Thursday, December 3, 2015
A fresh perspective . . .
It is finally cold enough to get all the winter clothes unpacked and into the closet. Even though I tried to be ruthless when I sorted, donated, tossed and packed them last spring, I have discovered some weary-looking garments in my winter wardrobe. I shudder as I think that I actually went out the door last winter wearing them....thinking I looked good!
Wait....I didn't go anywhere last winter, except to the hospital and doctor's office! At the time, I must have thought it would be okay to wear such tired out clothes. It matched how I felt, and I really didn't look good anyway! Illness and surgery have a way of taking away the idea of dress to impress. Instead, last winter, I dressed to survive. I felt marginal and the weather was brutal. I wore layers and layers of clothes. Polar fleece was my best friend. Elastic waists and sweatshirts and sweatpants one or two sizes too big were the norm for comfort due to bandages. Anyone who saw me didn't see the real "me"...or at least, that's how I felt. Yet, what they saw was probably more the real "me", than I would care to admit! The no makeup me. The no hair color me. The baggy sweatpants me. The zapped energy me.
I learned a lot of new things about myself through my illness and surgery last winter. I also observed the world around me with a new understanding of what it is like to be compromised by health issues and totally reliant on others. I thank God for my compassionate and capable husband.
I had usually been on the helping side of sickness, not the patient side. Except for a few out-patient surgeries, and some bad cases of the flu, my health had remained good for six decades. I knew how to help an ailing friend or family member. I received my training at an early age, when my mother's parents moved in with us.
I was 7 years old when my grandmother had a stroke that left her paralyzed on one side and unable to do things on her own. My grandfather was unable to take care of her by himself, so they came to live with us. The big table with its six leaves, the buffet, the china cabinet, and the piano were all moved to one end of the dining room in our farmhouse; and the room became their quarters, complete with hospital bed, wheelchair, commode and overstuffed rocking chair for Grandpa's naps. My father and mother cared for Grandma and I helped out as much as a 7-year old could. I learned how to make a bed, how to make up a sick tray, (as my mother called it), and how to make someone comfortable. I learned to listen for signs of distress and would run to their room if I thought they needed something. I enjoyed being their helper.
My mother needed me. She was strong, but she was small and handicapped. Years later, when in her 70's she learned that what she referred to all her life as her affliction was the mildest of the three types of cerebral palsy. Her condition never deterred her from having a normal life. She just improvised a lot. She got the job done.
Watching what my mother could accomplish in a day was really quite amazing. Small and "afflicted", she did more than many able-bodied women. At the time, she was raising children, cooking big noon-time meals for my father and the hired men, doing lots of laundry , and was nursemaid to her parents.
A bit of an aside, but a recent observation. . . We learn from our parents and we pattern our mannerisms after them. I noticed that when I cook at the stove, I stir with my right hand while I "hold on" with my left. My mother had to hold on to keep her balance, but I don't need to. I do it because I learned it by observing her. Now that I noticed it, I think of her whenever I cook and a little smile graces my lips. ♡
Back to my understanding of what others are going through when stricken by illness or a disability . . . Even though I was my mother's helper and I was aware of her small size and her limp; as a kid, I never really considered the effort it took for her to do things. She just did what needed to be done. Period. Now I have some idea of what it was like for her, and not just for a year, but for her entire life. I am more appreciative of the effort she put into raising me and guiding me. My childhood was normal because she didn't let her disability dampen her spirit or her will.
Almost all healed from my surgeries, I have a renewed spirit and a fresh perspective. I want to accomplish so much more in the coming year than I have been able to in the past few and I am more inspired than ever because I know what it is like to be physically down and out. I will not take my health for granted . . . or my wardrobe... I need to work on both.