July 14, 2014

Taming the Shrew, Caregiver Style

The dog needs his own alarm clock. I'm sick of fighting with him to see who gets to pee first in the mornings. My bathroom is at one end of the house and he needs to be at the other end and I can barely run fast enough to service us both. One of these days I'm going to pee my pants trying. If Cooper could just get himself up fifteen minutes before I do he could let himself out, trek around our deck, do his business then come in and lick us awake. It shouldn't be too hard for the dog to learn the door opening trick. We've got those handicapped levels (instead of door knobs) and he's a smart little bugger. Don, my husband, is no competition for pee time. He's right side paralyzed and pees in a urinal. Ah, the feeling of togetherness I get when Don and I pee at the same time! "The family that pees together stays together," I often tell him from the throne.

Some of the words that tumble out of my mouth---entirely of their own volition---shock even me. Like: "Don, do it yourself, I'm not your mother!" This shrew-lady comes to our house mostly after Don's showers when he wants me to pick out his clothing. We've got this great, wheelchair accessible closet with hangers down at his level and low hooks for his not-ready-to-send-to-the-cleaners wool shirts. And it's not like his choices are as hard as those on an SAT test; it's mostly wheelchair compatible sweat pants and tee-shirts. But every day it's the same old thing; he'll sit in the closet for a few minutes, then he'll bellow out "Jean!" or "Cooper!" which ever name his language disorder, aphasia, plops on his tongue.

If I'm in another part of the house I can't be entirely sure, from the frantic tone of his cry, if: 1) he's fallen and he can't get up, 2) there's a spider on the wall, 3) he can't decide what to wear, 4) I forgot to flush the toilet, or 5) the house is on fire. So, I come running at the sound of his voice as if it's a dinner bell at an Over-Eaters' Anonymous meeting and I'm the hungriest woman in the room.

Can someone tell my why this full-grown, macho guy developed a fear of itsy bitsy spiders since acquiring a wheelchair? It doesn't matter if they are butt-ugly and scary or cute like Daddy Long Legs from a Walt Disney movie. He sends me off on a hunt like I'm after a bull elephant in heat that's just torn down a primitive village. Glory hallelujah! With Kleenex in hand, I stalk the little beast and get my man! Shall we have him stuffed and mounted? Gone are the days, when I once made a big deal over giving a reprieve to a spider living in a corner. "Spider," I said with dramatic wave of my arm, "This is not your day to die." And I completely missed the possibility that it could be a female ready to lay eggs while it waited for the governor to call and give it another pardon. Oops.

Back standing in front of the closet, I have to decide: is this a Shrew-Lady day or did Miss. Manners stop by? I hate having two personalities! On Miss. Manners' days I might sweetly suggest, "Don, you've only got three colors of sweats. Let's pick one. Good choice! Now, let's see what color shirt will go with your pants"---straight out of the pages of "The Caregivers' Guide to Building Self-Esteem." It might be a coincidence, but I think Miss. Manners comes by on the days when we're in a hurry. On Shrew-Lady days, she makes Don pick out his own outfits, and then she bits her tongue when the color combinations look like they were selected by a blindfolded dart thrower.
Cooper, he's met Shrew-Lady too. That silly little pompous poodle has learned how to take short cuts underneath Don's wheelchair when he's blocking a doorway, but he couldn't figure out why Shrew-Lady got so upset when he snatched the top piece of bread off a sandwich and dropped it mustard side down on the carpet.

Not long ago, Miss. Manners decided that Shrew-Lady needed to chill out and get in touch with her softer side. So Miss. Manners sat Shrew-Lady down in a chair and told her that even before the stroke Don used to call and ask: "Jean, what should I wear?" Shrew-Lady, she might not be entirely tamed but now she tries to remember the words I've said to so many novice caregivers: "Not all things are stroke-related." Or to put it another way, all guys will be guys. ©

By Jean Riva

This article was first published by Yahoo Contributors, in their humor section, but they are going out of business and the publishing rights have reverted back to me. So I've moved it to my blog to preserve it. If it seems out of order to the rest of the content here, that's the reason. It was written before my husband passed away.

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