I fell often when I was a kid. Over things, on top of things, into things, down stairs and up stairs. I was famously clumsy.
And all those falls came with lots of minor scrapes and bruises and cuts. Did my mother kiss me and make it better? Not that I remember. Instead, she was likely to say, “What do you expect me to do? Get yourself a Band-Aid.”
My parents were tough and expected the same from us. Sometimes that was a good thing, a way to endure a hard life. The family had gone through a lot. Both my mother and father lost a parent when they were kids, and life had never been easy for either. My older brother got polio; my younger brother lost a leg in an accident. And the lesson learned was always the same: Life is hard; don’t make a fuss.
I internalized the lesson too much. Not only do I try never to make a fuss, but I expect others not to make a fuss either. And frankly, I haven’t always understood or responded adequately to the suffering of others.
Recently I broke my arm. No big deal, eh? A month or two in a sling, physical therapy, and I’ll be good as new.
Wrong. It hurt a lot! Who knew? And not having the use of my right arm is a huge pain in the butt. I can’t drive. My leftie handwriting looks like a first grader and takes me forever. I can’t cut my food or slice vegetables to cook. I can’t tie my shoes or fasten my bra. I put on a happy face for Facebook, “healing nicely,” but it’s Facebook semi-truth. You know–when you post only good stuff somewhat resembling the crotchety, messy truth.
I think of all the accidents and illnesses of friends and family. Have I been as empathetic as I should have been? I don’t think so.
On the other hand, my friends and family have come through for me in a big way. I have received a flurry of greeting cards with kind wishes. They sit on my mantle where I can see them often. More kind words on Facebook, in texts, emails, phone calls. Friends have brought me casseroles, homemade bread, sliced cheese for sandwiches, salads, snacks, side dishes, and desserts, They brought fresh food for now and frozen food ready for another week’s dinners. They’ve sent flowers. They’ve offered to drive because they know I can’t. One friend suggested they’d come for Sunday dinner—and they’d bring the dinner, appetizer to dessert. Two of my stepdaughters even spent time with me in the early days, cooking, doing laundry, shopping.
Many who helped knew what the challenges were because they’d been there themselves. I smiled at an early gift of a little stack of toilet paper neatly torn into convenient lengths. But she knew what I didn’t yet: it’s hard to tear using only one’s non-dominant hand.
Would I have done as much as my friends & family have been doing for me? Not really. After all, it’s only a broken arm.
I might have said, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.” And if they never asked, I might have thought they were doing just fine. And I might have meant to send a card, but too often never got around to it. And I might have wondered where’s the need to cook and bring a casserole nowadays, what with take-out restaurants and spouses to help out?
On the other hand, the kind wishes of others have been a welcome balm to me. And those dinners have been a godsend. (Pizza and Chinese food get very tiresome.) Jay has been hugely supportive, but his repertoire is definitely limited. And every other bit of help has been just that–truly good for me and appreciated. Happily I am retired and don’t have to get myself to work no matter what. It’s been nice not having to be so gosh darned brave and strong all the time, to sit in our big recliner reading lightweight mysteries (recommended by friends) and to let myself heal.
In the future, I hope that I do as much for others as they have done for me. And more than that, I hope I remain receptive to the kindness so generously offered me.
In a card, a friend included words from a Rumi poem. I’d like to share them with you.
God created the child, that is, your wanting
So that it might cry out, so that milk might come
Cry out! Don’t be stolid and silent
With your pain Lament! And let the milk
Of loving flow into you.
copyright June 8, 2016 by Margaret French