Getting Help

No one does it alone. No one.

I am terrible at getting help. So bad. I would much rather be the help than the helped. Having a husband with Parkinson’s Disease, I find his ability to help is diminishing. Of course he still pitches in and cooks dinner, but the quality of his work and the time it takes to get things done is very frustrating. For me. I need help.

On the flight home from Florida, I began to compose a letter to some church friends asking for their help with my darlings while I am going to be away for a few days for a worktrip to New Mexico. But then the plane hit turbulence and I put my laptop away. I have not opened that file. A part of me felt ashamed that I needed help.

In a city and a country of rugged individualists, I felt stupid and weak for asking for parenting and family support.

However, a few recent events in my life and in the world have reminded me that human beings need one another. We are social animals who like to live and work in community. It takes a village. We all need help – coping with an ill spouse, raising children, writing a book, organizing a demonstration or running a marathon. Here are some examples:

1. Occupy Wall Street — if you demonstrate alone, you look crazy. If you demonstrate with thousands of other people, you look like you have a cause.

2. NaNoWriMo — even the loneliness of novel writing can be ameliorated by thousands of on-line and real life friends cheering one another on. Creating small daily goals adds up to big accomplishments.

3. My Daughter’s Soccer Team — it’s much more fun to celebrate a win in a group than to win alone.

This weekend I saw this performance art piece at the foot of the High Line. The women were cutting each other's hair.

4. Haircuts — they just look better when someone else does them. In the same way, you can’t set your own broken arm.

5. My Family’s Well Being — I’ve met with a former colleague who started her own eldercare business and is helping us with Chris’s caretaking and I’ve also met with a lawyer to learn about protecting our family assets. These were huge and difficult calls to make and conversations to have. There’s more work to be done, but it’s a start.

Someday I may get back to writing that letter to my church friends to see if anyone wants to watch Charlotte’s soccer game or share a meal or prod the children to homework while I’m away. But I hesitate to finish and send the letter.

What if no one can help? Then I will end up exactly where I am. And it’s not such a bad place to be.

Stronger in the Broken Places

Chris loves to watch the kids play sports, especially Hayden on the Little League field. He loves to teach them cards.

The Parkinson’s Disease makes some typical Dad things difficult, but he does them any way. He never says, “I can’t.”

He loves to cook, and he is a slow cooker.

His ability to show his love is slow too. He can’t help it.

Can any of us help who we are or what we get? I try to remember this when my husband falls asleep when I’m talking to him or walks away in the middle of a conversation. He leaves a mess worse than Linus in his wake. He refuses to leave his computer chums for real-life friends.

I try to remember who Chris used to be. I try to remember the quick flick of his wrist on the tennis court, the persistent phone calls to place our kids into pre-school, the lover of literature, the smooth dancer at the Broadway show’s after-party. He is still all of these things, but they are slower to show themselves.

I lean on and love other dads too. They might not even know how much I need them — my kids’ uncles, grandpa, friends. I lean on these father figures so my kids get the attention, love, support they need.

Fathering (and parenting) takes a village. Sometimes I feel I should do it all alone. Or I feel that that there is only this one person or one way to be a family. Or I feel I shouldn’t reveal our/my weaknesses.

But we are stronger in our broken places (I think that’s a book title). The shoulder bone Hayden broke when playing baseball is stronger at the point of its break, which happened to be the growth plate.

When we lean on one another, we are stronger. We reinforce the growth plate.

By remembering why we love someone and getting over the frustration of that challenge (if possible), there is an ease and a deep gratitude. And if that doesn’t work, there’s always anti-depressants.

I’d like to write more about this but I have to go and make a Father’s Day breakfast. I have to call my own father and say, Thank you!