We all do it. Don’t kid yourself. We want to control our lives. We want to be independent. We want to choose our ways, our days, our plans, our whatevers. While taking care of my Grandmother I listened to her talk about how frustrated she was about having to give up the way she liked things to be. I spent her last years helping her as best I could, among other things, make those things she could no longer do for herself as much like she would have done them herself. Some seemed so silly (who really irons cotton t-shirts?) but they were things that made her life feel normal and she too worked hard to continue normal life even when she was weak and frail.
She did not choose to be 98 and still living. In fact, and she would have been the first to tell you she would go to bed during many thunder storms and pray lightning would strike her, only to awaken disappointed in the morning. She would frown when the doctor would tell her nothing was wrong with her. What she did teach me was to learn to loosen my grip on independence and make the best of where you are. She woke up everyday, not always happy to wake up, many days wanting to stay in bed and cover her head with her covers, but she chose differently. She got up and she got dressed. Getting dressed included shoes and lipstick, always. Sometimes she wasn’t dressed until 2pm but she got dressed. And her bed was always made. Always. Except for one day, the week before she moved to healthcare and that was the week I knew for sure she had taken a turn and would be moving soon. After that she had round the clock help and bed was made every day, to her specifications, even if that meant it had to be made several times.
I am not here by my choice but I am following what my Grandmother taught me the best I can. Everyday I get up, make up the bed and I get dressed. I can’t say I always wear lipstick. Chapstick…maybe. I am trying my best not to be overcome by the fears that taunt me. I am trying my best not to be overcome by the embarrassment of having to ask for help or even worse the embarrassment of being turned down when I ask for help. I am trying my best not to be overcome by the embarrassment of having strangers stare. I am trying my best not to be overcome by confusion. I am trying my best not to be hard on myself. I am trying my best to learn to gently loosen my grip on my own independence and understand that it really never was mine to own anyway.
I am grateful for all of you that are being so patient with me while I try, because having been on the other side, I understand that it takes great effort from you as well. So, I thank you.
© Copyright Gatewood Campbell, March 2014