Even with cement blocks still perched on my chest, and coughs that knock the wind from me about half the time, I'm back in the saddle, so to speak. With the elders, I mean. Tonight, Beve, E and I stopped by there for a few minutes--or so we thought. E had to put a picture into a frame for Grampie, Beve had to check the messages on the cell-phone, and I wanted to make sure all the doctor's appointments have been carefully put on the calendar. An hour later, we were somehow all bundled up against the monsoon outside, and going off, walkers and all, to IHOP, for dinner. I think they saw us coming and thought, "Yippee, we can go out to eat!" just the way our kiddies did when they saw the grandparents a decade or two ago.
And I'm telling you, it just about took it out of me have to do it. Go out for dinner, that is. Sit in their apartment, even. Try to keep the peace, in a way. Try to keep the dang coughing at a minimum. Every time I coughed, Thyrza asked me if I wanted a cough drop. Every single time! That's a whole lot of her asking and a whole lot of me saying, "No thanks, I'm okay." I stopped explaining that coughing is good after about the third time. The whole thing wore me out. Probably made me more than a little grumpy. No, not just probably! But I wasn't the only grumpy one. The ninety-one-year old in our midst was grump-grump-grumpy as well. Shoot, not a thing could please her tonight, not the food, not the waiter, who was working his hind-end off to try--actually had the cook make a second stack of blueberry pancakes for her, which she also didn't approve of. And the poor old man who lives with her bore most of her wrath. "Think!" she told him several times. "You just don't think!"
Yes, Thyrza, that's the point. He can't think. His brain isn't working the way you want it to. He's trying as hard as he can, but it just doesn't work for him. And he can't do anything about his brain. But guess what? Your brain isn't working all that well either, though you don't know it, or won't admit it. It's how it isn't working that makes you angry, I think. It's what you think you should be able to do, and can't, what you used to count on, but can't, that makes you lash out. I'm sorry about this loss, I really am. But I get tired of your anger. Tired of your anger at Grampie, and, yes, even at me. It's hard going with you these days.
How many of us are there out there who are in this position of caring for their parents as they fail? Or their spouse's parents? Or their spouse's parent's spouse? Raise your hand if you're one of them. Or maybe bend your knees. We entered this season knowing it would be hard, but not knowing how hard it would be. And I suppose that's how it always is. After all, what difficult thing would we ever attempt if we knew ahead of time what it would ask of us?
The question, of course, isn't how hard is the task, but who asks us to do it. I am certain this is what I am meant to be doing, what God means us to do for and with Grampie and Thyrza. Being their family here at the end of their lives: it's good. Hard and good. And that's okay.