Helplessness: that dull, sick feeling of not being the one at the reins. When did you last feel like that –- and what did you do about it?
I really hate helpless. I was born on Independence Day, and there’s a really good reason for that. I can do it myself. Can too. CAN TOO!!
I’m short. I can’t even claim 5 ‘1″ any more. That, in some people’s minds, would make me seem helpless. Believe me, it can be frustrating, but I have been known to climb grocery store shelves for that item that some fool shoved to the back of the top shelf. I’ve also learned, grudgingly, to ask tall people to get things for me. I hate it when they smile condescendingly while they exert their superior length. What they don’t know is that their long, gangly arms and legs are not as economical as my short ones. If you don’t see the logic in that, I just can’t help you.
I think the most helpless I’ve ever felt was when I took a header off my bike some years ago. Broke both elbows, just little 1-2 inch fractures in the ball that fits the socket. I had to wear casts on both arms for a week. Thank God it was only one week. There are a lot of things you just can’t do when both your arms are in bent-elbow casts. I’ve never been more thankful to be in a good marriage; I’ve never been more aware of how much I hate being helpless. I’ll never forget that first night. I’d gone to bed, drugged up so I’d sleep. Somewhere in the midde of the night I needed the bathroom, but I couldn’t move. I tried, I really did. But my knee had also been hurt pretty badly, and my left leg was in an immobilizer. I couldn’t get any leverage with my legs; my arms were useless. Terry wasn’t in the bed. Told me later he hadn’t wanted to disturb me, so went to sleep on the sofa. He’d left our bedroom door open so he could hear me if I needed him.
Boy, did I need him. I called his name several times, but it must have taken about half an hour before my constant calling woke him up. I was desperate by that time, and we were both in tears as he helped me get up. He felt terrible that he hadn’t been there when I needed him; I was frustrated, embarrassed, and angry. Not with him. With my inability to take care of such a simple need without help.
We’ve both had a glimpse of what helplessness can mean as we grow older. He broke his heel three years ago, and the injury has changed him. He needs to rest during the day. He can’t be on his feet all day long like he used to. His pain is debilitating at times, and he has to call on others for help doing tasks he used to handle himself.
I think maybe one of the lessons of age is that you really can’t always do it all by yourself, and that’s ok. It’s a hard lesson to swallow.