Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Tripping Over Myself: Self-sufficiency verses Asking for Help

When I went to the Clinics at Jefferson Hospital I was told again and again I must ask for help. The Social Worker called and admonished me for not asking others for help. At the ALS Support Group we were told we must ask for help. Over and over again at church people ask me if I need anything, do I need any help, what can they do for me.

Generally I answer, "No, I'm fine. Thanks for asking, but I really don't need any help."

It was the way I was brought up, how I grew up and how I lived as an adult. You took care of yourself. You didn't ask for charity. You didn't beg, surely. If something needed done, you took care of it yourself. I always did. Sure, if the complexity was beyond my knowledge and skill somebody else would have to do it, but that meant you hired some specialist to come do it for a price. I paid their fee, so I still could say I took care of it myself.

But you know what sins those two things are?

First, that, "I'm okay", is often a lie. It is another thing we were brought up to do. Someone asks, "How are you?" "I'm fine," is the excepted answer. Anything else is whining. People don't want to know your problems.

Second, I was brought up to take care of myself and that was called self-sufficiency. This is honorable up to a point, but you can step across a line where it becomes self-pride.

Makes me think of the Black Knight in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail". In a sword fight with King Arthur the Black Knight has both arms cut off, to which he replies, "'Tis but a flesh wound!" The result of this insistence on self-sufficiency is he has both legs chopped off as well.

There is a point you have to concede to the reality of your situation. Metaphorically, I am as limbless as the Black Knight. I have to swallow my pride and admit I need help.

I have had some help. People have brought me things at times and cut my grass occasionally. Right now my next door neighbor cuts my front lawn whenever he mows his own. I am happy, because the front yard is the hardest for me. It has embankments and I have bad balance.  I still cut my back yard. It is larger, but flat, and I can do it, even though it wears me out by the time I finish. I am not sure, though, how well I will do once the hot weather settles in. My wife has been doing lot of trimming back the jungle of bushes that surround us. I've been out doing some, but I last about 15-20 minutes and lose my legs, and feel sick.

I can take care of myself still. I can dress myself, but it is a comedy routine. So is getting out of the bathtub. Jean, a friend, gave me a shower bench, but I enjoy a long bath and will do so as long as I can. The problem is getting out of the tub afterward, we have no hand grips or anything like that. I actually videoed myself getting out after a bath. It's is rather hilarious, but I deleted the film. I mean, funny as it is I could hardly put it on YouTube.

I don't have trouble going to the store for groceries and other stuff. After all, at worse, the cart holds me up. I am losing so much strength now I can't lift anything heavy, and by heavy I mean anything much bigger than a jug of milk. If I get the cat supplies I have a clerk bring the littler and food to my car and ask my daughter to unload it when she is around. I have to ask others to open juice and water bottles. I don't have the strength in my hands to break the seals and turn the caps. I lifted a bottle of V-8 from the bottom of my little refrigerator the other day and could barely get it up to waist high. My hands are so bad I drop a lot of things. It is embarrassing. I still take a morning walk in the park every day, but I have to use a walking stick.

We still cook, but I don't as much. I cook anything and it really fatigues me. Lois gets pretty worn out cooking, too. We can't afford to eat out every night, though, so cook we must. To tell the truth, writing is an effort. I use to sit and type for hours, not I am drowsy in no time and pressing the keys doesn't alway work because of my weak fingers.

One thing is I look pretty normal still, old, but normal. I look capable. I can see the changes in my body, but am not certain other people can pick up on them. I also know I will deteriorate more with each passing month. Therefore, I look at tasks that once I would have done probably with some ease and feel daunted by my uselessness. Lois says she'll do them, but I know some she can't and some I would rather she didn't. She sits and worries, or rather, stays awake all night and worries, because she doesn't think we'll be able to sell the house if the day comes when we must. Here are most of our tasks:

Probably the biggest is the bathroom floor. It looks awful these days. That white tile was supposed to be strong, but in reality it didn't lay well and it chips and breaks easily. There is a layer of tile beneath it I had put down several years ago. Once I was good at doing that. Lois is concerned about the floor beneath. It is a very small bathroom, but may as well be the Taj Mahal to me.

The driveway needs the cracks patched. I did it last year, but I know I can't now. Lois says she'll do it. She has in the past, but things are getting very difficult for her even if she doesn't want to admit. She has already bought the gunk for filling in the cracks.

A number of years ago, Lois tiled the backsplash area, but she never finished this one line down this wall. It is the same with the floor, she didn't run the ceramic tiles beneath the refrigerator. She keeps talking about riping up the current tile and resurfacing the floor. I really am hoping she doesn't she start doing that.
She speaks of taking up the carpet we laid the other year and refinishing the hardwood floors, and they do need such work, but I can't imagine us accomplishing that anymore.

The kitchen faucet drips, has for years now. I asked a plumber who was here one day about fixing it. He said it would cost $600. I can't afford that, so I have let it drip. There was a time when you would unscrew the end and replace the washer and drip stopped. These are waterless spigots. Isn't modern technology wonderful? $600 to fix a small drip.

Anyway, enough moaning about my little annoyances.I don't want to be a whiner, but I do have to admit I need help.

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