Archive for March, 2010

Wednesdays with Daddy

Please forgive the light posting last week, but we just got back from spending spring break in Arkansas with Mom and Dad. It was really good, in a bittersweet kind of way– but honestly, so very much more sweet than bitter. The sweetest part is that we’ve miraculously been able to enjoy yet another visit home. We don’t take any of these visits for granted. It was very low-key, just blessedly ordinary days filled with the usual eating, laughing, playing Nertz, fixing dinner, and hanging out. Mom is taking such good care of Daddy. She works hard to keep their daily routine as much like it used to be as she can, while making adjustments for Dad’s increasing limitations. She is firmly in the caretaking role now, and Dad is a very agreeable and cooperative ‘patient.’ She continues to gently push him to do the things he can, and doesn’t just step in and take over like I know I probably would. If he starts to move at all, I always immediately jump up and ask a little too brightly, “What do you need, Daddy? What can I get you?” Mom still requires some things of him, she asks him to help her do things that she knows he is still able to do, and it is good for him.

There’s a poignancy to their relationship now. They’re not gooey lovey-dovey with each other, that’s never been their style, but there is a sweetness between them– endless patience and good humor on Mom’s part, gratitude and good humor on Dad’s. Sometimes he reaches up and places his hand over hers as she rests it on his shoulder. Sometimes she pats his arm or holds his hand when they are sitting next to each other on the couch. It makes my throat hurt to see it, tears threaten to rise up out of the deepest part of me. Because the truth is that every day, in hundreds of big and small ways, they are starting to say goodbye to each other. It’s unspoken, but it’s there. They are 94 years old, and Daddy is fading. They both know how this story will end, they just don’t know how or when.

So every morning my Mom, that tiny white-haired force of nature, gets up and fixes the coffee and sits down with her bible to get her strength for the day. Then she pads into their bedroom, puts her (almost useless at this point) hearing aids in, shoos Pandy out and starts the slow, careful process of getting Daddy up and going, and then through sheer force of will she guides/nags/encourages/pushes him through one more day. And he smiles and lets her. It’s a gentler, softer, kinder version of the dance they have done with each other for over 70 years, and for better or worse, it works. Against all odds, thank God, it still works.

On Wednesday I went with Daddy to his physical therapy. He has been going twice a week for some time now, and they have been working hard to try to strengthen his muscles and improve his balance to lessen the chances of a fall. He, of course, unfailingly tries to do his best and the therapists, of course, just love him. This was his last session there for a while, my sisters are going to start doing the exercises with him at home now. Madi, bless her, took these shots:

**They start the session by tossing a ball back and forth.

**Then they work on strengthening his leg muscles. I told Daddy he looked like a Rockette.

**(He thought that was funny!)

**The therapists are working really hard with Daddy to improve his balance. He looks quite dignified for a man who happens to be sitting on a big blue rubber ball, don’t you think?

** No hands!

** We took a little break while the therapists finished making copies of instructions on exactly how to do each exercise for my sister Carolyn to take home.

**Then they surprised him with this certificate– way to go Dad, you ol’ A+ over-achiever, you!

It Is IMPOSSIBLE To Rub Me The Wrong Way

In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that I am currently blogging under the influence.

Of a TWO HOUR massage.

So there’s this company called Massage Envy, and if you sign up to become a member you get one massage every month at a really reduced rate. And if you get busy and/or forgetful like me, then the massages have a tendency to pile up, and THEN if you want– and who in their right mind wouldn’t?– you can book a two hour massage. Which turns me into jello. Seriously? I probably shouldn’t have driven myself home. Between the fact that the amount of oil on my skin easily surpasses the ‘greased pig’ level , and that I was in a semi-comatose state following two, count ‘em two hours of a really good massage– I dang near slid off the seat and under the steering wheel every time I turned a sharp corner and I was so relaxed I kinda wanted to stay there. Nobody gets their money’s worth out of a massage more than yours truly.

I respond so thoroughly to massage that I even had a therapist with me for the births of both of the girls. For Madi, the therapist just stopped by early on in my labor and worked on me for about an hour and went home, because as you may or may not know, Madi’s birth took approximately a year and a half. But for Charlotte’s birth, my trusted (and more than a little space-cadet-ish) masseuse Krystal-with-a-K showed up at the hospital and after massaging my hands, feet, head and shoulders I became so relaxed that HELLO, Charlotte’s about to be born now! So suddenly my crunchy-granola massage therapist unexpectedly had a front row seat to the whole thing. Russ, God bless him, made the (in retrospect, monumental) mistake of handing her the video camera. Yikes. Krystal-with-a-K had never witnessed a birth before so she was thoroughly entranced with the whole process… which the video clearly shows. And by “clearly shows” I mean “no one will ever see this tape, even Russ, heck, even ME and we were both there!”

I’m a massage purist. I’m not that interested in hot stones or aromatherapy, I just want to totally relax and maybe get rid of some of the lumpy giant hamsters that appear to have taken up permanent residence between my shoulder blades. I want to have my head massaged and my feet rubbed until I am half-asleep and making involuntary purring noises. Actually, I have also been known to cry during massages. Not often, but every once in a long while if I have been under a great deal of stress, when my knotted muscles are having the kinks worked out of them and I can feel the tension slowly ebbing from my body, I have kinda teared up. Not big heaving sobs or anything, just tears slipping out of my eyes and running down into my ears and then I have to ask for a kleenex to blow my nose and–BONUS– I completely freak out the massage therapist! They usually think they’ve somehow hurt me, so they start anxiously asking if the pressure was too hard and I have to explain that no, I’m not injured, I’m just stressed and apparently when I get DE-stressed, I turn into a big ol’ titty baby. And then I try to make a joke out of it, but by that time they are shaken and nervous and obviously concerned that I might snap completely and jump off the table and start running around the massage place buck nekkid yelling that I’m Napoleon or something. So it kinda puts a damper on the rest of the massage. The moral of that story is that now I try to get massages often enough that I’m not a big bag of nerves when I go in so I don’t risk crying, thereby keeping the massage therapist from having a breakdown of his or her own, and considering another line of work because people are just too weird.

It always boggles my mind that there are some people out there who say they honestly don’t enjoy massages. I once gave a massage gift certificate to a friend of mine and after a year she finally confessed to me that she had never used it because she ‘just didn’t like’ massages. How can a human being not like being rubbed down with nice-smelling oil until their tense and sore muscles completely relax? Come on. Especially head, hands and feet– what is better than that, people?! I wonder if it has more to do with their discomfort over being naked under a sheet with a stranger putting their hands on them than it does actually not enjoying the feeling of a massage. Luckily, I have the modesty of a jaybird, so hey, no problem here. I don’t even mind male massage therapists, in fact I almost prefer them especially for the two hour sessions because they are usually stronger than the female therapists. I got over my initial hesitation about male therapists during my pregnancies. My obstetrician was a man, and Lord knows going to see him presented way more opportunities for me to feel vulnerable and overexposed than seeing a male masseuse– at least during a massage nobody LIFTS UP THE SHEET! It also helps that the first male therapist that every worked on me kinda looked like a nerdy/hippie algebra teacher with Birkenstocks and a stringy ponytail.  And I happened to be about seven months pregnant at the time with swollen ankles and an attitude, so trust me, this scenario did not lend itself to lustful thoughts. For either one of us. Maybe if I ever ran into a Brad Pitt-look-alike massage therapist, I’d be a lot more self-conscious and uncomfortable. But I’m thinking that guys who look like Brad Pitt usually choose another career path.

Have you ever noticed that sometimes with certain males of the species, the word ‘massage’ is usually automatically (in their head at least) coupled with the word ‘parlor’?  Especially for men who have never actually HAD a real massage. There is always just a hint of something sexual about it to them, and when women start talking about getting a massage those kind of guys either get nervous and jokey or kind of leering and creepy. I have talked to several massage therapists about that over the years, and they have all said that those misconceptions drive them crazy, and that’s why they use very specific words to describe what they do, like ‘licensed,’ ‘therapeutic’ and ‘non-sexual.’ As opposed to, you know, words like ‘exotic’ and ‘sensual’ and ‘boom chicka bow wow.’ To me, it’s just another spa service like a facial or something but I do think that there are still some people that feel like there is something slightly scandalous about getting a massage, at least among my parent’s generation. And, as hard as it is for me to believe, apparently some people could honestly just take them or leave them. Like Russ, for example. He’s had many massages over the years especially when he has had an injury of some sort, and while he thinks they are useful and pleasant enough, he obviously doesn’t consider them The Best Thing Ever Invented. “I enjoy them,” he once said to me with a shrug. “But unlike you, it’s not a religious experience.”

So what about you guys– do you ever get massages? Do you ever even want to? If not, is there some kind of soothing, stress-reducing treatment that you do enjoy? I’m curious! (Also? Greasy. )

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