Ok, all better now.
The flu has left the building, I have borrowed someone else’s red blood cells (and put them to good use), and am in a much better frame of mind (for which I’m sure you are grateful).
I am also now back on the t-juice, so hopefully the stars will align and I won’t be anemic, won’t catch the flu, my testosterone levels will go up and my cancer will vanish.
Or all hell will break lose again.
Yes, I’m a glass half full sort of guy.
Speaking of health issues, my kind friend, Jennifer Taylor, made the suggestion a couple of weeks ago that we start a blood drive of sorts for me.
The blood I’m receiving from someone for my monthly transfusions needs to be replaced. If you are local to Tallahassee and would like to help with this, here is the link she gave me to the blood bank to get you set up with an appointment:
I would be most grateful for your involvement. The blood bank needs to keep their supplies in good shape and I and others are raiding them regularly. Currently, there is a critical need for all blood types. Please help, if you can.
Speaking of helping, may I divert this post from what I promised you last week? That’s a rhetorical question, of course. I can do anything I damn well please.
Rather than talk today about helpful things you can say and do for someone like me, let’s transition to that by mentioning an additional offer to care that, surprisingly, may not be so helpful after all.
“If there is anything I can ever do for you, please don’t hesitate to ask.”
This is often said at the end of visiting someone in need. It is an offer to assist, so you get points for that. It also makes you feel better about your role in the situation. After all, you have made yourself available.
So what’s the problem?
- Vagueness – what exactly are you willing to do? Anything? Really? How generous. I need $100,000 to pay my medical bills. What? Oh. You didn’t mean that when you said, “Anything”? I see.
- Misplaced onus – the responsibility is on me to contact you about what I need and then ask you for help and assistance. I’m already tired and don’t need more responsibility, but you knew that, didn’t you?
Question: if you have ever said this to someone, has anyone taken you up on your offer?
I used to say this all the time and I can’t think of anyone who ever has.
Perhaps that was the point – it made me feel good while, at the same time, it put up barriers that kept me from having to be involved in caring for you, because care is always costly.
I told you I battle cynicism on a daily basis.
If you have a habit of making this impotent offer of care, try this instead:
- be observant and then just do something that you see needs doing.
You came to see them, which is a good gift in and of itself. People with terminal diseases don’t want to live out their days in isolation, no matter how stoic we might act.
Now, take the initiative to do something kind and practical as a result. Here are some examples for guys, since women seem to be much better at this than we are:
- blow the pine straw off of their roof (without falling)
- wash their car
- pressure wash their deck
Many men will hate having another man care for them in this way. Ignore this and do it anyway. They will be secretly grateful.
I have a friend who shows up at our door regularly with sandwiches or fresh caught fish. I have never turned him away.
I have mentioned in the past a family whose father and two teenage sons who have come over on Saturdays to work in my yard by their request.
I get dressed up for the occasion and offer direction; it makes me feel important and less needy.
Now, I know what you are thinking. “Ed, if I just show up to do something of my own choosing, that might be just as awkward as leaving it to them to ask me to do it.”
I get that.
Do this then: have a conversation. Ask them if it would be of help if you did (insert task here) for them.
If they decline say, “Then what would be helpful? Let’s come up with something.”
If they continue to balk, tell them you’re not leaving without something specific you can do to make their life easier and better.
Turn on your stubbornness. If you don’t know how, contact me for instructions.
Here are some examples of specific things people have said to me recently:
- May I send you a check for some microbrew so we can drink one together long distance?
- May I take you for a ride in my sports car (who knew I even had this need)?
- May I come and sit with you in your backyard this spring for a half-hour once a week?
I assure you, no one was declined.
Terminal cancer slowly incapacitates us. It’s a bitch.
Can we be honest about our needs and accept the care of others?
Can we offer and follow through with specific help?
Can we be real, broken people who need each other desperately?
At some point in all of our lives, the bridge is going to go out. Here is all that will matter on that day: will we have intentional friends and will we, with humility, receive the specific help they offer us so that we all can continue limping towards home?
Blog reader and friend, Ginny Russell-Sheldon, gets the last word this week:
“If we can’t have real conversations about real stuff at the worst of times – when ARE we going to be able to do so?!”
What she said,
© Ed Hague. All rights reserved.