Driving Mr Jerry

This is week 3 of Jerry using his back up wheelchair while waiting on a new right motor for his regular chair. As I noted last week, that means he is unable to drive his van.

If you live with disability in your family you know that this is not all that unusual, these things happen. Paperwork drags on and on, calls don’t get returned, repairs can take weeks, if not months. Most of us could win a Gold Medal if waiting or insurance hassles were Olympic sports.

The difference this week is that I am back from my trip, and I am now, “Driving Mr Jerry.”  (Too bad a movie like that has already been made, I am sure ours would be a hit comedy)!  At least he is no longer housebound.

Yesterday Jerry had scheduled service for the lift on his van. There was no sense in him going along for the ride. I rearranged my schedule and took the van to the appointed service, about 45 minutes away from home. The shop is fantastic and provides a nice waiting area. I packed enough work to keep me busy for three years.

322615_3126101352345_993835468_oPrior to the van appointment I met with someone who has a child with a disability. My friend commented about how weary she is. She went on to say one way she keeps going is to realize what a privilege it is to serve Jesus by serving her child. She asked if that was the same among spouses?  As I thought about it she went on to describe how my trip to take the van for service was serving Jesus.

My life goal has been to love and serve God by loving and serving others. Given that, my friend’s comment should have been no surprise to me, but it was. I love Jerry, which means that (most days) it is a pleasure and joy to assist him. But I had somehow forgotten that by serving him I am also serving my Lord.

That reminder put a new spin on my day. When I got home that evening after running other errands the unexpected visitors we had, the unplanned need Jerry asked me to help with were no big deal. Getting to love and serve others while remembering that by doing so I am loving and serving God changed my perspective.

Instead of fretting about not getting a Marriage Monday post up until Tuesday, I chose to invest in and love my spouse and the others God brought to me that day. I hope you’ll forgive my delay.

Knowing that sometimes people who have a disability feel they become burdensome to their family or close friends I made a commitment to God and myself early in our marriage. I would choose to show joy when asked to assist (even being woken from a sound sleep in the middle of the night), and to always complete the task by saying “I love you” and sharing a kiss. I have missed that mark a few times, but it is still the goal for which I aim.

push for helpWhat about you?  What is it that helps you readjust your focus when you are worn and weary?  Do you have a strategy you use to keep your relationships healthy in the unpredictable dailyness of disability?

To Help or Not to Help. . .

That is the question . . .at least it is one that arises often in our home.

For those of us who live in a family where one spouse has a disability it can be a fine line to discern.

When Jerry drops something and it is out of his reach do I automatically stop what I am doing and go pick it up, or do I leave it for him to recover with his reachers?  Is there a certain amount of time he should try before calling “uncle” and I help?

What about putting on his coat?  These cold winter days tighten CP (cerebral palsy) muscles quickly making it harder and more time consuming for Jerry to put his coat on.  Should I stop what I am doing to help him?  Should he work it through on his own because when he goes to put it on after leaving the appointment he is headed to I won’t be there and he’ll have to be able to do it alone?

The question goes both ways.  question-2309042_1920

What about for me – when I am missing one or two items to complete the menu?  Do I ask Jerry, who is already out, to stop and get them at the grocery store even though it will add at least 45 minutes to his time frame, or do I run out and be back in 15 minutes?  Should I be calling him when I am a few minutes from home giving him a heads up that I will need to his help to carry in the groceries?  I could certainly unload them on my own, and likely even faster; meanwhile he has had to bookmark where he is in his reading, research or other work.  Is it worth it?

We don’t struggle with questions like these because of whose role we think it might be.  Rather the question come in thinking through what is the tradeoff?  And the answer to that question varies day to day, and sometimes hour to hour.

There is the truth that I can help Jerry gain a significant amount of time in his day by assisting him with some of his personal care needs, household tasks and typing.  Yet each time I assist him to gain time I lose a bit of time in my day. Likewise, he gives up some of his precious time to help me.  Somedays that works just fine.  Other days it can be a bit like sandpaper.

We often talk about how much is enough when it comes to money.  That is a needful conversation.  It is rarer that we talk about how much is enough when it comes to time, which perhaps is a more valuable commodity than money.

feedback.jpgWe don’t pretend to have the answers, though we sure wish we did.  How do you handle these types of disability accommodations and time in your family?