Last week, Flossie and I were heading into the bathroom for the umpteenth time one day. Like a fairly well oiled machine, we transferred, prepared, used the facility, tidied up and transferred back to her wheelchair and headed to the sink. We got the giggles as we discussed our own version of The Hundred foot Journey :The One Foot Journey, the distance between the wheelchair and the commode, we make, a hundred times. It would be an awesome video, that, like most of our humor as of late, only the two of us would think funny.
Flossie, my sweet awesome 84 year old Mother in law, moved into our home on December 26th, exactly 3 months, 18 days after suffering a severe stroke. Up until September 8, she was completely independent, living on her own, driving all around suburban Maryland, lunching with friends, sewing for her church, was one anxiously engaged in living and loving life. Then life changed for her, and for us, but surprisingly, not for the worse, at least from my perspective.
It was with nervous anticipation we prepared our home for a wheelchair bound member of the family. Both Tim and I thoughtfully prepared with safety and ease of movement foremost in our minds, while also trying to maintain normalcy in our home surroundings for our 3 still at home children. December 26th arrived and I was so nervous, I didn’t want to get out of bed, which caused me to feel guilty that the source of dread might be that I didn’t want to help her. And to be honest, I think a part of me didn’t want to take that on, it was going to be a lot of work, a lot of sacrifice. I realized that this day, December 26th might be the last day I could sleep in as long as I wanted, the last time I could take my 16 year old daughter shopping without worrying about which stores have wheelchair accessible bathrooms, the last time I could take our sons out to Five guys or pizza for dinner on a whim. I was a mess. We took the day to put finishing touches in her room with the help of our kids. Her flight arrived that afternoon.
She looked good, Tim’s sister pushing the wheelchair off the tram through security, with Flossie spotting us and waving at us, looking a little travel worn, but smiling, the kind of smile you want to look real, but doesn’t quite fool those who know you best. She was nervous too. Nervous about leaving her home, proximity to her daughter and her mind being affected by the stroke, not able to understand that this would be her new home for the foreseeable future, and so a little confused about her 6 pieces of luggage for a “visit”. We had one full day with Tim’s sister teaching us the things she learned from nurses in the Rehab Center, like how to transfer her to and from a wheelchair, how to help her use the restroom, how to dress her, things like that. It was a bit overwhelming, and I was scared. I did not want Katie to leave! Ever!
But, Katie left the next day, and so we went to work, ready or not. I felt like I was on a roller coaster, at the crest of the first hill. Do you know what? I gained confidence as I tried and adapted the techniques Katie taught me. Flossie would ask a lot about Katie the first few days, but one morning, she called for me. I almost cried, because to me it meant she knew I would come and that I would help her. I now am her primary caregiver. I have become a better, happier, more patient, more complete person. I see miracles in each day and find joy in serving her basic needs and those of my children. She and I have laughed and giggled at things not usually funny; we have fun. I feel closer to my Savior when rubbing lotion into her sore arm or massaging her weak foot or doing any other personal act for her. Helping her get into bed and gently kissing her forehead brings me a quiet peace I had never anticipated. I have learned and gained so much from my one foot journey and my traveling companion. I can’t wait to see what the next journey we take together teaches me.