Wednesday, January 20, 2010

On asking for help, accepting help, and silver linings

clouds breaking over Three Boys Farm, 1-18-2010

I am one of those people who has trouble asking for help. It’s not that I don’t appreciate help. It’s not that I want to do everything myself, either. I just can never figure out what someone else could do for me…the details being what they are: endless and mysterious. So, it’s actually the delegating that gets in the way of the asking.

I often offer help. I love to help. Mark loves to help. He’s actually a more selfless soul than I, and he’s been an amazing model for me through the years. He’d much rather help someone than do for himself, but he’s also not very good at asking for help for himself. In fact, I don’t think it ever occurs to him that he needs anything, so that clearly becomes a problem if help is being offered. “Who me? Oh, I’m fine. Don’t need a thing!”

These days help is coming to me in so many ways, from so many directions. As I pull together the details of our trip to Philadelphia for Ben’s surgery, I am fending off (just kidding) offers of help from friends and relatives. The problem is that it’s all so huge. I don’t even know where to start.

The other day, though, an amazing thing happened. I had spent hours that week calling hotels in the Philly area trying to find a rate that was cheap enough that I felt we could afford it for the 10-14 days we’d be needing it. (Ben will be in the hospital about 6-7 days, plus the night before he goes in, plus the 5 or so days after he is discharged before his follow-up appointment.) There are hospitals around the city who offer a discounted rate for families of Shriners patients, which is helpful, but it takes time. And it required me to relive or, should I say, pre-live the ordeal over and over and over. “Hi, my son is going to be having surgery at Shriners Hospital in February and I was wondering if you still have your special rate for families of patients there…?” “Oh, you don’t?” “Oh, it’s not available for those dates?”

I’ve been doing a pretty good job of holding it together emotionally. But that afternoon, all alone in my quiet house, confronting the near future repeatedly, imagining myself leaving Ben and Mark in the hospital and returning to an empty hotel room in an unfamiliar city, was pretty agonizing, and I finally fell apart. Completely. The tears started flowing. I finally felt the pain in a way I hadn’t yet and it was searing.

Ben’s neurosurgery ordeal began on Feb. 1, 2006. His orthopedic surgery will take place on Feb. 15, 2010. The coincidence of timing is not lost on me. It couldn’t be more excruciating. I feel like our wound is being opened again. My body’s memory of the first experience is still fairly fresh, and every memory cell is being resensitized. Though I believe we are doing the right thing and this is the option that gives Ben the best chances of making it to full maturity without needing fusion surgery, the concept of putting him through any surgery has me shaking. And the vision of packing him into the car to drive to the airport…even that act feels heartbreakingly painful and unfair.

Last Thursday night, the day after my afternoon of hotel calls, I visited my friend Barbara. I told her of my woes over tea and cookies. And she looked me in the eye and said, “Well, you have come to the right place tonight because I am a master at getting hotel deals and I’m going to take care of this for you.” So, I wrote down every detail we could think of from what my ideal location was to what my bottom line price was to how many beds we wanted. And I agreed to let her help me.

The beauty of her offer was that it had never occurred to me that anyone else could do that task for me. But as soon as she said it, I knew she could. And it was such a huge relief to leave it to her. I felt so taken care of and that’s exactly what she wanted to do.

My mom and cousin, Ruth, will be taking care of Harry and Toby at our home. My sister and her family will be with them here or at their home. My friend Sherry is setting up a Share the Care page for me so that friends can check in to see what we need and sign up to take care of those needs. Friends are offering rides and playdates and sleepovers and dinners and marketing. I am overwhelmed.

The last time Ben went through surgery we lived our lives by putting one foot in front of the other until the ordeal was over. And despite how awful the whole thing was we always felt there was a silver lining and it was the experience of being held by our community.

I can already see the edge of that silver lining peaking out around my mind's images of Philadelphia in February. Thank you friends. Thank you family. You are so loved.

1 comment:

Wyndi said...

dd you try the Ronald McDonald house in the area??? also this is a support group of patients that go to philly shiners
sending our love your way! i know things can get overwhelming at times!! like all the time lol im so glad your reaching out for help and poeple are offering it up!!