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Archive for the ‘rest’ Category

Remember watching the PBS special series which took place during the 1800s where the rich European noblemen and their wives had dozens of servants scattered throughout the castle: butlers, upstairs and downstairs maids, a seamstress or two, cooks and bakers plus scads of additional kitchen help.  Outside there were gardeners, stable boys, coachmen and countless others to keep the grounds manicured and trimmed, and the carriages polished.  It took a lot of people to keep those palaces functioning and presentable. To head up the staff was the prim and proper housekeeper who, with help from the butler, supervised the staff making sure their work was always done; accomplished quickly, quietly and out of sight from the manor’s lord and lady; except possibly, for his groom, her personal maids and the children’s nanny.  The “upper crust” did not fraternize with the help. 

Even in America the mansions of the early 19th century boasted servants quarters in their elegant three and four story mansions where it was normal for the help to “live in.”   Economics, career opportunities and life styles have changed the previous opulent society from normal to unusual.  However, it isn’t unusual for busy people in all walks of life to enlist cleaning services and gardeners on a weekly schedule, or occasionally to help catch up on the often dreary tasks of home maintenance, but for the most part, most people do everything themselves

Ken and I were always do-it-yourselfers, learning early on that by doing you got more bang from your buck, plus the satisfaction of a job well done.  Whether it was adding an extra room, painting the house – inside and out — bricking in a patio, building fences, landscaping the front yard, caring for the children or keeping the house clean we did it ourselves.  Consequently, I found coming home after my three months of recovery and recuperation a bit disconcerting to have “help” in my house on a permanent basis.   What’s more, it made me wonder who’s the boss?

I knew, without a doubt, that my family had made the very best of decisions in my absence, yet to find Ben (Ken’s caregiver and a person I didn’t know) busy in my kitchen preparing food for my husband  — and me — felt very odd.  Not only does Ben care for Ken, he cooks, keeps up with the houseswork and laundry (which he folds to perfection) and polishes the furniture when company is coming.   However, I still wasn’t sure if I was at ease with this new arrangement, feeling at first as if I didn’t quiet fit anywhere in my own home.  But doing a reality check I also knew that I would have to change; caring for Ken as I had done before the accident was a thing of the past — something I could no longer do —  especially considering all of his new needs.  Even though I was capable of taking care of myself, it was, perhaps, a good thing to still require rest and a nap when my energy level plunged, and appreciate Ben’s presence.  I was the one who still had months of therapy for my neck and knees, and I was the one who needed time to make an attitude adjustment.

Unlike the gentry of long ago who didn’t fraternize with the help, a few months have passed allowing me to become comfortable with Ben and I believe him with me.  In addition, there is David who is Ben’s relief (granddaughter Kristina, who was living with us, takes the night shift).  Having other adults in the house has been a surprise bonus – someone else to talk with.  I have also met and admire the wives of both men, finding the four new treasures in my life.  They are all career caregivers – a noble calling – kind and gentle, but firm when need be with the childlike adults whom they assist.

An auto accident wasn’t a path I would have chosen, nor would I have pressed the “select” button for a six-year continuing assignment with Alzheimer’s, but I have learned to accept those things I cannot change.  Life has taken me to this point where help is required and it is with gratitude and growing affection that I give thanks for Ben and David.  Their hard work and devotion continually touches my heart.  But even more, I am grateful that I am not stayed by some silly tradition from generations past.  I can, and do, enjoy and appreciate their friendship.

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Sabina drove me to and from my doctor appointments, and it was during one of my follow-up visits they discovered I had a blood clot in the groin area.  Discouragement must have shown on my face as my sympathetic doctor counseled, “It’s not unusual with injuries as serious as yours for things to keep going wrong.  It won’t be long before your body will regain its balance, and you will get better.  Meanwhile, you do need to be taking coumadin to keep your blood thin.  Hopefully the clot will dissolve.”  Good grief, I thought, another pill.  I wanted to cry, wondering if I would ever be well. 

Returning to Julie’s house I settled into a big leather chair and propped up my feet.  That too had to find balance.  With the clot, the doctor didn’t want my legs too high, nor did he want them too low.  He didn’t want the clot to travel, so it was difficult to know just what to do.  During the days that followed I kept my legs and feet level, watched TV, read, listened to a book on my I-Pod, and grew restless.

Following another visit to the doctor, I asked Sabina to drop by the house – my house.    Still covered with scabs and bruises, and wearing my neck brace I must have looked terrible – even a bit scary – to Ken.  It was my first visit home and the first time we had seen one another since the night of the accident.  He looked very old and frail, and somewhat gaunt, having lost several pounds which he really couldn’t spare. Apparently, his current glasses had been lost in the wreck and he was wearing a pair of old, huge horn-rims from long ago: spares kept in the back of the drawer in case of loss.  I hated them back when they were in style, thinking of them as “fly eyes,” and I hated them even more now.  If  I looked awful, he looked worse. 

Showing no signs of recognition he boldly warned, “This is my house and you can leave right now.”  Dismissals were nothing new; nor were his personality changes and mood swings.  Had this rejection been a jolt I would have burst into tears, but I had coped with the ramifications of Alzheimer’s for the most part of six years.

What I found troublesome was having someone else in “charge” of my house.  Ken’s primary caregiver, Ben, a dear, loving and efficient man had made a lot of necessary changes for Ken’s safety and well being, as he was now a recovering patient.  I did understand that “need” outweighed my decorating preferences, and yet I wanted my house to be just as I had left it. 

We didn’t stay long.  I got some stuff from our bedroom and returned to Julie’s.  I felt a little like a displaced person.

Settling back into the big leather chair, I propped up my feet and opened a magazine.  Flipping the pages my mind drifted back to home.  Days passed and as I began to feel stronger and not so fearful of the clot moving, my restlessness turned to boredom and thoughts of getting my life back became constant.  I mulled over things I could do without jeopardizing my recuperation, and I thought about my “stuff.”  Every so often I wanted to get something, or do something  – play my piano, which I do poorly, start some needle work, which I do well, read once again a favorite book, pull out photo albums representing a life time of living, get a few curlers for my hair or wear a different pair of shoes.   I realized that I was missing my stuff.   Totally unimportant belongings; material things — just stuff –yet important, and I thought about how important stuff is in making up a home.  First you need people, devotion, love, caring, and stuff; like the hook on the wall of your house, apartment, flat, tent or penthouse where you hang your hat.  Besides the hat  home is where you keep the rest of your stuff.  It doesn’t matter if stuff is Ikea, antiques, thrift store or yard sale junk; stuff is you, your likes, your personality and it’s part of the mix in making a house a home.   

I had come a long way from Rehab where I cared about very little except wanting to leave.  I suppose my homesickness was returning because I was beginning to care, but this time the caring and the longings were actually for home  — my home.

At first I stayed overnight, then a couple of nights, and then several nights and finally I felt ready to stay permanently.  I packed the few things I had taken to Julie’s house, gave both her and Tim a hug and an inadequate thank you, cut the imaginary umbilical cord and came home.

Little by little I began to feel comfortable in my own house.  Upon leaving Rehab I did request a hospital bed, which Ben had set up in the family room after moving a few pieces of furniture into the garage.  With so many injuries still healing, and being very vulnerable I didn’t want to chance sleeping with Ken no matter how big the bed. 

Ben was wonderful as he went about the business of caring for Ken and I realized I could relax, and it was okay.  No longer was I the sole provider of his needs and wants.  I could visit with or sit next to him and if he got mean and cranky I could go into another room, and not be concerned.  Ben was with him.  I rested when I felt tired with no interruptions.  Ben prepared meals, washed dishes, kept up the laundry, did light housekeeping and made sure everything looked neat and clean relieving me of my normal responsibilities as I continued to heal.  Meanwhile, I zapped through 300 emails, wrote thank you notes, reclaimed my financial books from Sabina (with another inadequate thank you) and returned to writing my blog and my books.

In June I picked blackberries from my own backyard and sat on the steps while berry juice ran down my fingers staining them a deep purplish red.  I didn’t care, they were my blackberries, my hands and my stains.  Inside my house I could sew, bake a cake, and give Ken a quick kiss if he happened to be Ken, pull a familiar plate from the cabinet, shower in my own bathroom or wear a different pair of shoes.  I was home, and finally it was where I wanted to be — with Ken — for however long this chaper of our life together lasts; home with him, the caregiver, and all of my stuff.

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