Sunday, November 14, 2010

A long haul

Another day, another trip to the hospital.  Beve took J in to meet the doctor and get his bloody bandage changed.  I've become so inured of this stuff now I just sent them on their way with barely a momentary twinge of concern.  One can only handle so much, you know?  Besides, tomorrow I have to take Thyrza in for vein surgery.  I am not making this up.  Unfortunately, I'm not sure what time this surgery is.  When she told me about it, I wrote it on my calendar as 9:30, but yesterday she said it was 11.  Today she checked and said she had it written down various places as 9, 10 and 11:15.  So I'm pretty much on standby all morning.  Meanwhile, E will take J to the doctor for his daily dressing change, I'll talk Thyrza back to the vein clinic Tuesday, Jonathan to the orthopedist for his shoulder Wednesday morning and Grampie to the eye doctor that afternoon, and...well, there's no doctor on the calendar for Thursday but the week's barely begun.

I'm not really sure when we think about the times that try our souls that we really think of the mere act of going to doctors as trials.  But that was prior to the life I currently live.  And when I pledged to love Beve in sickness and in health, I didn't really think through what I was saying.  I didn't realize that it wouldn't simply mean his health or mine but also the sickness of extended family as well.  And that promise was easy enough on that lovely spring afternoon when Beve and I were young and strong and our parents (well, three out of four of them, anyway) were healthy.  We never guessed that we'd have this responsibility for his father, and a wife nowhere in the picture that day.  Beve is the youngest of the giants, after all, and his sister was an RN.

But life rarely goes the way we expect.  The earth tips on its axis, and when it came to it, of course we'd be the ones to care for them.  If Glo had been alive and healthy...well, I've thought this phrase a whole lot this last year but there's no end to that sentence.  She isn't.  And here we are.  Here I am.  Learning that my vow before God and that company when I dressed up in the fanciest dress I've ever worn also means this.  My commitment to Beve means I'm committed--full-on--to his family.  All the way in.

And it means I spend my days lifting walkers in and out of my car, walking at a snail's pace, sitting in doctor's offices, taking notes in a small notebook I carry in my purse (so that I can remind them later when they've forgotten what the doctor said).  It means I listen to complaints about each other, like when I called Thyrza Tuesday night from Grampie's hospital room to tell her he was okay, but too groggy to talk. "Fine," she said. "But when he is more alert, could you ask him where he put the prunes?"

As I said, I can't make this stuff up.

Thyrza turned 92 Thursday, which we celebrated with pizza and German Chocolate Cake at their apartment, taking turns reminding Grampie to keep his head down.  The thing is, we can't really do anything about the most glaring problem with each of them these days--their disintegrating memory.  And therefore, we must take more care to be merciful and kind to them.  But also, like parents with small children, firm and unwavering when they want to do things that are beyond them to do.  Thyrza told me the other day, "I'm a very independent person."  And I agreed, but inside I was thinking, 'But you aren't now. Except in your mind."  She can't even walk across a room without aid, let alone go anywhere without someone taking her.  In truth, they are absolutely dependent for almost everything.

On us.  On me.  Dependent on our good will, on Beve's strength and the kids' technological abilities, and on my memory and flexible schedule.  On Thyrza's daughter's financial care, and all of our emotional care.  And sometimes it wears me out--in every way a person can be worn out, physically, emotionally, spiritually.  I'm admitting this tonight, when I'd rather simply concentrate my cadre of energies on caring for my son.  Caring for one's child is the simplest thing in the world.  I think there's an invisible thread that remains when the cord gets cut at birth.  That's how connected I feel to these three human beings, no matter that they are grown adults, (so adult that the hospital staff didn't recognize us as important, and sent a social worker to ask J if he had someone to care for him at home).  Caring for them is like breathing for me, it's that instinctive.

Unfortunately, caring for Beve's parents isn't quite the same.  Not like breathing, though I love and respect them both. However, it's what I signed on for when I gave my life to Beve. I wouldn't change it, but there are moments when I think it might have been good to know--not just his life, not just his children's lives, but his parents, sister, brother, step-parent--all of those I was making a promise to as well.  But I think that if we want to love our spouse we must be willing to love his family--to love them in practice as well as word.  It's a long haul.  A lifelong haul.  For better or worse.  But somehow, I think it makes that whole two-becoming-one stronger. Truer.  More.

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