Experiences teach you if you let them. They will mold you in ways you will later look back on with interest and contemplation.
My father recently had a serious medical incident. I was traveling on business when I learned of his situation. My first thoughts were how can I help, what/who are my resources and how fast can I get there. My sister and I determined I would be the first to go. I left the next day. She handled the back-end paperwork, insurance, contacts, advocates, appointments and financials. It was a vast amount of detailed work. She excelled at the task.
I was the direct advocate on-site pushing for services in a timely manner and understanding the information presented by medical personnel. Much of it I recorded. Sometimes it didn’t go so well for me. I may have been a bit brash and impatient. I was the enforcer and became known as the hard sister. Part of me liked the title, it meant I was doing my job. I don’t play when it comes to people I love.
I learned in the medical system there are rule followers and rule breakers. I like the rule breakers. They get it done no matter what the process is. They find a way, they are creative people. I also noticed who shows up, who gives of themselves to be supportive and who says how can I help? Having a small family this is important to me. It’s when the family you create for yourself matters.
This is a blog about some of those people. After all, in the end it’s always about people.
There are the known supporters who are there for you no matter what. My best friend and my beloved dog Effie. My close friends and colleagues. My sister’s family, especially my niece who talked to me on the long drive.
There were unexpected others. One that was helpful to me at the exact moment needed was the twin sister of my college roommate. Hester. She is a nurse and runs a facility for the elderly. We had a choice for rehab with two very different points of view by people making recommendations. My friend strongly urged me to call Hester from the hospital parking lot to get her opinion. Hester was calm and steady. In two minutes she told me which decision would be best and why. It made total sense. I had clarity. I appreciated her so much at that moment. At the end of the conversation she said, “I can be there in one hour and 15 minutes” if you need me. I will gladly come. Tears came to my eyes because I knew she meant it. You know when people are authentically trying to help. You know the difference because your mind and body resonate to the truth of it.
John. John and my father have known each other for years. They went through the deaths of their wives together both dying of dementia. My father had been in the hospital two days before I arrived. When I walked in the room, there was John and another friend sitting right next to my Dad. Later, when I brought my father back to skilled nursing for rehab I ran into John. He said, “is he back?” I said yes, and he said, “I will walk with you.” My father was at the table eating dinner when John went over, pulled up a chair and sat beside him. In silence my father ate and in silence John sat.
If you haven’t read the Christmas story of Barrington Bunny, you must google and read it. John reminds me of Barrington. Using his talents to be supportive of those who matter to him. Again, tears coming to my eyes being a witness to such a quiet friendship. Every time I turned around, John was there. He saw me as I was leaving. We said our good byes and he said, “I will go and see him now.” As if he knew the timing might be right. Authenticity. You know it because your mind and body resonate to the truth of it.
Kelly. There is an intake process when you are entering skilled rehab. Kelly runs that process.
My parents were two of the original residents on the West side of Bethany. My father is lovingly known as the “Mayor of Bethany Village”. He is beloved by all. He is involved in many things and everybody knows him. During this process I was first told by the director that there may not be a bed in rehab for my father, that he may need to go to another outside facility. This instantly annoyed me. I stewed on this while driving and then Kelly called me. She said I have a room for your father. Not just a room, but a private room. Two days later I met Kelly when she came to visit my Dad. She said when I heard your Dad needed skilled rehab I got him the best room! She had the walls painted, the bathroom floors stripped and resurfaced and helped clean the room herself. She had a top of the line sit/stand recliner put into the room. She said he would be receiving the best possible care they could provide. Once again tears came down my face. This time I was embarrassed because sometimes you can’t stop those tears. This was one of those times. You know authenticity when you see it. You know it because your mind and body resonate to the truth of it.
There were others, but these are the three that stand out in my mind that moved my spirit.
A couple of years ago I wrote a blog about watching our parents age gracefully until they don’t. I am reminded that life is short. Soon he’ll be 90 years old.
While there, I the opportunity of staying in his apartment, of being alone in his home. Each night I would sit in the silence of his space. I looked at his photos, art work, clothes and his desk. I looked at his ties, the newsletters he reads and how he organizes his recycling. I slept in his bed, sat in his chair and spent some time looking out his window each night as the new moon turned into a fingernail moon as time progressed.
I thought about the events of his life, the memories and of my life as a part of his. The people who have walked through this life with him, me and our family. Some have been with us for the entirety of our lives, some have come and gone through life situations, and some will remain after we are gone. I thought of how accepting he is of me and my life choices. How much I appreciate that support from him. I cherish the time I spent alone in his space giving me the opportunity and freedom to have these thoughts and memories. To process our situation. Once again the tears flowed but more so, because I am grateful.
This much I know is true. The measure of a man is not in the things that he owns, or the material possessions he has acquired. It is not in his title or in his wealth. It is in the kindnesses he extends freely to others. It is the giving of self that matters. I see this with my father. The outpouring of love toward him was overwhelming because he is a man who first gives to others. You know authenticity when you see it. You know it because your mind and body resonate to the truth of it.
Come what may. Lessons learned, Memories Cherished.
Until next time,