Wednesday, September 08, 2010

A Small Quotient of Happiness

I helped her get from the wheelchair to the edge of the bed and my assistant lifted her legs as we boosted her frail body into a comfortable position. She asked for a pain pill while I adjusted the oxygen flow on her bedside unit. We had just met with her husband who wanted her moved to a rehab unit where she would have more intensive therapy so she could walk on her own again. She had been quiet during the discussion and now that we were alone I asked her where she would like to be.

“Home,” she said without hesitation.

So I wasn’t the only person who knew she did not have the potential for independence.

“Why didn’t you say that when everyone was here?” I asked.

“I have been happily married for 10 years,” she said.

I looked with surprise at her aged face and asked how long she had been married.

“Fifty-seven years,” she said flatly. “We only celebrated three anniversaries together in our marriage. He was always busy and our lives were very separate. Now he has to care for me all the time and it is very wearing for both of us. He is pushing me to be independent so he can resume his own life. He doesn’t want to spend the money for the extra care I need.”

“Do you have any children?” I asked.

“Two,” she said, “and they are almost perfect.”

I didn’t want to know what she meant by that.


  1. This is such a sad story Ruth. It really tugs at my heart.

  2. This is too sad.To think that her husband really does not want to care for her.
    The picture is gorgeous.

  3. So sad. When my mom had a stroke in 1995, my Dad was so worried about her condition. Dad and us, their children [we are 3]took care of mom but Dad died 4 year after. Mom lived another 4 years before she joined Dad. And I am so happy to say that I didn't regret taking care of Mom. If there is any regret I had, it's because I wasn't able to take care of Dad the way I did with Mom because he passed away unexpectedly.

  4. So she sees life clearly yet through a bubble. This IS a sad story, yet I'm sure often happens but just isn't told.

  5. It always amazes me at times how honest patients will be with us when no one else is around. What a profoundly sad story.

  6. Although I get the point and think her husband is a jerk, I'm confused about the details.

    When she said "home," did she mean heaven?

    Were the "ten happy years" at the beginning or what?

  7. AC- I let her talk and did not ask many questions because I understood what she was saying, even without details. She wanted to be cared for in her own home rather than an institution, and she felt she had experienced happiness for a total of 10 years out of 57, definitely not at the end of the relationship. Her words bothered me all day...

  8. It certainly is sad to come to the end in these circumstances. Maybe she experienced happiness but just not in her marriage.

  9. Mexico Mom11:39 am GMT-4

    This is sad and makes me realize also with 57 years of marriage, that this past difficult 8 months my husband and my children have stood by me as much as possible.
    It has been wonderfully supportive family endeavour.
    I read yesterday - "Don't ever complain about growing old, many people do not have the opportunity."

  10. Oh my. It sounds like she felt powerless to change either her situation or her attitude about it. Sad.

  11. I agree Ginger...we do have to take responsibility for our own happiness and true happiness need not be related to circumstances.

  12. This is very very sad. There are so many instances in life where our professions include SO much more than the job description. I would lean towards thinking it's lucky she has interaction with you, because you have wisdom and compassion and you're a good listener. Sometimes we just want a safe place to say the truth out loud...

  13. What a sad story that I fear is repeated over and over.


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