Most of January, I was mired in gloom worthy of Charles Dickens’ Bleak House, and for no good reason really. We are fortunate to have good long-term care insurance, I have companion help for Peter, and house-cleaning help for me. Best of all, Leslie is close by to bolster me, and Carolynn cheerleads from 596 miles away.
Could be a whole lot worse.
A well-timed phone call jerked me right back to my senses last week. Several times a year, our insurance company nurses call to ask routine questions: “Does Mr. Clarke need help bathing himself? Does he need help brushing his teeth? Has Mr. Clarke had any falls lately? Does he need help toileting? Is he incontinent? Does he have a problem falling asleep or staying asleep?” I always answer no. When they ask him directly how he’s doing, he charms them with a cheery “So far, so good.”
Before she rang off the nurse asked for more detail about his days. Peter is way more forgetful than the last time she checked, I told her, and more confused generally. And no, he can’t really converse except with me or other family members. We try to fill in the blanks and make sense of what we think he wants to say.
But, Peter copes better than most. He doesn’t need nursing care — yet — and he still “lets the dog walk him twice a day.” His sense of humor is intact, and although he often wears me out with his silly jokes and continuous corny patter, he takes care of me in the only way he can. He makes me laugh.
A recent morning for instance.
I’d been begging him to get rid of the moth-eaten, raggedy wool sweater he wears all the time. I dug into his drawerful of English cardigans —”cardis” he calls them — and found a marine blue double knit one. “Maybe you’d like to wear this for a change,” I said when I handed it to him. I thought sure he’d recognize it as one his mum had sent more than forty-five years ago, but he didn’t. He’s never worn it, but he’s always said he would when he was an old man. If not now, when? I thought.
Darned if he didn’t put it on right away. I wasn’t surprised how perfect it looked with the blue tattersall shirt he was wearing. I spread praise thickly.
He looked in the mirror, tucked his chin in, puffed his chest out, and said in a rumbling Churchillian voice, “Hrmp hrmp, erm, yes, jolly good, yes, I say, yes, mmm….”
When I burst out laughing, he wrapped me in a hug and I asked myself, what in the bloody heck do I have to feel depressed about?
Header photo: Close-up of Peter’s moth-eaten, raggedy wool sweater.
2016 National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ contest finalist.
So wonderful, so true.
Love this story! Can’t wait to see the sweater on him! BUT, you are allowed to feel sad and swamped. It is hard. I hate that it’s gonna get harder. Hugs and love.
Thanks, Honey. But you know how I hate swamps…snakes…squishy, mucky, yucky.
Now that just made my day!!!!!!!! Actually got goodies up and down my spine. I’m so glad that he can still make you laugh. 😃
Lovely story! He does have a wonderful sense of humor, and his eyes show it…they most often are sparkling! A little more sun would help! Spring is coming Judy!
And there’s nothing like a big hug to smooth out all the rough edges!! 💕cj
Too true, Darlin’, as Peter would say. 😉
Love you and your ability to find the smiles 💕
That smile was a side-splitter!
What a lovely story and hugs are the best …. keep smiling and remember this moment.
I will. Thanks, Robin.