The Imperfection

Today I welcome guest blogger Peter Biro. Peter is a caregiver. On his blog, The Sandwiched Man  he writes about caring for his father and his children at the same time. Welcome Peter.

The Imperfection

When Bobbi Carducci of The Imperfect Caregiver asked me to contribute a post to her blog (where this entry also appears), I settled early on a topic that has been much on my mind recently. Then, suspecting it might send some readers running for the exits, I decided to check my instinct by asking my Facebook friends about particularly unappealing cocktail party discussion topics. Their list included pap smears, what sub-department of finance someone works in, minutiae-filled marathon training and post-run recovery rituals, CrossFit (described as the Amway coffee chat of the 21st century – by the way, Amway was on there too), someone’s latest airline travel delay nightmare, detailed hole-by-hole recounting of a round of golf, and fibromyalgia.

Included on this list, indirectly, was incontinence. Unfortunately, this is actually what I am writing about. But hang in there with me anyway.

My father is about as physically bulletproof as a 91 year-old can be. He is independent, sharp, strong, and mostly mobile. However, what he is not is able to do is control his bladder. It controls him. Back in 2002 when he weighed 50 pounds more than he does now, he had congestive heart failure, for which he was prescribed Lasix. If you don’t know what Furosemide (that’s the generic name) does, it’s a so-called loop diuretic, meaning it tricks your body into squeezing more water out of you. Kimberly-Clark, the company that makes the adult diapers Depends, should send their manufacturer royalty checks. Then he’s on Flomax (aka Tamsulosin), which relaxes enlarged prostates. In other words, it also eases the flow of urine.

Maybe Depends should be sending royalty checks to these guys as well.

Compounding the problem is that he is now only mostly mobile. So, reaching the bathroom when the urge strikes sometimes just takes too long. Who among us has not reached the bathroom with mere seconds to spare? He loses those seconds to slow movement. When you live in a community like he does, this causes complaints from other residents, which is a big headache.

His physically slowing down also affects the often-recommended solution of using Depends: he physically has trouble putting them on and taking them off. That assumes my brother and I could convince him to wear them, which we can’t. And honestly, I almost don’t want to succeed.

I’m oversharing about my father’s incontinence because I have to deal with it and at times, it dominates my discussions with him. With time to reflect, I realize how insane this is. He is a whole human being, a man in full, and this is an imperfection. This is a man who remembers stories about family members, friends and me, a history that will die when he does, and this is what I’m spending our time together talking about? How much to cut back his Lasix by? Whether or not to try out Oxytrol (a female hyperactive bladder medication) as a solution?

As caregivers, however, we frequently focus on the imperfections. They are the urgent we tend to rather than the important. It’s a peculiar byproduct of being in a caregiving position. Put another way: I have a good friend my age who has related issues, and I promise you, we have never discussed Oxytrol.

We also tend to obsess on the imperfections in how we provide care, whatever form that takes. As a Sandwich Generation father, I find often myself evaluating and second-guessing how I provide for, communicate with, and otherwise help raise my children. I even write an entire blog about it.

In the end, however, what matters is not the imperfections but the thing in full.

As I mentioned, I want to thank Bobbi for the chance to guest-write on her blog, the title of which I have a new appreciation for. Sometimes writing about imperfections in others and in ourselves, helps put them in the right perspective. I know it has for me.

Big Turkey! – Moments in Caregiving

Some moments in caregiving linger on and bring a smile to one’s face long after they happen.

From the first moment he saw her, Rodger was head over in heels in love with baby Ava. When he found out we would be going to my daughter’s house each morning after the birth of her first child, he was up and ready to go before sunrise every day.

“What time do we go?” he asked as soon as I wandered into the kitchen and reached, bleary eyed, for a tea bag and my microwaveable cup.

“Not for while yet. You have to have breakfast and take your medication. I need to take a shower and get dressed. And besides, the new mom and dad need time to get going in the morning too.”

“They need us. We have to go.”

Knowing he would pace and worry until we got there, I sipped my tea on the way to my room, showered as fast as I could and pulled on a sweat suit. My hair was hopeless. I put it in a pony tail and grabbed a baseball cap to cover it. Then I packed a bag with his medications, a blood pressure monitor, thermometer, stethoscope, his nebulizer, band-aids, Depends, a change of clothes, and some food I knew he would eat. Just like I used to pack a diaper bag for my daughter when she was a baby and she would now do for her child.

As soon as we arrived he went straight for the baby who was nestled quite contentedly in the arms of her other Grandmother.

“I’ll hold her. I know what to do,” he said, his tone of voice a clear indication he disapproved of her technique. Fortunately, my daughter’s mother-in-law was amused rather than offended and helped get baby and Great-grandfather settled comfortably in the overstuffed chair he preferred.


And so it went. If the baby wasn’t being fed or changed, he wanted to hold her and he wasn’t shy about chastising any of us for taking too long to hand her over. Often I would look over and see her deep blue eyes staring into his faded brown ones and thank God they had this time together. Was she transferring innocence to him as he silently shared his wisdom with her? I like to think so.

Lots of pictures were taken by proud parents and grandparents, of course.

One day, not long after our help was no longer needed, I gave Rodger one of the photos. In it, he was sitting in that overstuffed chair holding Ava who was wrapped in a beautiful pink blanket. I knew he missed her and waited to see him light up when he saw her. He stared at it for a few seconds, a puzzled look on his face and said, “That’s me.”

“Yes, that’s you.” I answered.

He looked at for another few seconds before the smile I was hoping for appeared. He tapped the picture and pointed to the baby and announced, “Big Turkey. Happy Thanksgiving!”

The proud new mama wasn’t thrilled to think anyone could mistake her baby for a turkey but now that time has passed and Old Grampy, as Ava now calls him, is no longer with us, it’s one of the most precious memories we have of him and the little girl he loved so much.

As you can see, Ava looks nothing like a turkey.

Ava Dancing Queen

If you have an amusing story about a moment in caregiving, please share it here. I’d love to read it.

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