If I should need a nursing home
May 12, 2019
She Won’t Be the Last
April 2, 2020

Not a Walk in the Park

Dear Rhoda,

I want to communicate a few things that aren't followed by the response of, “I can’t hear you.” We are all gathered today at your memorial and according to the Buddhists your soul is still hovering among us. I first want to say, "I know you can hear me," and I want you to know some of the things that your challenges taught us. I expect it is easier to be willing to hear and accept gifts from others now that you are not spending the energy that it takes to live each day, in fact each minute, with multiple burdensome illnesses. I understand how the irritation, frustration, weariness and physical pain associated with the state of health that you achieved in your ninth decade of life resulted in the need to reflect it all back on others. When you said, “I can’t hear you,” you meant, “I can’t bear to hear any more bad news.” And that’s why the burden of your illnesses needed to be distributed and carried in the arms of others.

Rhoda, you were no walk in the park for me, Helene, Jamie, Cory, Anima, Vanessa and Sonia. You taught us that my way or the highway is one way to be sick and dependent on others. The occasions were crystal clear when we all did it to your exacting standards. For instance, when we made it so that the frames around the wall art were perfectly level and square, the knickknacks were in their places on the cherished 1970s Danish modern teak, the right amount of ham on the sandwich relative to cheese, eggs cooked neither to runny nor too rubbery, one senna tablet not two, a home health aide who was able to discuss politics and simultaneously run the vacuum. You were right, why would anyone with common sense put the pill boxes blocking your view of the clock? We needed to be reminded that time keeping is important for those who have limited quantity of it left. Yes, sometimes we did lack common sense in the care of someone who had lost all independence, but when we succeeded at meeting your standards we got that smile. It was a genuine never phony simile because you didn’t pretend with your feelings. You would never have won an acting award. Rhoda, you were full frontal at all times. People who are genuine even on the extremes don't bother me much. Like you, I would rather have the challenge of reality than phony.

I defined success as keeping you out of the hospital as much as seeing you smile and making you laugh. You had a beautiful smile when you felt well enough to share it. I could make you laugh with irony or a shared interest on a good day. On a bad day you were handing out lessons in the frustrations of being sick. I'm sorry that your old age was filled with feeling not well on most days, filled with pain, filled with loss of independence. Rhoda, I want you to hear that the caregiving crew really did appreciate how difficult it is to live every day while four organ systems were winding down function. I want it to be said and I want you to hear what a challenge you presented to many. We will take what you taught us to enhance how we take care of others and also how we will accept care ourselves when our time comes to receive.

Thank you for listening,

Your Doctor

Thyme N. Half

2019 August 8