October 30, 2009 by David Gillaspie
WHAT YOU SEE AND WHAT YOU DON’T
What You See: In a grocery store juice aisle a middle aged man hands two quarts of V-8 to an elderly woman in a wheelchair, then pushes her toward fresh vegetables. You see it often when the major Safeway and Albertson’s sit between two Over-Fifty Five communities.
What You Don’t: A son and his mom collect ingredients for an evening cocktail party with their neighbors. Next stop, liquor store. He asked her doctor if a drink would interfere with her meds. The good doctor said “moderation; and you too,” leveling his concern with a well aimed forehead.
“Watch for Tom. I think he’s pocketing celery.”
“He looks more like a carrot guy, but okay, Mom. What about William? He left a message.”
“While I was at the pool?”
“While I was at the gallery?”
“What did he want?”
“He wants to hang out; spend some time with you. Seems like a nice enough man.”
“I’m not making time for a man who can’t keep up. He’s too old, son.”
What You See: In the parking lot of a medical re-hab facility a white haired man pushes an elderly man slumped in a wheelchair. You see an old guy going in for a rest, to re-hab until he’s strong enough to live outside constant medical help. The elderly man looks poured into the chair.
What You Don’t: The older man has Parkinson’s and he’s ten minutes until his next meds, then he perks up. The other man is his caregiver son-in-law. They’re visiting the re-hab to see others worse off. The old guy thinks he’s helping the younger guy get a grip. The younger guy thinks he’s doing it for the older guy. They’re both in somber moods when they leave.
“Do you remember when you were in there?”
“Not surprised. They screwed up when you got out of bed and fell over. You wouldn’t open your eyes for two days. Open your eye for me?”
The old man raised his head to give a pirate’s question-eye (ARrrrrrrr, where’s it buried?)
“I see fine.”
“You ought to after you made me watch your cataract surgery video again.”
“Like an egg sunny side up, only red.”
What You See: A man visits a nursing home for the first time. The staff gives professional smiles. He asks about a resident. He follows directions to a side hall where an old man slumps chest on thighs in a wheelchair. He kneels in front of the chair and leans beneath the old man’s face. It’s the old man’s fifth week in the home, and the other man’s first visit. Probably in town on a guilt trip.
What You Don’t: The old man went into an adult foster home when his caregiver son-in-law took an overseas trip to meet his wife’s side of the family. The resident arrived in the nursing home after falling the first night in the adult foster home, going to the hospital, then medical re-hab. His son-in-law showed up the second day home from England. He visited every day for a week.
“Hey man, can you hear me? Move something. You don’t want a three toothed hillbilly on a two string banjo singing Still Waters Run Deep. Move something or I start tuning up. “
A hand twitched.
“Good. You’re breaking out of here, see? I looked around. Only way is out the front. I’ll scout it some more, see, until then be ready. If you’re not ready, get ready.”
His forehead raised on his knees, maybe a nervous twitch.
“We’re the Dirty Dozen on the Great Escape. Who will you be? Steve McQueen? Jim Brown? Okay fine, you’re Lee Marvin.”
What You See: Millions of people feeling unprepared for unexpected caregiving.
What You Don’t See: Baby Boomers backing off from anything because they’re unprepared. They are the Greatest Unprepared Generation and they don’t worry, they figure it out on the go. The Greatest Generation, our parents, are counting on it.
“What am I supposed to do? I mean, I have a life.”
“Yes you do.”
“I’ve worked hard to get where I am.”
“Yes you have.”
“It’s not just work, either. It’s what I believe in, my passion.”
“I’ve read Dianetics, Wayne Dyer, the classics. I am self-actualized, you know.”
“Yes you are. When do you want Mom to move in?”
“Next week works. I can move some things around.”