Written Nov 4, 2010 7:26am
The independence/dependence dance. Those of you that have ever parented a 2 year old have intimate knowledge of this, and are then surprised when it recurs in Jr High, and welcome it as “almost there” when they get ready to graduate. It is a time of few words, some rolling of eyeballs, a resounding “no” from both parties, struggle, and then calm when the new line is drawn.
Jim’s DVT has gotten worse. His right leg is swollen up to the groin and is dead weight for him to drag around. He is still walking around the house, still insists on doing the stairs, but bike riding and perhaps even hiking, have disappeared from his repertoire. His processing for everyday activities has gotten worse. He knows he is hungry, but cannot assemble a meal. Dirty dishes get placed back in the cupboard, or shaving cream gets spread on a razor when he wants to brush his teeth. Jim’s right side is becoming less functional, so drinks get dropped, elevating a leg that weighs twice it’s normal requires assistance, and 2 handed activities such as zippers take a long, long time.
In a moment of relative clarity the other night, as I was helping him get his sock off before bed, he stated, “I can be as dependent as I want to be…”, and I see him putting a lot of effort into maintaining as much independence as he can. So, I assemble the meals with an emphasis on foods that can be picked up in the left hand and eaten. His thick drinks are now served in cups with a lid and a straw. He gets to choose between pudding and applesauce for his meds, and he eats them at the table. I set up the toothbrush, he brushes his teeth, I sneak up stairs and position pillows for elevating his leg, he climbs the stairs. He undresses and transfers into bed, I lift the heavy leg.
The independence/dependence dance mostly just takes time. It is always faster to do for, and there are times when it is not practical or safe to wait it out. So…we do the dance. Eyes roll sometimes. Sometimes I say “no”, sometimes Jim does. And yet, at the end of every day, we snuggle, and laugh.
I woke up this morning to the first snow of the season. Wet and sloppy, but 2-3 inches at least. Even though we had stayed up late watching a movie, I was awake before the alarm went off. Daylight savings time, or perhaps it was the 2 plus hour nap I fell into yesterday. I grabbed some quick coffee and then headed out to shovel. The drive, the sidewalk, I brushed off Greg’s car as he slumbered on. I made it to swimming, barely. My summer tires are old, and I put off the snow tire exchange until the last minute this year. Straight from the pool to Les Schwab.
Before 7 am, and there was already a line at the tire store. Ran into a friend. We dropped off our cars and kept each other company on the walk back home. She’s just moved in with her boyfriend. We laughed about living with boys (they fart), and about finding love later in life. We talked about why, when we were relatively happy alone, we would even bother with the other half of the human species. We discussed the excitement of a new relationship, and then the comfort that comes when you settle into the daily life of work, chores, daily homecomings, and sleep.
After Jim died, I spent at least a year fighting my dependence on him. I tackled and mastered most home chores that he had previously performed. Being a girl, and less than 2/3 his size, I had to learn different ways of doing things. I serviced my lawnmower, and the boats. I changed furnace filters, light bulbs, and smoke detector batteries. I cleaned gutters. I used a ladder or step stool. I discovered that I did not have to be strong to get the snow tires into the back of the truck, I just had to understand ramps and levers and use them to my advantage. I realized that shoveling snow in the predawn light is like meditation. It is peaceful, quiet, while I still hold the warmth of a good night’s sleep. I was proud of my new-found independence.
Greg slept on this morning. While I slept the afternoon away yesterday, he was in Spokane. He went to visit a friend, and he hit a cheaper grocery store to benefit the 2 of us. He also willingly transported pumped breast milk for a nursing baby here in Moscow whose parents are camped out in the pediatric intensive care with their older child. The drive home in the snow was intense. I am proud of my independence, but I am not ashamed of my dependence. I still can’t back a trailer, I have a long way to go in learning to drive a tractor, and living 50 minutes away, Greg gets primary care of our horses. I need someone at the end of my day that loves me no matter how I feel, and warm arms to feel safe and sleepy at night. What I am most grateful for is our interdependence. The family that needed the milk transported has just begun to realize the tribe that is this community. Needing each other is not a sign of weakness, it is the strength in realizing that we are never really alone. Love, in all of its forms, is infinite.