Last week, I invited a friend from Dell and his wife to dinner. I was happy to have someone visit. It made me feel as if my life was getting back to normal.
Rich, however, was very busy at work and was spending every waking hour dealing with various issues. He’d wake up at 4 a.m. or so, work for a few hours, get me out of bed, dressed and fed then run back upstairs to continue working, often until late at night. Because he was so focused on work, the house had become very messy.
Determined to have a tidy house for my guests, I negotiated my wheelchair into the laundry room and grabbed the broom. Over the course of two days, I was able to wheel around the house, sweeping the debris into piles. I also washed some of the windows, balancing on one leg − with one hand on the wheelchair and the other washing the windows.
After I was satisfied with my cleaning efforts, I set to work making an easy dinner… beans made in a crock pot the day of the dinner, salad, and iced tea. Later in the afternoon, I got down the plates, silverware, glasses, napkins, and placemats. It took several hours to get everything done because I needed to wheel over to various places in the kitchen, lock the wheels of the wheelchair, stand up, grab the item, carefully sit down, then wheel over to the table.
An hour before our guests arrived, I was dead tired and Rich had yet to come downstairs to help. I was seething inside, feeling his first responsibility was to me then work. However, I decided to lie down and hold my tongue.
Rich came down momentarily and profusely apologized for not helping. He also decided to help me relax by gently massaging and stretching my leg. This was the first time that Rich had done more than simply lift my legs onto the bed or help me stand up. For the past few weeks, Rich has tried to minimize touching my left leg and hip, fearful that he’d cause me pain.
In the past, I’d been quick to get upset with Rich when he didn’t do what I wanted or not clean up his messes. He’s often pointed out that my expectations of him and others are often unrealistic. Instead of taking a deep breath and evaluating whether an issue truly existed, I blurted out my dissatisfaction.
Holding my tongue that night was easy. And the reward so wonderful. I closed my eyes and concentrated on relaxing my leg as Rich attempted to soothe the pain and my exhaustion. And while I knew he was very tired, he remained cheerful throughout dinner.
The next morning, I woke to find my computer set up along with my breakfast. Having solved his work crisis that morning, he spent an extra few minutes with me, running upstairs to get a pair of socks for my feet and wrapping me in his favorite sweatshirt.
While the night before, I would have had the fleeting satisfaction of making Rich feel guilty for having focused so much on work, I now realize that holding my tongue strengthens our relationship and helps us work together to tackle a situation. Rich is not my adversary or critic. He’s my partner, my best friend and my biggest cheerleader.