Thursday, January 28, 2016

Love means never having to say, “Get it yourself”

Caring for someone is a tough job.

And I don't mean, “Honey, I care for you;” “Honey, I love you so much;” “Honey, you mean so much to me.”

I mean, “Honey, can you bring the laptop over here?;” “Honey, would you mind getting me a cup of coffee?;” “Honey, could you get me a clean sock for my other foot?”

Yeah. That kind of caring.

I AM NOT complaining. Am I? I don't mean to. Seriously... how could I possibly complain about filling the every need of a woman who has been helping me deal with cancer for over two years? Wait. Don't answer that.

In dealing with Sheri's broken leg, broken ankle, sprained knee, I have discerned two distinct stages.

The first stage was all about the injury and the pain Sheri was experiencing... which was a lot. I was really scared for her. She had obviously really hurt herself and we had to get her to the hospital. Once there, I was anxious to be supportive and make sure she got the help she needed. I had to make sure I understood the instructions for her care and feeding, and then get her home and situated as comfortably as I could, which turned out to be not very much.

There she was biting down on a stick and taking Tylenol, and there I was sort of... well, being around, maybe hovering, just to be sure I could help if needed. Also, I needed to make absolutely sure she didn't fall again, in any way, shape or form.

First stage, part two, was virtually the same. She had surgery on her foot. The doctor added a steel plate, a number of pins and a 7-pound cast to Sheri's considerable attributes. The weight of the cast was an approximation based on Sheri putting her foot on a scale. I tried to tell her, with the rest of her at least somewhat attached through her leg, it wouldn't be accurate. Those of you who have talked to a woman giving birth can guess how well that went. So, seven pounds it is.

Stage two has a mainly different set of challenges. There's no adrenalin left to provide a little fuel when you're getting tired. There's no sense of being... not heroic, really, of stepping into the breach like the 300 gladiators... It's more like being one of the 101 Dalmatians, trying not to step on anyone else's ears.

Stage one is all flash, with little substance; attending to the moment because it really matters. There's a need to act, and pretty much to act right now! There's no time to think; no time to consider yourself and how you might be feeling. It's all pretty visceral.

Stage two is all substance and no flash. Yes, there's a need to act, but most of the time the only thing that makes it important to act quickly is Sheri's comfort. Which, speaking honestly, leaves plenty of time to think of my comfort. After all, thinking about me and what I want is one of my favorite things. In the land of the caregiver, this can be a problem.

Fortunately, my wife is far from demanding. But when you break one of your important pieces of transportation equipment, there are a world of things that you simply can't manage by yourself.

I've been aided in this phase by the fact that I pretty much wait on my wife hand and foot everyday, anyway. (Insert rude riposts and cat calls here.) And by waiting on hand and foot, I don't mean that in a bad way. I enjoy doing things for my wife, mostly. And she enjoys doing things for me. I just get more opportunities in the average day than she does. The more I write about this, the worse I'm going to look as both a husband and a human being, so let me get back to the point.

I think stage two is tougher, really. When Sheri was hurt and in pain, doing what needed to be done was a no brainer. When I've already made four trips to various parts of the house without a stop in between, “Could you please get me a cup of coffee?” becomes a testing moment. Not a, “Why don't you get it yourself moment,” but, “Really? Coffee? It can't wait?”

But then I look at this amazing woman, whom I truly do love; who has been right with me through two of the toughest years of my life, filling my needs and doing things I can't do for myself, and just get her the coffee, or the sock, or her cell phone, or her nail file, or the cough drops, or the pad and paper, or the drink of water, or her Chapstick or....”

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere