Have you ever been there? Done that? Taken up the burden of a thousand tomorrows and suddenly realized you were doing it “again” – thinking so far in advance that you could barely make it through the day because of the crippling effect it had on your brain?
Remembering to take life one day at a time takes the inertia out of the downward spiral that seeks to plummet us into the depths of despair, a condition easy to fall into when you are physically challenged from being your parent’s full-time caregiver.
I know, because I’ve been doing it again – heaping all of Grandpa’s future care onto today. Lately, the load has been unbearable. Every time I see him lose strength, fear washes over me. I can’t lift or pull him up anymore without hurting myself, so I’ve stopped trying. The stress on my already compromised spinal cord is taking it’s toll – my weakness magnified by Grandpa’s frailness. I have to have one of the older kids help me at all times now. I wonder how I’ll make it in the future for I can only imagine what is coming – an even higher level of care then we give now.
Just yesterday, Grandpa couldn’t push himself up off the bed onto the walker. Then after lunch, he couldn’t push himself out of the wheelchair onto the walker to get into bed. I wasn’t about to pull him up, but I didn’t have to, because for the time being, Grandpa and I have figured out a way around his disability.
When we’re by ourselves, I wheel him into the bathroom and he pulls himself up on the bar by the toilet, then he turns around and grabs his walker. Then with my hand on his belt, he makes the laborious trip back to his bedroom to lay down and take a nap.
Sometimes he can’t move, though. I had to sing a rousing rendition of Stars and Stripes to get his feet moving – a nifty trick that caregivers use with Parkinson’s patients. Still, it took us about ten minutes to cover the 30 feet distance between the bathroom and his bed.
The following day, when I’m totally convinced that Grandpa is soon to be wheelchair bound, he shuffles off to the kitchen, full steam ahead like he’s in a race – and actually he is. It’s a race with a degenerative disease that no body can stop, except God. We arrive in the kitchen in record time – two minutes, instead of ten.
Once again, I’ve been fooled by Parkinson’s! One day your body works, the next it doesn’t, but who’s keeping track, right? Wrong. Parkinson’s has a nasty way of messing with my mind. I keep second guessing Grandpa’s symptoms and feel like I’m on an emotional roller coaster day in and day out. And the odd thing is, Grandpa seems to take it all in stride, even if his stride is only a tortoise’s pace. The slower he walks, the more I panic. Just how many tortoise and caregiver races are left before the tortoise has to sit them out, permanently? Only God knows, that’s for sure.