Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Accommodating the Commode

His name is Ted, he's 17 years old, and he lives two houses down the block. He is one of my grandson’s closest friends. He lives with his sister, mother, and grandmother. His mother has Cerebral Palsy.

His mother is bed-bound, his grandmother is in her 80’s, my wheelchair limits my ability to go prancing around the neighborhood, so although our son’s were good friends the three of us had never met.

This past Christmas season Ted said that ’HE’ was cooking Christmas dinner. He wanted our family to share it. I found it an amazing invitation.

And we had an amazing time.

His mother’s bed and equipment are in the living room. She is unable to move. But as the introductions were being made her smile put more light in the atmosphere then the Christmas tree.

Ted’s grandmother was late getting to the front of the house. The food had already been set out and there was a good chance that everything was going to be cold if she didn’t join us soon. Ted called, “Hurry up grandma,” several times to let her know she was really lagging. Then I heard the sound of a cane slowing clicking on the kitchen tile and I knew the reason for her delay. I think the term, ‘cute as a button’ would amply describe her. She moved slowly, she talked slowly, she ate slowly, but she laughed as readily and eagerly as the of us. She was totally charming.

A long table had been set up so that one end of it abutted the hospital bed of his mother. Ted’s sister sat on the side of the bed and fed her mother the meal that Ted had cooked. It was one of the sweetest, funniest, most unforgettable Christmas dinners that I have ever shared. My family and I still talk about what a wonderful time we all had.

The reason I am telling this story in the middle of a July heat wave is because of something the grandmother told us.

As is the routine with most people her age she had made her way to the bathroom before tucking herself into bed for the night. She said that she sat down on the toilet seat fully intending to empty her bladder. Really that was all she wanted to do. But the vanity was close to the toilet and it held some appeal. She put her head down for just a minute. She was tired and she moves slowly. Five hours later she woke up fully refreshed. She claims that there are some rewards to sleeping on the toilet .... she hasn’t slept that many hours in years! She generally has to get up once or twice during the night to go to the bathroom.

We have two bathrooms in this house. One is in the back. The other is in the front. The front one is the one that all our guests gravitate too. Unfortunately for me, that is the one that can also accommodate my wheelchair. I say unfortunately because if I could use the hidden, back bathroom I could use one of those ‘toilet seat extenders’. The extenders are ugly, medicinal, and embarrassing to present to guests so I have implemented a ‘get outta there’ routine that involves a cane.

As it is I can get from the wheelchair to the toilet seat fine enough. It’s getting from the toilet seat back to the wheelchair that causes the problem. The toilet is low. I have no strength in my legs to pull me up and off the seat. I use the cane as a leverage and my shoulders as the strength. The cane hangs on the back of the bathroom door ready and waiting at all times.

Yesterday the cane was nowhere to be found. When my father and his dementia lived with me it would disappear often, but he‘s been gone for a year. I hadn‘t the foggiest notion who could have taken it this time.

Everyone in the house was busy entertaining themselves. It was relatively quiet for a house that usually teems with teenagers. So I did what I felt the situation called for, I yelled “Where’s my cane? Hey, I need my cane. I cant get off this toilet without my cane.”

I heard voices saying, “Where is she? Is she in the bathroom? I think so. Who’s gonna take it in to her? I dunno ........” But no cane materialized.

So I opened the window that is over the toilet and I yelled for the whole neighborhood to hear, “If someone doesn’t bring me my cane I am going to sit at Christmas dinner and tell this story to everyone!”

I don’t know exactly who opened the door just enough to slide the cane through and ran like hell down the hall, but I have my suspicions .........

Ted was in the house!

I would like to tell all of you what you have done for me. When the polio would raise it’s head and threaten me again I could always call my mother. She didn’t have magic words, but she had a faith that could move a mountain. Her faith wasn’t only in God. Her faith was also in me and my ability to come out a better and stronger person. This is the first time that I have had to face such frightening news since my mother died. I wrote the prior entry with a heart aching to feel her faith again, aching to be able to touch her hand and know that I COULD deal with this latest episode. Without exception you held out your hands to me. You filled me with the faith that I longed for.

You will never know what that has meant to me. Thank you!, Thank you!, Thank you!


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