July 15, 2014

The Fall: Dateline: Caregiver City, Planet Aphasia

 This article was first published by at Yahoo Contributors but they are going out of business and the rights have reverted back to me. So if it seems out of order to the rest of the content here, that is the reason.

There is nothing else in a house that sounds like a body hitting the floor. I heard that kind of thud today and from the kitchen I took off towards the bedroom in an old lady version of a triathlon competitor---stiff knees, making my gait bob from side to side as a speed walked, then hopped over the dog and came to a sliding stop with my socks. My arm was raised in the air as if I was taking part in an Olympic Torch Relay. That's when I realized that I had a wooden spoon in my hand and I was about to drip pistachio pudding all over the place. I did a quick scan of my husband, Don, lying on his back doing an imitation of a beached whale at dawn. He wasn't dead or dying so I dashed back to the kitchen to turn off the stove and deposit the spoon back in the pudding pan. It would have been embarrassing to call an ambulance, the fire department and a carpet cleaner all in the same hour.

Back in the bedroom, Don didn't want me to call 911 to bring help getting him off the floor. "It's a free service included in our taxes," I pleaded. Still, he wasn't ready to give in to the fact that his wife is not a female version of Arnold Schwarzenegger in his prime. We needed help! I thought about all the books in our library and wondered if we had one titled, "An Idiot's Guide to Getting a Paralyzed Guy Back in His Wheelchair." Nope, but I put it on my mental shopping list. We did have a copy of a National Geographies magazine that has an article in it about rescuing beached whales. I briefly wondered if it would be of any help with the situation in the bedroom. Nope, pouring pails of water over Don while waiting for the tide to come in didn't make much sense in the middle of Michigan.

The first time my husband fell out of his chair I struggled, pushed and pulled and finally got Don to his knees. By then, I was wheezing louder than hippopotamus having an asthma attack. But I got his upper body flung over the bed and managed to hoist the rest of him up on the mattress and back to square one for making a transfer to his wheelchair. I don't usually talk about giving wedgies in polite company but it would be quite appropriate here as an explanation for how I managed this feat of getting my guy off the floor. The ordeal took more than an hour and by the time it was over we were both a mass of quivering, sweaty flesh. "Quivering, sweaty flesh" has its appeal when talking about sex but for a couple of old farts dealing with a help-I've-fallen-and-I-can't-get-up situation that phrase can only be filed in a folder labeled, YUCK!

Finally today my husband gave in to my begging and pleading. I called 911 and we waited. Don, he picked that time to point to a burned out light bulb in the ceiling fixture that he wanted me to change before the emergency vehicle roared up our street. Me, I was more concerned to see if the dog had dragged any dirty underwear into the living room. He did. He's a canine pervert.

Two EMT guys showed up at our door: one big and burly, the other wimpy and girlie. They dragged snow across the carpet and I thought, "Okay, if Don was dying I'd be glad they didn't take two seconds to shed their boots." It's a woman thing, I guess, to worry about cleaning details. In the bedroom, the guys snapped on their latex gloves and evaluated the situation before the burly guy righted Don into a sit, got behind him in a weight-lifter's squat and picked all 240 pounds of my husband up with one big He-Man grunt. I was impressed that he didn't split the seam on the back of his pants. Mr. Burly then asked Mr. Wimp to take me into the living room to help him write up some notes.

I sat in my lady-of-the-house chair naming off drugs and wondering why Mr. Wimp didn't take off his gloves. What kind of germs do you suppose he expected to pick up from his paper pad and pen? But I quickly got distracted from that thought and started worrying about what was going on in the bedroom. I'd warned the guys that Don has a language disorder and a very limited vocabulary but I forgot to mention that when he's tired he reverts back to answering, "Yes" to every question. I hoped Mr. Burly didn't ask about all the bruises on his paralyzed arm that are bi-products of taking a blood thinner.

"Did you wife do that to you?" I was worried Mr. Burly would ask.

"Yes," Don would cheerfully, but mistakenly, answer and I'd be in deep do-do. Getting interviewed by Protective Services is not very high on my list of 'A Hundred Things I Want to do Before I Die.'
Don must have passed Mr. Burly's test and he came rolling out of the bedroom with the guy following up the rear. The two EMT men exchanged a few words and it was clear they were ready to leave. That's when I knew Don that was back to his normal self. Out of his lips came his favorite word. "Garage?" he asked while pointing back and forth between Mr. Burly and Mr. Wimp.

I translated that in my head and spoke up quickly, "Don, these guys have other old people to pick up off the floor. They don't have time to tour your collectibles in garage."

"Please?" Don begged, using another word in his twenty-five word vocabulary. It didn't help. The guys were properly polite and promised to come back when they weren't on call. I was thinking how grateful I am that Don's pre-stroke hobby wasn't collecting x-rated magazines and sex toys. Every friend and stranger alike who crosses our threshold gets invited out to the garage.
I returned to the kitchen, found the abandoned pan of pistachio pudding and wondered if I could eat the whole thing in one blissful sitting. If you want to know the answer, it will cost you a quarter. ©

by Jean Riva

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