A true story.
Whether we’d like to admit it or not, most of us have it pretty easy. We get up every morning, blaming the alarm clock for having the nerve to wake us. We do all of the morning routine; get the kids up and ready for school; prepare the family breakfast; make lunches or pass out lunch money; get everyone out the door and still manage to get ourselves to work on time. We all go about our daily routines of work and school and complain about most of it. In the full spectrum of life, these are small things we deal with. What if we couldn’t do the small things any more? Things like; making the bed, getting in and out of the bathtub, climbing stairs, lifting a frying pan or even the simple task of getting dressed. We would have a lot of time to think about all of the things we used to be able to do, but no longer can.
Imagine for a moment…
At six o’clock in the morning, Frank wakes up to the ringing of the alarm and gently nudges his wife of forty years. While he goes into the kitchen to make the morning coffee and take his daily medications, Peggy slowly rolls over, and tries to find the strength to make her body move. Every joint aches from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis. Every move she makes is painful as she tries to get up. The bones in her fingers are turned outward, and her hands drawn into fists. She has to rise up on one elbow, and slowly roll herself into a sitting position. Once on her feet, she makes the slow, painful journey into the kitchen. Frank has poured her some coffee and gotten her medications out for her and set them on the table. They sit at the table together and have toast and coffee and talk for a few minutes. Somewhere in the conversation work is mentioned. Together with one of her sisters, they run a small business.
As she heads for the bedroom to change clothes and get ready for work, Frank clears the dishes from the table. He then goes to make the bed, and get himself ready for work too. He gets shaved, and changed and starts to prepare any lunch for them that they might want. While he does all of that, he thinks about his wife, how she loved to do the things he was now taking care of for both of them.
While she slowly gets dressed, Peggy remembers younger days when, in as many minutes as it now takes her to get dressed, she would have breakfast cooked, and two children out of bed, fed and ready for school. She would have beds made, and dishes washed, and three days a week, have a load of laundry washing. Now, as she struggles with the buttons on her blouse, her husband is doing most of those things. Their children have both grown up and moved, and have families of their own.
At seven-thirty, despite the pain and weakness throughout her body, and her inability to do all of the things she used to do, she is finally ready to leave for work. Frank has already started the van and is waiting to help her down the steps of their home if he needs to. Although she is really disabled, she is headstrong and determined not to need any help managing the stairs. They open the business at eight o’clock and it will take fifteen minutes to drive there. Peggy answers the phone and takes orders. She does the bookwork by hand because her fingers cannot type well any more, and she has to find ink pens that will write with the side of the ball point. Still she manages it, and the more she uses her hands during the day, the less stiff they feel.
Sitting at her desk, she thinks back to when the arthritis started. She was in her early thirties. She awoke one morning to mild joint pain in the knuckles of her hands. Over the next few years, it had progressively gotten worse. She’d had to have surgery on her wrists a couple of times to remove calcified growths.
Suddenly the phone rings, awakening her from her thoughts. The busy day had begun. There were orders to take and get delivered. She dealt with wholesalers, and paid delivery people, and sometimes went out to help with what she could in preparing the orders. By the end of the day, she was exhausted and still had the chore of preparing dinner to do.
As Frank drives them the fifteen minutes back home, he wishes there was a cure for her disease. She had tried every arthritis medicine on the market and gotten little relief. Most of the ones she had tried, she’d either been allergic to or they had caused stomach ulcers. He continued to take her to her doctor, praying that each new medication she tried would be the one that gave her some relief. He couldn’t bear her pain for her, but he would have swapped places with her in a second had it been possible.
While he stops at the post office to check the mail, she thinks about her childhood. Born to poor parents and having four siblings, growing up was hard. She was a sickly child and always seemed to have one childhood disease or another. At age twelve, she had rheumatic fever and was in the bed for six weeks. As she grew from child to adult, she outgrew very few of her allergies, and because of poorer nutrition as a child, she was plagued by dental problems. A few years after she resolved those dental problems, was when the arthritis began to give her problems. Despite all of the allergies and problems with the arthritis, she had worked hard all of her life. – To help her parents as a child; to give her two children a good life growing up; and now to spoil her grandchildren.
When they arrive home, Peggy is so tired, Frank has to help her up the stairs. The muscles in her legs are too weak to let her climb them. She realized a long time back that she could one day wind up in a wheelchair, but as long as her body would move at all, she would fight against that.
They will fix dinner together. She will do the cooking and he will lift the pots and pans off the stove when the food is cooked. After they eat, they each take more medication and then Frank clears the table and washes the dishes, while she pulls out the receipts for the day and begins to figure the sales.
Taking a bath was not so hard for Peggy to do, but getting in and out of the tub was sometimes almost impossible. Frank would often help her in and out of the tub and had eventually installed a hand railing along one end of the tub so she could brace on it at times when he might not be home to help her. Even though she had little grip in her hands, just having something to steady herself while she got in the tub had been a tremendous help. She knew with her bones in their weakened condition that if she ever fell trying to get in or out of the tub, she would most probably be immobile.
Peggy had always pushed herself beyond her limits. Even when her limits were greatly reduced, she exceeded them. Sheer determination and the will to keep going got her out of bed each day. She did not feel sorry for herself, but tried everything she could to improve her condition. She accepted her fate, even though she didn’t like it, and she only complained when the pain became too bad to cope.
As they go to bed for the night, Frank looks at his wife of forty year and prays for a cure. It hurts him to see her suffering and know that there isn’t anything he can do to take her pain away. He knows that the pain she suffers would be too much for most people to endure. He has the greatest love and appreciation for her. She has given him two children, and a lifetime of happiness, yet when she needed relief from the pain, he could do nothing to ease it. Many nights he would sit next to her and gently hold her hands in his. They had enjoyed many happy moments together even though her health had slowly gone down hill.
They had been married for forty years. They had two children and three grandsons that brightened their darkest days. He would love her forever and she him. They were happy despite all of the medical setbacks. They would continue to work five days a week because she insisted on working and not being labeled a disabled person. She would keep going as long as she could get out of bed each day. Every moment would be enjoyed to its fullest as long as they could spend them together…
So why do we complain about the little things we have to do in life? We don’t think about not being physically able to do those simple things. You see, I have a good reason to live life to its fullest each and every day, and be thankful for all of the little things that I am able to do. I watched her throughout her struggles, getting worse no matter what medications or treatments were available. I saw the deformities in her hands, and feet get progressively worse from one stage of the disease to another. I saw the pain in her eyes and wasn’t able to help her either. I still see the love in his heart and the hurt he feels at having watched her suffer.
Together they raised my brother and me to adulthood, and gave us all of the things that mean the most to us today. They gave us love and happy moments that we will never forget. They gave us the ability to appreciate all of the things in life, and they gave us the strength to climb the highest mountain.
I originally wrote this story in 1996. My Mother died January 26, 2004. She had not been working for just less than a year when she passed away. She never gave in, never allowed herself to think that she was disabled. She refused to use a wheel chair or anything else to help her move around. She always encouraged us to fight for what we wanted to accomplish in life, and she spoiled her grandsons every chance she got. The smiles on their faces and their laughter kept her alive inside.
Aside from rheumatoid arthritis, Mother also had Lupus. Lupus is an auto-immune disease that causes the body’s antibodies to destroy healthy cells. There is no cure for it and Mom took steroids every day to help control it.
I hope that reading this story will give strength and hope to others who suffer from incurable diseases. I have never met anyone else with as much determination and stubborn will to survive disease as my Mother had. It was that stubbornness that kept her moving; kept her getting out of the bed every day, and that same stubbornness that made her refuse to give in to her disabilities.
*May not be duplicated or printed elsewhere without consent.*
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|Reviewed by Flying Fox Ted L Glines
|Well penned, Teresa; it kept me reading right to the end. Actually, this story should give strength and determination to those who are NOT disabled -- make them put their miniscule complaints in the ole round file. Your mom was tough - a hero! Great story!