The recent marked shift in our local weather pattern has coincided with an unfortunate turn of events in the health of several people with whom I am closely associated. A couple of those affected are my actual family members while others, due to their long and valued friendship, may as well be. All of the aforementioned folks are (or soon will be) faced with mobility issues.
Aside from a broken arm 30-some years ago, there has not been a time in my memory when I was not able to climb a ladder or drive a stick shift (well, OK, since I was 12 or 13 years of age, at least). I have been lucky and feel truly blessed. Now, some of the people I know who have not only been able to negotiate a ladder or a clutch pedal, but, in one instance, even fly a U.S. Navy airplane, require assistance with such seemingly mundane tasks as getting dressed or eating a meal. A few days ago, son Willie and I ventured out to the grocery store via an unplowed country road full of wind-blown snow and, not surprisingly, quickly found ourselves stuck in a snowdrift. Within 15 or so minutes, we had shoveled our way out, chained up the rear wheels and were once again on our way. Odd as it may sound, I was happy to run a “poor man’s backhoe” for awhile and felt immediately guilty that I have taken for granted that I can.
In the past week or so, I have spent more time in hospitals or rehabilitation/care facilities than I had for many years. One immediate observation is the double meaning that can be found in the term health “care” providers. The professionals I have observed of late are not only trained experts in their field, be it administering lifesaving treatment in the ER, operating a CT scan or other high-tech equipment or persevering through hours, days, and months or years of physical therapy with a patient; they also genuinely “care” about the people they are treating and frequently exhibit a level of combined personal and professional concern (not to mention compassion and patience) that is eminently laudable.
I consider myself to be sufficiently qualified to roof a barn, set the point gap on an antique tractor, or fill a barn loft full of hay bales. Perhaps with an alternate path of matriculation, I could have learned to operate a CT scan. However, I will readily admit that I likely do not possess the capacity nor ability to help someone regain the ability to walk again after a stroke has left them partially paralyzed. That, my friends, calls for an individual who is not only uniquely qualified, but truly exceptional.
As is the case so frequently in our time spent on this third planet from the Sun, for every action or event or crisis there is likely a reaction or a counterbalance. For our household, this meant a visit from an uncle I had not seen in 20-odd years and my kids had not met. We made arrangements to pick him up at the airport and hastily set up humble (to say the least) sleeping accommodations in our basement.
During the course of his several days here, we made numerous trips to visit our temporarily (presumably) infirmed kin and eagerly tracked his progress and discussed his upcoming challenges. On a happier note, we attended daughter Annie’s final high school basketball game (an exciting one), shared several lunches out and generally got caught up with family news of the past two decades. We also discovered that aside from being a heckuva nice guy, he is also a decent antique farm equipment mechanic who possesses encyclopedic knowledge of movies, music and baseball.
We dropped him off at the airport with a souvenir 1957 Milwaukee Braves schedule (his favorite team as a kid) and promised not to wait another 20 years to see each other.