Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pedestals



I had a bit of an epiphany the other night.

I was crouched down hooking up lines on my dad’s home hemodialysis machine to make a batch of solution for his next day’s therapy, a nearly four-hour process I have been assisting him with every other day for more than two years.

The thing is, he usually does that particular part himself. I’m usually — or “should be” — home or socializing or doing something “fun.”

I guess.

I mean, isn’t that what most people are doing? Spending their Friday nights dressed up, looking fashionable, or at least relaxing with friends or family.

Whatever.

Not doing this.

So I was feeling a little sorry for myself, because let’s face it, the past two months have been unusually challenging.

My father broke his hip in mid-November, which had me running back and forth between checking on my mom and visiting him during his nearly three weeks in the hospital. When he came home, he couldn’t be alone or take the stairs in their two-story house so I have essentially moved in with him in the condo where he does his dialysis. I’ve helped with everything from pulling on and off these outrageously tight orthopedic socks morning and night to grocery shopping and drug store runs.

Just about the time we felt my dad was okay to be alone overnight, my mother, who’d been staying in their home with the animals, suddenly was feeling sick. On New Year’s Day I took her to the local ER. It wasn’t terribly clear what her problem was, other than signs of infection and a pain that moved around in her abdomen from one day to the next.

A week later my mother had both her gall bladder and appendix removed. For the next two weeks, she had one thing or another — from an incision that wouldn’t heal properly to chest pains that resulted in one test after another to ensure it was due to heartburn and not her heart.

It was nearly three weeks before she was discharged, so weak now she too could not be home alone.

So here we are, three of us, in my dad’s dialysis condo, me pulling socks on and off, helping my mother with her medications while encouraging her to do what’s necessary to regain her strength. Oh, yes, and now running to their home daily to retrieve mail, feed and water three indoor cats plus several she’s given refuge to outdoors. There is the dog, too, now also at the condo so I can let her out morning and night.

Somehow in the midst of this, I actually find time to do my work but not much else.

So there I was on a Friday night, not in the latest fashions or hairstyle but in the same uniform of jeans and a dark shirt, hair in a ponytail. Far from sitting in some trendy restaurant, I was sitting on my heels hooking up surgical tubing.

And then it hit me.

Sure, this kind of sucks. But I am doing something terribly significant. And not saying no to it or avoiding it.

I looked at myself as someone else might and thought, Wow. She’s awesome.

Here I was putting all these people I imagined were doing what I thought I should be doing — living the good life, looking like some image in a magazine — on a kind of pedestal.

Not that my family is living the good life right now. It is what it is. But I’m doing what I need to do, putting that first.

And in that, I realized I’m the one I should be putting on that pedestal. Along with so many others who do what is necessary rather than what is fun.

We just might not look like it at first.