Did you notice that in her address to the Democratic National Convention, Michelle Obama spoke about her father (read here for full story), Frasier Robinson? He lived with MS, walked with a cane and supported the family.
“My dad was our rock,” she said. “Although he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in his early thirties, he was our provider, our champion, our hero. As he got sicker, it got harder for him to walk, it took him longer to get dressed in the morning. But if he was in pain, he never let on. He never stopped smiling and laughing – even while struggling to button his shirt, even while using two canes to get himself across the room to give my Mom a kiss. He just woke up a little earlier, and worked a little harder.”
You can read her entire address.
Ms. Obama put a very positive spin on what many would find a tough situation. Not that I blame her.
How would it have sounded if she’d complained, “I hated listening to my father drag those canes around the kitchen, watch him sit at the table unable to help with the kitchen dishes and yell at my mom in frustration.” I mean, her husband is running for President.
At least she didn’t say her father never complained. I cringe when I hear that. It promotes the stereotype of ill person as saint or hero. Yes, it’s a better image than ill person as malinger. And, no doubt, his accomplishments in the face of illness and disability were admirable. Given the stuff of his daughter exhibits, it’s not hard to believe.
But please. We all have to vent and gripe – healthy or not. Having trouble with buttons can be pretty irritating but dragging yourself to work and elsewhere on canes isn’t a picnic. Nor is living with a chronic illness that can be unpredictable as MS is.
I was reminded yet again this past week of the chronic aspect of chronic illness. It was our first vacation all summer and I needed it. I was worn out . . . from working hard, parenting my own children and taking care of my sick parents. I needed to get away and sit by the ocean with a book.
But the first day away, we got the call that my mom (86), who has lived with congestive heart failure for 13 year and feels weak, dizzy and crummy every day, broke her hip, needed surgery, hospitalization and rehab. Dad already is confined to a wheelchair (neuropathy from diabetes) and is in a nursing home.
I’d lived with severely debilitating chronic illness for 15 years when my colon was removed and I started a new drug therapy for multiple sclerosis. I’m not “healthy” but it’s not what it was in those years. The year of my own surgery, my mother’s second heart attack left her bedridden and Dad started his decline.
I believe Michelle Obama’s description of her father. I don’t know what my children would say about what it’s been like to live with me and my illnesses — but I sure hope it’s even a little close to that. I do know I’m not as patient with my parents as I wish I were when it comes to the chronicity of their illnesses. I wonder if it’s because of living with this for so long.
Do you struggle with the chronicity of illness? Do you find you have little patience when another person’s illness holds you back or takes up your time?
Rosalind aka cicoach.com