Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Present, Past, Future

Not too long ago my mother-in-law had to visit an ophthalmologist about her vision in one eye. I was the designated driver and moral support staff for my wife.

Just to find the building which was "conveniently" located at a hospital (and identified by letters on a map - never a good sign); and then, to navigate the valet parking; and then, to find the office in a high rise; and then, to complete the forms and so on was not a small, simple task.

Yes, I know that was a needlessly long and complex run-on sentence and I did it deliberately.

When you find yourself at age 60 being the youngest person in a waiting room it is a bit unnerving. I wondered how those other (older) people found the place given the complication of location coupled with the problem of vision.

I observed one new patient tell the receptionist he would have to have someone read him the questions on the SEVEN page entrance form with especially small font type. She seemed surprised. I thought to myself, "it is an ophthalmologist office after all" and the font is about the size on a medicine bottle label.

Back to my patient though. The ailment I think was pretty serious but apparently treatable. Did you know they can give you an injection in your eyeball? Well they can - with a long syringe.

The eye condition was just the beginning though because a few days later it was joined by a broken wrist. It turns out that a wrist is a fairly important part of the body for doing quite a bit of stuff. And the doing of that stuff is considerably hampered by the addition of a rigid, fiberglass cast to the said wrist.

So we've been helping out. I will offer a few examples of said helping.

Something I had kind of forgotten about caregiving returned to me fairly quickly. And that is that caregiving is nearly all about pleasing someone else. This leads to some interesting exercises.

For instance, let's consider tomatoes. In my world they either come from a grocery store or a restaurant in the rare instance that I might actually require some. But in my alternate world they come from a garden. In my world they are washed and eaten. In the alternate world they are peeled. I do not enjoy peeling tomatoes. I do not think the tomatoes enjoy it either.

In my world there is one old cat which is not mine but which seems to appreciate me feeding her. Feeding is opening a can and plopping the contents thereof into a bowl. The same bowl resides in the garage and the cat is responsible for any cleaning. In my alternate world there are three dogs. There is a detailed SOP for feeding them - each one has a different plan. And I have to clean the bowls but without washing. Water is dispensed for the dogs by the gallon bucket by the way. Dogs also have ticks - lots of ticks - notwithstanding treatment of dogs and environment.

Also in this alternate world there are different, strange rules about trash. Cans go one place but paper goes another. Trash bags have their own place of safekeeping not necessarily logical to my view but definitely safe - at least from me.

Grocery shopping is similarly detailed both as to brand and size.

I admit to enjoying every minute of this experience. Maybe enjoy isn't exactly the right word - maybe more like appreciate.

For one thing it reminds me of taking care of mom and dad and especially so in the "good" earlier times. It does make me miss them both so much. Especially Dad but Mom, too.

For another there is something peculiarly rewarding about doing something for someone that makes them happy and helps them and for no other reason than that. There is a sense of reward in helping those who require it.

There is a future element. It bothers my spouse more than me I suppose because she wonders if this is the beginning of her next phase of caregiving and it is her mother after all. And the pressure is on her and not me and there is pressure make no mistake about that. Caregiving in many ways is about responsibility more than it is about the work itself. It is the responsibility that it is the more powerful I think but is sometimes lost amid the sleeplessness and the tiredness.

Then there's the hopefully more distant future when I glimpse myself being the one who needs the help. Still, that's always with my mind intact. I just can never bring into focus what it might be like for me to be the Alzheimer's patient.

I had to get new glasses myself the other day. I think it is funny that I somehow never qualify for the 2 for $99 or whatever it is special. Mine always cost more. Not that I went there for the price in the first place. He's the son-in-law of a friend who used to be a neighbor before her home's location became a bank. Her daughter was my "senior shopper" for a long while - even before I, myself, became a senior. Since I do my own shopping now I suppose I must be considered a senior shopper. A little humor, very little.

I was sitting there for the fitting of my new spectacles (cool word you seldom hear) and there was this little plasticized sheet of print of various sizes. On the left side it had the performance level for your sight (like 20/200 or something) and then there was the same sentence in that corresponding size and then there was something on the right side but beats me what. And it ranged from big print at the top and little tiny print at the bottom.

Of course, I, being still somewhat competitive, looked at the bottom where the line for 20/20 appeared. Barely appeared that is. I said to the girl helping me, "Am I supposed to be able to read that line?" She said, "Well, almost no one can." I moved the paper until I could read it. It said I was supposed to hold it at 40 cm. If I recall correctly that's about 16 inches. I had to get it closer than that to read it. It said that was medicine bottle size type.

Good grief.


Annie said...

Flinty, you always have such insight. Sometimes, it is just the overwhelming, constant responsibility that weighs me down the most.

Lori1955 said...

Sounds like you are back in a caregiving role for at least awhile. I have to say that as much as I enjoy my freedom, there is a part of me that misses it. I don't think I could do it 24/7 again.

Hey, I never qualify for those $99 glasses either. Of course that's mainly because I wear tri-focals.

flintysooner said...

Not sure I could do another 24/7 tour.