“How’s Larry?” our neighbors will ask when I’m out walking the dog. Dog walking first thing in the morning can feel like just another caretaker responsibility when all I want to do is sit and have a quiet cup of coffee, but the dog gets me out and gives me a little exercise and lots of easy connection. And he’s cute.
I’ve heard caregivers who resent always being asked that question about their loved one because they say no one ever asks about them. I’ve found people are very empathetic to the stress of my situation and very caring and often ask how I am. That question I usually know how to answer.
But how’s Larry? I don’t know how to answer that. His good day is pretty awful compared to the person asking.
I know they are concerned. They really want to know.
I have to think.
Well, he didn’t fall in the last few days. He hasn’t choked. He’s not dead. He smiled yesterday. Ok. He’s pretty good. Fine, really.
If I ask him, he might even say fine. That has always been his standard answer, as long as I’ve known him. So I’ve developed a way to see the ebbs and flows each day. I ask him how he is on a scale of one to ten, physically and emotionally. One is awful. Ten is really good. Several years ago he was generally 7’s and 8’s.
The last few mornings he was a 3, once a 2.5. So is he fine?
He’s telling me he is pretty close to awful. Twenty-five percent of really good – his really good in his condition, not your really good. 2.5 is pretty awful.
When he’s that low, I ask him why, what are the symptoms that are particularly bothering him. Mostly he just says all. He does usually get higher later in the day.
Last night we were sitting outside watching the day turn to night. He was in his power wheelchair, his feet elevated, with the dog in his lap and a cocktail in his drink holder. I was curled up on a hair next to him. Dirty pans sat next to the sink in the kitchen and the counters were a mess. They could wait.
He had me light a candle. We watched the clouds turn pink. We listened to the tree frogs sing and the occasional motorcycle roar in the distance. As the darkness fell I asked him how he was on a scale of one to ten. He was a six! “Cool,” I said.