Thursday, May 29, 2008

To be or not to be (connected)

My husband was sick in bed the other day when the phone rang. He answered, and the next thing I knew gales of laughter were streaming from the bedroom. Every once in a while I'd hear "You have to be kidding!" or something like that. I hadn't a clue who it was, but it sounded like a buddy calling up to share some recent misadventures.

Afterwards, he told me it was an acquaintance of ours who is terminally ill. In my younger days, I would have been surprised to hear that, what with all the merriment going on, but I've found since then that some critically ill or injured people turn into some of the laughingest people on the planet. I have some lovely half-baked theories on why that is true, but I won't bother you with those today. At any rate, a dying man called and made my husband laugh so hard he could barely breathe. And if I know those two, my husband returned the favor. These guys love to swap stories, and laugh.

Later, my husband told me that there was no good news from that quarter, unless you count that he's delighted his child has finally graduated from school.

Later still, my husband told me that his buddy said he has taken to diving for the phone every time his wife goes in the shower, because she won't let him talk to people. She shoos visitors away, and jumps on the phone to cut off conversations, always fussing at her husband because 'he ought to be resting.' Right on cue, just after that, she came on the phone and demanded that they hang up, because he needed his rest.


OK, I know the temptation. My husband is crippled and in a lot of pain and about three years ago we had The Great Heart Failure Adventure in which I sat by his bed while he teetered between life and death. Since then, we've learned to live with oxygen tubes and that sort of jazz. I understand the perceived need to fiercely protect someone who is sick, and once or twice or thrice I've given in to it. But I can't understand making it your standard policy. Especially for someone who is thought to be on his last legs, like the man who called. If he wanted solitude, that would be one thing. But he doesn't. He craves contact with others.

I'm at a bit of a loss. I don't think it's my business to interfere in that particular instance, for the same reason I'm bothered by the wife's cutting him off like she is: in short, the man in question 'is a big boy now' and it's up to him to decide how to handle things, as far as I can see.

On the other hand, if, by chance, there is somebody in your family who is seriously ill or disabled, will you please step back and take a look at how much you're 'protecting' them, and whether it makes sense to do so to that extent? I hate it when people get buried (for all intents and purposes) before they're dead.

If it helps any, I wouldn't want to see a tally of the times I've gritted my teeth, bit my tongue, taken a walk, gone to the grocery store when I didn't need to, closed myself in my room and cried and/or prayed, changed the subject entirely, etc., when what I felt like doing was to act like a mother hen.

If it helps any, I rarely have to do that any more. Once you get yourself in a habit of letting your disabled loved one be responsible for himself, it gets easier. Or it did for me, at least. I have some lovely theories on why that's true, too...

No comments: