When health and other crises strike, look for silver linings
My husband’s brain surgery last fall led to complications. But 50+ years ago, we said “I do” in sickness and in health.
Looking at married life from both sides now, I confess: the health part’s more fun. As my medical advocate 14+ years ago when I suffered stage 4 cancer, Burton agrees.
I’ve been busy making/attending appointments, researching resources, preparing meals (okay, picking up meals), checking on details, buying supplies, enjoying visitors. Thankfully, our aides have been good to great. But I’ve rarely had the time or heart to write more than medical notes.
Being a caregiver has silver linings. A big one is the angels who show up on the journey. Like Roger, who comes over many afternoons to play checkers with his old buddy Burt. And Judie, Burton’s first cousin, who joins us for frequent dinners and entertains us with funny stories.
Another silver lining: the things you learn.
Joanne Cruz, a social worker sent by a health-care company, mentioned a term I hadn’t heard. It applies to our current situation: Radical Acceptance.
“It’s about accepting what you can’t change or control,” Joanne said. “Change pushes us in one direction. Our gut wants to pull back. We feel powerless. We grieve what was and fear the future. We make up bad stories about what’s ahead when the truth is none of us knows. We’re all vulnerable.”
Burton seems to have come to Radical Acceptance before I have. He works hard at PT every day just to pull himself to a standing position and get his feet to move an inch or two. His positive attitude and determination are remarkable.
Joanne asked how he feels about having his left side largely shut down. (He’s left handed.) And about challenges with speech, memory and logic.
This is a man who came back from our honeymoon with 13 cents in his pocket, built a company that’s afforded us more than comfortable lives, chaired well over a dozen boards of directors. A man who excelled at golf, was a crack shot with a rifle, flew airplanes, spent hours fly fishing and who, like many Detroit born boys, adored driving. This is a grandfather who took grandkids on frequent adventures, who planned a treasure hunt at our farm up north and financed two in-ground trampolines and a sport court.
This is a man who lost his father when he was 11 and became the father and grandfather he wished he’d had.
In light of his current health issues, Joanne asked Burton how he was feeling. Given the same situation, I’d be crying and carrying on nonstop. My resilient husband said, “I’ve got work to do, but emotionally I’m pretty good with it.”
“How far in the future do you look?” Joanne asked.
“I’m not looking at the future at this point,” he said. “This Rehab is just something I have to do. When I finish, I’ll be better.”
Talk about Radical Acceptance. The traits with which Burton built his career and ran organizations are the traits he’s still applying. I’ve often said Burton has a vocabulary deficiency. He doesn’t understand the meaning of the word: No.
Another major silver lining: time with our sons.
David lives nearby but with a new baby, 3 more sons and a career that demands travel, we didn’t seem him often. Now he comes over more to visit his dad and check in with me. Andy flies in from Chicago and spends 2 days a week with us. Bonus: several times he’s taken me out to dinner. He researched wheelchair capable vans and accompanied me to rent one.
Andy, Amy and our granddaughters visited on a recent Sunday. Our grandkids love getting together. Thanks to our nifty van, we were able to accommodate Burton’s chair. Along with 2 more vehicles, we all drove downtown for Coney Islands.
50+ years ago, Burton and I often ended dates with hotdogs from Lafayette Coney Island. On this occasion, American Coney Island next door proved more accessible. They didn’t even object when our Chicago gang brought along their new Doodle Mac.
It was Burton’s first real outing in months (not counting trips to hospitals or doctors). Some of you know about our Thanksgiving Day Slide Ride (see blog post). Burton, who started the tradition, couldn’t make it last fall. Our family trip to Coney Island helped compensate. Thanks to my cell phone camera, we immortalized the memory.
Making memories can take effort. But they’re worth it. Wishing you and yours good health, silver linings and magical memories.