Sometimes I get lost in the many thoughts about my never-ending health issues. Serious sickness softened my focus on family and concern for others. All I could see was the diminished person staring at me from the mirror. My many years of MS had mixed with cancer, a potentially lethal blood clot in my lungs and a host of less dramatic ailments to energize the obsession with self.
My frequent falls brought matters to a head. Usually they come upstairs in our house. I do not fall like a tree slamming to the ground. I crumple as my legs falter and fail to hold me up. There is no warning signal. My descent to the floor is sudden and slow. It cannot be stopped. So begins the larger problem of figuring a way to return to my feet. I cannot simply stand. MS took that away long ago.
Positioning my right leg to do what I ask is an impossibly. I have not learned the art of standing up using only one leg. I have to crawl to a piece of heavy furniture, a bed or sturdy chair. Even then, sometimes I am unable to pull off the maneuver. If Meredith is around, she tries to help, but she is small and I am tall, not a good recipe for teamwork. One time, she hurt her back and announced emotionally that she cannot do this anymore.
She had to call the police another time when she gave up getting me upright. We live in a small village outside New York, and two officers arrived within minutes. I was back on my feet in less time than that. They were gracious. Meredith was extremely frustrated. “We can’t live this way,” she said emotionally. Her words fell on deaf ears.
I fell one time too many. Meredith wanted to call the police. I shouted, no, insisting I would get myself up and all but banishing her from the room. I was more concerned about bothering the police than with what I was doing to my wife. It took more than an hour for me to pull myself up three stairs toward her office so I could use the metal railing to pull my weight up enough to stand.
That was it. Meredith was adamant that we had to do something. I rejected her ideas. She turned to me angrily and told me she was done, that I was not to ask her to do anything for me. She added that our friends thought I was I was selfish. Then she left the house. I sat in silence. It was a sobering moment. I thought hard about how much Meredith does for me and how ungrateful I must seem, responding to my emotional agenda and ignoring hers.
Rude is a word that comes to mind. I sat down at the computer and consulted Dr. Google to choose a company that sells pendants with a button to notify them when there is any kind of medical emergency. I figured they would then notify the police.
The next move was to contact the local constabulary. They were terrific, telling me they go to people’s homes regularly to assist residents in need. They suggested I give them a key to the front door in case Meredith is away and I have made one of my visits to the floor. They put me at ease.
Self-absorption when are sick may be understandable, but it hardly is acceptable. Illness is a family affair. Spouses have the special burden of tending to emotional needs and practical responsibilities. They should not be treated as spectators when they are in the ring with us.