is enough to bring him back to reality.
My dad has a fighting spirit and and at the age of 89 (almost 90), he’s one of the most self-motivated people I know, which is why he got a little “snippy” with me, yesterday when I tried to help him re-position himself in his wheelchair for the third time that day. If he doesn’t sit down just right, he leans way over to the side because of the curve of his spine.
We walked from his bedroom to the kitchen, my left hand holding his safety belt and my right hand pulling the wheelchair behind me, a safety measure he wanted in place, because somehow he lost confidence in me. I’m strong enough to catch him from going down, but he doesn’t want me to strain myself if he does. The problem is, he gets shaky just thinking about it and starts to wobble. Then, I have to tell him everything is okay, just keep coming forward or we’re going to have to start all over again.
When we got to the kitchen, I pushed the wheelchair behind him and he sat down to eat lunch, only he didn’t get positioned correctly. When I tried to help pull him up so we could scoot him over, he protested. “Now, let me do it! I don’t want you to hurt yourself!”
“I already have,” I murmured to myself as I popped his lunch into the microwave. I’ve had to take care of Grandpa all week long because Eric has been working over at the farm, bringing in the hay and helping Robert paint the house. I’ve felt a few more aches and pains helping him up and down this week and I was grumbling to myself about it.
“I’m sorry, I yelled.” he said. I think his so-called yell was pretty low on the decibel scale, a four maybe. It didn’t bother me.
“That’s okay dad.” I said.
Doesn’t it figure, that the one area I struggle with the most is the one that Grandpa is most anxious about? Becoming ambulatory is suddenly at the forefront of his thinking, but he picked the wrong day to try to achieve new goals. I was taking care of him all by myself and my limitations for lifting him only seemed to make him want to walk by himself all the more. Like it or not, when Eric isn’t here, Grandpa is stuck depending on his 53-year-old daughter who can’t lift his 160 pounds – comfortably, but does the best she can.
Ah, the vicissitudes of life for Grandpa and me.
The day Grandpa stops trying to meet his goals, he’ll either be bed-ridden or dead, and if I keep trying to meet them in my own strength, I will be too. I pray that I learn to depend more on God, daily, and look to Him for the strength I need to physically care of Grandpa.
“But they that wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31
Today, my family is getting a break at Great America Amusement Park. Great America is practically in our own back yard and once a year, my husband and children spend the day there, riding death-defying roller coasters and yelling at the top of their lungs. Robert and the kids really look forward to making memories, but not with me. I have neurological issues that prevent me from joining them (thank God), so every year I am spared the self-inflicted punishment of having my body thrown about as if it were a sack of potatoes.
All this to say, since I wasn’t going with them, I became the designated Grandpa sitter. We had be at his house around 7:00, and Grandpa doesn’t usually get up until 8:00, so Eric had to wake him up early. By the time we arrived, Eric had changed and dressed him, and when I walked in his bedroom, Grandpa was already going back to bed. He had woke up around 6:00 and was still sleepy. Grandpa usually takes a power nap after breakfast, but being an hour off, he was not ready to eat breakfast yet.
Months ago, our neurologist said that if we needed to, we could give Grandpa some Carbidopa before he gets out of bed in the morning to give him a little jump start and warm up his muscles. We usually don’t have to do that, however. Eric is strong enough to lift Grandpa around and help get him going if he’s not moving well. But today I thought it might be best to give him one tablet to help him want to wake up and not sleep the morning away since he was already a little off schedule.
Obviously, I’m not as strong as a 19-year-old and my spinal cord issues make lifting and pulling an issue. I have to help my dad past the one spot where gravity is pulling him backwards, and I need him to move forwards. It’s not fun, but I have no alternative when I am here by myself other than to try and pull his 160 pounds up to a standing position. Along with his pill, I gave Grandpa a piece of cheese and bread so his stomach wouldn’t be upset, and he slept until 9:00 a.m.. If he misses any of his medications, he gets exhausted and way off schedule for his next meal, so we try to keep everything running smoothly and not forget to give him his pills on time.
So far today, I have cooked Grandpa breakfast and lunch (and will cook dinner,too), changed his diaper, walked him to the kitchen (pulling his wheel chair behind me for his comfort – he’s been worried today about not having his chair nearby for some reason), sat with him through his nurse’s visit, and worked on getting some of his old credit debt straightened out with a credit counselor. As well as writing this blog, I managed to get a nap in on the couch. One thing I learned from being a mommy, when the baby sleeps, you sleep. That’s true when I’m taking care of Grandpa, too.
Grandpa quote of the day:
“I have to get back to work. Enough playing around.” Grandpa on practicing Chopin at the piano and needing to go back to his bedroom to write on his book about the nursing home.