Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Tired Out

I had surgery on my feet last week so I’ve been on crutches. Mostly, there isn’t much pain. The thing that has surprised me is how much I am sleeping. I can sleep for hours. As I slowly increase my activity, I find after an hour or two I need another nap. Someone pointed out that once I stopped, the last few months may have just caught up with me. I’ve been crashing hard.

My first time driving again, I went to a building complex for folks 62 and over. I have two jobs there I will be starting where I am helping the resident clean the built-up clutter in their homes. Both apartments are going to be quite a challenge. The conversations with the two women in their mid to late 70’s were amazingly similar.

“I’m tired.” Both ladies repeated that again and again. Tired with a capital T. Tired of taking care of themselves. Tired of taking care of other people, which is definitely what most women do for most of their lives. Tired of all of it.

One woman made it clear that she was not referring to “giving up” because there’s a big difference. It brought back floods of feelings and memories of Dad. I spent the last year or so trying to explain to others that exact sentiment. Dad was tired. He was done. But I saw that as completely courageous. There was no giving up, it was an acceptance. Done here. Ready for the next.

I don’t think the women I saw today were necessarily referencing the end of their lives. They are just ready for a change. Needing to simplify. Needing to stop and slow down. Wanting to be taken care of a bit which is the biggest change of all. “I’m tired.”

Later I spoke with one of the managers who asked if I had an initial assessment. I said it was too early to know for sure, but my gut feeling is that neither of them had a mental health issue of concern. They are both just tired. Tired with a capital T.

I’m aware that this week held one of those realizations that once again, God, the universe has brought my life experiences to dovetail beautifully with my work. I was able to understand and relate to them in a much deeper way more quickly than I would have a few months ago. Thanks Dad. It felt really soul-satisfying to hug one of them at the end and hear her say, “You are the only one that is listening. I could kiss you right now.”

My approach to these organizing jobs will have a slightly different slant. I will be emphasizing that peace is coming their way. They can sit in their chairs and direct me and I will do my best to give them rest. The soul kind of rest they desperately need.

My sleep has been more physical, just recovering from surgery and lots of stress. That kind of fatigue is important to respond to, but these women are tired in a much deeper, wide-reaching way. Send prayers for us as we begin our work together that the outcome will be much more significant than a clean apartment. This feels more like a ministry. I’m so glad for the opportunity!


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Preaching to the Choir

My dad moved into assisted living this week. I burned the candle at both ends for a couple of weeks, but he applied, got accepted and moved in rather quickly. On move in day, we had finished all the paperwork but the moving truck hadn’t arrived so we decided to go shopping for some items he needed for his new apartment.

I do not generally enjoy shopping, but this was actually kind of fun. I felt like a mom with a kid going off to college that needed to furnish his dorm room. We went in with a list. The windows are all new and sometimes people don’t even use curtains anymore but Dad is old school. He had the curtains already, but he needed new curtain rods.

We went to the appropriate aisle and I was prepared with the measurements from the maintenance man. There are so many options for curtain rods now. Dad? Well, he wanted those plain white metal ones that bend in an “L” at the end. I did my best to try to change his mind. “Dad, there are so many cute ones. How about this one?  Or this kind? Or this? They aren’t that much more expensive.” Nope. The curtains cover these rods anyway so what does it matter? “Jeeze, Dad. You’re no fun. I can’t believe you are picking the boring ones.” There was an older lady, probably close to Dad’s age in the same aisle. I heard her snicker a bit at our conversation.

We moved on to the next item on the list. We happened to bump into that same woman. Or perhaps not. Perhaps she followed us. She walks up to me, puts her hand on my arm and says ever so firmly, “Now young lady, you know that your opinion doesn’t matter one bit. After all, it is HIS house and he should pick out what he wants.”

I was a bit taken aback, but I thought she was really going to be embarrassed when I pulled those old, ugly white curtain rods out of my cart and showed her that he indeed makes his own decisions. I said that he always calls the shot but I like to rib him a little. It’s what we do.

She was having none of it. She went on to say that, “Someday, YOU will be a senior citizen too and THEN you will understand things.” Her disgust of me was crystal clear. My mind was racing. Me? The one who tends to my dad’s every need? Surely she should know that my sister and I both worked in nursing homes. There was no McDonald’s jobs. We took care of the elderly. Surely she should know that when I lived in Chicago I set up an “Adopt a Grandparent” program for those elderly folks that had no family. I have a lifetime of being respectful to senior citizens.

Her final parting shot (as if the first two weren’t enough) was, “My goodness. Your father and I were certainly raised very differently than your generation was.”

Huh.

She couldn’t have been more wrong about me. It got me thinking though. Jay pointed out to me that people like us go to all the trouble in our heads (or out loud) to defend ourselves when really we don’t owe anyone an explanation. But we even if there is no one to hear, we have to justify ourselves to ourselves. Crazy.

I also wondered how many times I have heard a snippet of our conversation and thought that I had accurately surmised the dynamics with all of my expertise and experience. What the hell do I actually know anyway? I can be pretty accurate with my intuition, but it’s nowhere near 100%. I will try to keep that in mind the next time I have an urge to confront a total stranger (or a beloved person for that matter).