Things in Erin’s Head


As a capital-C Caregiver, so very many things are out of our control.

  • Our loved one’s diagnosis. 
  • The bedside manner of medical professionals.
  • Our schedules (not only can we not schedule when WE have to pee, but now there’s the high possibility that we have to help someone ELSE pee… which leads me to a story…)

For several years Jerry’s mom Luella resided in an assisted living facility in northern California. She was very close with her baby brother and he became the Caregiver who would visit her, take her out, communicate with the assisted living staff, and look out for her overall wellbeing. As the siblings aged, the time came to move Jerry’s mom closer to us and when we did so, Jerry, Luella and I made the seven hour drive from Northern to Southern California.

Luella was a true Iowa farm girl. She stood tall with broad shoulders, long legs, and had a fondness for clutzens and Cape Cods. She was one of six children: two brothers (one lost in the war), three sisters, and her. She was a champion bowler, enjoyed a good cruise, and many summer camping adventures with little Jerry. Her final years brought some health challenges with dementia, incontinence, the need for oxygen 24-7, and she was wheelchair bound.

At the time we moved her, I had no caregiving experience whatsoever. Navigating her care was new to us and overall we did a good job; however, there is something very humbling about trying to help another adult relieve themselves with dignity when you have no idea what you’re doing.

First, I was shit with a wheelchair. I’d run it into corners, had trouble pivoting it, and stressed about remembering to lock the wheels. I woefully admit I’m that person who wears a backpack and has no spatial awareness that my being is now significantly larger and so I will spin around and accidentally knock down small children. Turns out wheelchairs have a similar effect.

So when it came time for Louella and I to use the ladies room, it was just… awkward. First, we had to wait for the handicap stall. I recall the kindness of strangers who noticed my panic at the waiting line and allowed me to cut in the next time the handicap stall became available. Next, I had to help Louella out of the wheelchair. Two people and a wheelchair with the door closed in a handicap stall is… let’s go with COZY. And then the awkwardness leveled up. Yes, I was her daughter-in-law, but we didn’t make a habit out of seeing one another with our pants down. I was mentally balancing trying to be helpful with wanting to honor her privacy. I’m sure she was navigating embarrassment, independence, and not wanting to pee on herself. Through a series of blunt questions like, “Do you want me to help you pull down your pants?” We were able to compromise with me starting off the pants to help her get on the toilet, then stepping out of the stall and holding the door shut. I allowed her time to finish and wipe (Yes, I did ask if she needed help wiping, because I just didn’t KNOW) and then I slipped back in, trying not to expose her to the line outside the door, and helped her get her pants up and her farm girl booty back into the wheelchair.

None of it was easy. 

None of it was graceful. 

But we did it. 

This past week I received a cranio-sacral session (my first professional one since I completed my training in October) and it was truly profound work. At the beginning of the session my practitioner said these words, “Today you will receive all that your body can handle with ease and grace.”

I chuckled and told him that I often forget to ask for that in life, be it in my work, or my own healing. (You saw my newsletters about my foot. Not easy. Semi-graceful.)

But things get to be easy if we choose that path. We have the ability to handle challenges with grace. It’s a practice, as is everything else in life, but if we can pause long enough to take one step at a time, in this moment, and perhaps take a pause to help each other pull our pants up….  our days can be a little easier and filled with love.

Because it’s all about love…

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