Sunday, January 08, 2012

What is Normal?

The past 3 weeks have been far from normal. My father-in-law, henceforth known as The Beard, had knee replacement surgery about 3 weeks ago. Three days after he was home from the hospital, my mother-in-law (The Gaggs) was rushed to the hospital with a perforated bowel. Thus necissitating the upheaval of our and my sister-in-law's (PD) lives during what was to be a normal holiday season.

This required many drives to the in-law's house to take care of The Beard since he was not completely mobile, visits to the hospital, setting up Skype on everyone's computer, picking up groceries for the invalid, and making up schedules as to who was to stay with The Beard since his primary care giver was now in the hospital. Eventually, it worked out for The Beard and The Gaggs to be transferred to the same rehab center so they could see each other, and family members only had one place to go to visit both.

In the middle of this, The Beard's lovely sister Brenda was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on her spine and was operated on to remove the tumor. Because of the tumor's location, she could possibly be looking at permanent paralysis from the waist down.

This is what has had me ruminating on the meaning of "normal". I was looking forward to the holiday break, because it would afford me with much time to knit, an activity many are aware that I am fond of. I even thought I could get some time in with the alpaca fleece. Between running to the hospitals, rehab centers, laundry, trying to make Christmas as joyful and normal as possible to the kids, it didn't happen.

Now, I keep telling myself when things get back to normal, I'll have time to knit. But what is "normal"? Lovely Aunt Brenda who has never married, nor had children, is relying on nieces and nephews to help her navigate her new normal. I realized how dramatically her life has changed the other day as I watched her learn how to put her shoes and socks on using aids since she really doesn't have the ability to bend at the waist and use her hands to do this. I also realized how much longer it will now take her to prepare herself in the morning to go about her day.

In spite of this, her life has not really changed much. She will still be able to perform her same job. One that only required her to sit at a desk and use a computer and telephone. She still has the support of a family that loves her and wants to help. It took every bit of my self control not to walk over and put her socks on her, because I couldn't stand to see her struggle with such a simple task. I knew if I did, she would whack me with her grabby stick she uses to reach things. She's very determined, and that has not changed. She's a scrappy broad, always has been.

I am now in the process of wading through the muck that disguises itself as social services, to see what help is out there for Brenda. This is my normal for the next several weeks or months. Everyone's normal is different, and sometimes it changes. Your normal is what you make it.

Martina Navratilova said it best, "I shouldn't say I'm looking forward to leading a normal life, because I don't know what normal is. This has been normal for me."

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