Thursday, October 27, 2011

Sometimes you HAVE to laugh!

I love the scene in National Lampoons Christmas Vacation movie where the parents and in-laws are arriving to spend time for the holidays at the Griswold household. There are lots of hugs, kisses and general pandemonium going on at the front door, as well as conversations ensuing concerning the various medical ailments afflicting them all at this stage in their lives. The scene is so vividly captured and acted so well, it is a funny and yet poignant reminder of real life for so many of us. I even recall traveling back and forth from Boston,  to visit my own parents some years ago when they lived in a lovely town called Trumbull, Connecticut. We would spend hours sitting around the kitchen table catching up, while Mom went through the littany of ailments and afflictions that were affecting my folks, who at that time, were in their early sixties and doing quite well for their age.

Those were relatively mild things mom chatted about at our kitchen table talks,  especially compared to what life is like for my Mother today. She has COPD and congestive heat failure, on top of a myriad of other conditions stemming from these two diseases. An oxygen tank was just brought to the house Monday night and Mom is now permanently attached to those tubes and tank. A handicap ramp was installed (at great expense) from the driveway to their sun porch in order to accommodate her wheelchair. She has two walkers and a special medical chair/recliner that does double duty as her bed. There are toilet assisting devices, potties in the family room,  and chairs propped up all over the house for my mother to sit in and take a rest after walking 4 or more steps, sometimes less, when she feels able to make it to the bathroom. Two entire shelves of her antique hutch in the kitchen are covered with her AM, PM and the "as needed" meds. A large antique crock on the dining room floor is filled to the brim with former medications that are no longer being used. The dining room table, that holds memories of all our past holiday meals as kids,  is barely visible from the array of medical supplies either in use, yet to be used or never to be used again. (My mom is very much a child of the depression and nothing is ever thrown out that might serve a useful purpose yet again!) Home health aides visit a few times a week along with physical therapists and a nurse every now and then who supervises them all. This is only a smattering of the things that have come to pass since Mom first went into the hospital in May of 2010.

Things got really tense recently when mom came home from the hospital after two very long months. She was in her wheelchair, out of breath from the exertion of leaving the car and attempted to climb the 3 short stairs in to the house from the garage. She raised one foot and quickly realized she was not going to be able to do this on her own. Sensing the fear and frustration coming from her and all of us,  I quickly recalled something rather unique about their garage. It had been used as an office for the builder when the homes were first going up and it was completely insulated, plumbed and heated. I said at that moment, sensing a need for lightness, that mom need go no further, all we needed was a little sheet rock tacked up on some two by fours,  a throw rug or two scattered about, and a large flat screen TV hung on the wall and she had no need to enter the house again. Everyone relaxed, laughed and suddenly what could have been an overwhelmingly sad moment turned into all of us trying to out do one another on what could be done to "spiff" up moms garage hang out!

Now I could also wax on about the evils of smoking, but that would be pointless and not really productive to do at this time. My Grandmother on my Mom's side lived to be just over 90 and smoked every day of her life never visiting or needing a doctor.....ever! As did my fathers dad as well. Conversely, I have known people to die of lung cancer who never smoked a day in their life, and many women with breast cancer who I have met who are some of the healthiest living people on the planet. Now, I am not advocating a Woody Allen "Sleeper" movie view of life. Although that was so incredibly funny to envision a world, when he wakes up all those years later, that believes smoking and high fat food are now considered healthy, so everyone eats and smokes to their hearts content!

As my husband left for work at 7:20 this AM he mentioned his MRI appointment for his knee? Shoulder? Or some other nefarious body part? It is not that I am not interested, it is just that in the scheme of things it is inevitable that the body starts reminding us of expiration dates felt, but not known. We are all trying to do whatever we can in this life to prevent the inevitable decline that is coming. And rather then wallow in its embrace, I find it far more fun to just take it as it comes and try to laugh more often. I know it truly sounds so cliche, so please indulge me,  but laughter is good medicine, and even at my lowest points in life I always found a way to laugh. It does make everything seem a bit more bearable and a lot more "real!" So, lighten up if you can and do yourself some good. Smile more often and read the book "If I had to live my life all over, I would have picked more daises!" It is a wonderful read and gentle reminder of the things that truly matter in this life as told by women in their prime.

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