Monday, June 28, 2010

The Next Disabled Person You Meet Might Have A Familiar Face


It's good to be back from vacation, somewhat refreshed but alarmed by just how hot its been here in New Jersey, and of the lack of rainfall locally....its in the mid 90's as I type this, with a brown lawn and plants and shrubs that were almost the victims of this mini-drought.

I'll get back into more political stuff shortly.....but I find I'll need to ease back into it, dipping my toes into the cold waters gently. For the past two weeks I kept informed by watching the news, but it was a minimum and I deliberately put current events on a back burner. It was time to clean out the cobwebs and look at things from a different angle. And to deal with some personal issues as well.

On the road last week I had a "eureka moment". As many readers of this blog know I'm the primary caregiver to both of my parents, ages 83 and 81. Both have health issues, and most apparent is their lack of mobility. My Mom needs a walker to get around, and I've finally convinced Dad to start using a cane- his balance isn't good, and he has to stop depending on having a wall or furniture to guide and support himself. So far, so good on that.

Like most people I passed handicapped parking places for years, and had seen the special toilets in public rest rooms, and the wheelchair ramps in public accommodations. And like most people I thought nothing of them- they were always for someone else, not for me or mine.

But today those wheelchair ramps and special restroom facilities are for my parents; the situation has come home to roost, and has been part of our lives for years now. But the eureka moment I was referring to has less to do with my folks and more to do with me, and anyone who's reading this, whether you be a Baby Boomer, a Gen X'er, or whatever. And its this simple truth.

You may be in good health now, and in physical shape, and may even be a world class athlete. But if you live long enough the odds are you too will join the ranks of the disabled.

Its such a simple paradox, this trade off. The good will die young, and rest of us will become old geezers with titanium knees and a hefty supply of overpriced statins. If you live a long life you will probably have to sacrifice your mobility, and be dependent on others to help you along until the end of your days. And it is a tough go for those with disabilities, particularly for those of us who thrive on independence and being able to do things when we want to do them.

I look at those who believe that Medicare should be abolished with astonishment, and to those who protest "Obamacare" as if somehow they hold a empirical key to their minds, that is. The bottomline is 20, 30, or 40 years from now you, dear readers, could be the ones occupying the handicapped space in front of the A&P. As a person who's become a caregiver in my middle years, trust'll need all the help you can get.

Last Thursday at the PERKINS restaurant in DuBois, PA the hostess performed a random act of kindness that needed mention. I was driving, and got into the handicapped parking space, and proceeded to "unload" Mom and Dad from the car. Dad's driving is about as good as his walking, so he was relegated to the back seat, my Mom in the passenger's seat in the front. I undid her walker from my bike rack- that's right, her walker was bungied to my mountain bike- while my Dad started to unfold his way out of the back seat. Before he could do any damage to himself, I stopped what I was doing and made sure he had a cane in his hand, then went back to setting up the walker for my Mom, while keeping an eye on my Dad.

At that point the hostess from the restaurant came out and held the door open and kept an eye on my father while I got my mother moving towards the restaurant. She saw I need some help, and she just gave it. It was just a small gesture on her part, taking a minute to give a hand to a total stranger....but it meant a lot to me. We need just a bit more of that in our lives. We'd all be the better for it.

I never caught the name of that young lady in Central Pennsylvania.....but I just wanted to say thanks just the same.


Sue said...

my Mom is 80 too, she is not healthy and spends most of her waking hours watching politics or Phillies. We can't get her out of the house except for doctor visits or the occassional family getogether, she didn't even go to the Christmas eve party last year! It's alot of work caring for our elderly parents. Be strong, you are doing a great thing keeping them out of a nursing home and with you, but you need to take time for yourself or you'll go nuts! I know, it's happened to my sister who is the caretaker of our Mom!

Hugh Jee From Jersey said...

Sue thanks for the encouragement and the kind words. As you can see by my output around here lately life is changing, and my time is being diverted a bit.

And so it goes.

But I have time for myself...and a more than adequate supply of beer.

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