Friday, 1 April 2016

Donkey Thinks a Deep Thought

Yesterday I was driving home from the mall, when this song by BRIIA came on the radio. The song is called "Fake It 'Til You Make It", in case you don't care to follow links.

Some of the bloggers whom I visit regularly may know from my breadcrumb trail of comments that my father passed away last summer. He had a serious stroke in 2007, which paralyzed him on one side of his body for the remaining eight years of his life.

The stroke changed my father's life almost completely. He went from being an active, outdoor-loving man to being confined to a wheelchair. He was dependent on others for some of his most basic needs. My life changed too. Suddenly I had not just my own responsibilities as a wife and mother and part-time employee and cat servant, but also the overseeing of all my dad's affairs - finances, wardrobe, appointments, disposition of his home - and I also took on the occupation of chief companion.

Dad spent seven months in the hospital waiting for a bed in a nursing home to become available. I visited him daily during those months, often twice a day, to help him eat and shave and wash and pass the time -  trying in some small way to help him cope with the sudden and devastating change in his life.

But Dad was definitely an optimist. He dreamed of getting back to his old abilities and his old life. And I got to see a side of him I hadn't seen before. Or maybe it was a product of the stroke; there can often be a reduction in inhibitions in stroke survivors. Whatever the catalyst, he blossomed from a quiet man into a sociable and gregarious person. He loved visits from ... anyone, really, as long as they didn't stay too long or say stupid things. (But aren't we all apt to get impatient with those kinds of people?)

We soon noticed there was a regular visitor to the hospital wards, a middle-aged man who made the rounds every few days, stopping to chat with each patient for just a few moments. He was friendly and upbeat and you couldn't help but feel better by the time he left. He joked about the nurses. He joked about the food. He asked each person how their day was going. His favourite expression was "Fake it 'til you make it, eh?!" and Dad always agreed. Because what else can you do in a situation like that? But he put words to it. His words gave us a life preserver to hang on to, in those early days of uncertainty. His presence gave us warmth for the cold reality we faced as time went by. His matter-of-fact cheer gave us a few moments of normalcy in the hospital routine.

Dad never did "make it" in his definition of the words. To him, "making it" meant being able to walk again. He was paralyzed to the end of his life. But he kept faking it, almost every day. Being upbeat when he didn't feel like it. Being helpful to others despite often being the one most in need of help himself. Being brave on the outside to cover up the fears on the inside - fear of cancer, of surgery, of loss of sight, of the final sleep.

But even though he never walked again, he "made it" in a different way. He made the most of what he had left in his life. He kept in touch with all the family and friends he could, even when he had to have the phone held to his ear for him. He made new friends at the nursing home with his warmth and humour. Either his radio or his TV was on most of every day, and he could tell you the latest news and what the weather was supposed to do, who had died and who'd been born and who'd been elected. He knew how to wring the most from every moment. And he continued to be a loving father when I needed a listener or a word of encouragement, even as our positions of parent and child seemed to have been reversed in so many other ways.

Some people say that faking it until you make it is a stupid way to handle adversity. They say you can't fake it. There's no point in faking it. Feel all the feels. If you feel terrible, let it all hang out. In some cases, for some reasons, and at some times, I agree. But sometimes - and the trick is to know when those times are - you can get pretty far by faking your way through. I've seen it done, and done well.

How about you? Tell me your story of adversity, or of good advice in the face of it.



24 comments:

  1. This is my first time stopping by your blog and discovering what a gifted writer you are. I don't see a way to join your blog but perhaps that's something you're working on. Take care.

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    1. Thanks, Steve - and I will be working on getting a follow function set up ASAP.

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  2. See how good you are at this? You are right that fake it til you make it can be very useful. If you don't want to bring anyone else down and convince yourself that things aren't so bad It can be good. Sometimes, though, you have to let out the nasty stuff in order to get rid of it. As the gambler said, "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away and know when to run."

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  3. So similiar. So different. After her stroke my mother spent nine months in hospital waiting for a nursing home bed. I visited every day. She never, ever adopted a positive attitude. She continued to play family members off against each other and at times embroiled the hospital in the mix. After some expensive modification the hospital assisted her return home. Where I continued to visit. And the games and the manipulation continued for the ten days until she became very ill. She went back to hospital, telling the ambulance it was my plot to get her out of her home, slipped into a coma and died.
    I did a lot for her, but I didn't do it with a good grace and still feel guilty. Very guilty.

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    1. It does take two to tango. Just saying....

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    2. If you mean that I contributed to her negative attitude and manipulative ways I hope not. I tried so hard.

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    3. EC, that is heartbreaking. So hard. I feel for you. People deal with infirmities so differently - and, I believe, much the way they've dealt with everything up to that point. Would that be true in your mother's case? Kudos to you for doing so much for nothing in return, actually for something in return - something negative, that is.

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  4. Both my parents left life quietly, not kicking or screaming, but definitely their own way. I wonder how I will manage it.

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    1. I had lots of opportunity throughout my dad's last years to wonder the same thing.

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  5. Oh my Jenny, I can't tell you how happy I am to finally be reading your blog. This is a beautiful tribute to your Dad. I"m sorry for your loss and the time you've had working to keep all the balls in the air. It makes me doubly appreciate all the support you've given me and others. I'm sure your Dad is was/is so proud of you. I am very proud to be your friend!

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    1. The most wonderful thing is that my father was so appreciative of anything done for him. It made everything worthwhile. I miss him. Thanks for your kind thoughts, my friend.

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    2. I have a replica of a local lighthouse that my Stepmom gave me as it had been my Dad's. In truth, I'm not a collector and have never felt that I needed a momento of someone I loved, but I didn't want to hurt her feelings so I took it home and dusted it and replaced the little battery that operates the lights and put it in my youngest son's room as a nightlight. Guess who gets so much comfort from that tiny beam of light?

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  6. Jennnnnyyyyyy!!!! First, I am so very delighted you are blogging! You are such a bright and articulate addition to this world!

    And I am so very sorry about your dad. He sounds like an amazing man. The apple didn't fall far from the tree.

    Although I'm not really blogging anymore, I hope to check back in from time to time.

    So very glad you are writing!

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    1. Hey, Shelly! So glad you came by! Thank you for your kind words. Hope all's well in your world!

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  7. Hi Jenny, it's Doug from the Chicken's place. As a stroke survivor myself, first let me express my awe at the support you showed for your father. I was (am) lucky in every conceivable way where my stroke has been concerned, I had no health insurance at all, and the ambulance took me to the closest hospital which just happened to have the area's very best stroke program. I was there for 2o days, and then I was shipped off to acute rehab for almost 2 months. They rolled me in on a gurney, and I left walking (as I do now) with a quad-cane. I lucked my way into the very best, so I guess I could be a poster child for the idea of faking it until you make it. But I have something real to say to you about this. My doctors told me, over and over, that the support I had (thank you Briana!!!!) was the crucial part of my recovery. They said that I had a good attitude, but even so, folks without a support system or network almost never recover as well as those lucky enough to have someone there for them. Modern medicine is great, but there are some things that it can't substitute for, and that's one of them.
    I haven't read all of your posts yet, I just found your blog because the Chicken wrote about it, and when I saw this post, I knew I had to say something...

    -Doug in Oakland

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    1. Doug, hi! Thank you for coming over! It was so nice of Chicken to write that post.
      I'm really glad to hear you had good results with your rehab, and that you had a good support person in your life. All the rehab and support in the world couldn't change my dad's outcome, and that was so hard, but I kept seeing that he did better mentally when I saw him regularly. In contrast, when I had to be absent for extended times (surgeries), he didn't do as well ... so it kept me motivated to do everything possible to be there. Thank you for telling me these things. It helps.

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    2. I'm thankful to Briana, too.

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  8. Hi Jenny
    I echo the others who are happy you've started writing a blog, good goin'.
    I've heard the saying 'fake it till...' for years, in good and less good context, you're is the best so far.
    Cheers,
    Mike

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    1. Hi Mike! Thanks for coming and for your kind thoughts. You know, the first time I ever heard that expression was from that man in the hospital. I don't get out much :)

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  9. I'm so moved by this post. I have walked this walk with my elders and it can be heart wrenching. But like you I was blessed with a mother who always chose the brightest side of things and was living and grateful for every kindness. She died last year too. I miss her so.

    And I, too, am happy you're now blogging!

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    1. That appreciative outlook makes such a difference, doesn't it? I want to be like that when I get old. I want to be like that NOW ... and I have some work to do in that regard.
      I remember reading about your mom's passing, and thinking I might be walking that path soon - and it was so. Hugs, Angella.

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  10. This is so beautiful; it has touched me deeply. Your father was wonderful. And I totally understand because I had one like him, too.

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    1. We're lucky, aren't we, to have had such positive and loving people as parents? Thanks for reading and for your kind comment, Martha.

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