I've always thought of that old expression the other way. You know, "A friend in need is a friend indeed." I always understood it to mean that when someone needs something from you, they act like a true friend. I have a new way of looking at it. I'm realizing how many true friends I have now that I'm the one who needs something. My friend L came over to hang out today. We laughed. We played Scrabble. I slept. She made an origami box to entertain me. I'm sure she could have found a more pleasant way to spend her afternoon than listening to me wretch and watching me squirt milk shakes into my belly, but she spent it with me.
What led to L's visit was a change in a change in plans. A few days ago I posted on facebook that I needed a pennsy-sitter. Mrs P was planning on going out of town.Several wonderful friends volunteered and we were ready to coordinate the project. Over the weekend I had a couple of rough spells and Mrs P decided that she would stay home. Yesterday was a great day, and we agreed that I could handle her being away if we could get someone to stay with me for the day. I had already told everyone that I wouldn't be needing them, but one phone call to L and I had adult supervision for the whole day.
She showed up at 10:00, loaded down with laptop, Scrabble, even arts and crafts. She reminded me of the occupational therapy director at the nut house. We watched The Daily Show and Colbert Report, then played some games. By that time, I was pretty worn out, so I napped and she fussed around the house, dusting and washing up dishes and things. When I awoke, my meds were ready for me and my lunch was ready to squirt. In the afternoon, I slept some more while she read, then she offered to show me how to make a little paper box. It was silly and fun. Now, we're waiting for Mrs P to return home. L is typing emails and I'm chatting with you. It's been a nice day. A gift from a friend to a friend in need.
Yesterday, I called my friend D with some news. We are both following the progress of a theater that's being renovated here in town. I drive past on my way home from treatment. Yesterday I was excited to see a sign company crane hanging the new marquee, so I called D to tell her the news. She told me that she had been invited to see a dress rehearsal of the next play at SummerFest, Pride and Prejudice. She offered to go with me if I felt up to it. As I said, yesterday was a good one so we made plans. We had a wonderful time together, the play is charming and engaging, and Mrs P got a few more hours off from care giving.
Speaking of which... I just read the chapter in Lance Armstrong's book about how his relationship with his girlfriend ended once his chemo was over. I think I understand a little better now. Care giving is such a total task. The person with cancer is fighting something tangible, something inside them. The caregiver is fighting something more abstract. Something "out there." They are very different perspectives, but both demand great effort and focus. It is very easy for us to wear one another out. This is not uncommon among people who survive treatment together. It is not a path I want to imitate!
So giving my bride a respite from time to time is really important. I want her to be able to get away from this thing now and then. Maybe that means spending time with another friend or figuring out how to juggle all the mechanics of feeding myself. Maybe it means finding a friend indeed who's willing to spend a few hours watching me sleep. Whatever it means, I am so grateful to D and L for giving Mrs P the chance to rest. And for all the laughter we've shared over the past two days.
I did learn something, though. Yes, I can feed myself quite sufficiently, thanks. I don't need Mrs P resting her hip against mine, watching as the plunger gently pushes nutrition into my stomach. I don't need her to wipe up the spilled drops or to pat my cheek when it's all finished. I don't need that. But I really miss it when it isn't there. All this time, I thought she was giving me dinner. Turns out that was the least of her gifts. I'm glad she got this rest, but I'm glad she's coming home, too.
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