Sharing the Ride

18 Apr

I have a friend who has always had a good marriage but when her husband retired several years after she did, life took on new meaning for her. When they began sharing the home space … same walls … same ceilings … same rooms continually following his retirement, she discovered she’s happiest when he has golf days with his buds & is out of the house. I believe she even tries to ARRANGE golf dates for him on days when he doesn’t have them & is trying to interest him in Mahjong. She’s desperate.

I’m forever grateful not to have that problem. Willy & I manage really well in the house together for long stretches of time. If there’s any problem it’s probably that we stop & talk to each other & don’t get a lot done. That’s much better than trying to farm each other out to golf buddies & Mahjong competitions.

So recently we were put to the test when Willy had knee replacement surgery & was home, non-stop for two months. The first two & a half weeks he couldn’t drive so we were mostly welded at the hip for a spell. He was motivated to get back to life as he’d known it & didn’t seem to mind the temporary loss of his independence while I was his chauffer, so it all worked out well.

After the first week, which involved knee swelling, using 55 pounds of ice in 5 days in the Polar Cube machine that kept swelling & knee pain down, physical therapy sessions, his walking with a walker & me tossing up my hands at one point in frustration, we actually had a lot of moments that were fun & just plain enjoyable.  We even ate pizza in bed a couple of times.

I wanted to give him the very best nursing care I was capable of (he’d been such an excellent caregiver when we went through my breast cancer) but I’ve never been a bedside nurse & that was the source of my frustration. Bedside nursing …changing dressings, doing wound care… are as far out of my comfort zone as fly fishing for marlin off the coast of Aruba in a helicopter.

My last experience with bedside nursing was way back in nursing school; not as long ago as Howdy Doody but back when there were 8 tracks & hair spray was doing some serious damage clogging up the Ozone layer.  I told myself I probably could have taken better care of him if he’d had a gunshot wound of the head, a rotten gallbladder or a strangulated hernia because THAT’S what I’d been use to in the OR. But he didn’t complain & told me I’d done a great job … & we both came out the other side unscathed … Willy recovering way ahead of the projected recovery time.

Once he got most of his mobility back & was driving again we still didn’t get a lot done because of that stopping & talking to each other thing but I really liked having him at home.

During those two months we DID get a taste of what retirement & advanced years may be like for us.

I’ve had a knee replacement myself & I remember how difficult it was to wash my toes on the surgery-side leg so I worked up a plan for Willy. When it came time for daily dressing changes he would sit on the side of our big whirlpool tub & put his surgical leg into the tub itself … no water. I would hop into the tub, remove the dressing, wash the incision with Hibiclens (the antibacterial scrub we’d been given for just that purpose) & also wash his leg & toes. Then I’d put a new dressing on the incision. It got the job done efficiently, was kinda fun & on several occasions we laughed ourselves through it. I may not have won any Lifetime Achievement Awards for bedside nursing but I certainly made myself a prime candidate for one in the TUBSIDE Nursing category.

A little more than two weeks after Willy’s surgery I hopped into the tub to do the dressing change & did something “funny” to my back. It seemed OK but I woke up in the middle of the night & couldn’t turn over. At 7 a.m. I hobbled to the bathroom & told Willy I couldn’t stand up. The pain was intense. So he offered me the use of his walker, which was invaluable. He really wasn’t so walker dependent at that point, although he hadn’t been officially graduated to the cane.

My medical doctor worked me in that morning but Willy hadn’t been cleared to drive & I certainly couldn’t drive myself. We called his physical therapist who reluctantly gave us his “OK to drive in an emergency” blessing & Willy drove me to the doctor.

We rolled into the office … me hunched over the walker & Willy leaning on his cane. I imagine we were quite a sight. I was diagnosed with a severe muscle strain in the lower back & given pain medicine & muscle relaxants. I stayed in bed most of that week.

Willy says he lost his nurse that day. Although I kept helping him, by then he was mostly independent & was graduated to cane walking at the end of the week & was given permission… “officially”… to drive again.

What we learned from the back thing & the whole knee recovery process was, when we have to, we can adapt. We also learned that we are pretty committed to helping each other through most anything.

As we enter our “Twilight Years” a little while from now I think we’ll be OK. We know we can coexist in the house together without golf or Mahjong.  We can get around our bumps in the road simply by being there for each other.

What we DON’T know is how long we can share a walker without one of us becoming greedy & trying to hog the wheels (now THERE’S a visual that I’m hoping to put “on hold” for a while). Maybe we’ll invest in a Hoveround now & start making installment payments. Maybe we can get one with a sidecar.

I imagine sharing a ride will be a lot easier than trying to share “the wheels.”


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7 Responses to “Sharing the Ride”

  1. Gail April 18, 2015 at 10:48 pm #

    Per usual you are so funny & cause me to chuckle. The visual of fighting over the walker makes me want to advise you to go ahead & order the Hoveround complete with sidecar. Might be wise to also get a basket on the front for Max!!! Oh, and don’t
    forget the horn!!!


    • heimdalco April 18, 2015 at 10:51 pm #

      Too funny, Gail. Thank you again for reading my blog entry. Haven’t had much time to write lately … LOL

      Big hugs to you


  2. Willy (the husband) April 18, 2015 at 11:42 pm #

    Oh Linda… you were a good nurse. But you do that funny breathing when I’m bleeding all over the place (ax in the forehead -2002 or the chainsaw in the neck 20??). You do much better when it’s something you’ve experienced (and no blood or huge body part involved).
    Looking forward to those twilight years.


    • heimdalco April 19, 2015 at 12:09 am #

      Thank you, Willy. I love you & we will make our Twilight Years memorable. But you’d better NOT touch my side of the walker … LOL


  3. Betty Ross April 20, 2015 at 8:12 pm #

    Good read, Linda. Have you thought about a shortstory book?


    • heimdalco April 20, 2015 at 8:47 pm #

      Thanks so much, Betty M. Now that “Lynchburg Live” has come to an end & Willy will be going back to work soon, I’ll have a little more time to explore my writing options. A story of mine is in the finals for being used in the new “Chicken Soup” book that will be coming out this year & I’ve sent 3 submissions to them for a book that will come out in 2016. I’m sort of kicking around making my blog entries into a book. We’ll see … suddenly I have a little bit of time on my hands … or will have.

      I love you & the new grandbaby is beautiful ………


  4. Leslie Miller April 21, 2015 at 1:54 am #

    As always, you make me laugh Linda. I have this visual of you and Willy sharing the walker, it’s funny now, but I’m sure it wasn’t funny at the time. Glad you both are upright and out of pain. Willy’s recovery is just awesome, were an excellent nurse. Love you both, very much. Les


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