Sometimes I’m an idiot. It’s well known that I think many of us hold on to life too long. We push our doctors to do everything possible to give us more time even when any quality life is long gone. I’ve also written about being truthful when others ask you how you feel. Like everything else, there are exceptions to the rules and sometimes it’s just better to say, “I’m fine.”
The other day I was talking to a former patient and longtime friend who was born with Cerebral Palsy. He asked how I was doing, and I told him the truth. I’m doing crappy. There are times of the day when my ability to walk is compromised badly enough to use a walker. I also complained that the day was coming when I would be wheelchair dependent, seriously affecting my quality of life.
Sometimes I’M AN IDIOT! It dawned on me that my friend had lived with his disability for his entire life. He’s made the most of his life, his career, his marriage and life after his wife passed. He rarely complains. On the other hand, I complain too much, partly because I believe in being honest and partly due to fear of future worsening.
Then there is my brother who is making the most out of his post-stroke disability by going to PT on a regular basis, working on regaining his strength and making others smile by cracking jokes whenever possible. When I ask him what his day was like, he’ll often respond that he went sky diving, did some water skiing and had a marvelous time. Sometimes he’ll call me using an Australian accent and give me The Outback Weather Report. I admire how well he handles things and appreciate when he makes me smile. The idea of publishing a joke a day indirectly came from Alan.
So, the big question is should I tell the truth when asked how I feel. Or should I say fine, tell a joke and leave my friends and family in blissful ignorance. I truly don’t know the right answer but suspect that the right answer is different for different people. In the meantime, don’t ask me how it’s going unless you want the truth.
One last thing. When my father’s Parkinson’s was deteriorating, I lived hundreds of miles away. When I asked about his condition, my mother almost always said fine. The only times she let on as to how he was really doing was when he fell. Living in a fantasy world was good for me up until shortly before the end. Seeing how bad he had gotten was a real shock. Knowing that my mother had been sole caregiver as all of her children had moved away left me with a large of amount of guilt to contend with.
It also left me dreading the future. I am not my father (although many would debate that). When I start to drown in regrets, I remember my father telling me he had no regrets, that his life was good and that his job was to launch us (the children) and watch us thrive. Well, all my children have been launched, I’ve had an exceptional life, and I’ll make the most out of what’s left.
Have you heard the one about the twin brothers?
Two identical twin brothers, George and Ted, turned 100. George’s hearing was just as good as ever, but Ted was slightly deaf.
An attractive female photographer came to the retirement home to take the brothers’ picture. “I’m going to take your picture,” she said.
“What did she say?” asked Ted. “She says she’s going to take our picture,” replied George. So George and Ted followed the photographer to a room.
Inside the room were two chairs. “Now sit down in these chairs,” she said.
“What did she say?” asked Ted. “She says we should sit down in these chairs,” replied George. So George and Ted sat down in the chairs.
The photographer pulled out her camera and pointed it at the birthday brothers. “Now let me focus,” she said.
“What did she say?” asked Ted. “She says she’s going to focus,” replied George.
“Wow!” exclaimed Ted. “Both of us at the same time?”