The mother-in-law of a dear friend of mine recently suffered a stroke. The incident didn’t leave any permanent damage, but the event trumpeted the need for a lifestyle change for both the woman and her aging husband. Having lived independently well into their eighties, the thought of seeking assistance from outsiders formed a bad taste in their mouths and was met with combat- ready resistance. My friend’s husband became the enemy.
I had seen this attitude before–not only in the elderly. I witnessed it in my mother while she lived and had discovered I possessed the same stubborn will as well. My mother would rather have fallen than use the walker I brought to her home. That device belonged in someone else’s home, not hers. Then I faced a long recovery after a back injury and resisted the inevitable—help from an outside source. Was this attitude something I’d developed myself or is it embedded in a person’s natural need to be independent? I’ll let you decide after you’ve read my story.
No one seems to know when I injured myself—not the doctor, not my husband, and not the chiropractor—but somewhere in the last several decades of my life I have fallen or been jolted severely enough to cause three of the vertebra in my back to collapse and pancake on top of each other. Add to that the growth of some arthritis spurs back near the tailbone, along with a twisted pelvis, and you have a painful, if not mobility-threatening mess.
I discovered my condition after driving six hundred miles round-trip to a writing conference in Seattle. My hip ached the entire weekend and I noticed that my left knee registered pain when I walked. During the return trip, sitting caused increasing discomfort while I drove. When I finally arrived home, I could barely navigate the sidewalk to the front door.
The intensity of the pain stopped me cold. I thought I had done something to my knee. Surgery seemed a likely possibility. I hobbled around for a week, not sure who to see for the problem, nor was I certain I wanted to see anyone. Finally, a friend suggested a chiropractor. I’d considered this before, but hadn’t made an appointment. Faced with the reality of surgery, I decided to give the chiropractor a chance.
With that choice followed several months of therapy. The popping and realignment of my bones often left me breathless. Under strict orders not to lift anything, I tiptoed through my summer, afraid of re-injuring my fragile backside. Asking my family for help, I adjusted to a new life style—one that meant I wasn’t as independent as I had been. But the lifestyle change paid off and I slowly regained my mobility without going under a knife. Moreover, I discovered that the night pain and stiffness that had grown increasingly annoying disappeared.
Often during the course of that summer my son suggested I needed a walker. I staunchly refused. I used a cane to get to the backyard or I’d pick up a plastic chair and walk it to the garden area I wanted to work. I’d sit to cook in the kitchen. The walls of my home served as places to lean as I inched my way from room to room. But use a walker? That sort of equipment was reserved for elderly people with mobility problems. I could hobble anywhere I needed to go, thank you very much!
I laughed at my reaction. Obviously I’m no different than the mother-in-law of my friend, fiercely independent and planning to stay that way. I imagine that deep down inside,all of us fear the changes aging will bring. Who would choose to give up their driver’s license? Who would have a stranger fix a meal in their home? Who would surrender to the indignities of needing help bathing, dressing or visiting the restroom without a fight? Yet, such annoyances find their way to the heartiest among us eventually.
And so, as I listened sympathetically to my friend expound on the battle being waged between her husband and his parents, I understood. I only hope that I can grow wiser as I age and avoid setting off World War III with my children when the time comes.
Anyone care to make a bet?