A Seat at the Table

Seeing my mom reminds me I am changing, though slowly relative to most other people with ALS. When she visits, there is always a lot for her to learn: the new way to help me dress, which silverware I can handle, what medicine I take at night. The list goes on. My sister and husband swoop in, explaining so much I didn’t even realize they thought about:

“When she says she’s thirsty, you have to grab the pillow under her feet so she can sit straight up. That way she won’t choke,” Laura says, pulling the pillow away and handing me my water.

“Hold the glass for her between sips so her wrists don’t get tired,” Evan says, taking the water from my hands while I swallow.

They must be thinking constantly about my needs. I can look at either of them and when our eyes meet, they burst into action, knowing automatically what I am silently asking. It is amazing, but it can’t be easy, and watching them train my mom, I keep wishing I didn’t need so much, didn’t change so much.

I need to be here in Portland. The care I am getting here is perfect for me, and I am so lucky I made it into the clinic. It is still hard to be away from my parents, though. It’s easier when I think of this time apart as an investment: I will live longer and ultimately have more years with them because of the care I receive here. Watching my mom learn to take care of me as though I am a very strange kind of infant will never feel OK. Neither will seeing my sister and husband throw their time and energy down the drain of my healthcare. I have to believe, though, as the three of them work together, the distance and effort will be repaid one day by my presence at their dinner table, when we all have gray hair and have grown old, just like we hoped and planned long before we ever heard of ALS.

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