Finding the humor in difficult situations and writing about it is one of my coping mechanisms.
As I get older and more physically decrepit, I expend huge
amounts of time and energy on health care for both my husband, Steve, and
myself. When even simple projects turn into complicated ventures, sometimes the
best thing to do is laugh.
The other day I needed a blood test. I have several options,
any one of which should work with few problems.
Since we are both getting on in years, as they say, and are
not in the best of health, as they also say, we have moved to a
continuum-of-care retirement community.
The community has a lab which will draw blood, test it and
send the results to the clinic. Unfortunately, it is only open from eight to
ten in the mornings.
I got up in plenty of time and got ready. Then, since Steve has
dementia and I don’t leave him alone, I got him up and dressed. I went to get
his breakfast ready. By the time it was on the table and I went to see what was
holding him up, he had gotten undressed and gone back to bed. He was sound asleep
again. Really, it was only a few minutes.
I got him up and redressed. I accompanied him to the
breakfast table. He was, as usual, cooperative if slow.
By the time he’d finished breakfast, the opportunity to get
the test done at the nearby lab had passed. Not a big deal. I often used a lab
associated with the clinic that needed the test. It’s not that far a drive, and
once we are in the car, does it really matter if we drive for a few minutes or
half an hour?
It’s winter, so I got his warm jacket and hat. It’s tough to
get his fingers into gloves, so he has mittens. We managed to get everything on
him. I went to get my jacket and put it on. When I went to take his arm, I
realized he had taken off the hat and mittens, and unzipped the jacket.
I perched the hat on his head and slipped the mittens on
again. As I rezipped the jacket, he said he had to use the bathroom. Off with
the jacket, hat and mittens. He needs assistance, so I took off my jacket to
With that taken care of, we handled the jacket, hat and
mittens routine again.
I turned around for a few seconds to grab my jacket. When it
was on, I took him firmly by the arm and escorted him out the door of our
apartment and down the hallway.
It was only as we were actually going out the door to the
parking lot that I realized he no longer had the mittens. Back to get them
Getting Steve in and out of the car can be a problem, though.
He’s willing enough, but actually putting both feet into the car and his rear
in the seat, the seatbelt buckled and the door closed without slamming any body
parts can be tricky.
I got into the driver’s seat, rebuckled the seat belt he’d
undone, and took off.
For some reason I forgot to get his stuffed dog, Mr.
Barkley, from the back seat of the car. I give it to him to hold so that he
doesn’t reach for other things, like the gear shift. We were on a busy street
with no where to pull over. I glanced at him sideways, but he was not even
trying to open the glove compartment. Thank goodness.
When we reached an area where I could pull over, I stopped
to get the stuffed dog. That was when I realized that I had rebuckled the seat
belt with both his hands trapped underneath it. He didn’t seem to mind, and we were
almost there, so I just left it.
The parking lot for the lab was crowded. That was unusual.
Steve sometimes asks to stay in the car (I have some magazines for him to look
at) and one of the reasons I like this lab is that it has a row of handicapped
parking spaces right next to it, visible from the waiting room. I can stand
next to the window and keep an eye on him except for the maybe three minutes it
takes to actually draw the blood. If Steve were to decide to get out of the
car—something he has never done—it would take a lot longer for him to figure
out how to open the door, undo his seatbelt, and actually get his feet out.
Unfortunately, there were no parking spaces there. I parked
as near as I could and unloaded both of us from the car.
The automatic door didn’t work. The door is very heavy, and
I had difficulty getting it open and holding it so Steve could come in with me.
Turns out the electricity at the lab was out, so of course
the door didn’t open automatically. However, it also meant the computers were
down, so the staff couldn’t access the records. And the only lights were the
emergency ones, not bright enough for anyone to draw blood. Certainly not
bright enough for me to want anyone to try.
They suggested two alternative sites nearby.
I got Steve back into the car. We went to lab at the
hospital itself. As the receptionist had told me, the hospital had a full
emergency backup for its electrical system; even if the power had gone out,
they would be up and running in scant seconds.
No available parking spaces at all. A sign directed us to a
multi-level parking garage. It was a good hike away across a wind-swept parking
lot. I knew from experience that the lab itself was on another level and way
down a corridor.
Steve, now clutching Mr. Barkley, would have a difficult
time navigating it. He was getting restless.
I promised him we could get some “real” food (his word) for
lunch instead of the excellent, nutritious lunch waiting for us back at the
retirement community, which, by this point, we would miss anyhow. Due to the
pandemic, it would have to be drive-through. I offered him a few choices. He
chose Burger King.
We got to the other lab. I got out and ran in to make sure
they had power before I got him out of the car.
They did. I went back and helped Steve out. He wanted to
bring Mr. Barkley. No problem that I could see. So what if the other people in
the waiting room thought it was strange?
I brought a magazine in for him, and got him and Mr. Barkley
settled in the lab’s waiting room, which fortunately was almost empty.
When I brought my order to the desk, the receptionist took
it and frowned. “We’re out of the tubes we need for that test,” she said.
“We’re waiting for some to be delivered right now.”
At this point, I could wait a little while. “When do you
expect them?” I asked.
She shook her head. “I really don’t know. We thought we’d
get some last Wednesday, but they never showed up.”
In the brief minutes I had been facing the desk, Steve had
managed to take off his jacket, hat and mittens. Fortunately he had stopped removing
clothing at that point.
I got them back on him and we headed back out to the car. He
didn’t want to put the magazine or Mr. Barkley down long enough to get into the
car, but we finally managed it.
As I pulled out of the parking lot, he asked, “Can we get a
hamburger for Mr. Barkley, too?”
I decided a blood test was not in my future for today.