Washday isn’t what it used to be

January 21, 2014
 Reflecting on how families respond differently to illness, and the inevitable changes to daily life.

It has been eight days since I’ve written about our journey with a terminal illness and now it’s time to again put my thoughts on paper (that is, into the computer).

Soft ocean waves

Families React Differently to Illness

Bob is talking on the phone with his brother for the first time since all this drama began in September. None of the other brothers have called or visited, though they have sent a couple notes that said they were thinking of us.

Not coming to visit seems strange to me, as my brothers and their wives are currently visiting from Ohio and Washington. As my younger brother said, he wants to visit before he has to come for a funeral.

However, ever since we got the diagnosis last September, when I have suggested that Bob call his brothers and talk, he replies — very kindly — that his family is different than my family. He doesn’t say my family walks this path the wrong way, but his comment is a good reminder not to expect everyone to react as I would react to situations like ours or as I think they should react.

In any case, tomorrow my daughter will come with her children and stay for a week. She wants them to see their grandfather before he gets too sick.

So we are planning a number of activities that will hopefully give them good memories of their grandfather.

Watching Our Lives Change From Day to Day

If every day, all day long, I were to think about what may happen and how soon it may happen, I would be worn out — and sad all day long. Instead, each day I experience whatever happens the best I can and notice whatever lessons I may be given to learn.

For example, today he’s not participating fully in our laundry “party” and I tell myself that he needs to rest more. I try not to say, “He is getting weaker and closer to dying.” Instead, I try to think of his inaction as needing the space to manage his life the best way he can.

By “party” I am referring to doing the washing. You see, for several years, beginning about the time I had my last back operation several years ago, Bob and I have been doing the washing together. He would bring the dirty clothes from our bathroom clothes baskets to the garage and dump them on a large table. It was one of those big wooden wheels that are used by construction companies to wind up cable and wire — marvelous for all kinds of garage jobs.

Anyway, I would sit on a chair and sort the clothes, throwing them into plastic baskets. Then I would choose which one got washed first and he would lift the basket and dump it in the washing machine. He would also make certain the rinse would be run again before putting it in the dryer and then fold the clothes.

True, he didn’t take the clothes out of the drier the way I would and they were a bit more wrinkled than I like, but at least they were done. In sharing this chore, we had a lot of fun and created several traditions that we enjoyed together.

Now I can see that our washing tradition is changing. While he did carry the laundry to the laundry room, he let me put the clothes in the dryer and even fold them myself. I did it the way I like, but it wasn’t the same without him.

Our traditions are changing to meet our changing circumstances. And it feels right to let them change without complaint. What good would complaining do?

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