I took my dad for a “routine follow-up” visit, and the doctor sent him directly to the hospital announcing, “The bone is infected and you will probably lose your leg.” So much for breaking it to us gently.
My mom had pneumonia so she was home-bound. My older sister was in Europe. My little sister was 10 months pregnant. My brothers were working and coming by when they could. So largely, it was just me and my dad.
Let me just tell you my dad is HIGH maintenance even on his good days. You can’t imagine how ridiculous he is when he is sick. (Or maybe you can, because he is male, and so many other males are the same way :-D)
He needed constant attention … his pillow adjusted, his nose itched, his TV turned up, his pain meds increased, his TV channel changed, socks on, socks off. He refused to eat the regular meals and sent me in search of cookies and pudding instead. He spent several hours insisting he was going to take his amputated leg home with him to have it stuffed and mounted on the wall!
He got hot and repeatedly took off his gown and lay naked for every unsuspecting nurse, doctor, or visitor to see. The nurses were extremely displeased with this particular behavior. They told him, “Sir, you have to leave your gown on.” And he continued to take it off. After many scoldings, my dad simply pulled the gown up to his neck and wore it like a fluffy necklace. Then when the nurses came in, he smiled mischievously and said, “It’s still on!”
Once we knew amputation was definite, my dad became depressed about losing his leg. Of course. He talked at length about the loss. He wondered how he would get around, how he would drive, how he would take basic care of himself. This makes sense.
But after several days I finally told him, “Dad I understand you don’t want to lose your leg. But in this case you’ve got to look at it differently. It’s like a breast. Breasts are great; people love breasts. But when they are trying to kill you, you have to get rid of them!”
My dad did not appreciate my analogy. I’m guessing it was too soon. He was still mourning the loss of his leg. He could not yet embrace the concept of getting rid of it even for the benefit of staying alive.
At the end of the 4th day, as I was finally leaving to go home to my kids, I stood at the foot of my dad’s hospital bed and he said, “You know Jenni, I would have called anyone to come help me but you. I would have called Mitch or Kay or Jon, really … ANYONE else. But, I am glad you came.” I must admit I was hurt and I cried on the way home. To work so hard and be told ANYONE other than you would have been better … it was a punch to the gut.
For a long time I did not think about what my dad said. It was too upsetting. And I am good at putting things away in boxes like that, to deal with later (or not).
My dad died a year later, on my birthday. It was then I turned some of my attention to reconciling my feelings about the statement he made and gaining an improved perspective.
It took some time but I think I understand now what my dad was trying to say. I believe my dad was complimenting me and thanking me in his very unusual (some would say rude!) way. I’m not sure specifically why he would have called anyone but me. It could have been because I was very busy with my job and raising 2 kids. It could also have been that he was closer to my little sister and my older sister. I don’t know. But the exact reason does not matter.
I know he wasn’t intending to focus on the part where he would have called anyone else to come take care of him. He was winding up to get to the big compliment which was, “I’m glad you came.” That’s the part that mattered.That’s the part HE wanted to communicate to me. That’s the part I can choose to concentrate on. And I believe genuine appreciation and thanks were in his heart.
Looking back at it with this perspective makes all the difference in the world. I could look back and continue to feel wounded. But, instead of playing the victim and feeling sorry for myself, I choose to see this with a positive perspective. I choose to believe what my dad said was something special where he recognized I was there for him and I helped him in a way he did not expect. My dad and I bonded during those hard days in the hospital and I am blessed by the challenge we faced (and survived) together.
So you see, perspective can change your life. It can change your attitude and your outlook … on both your past and your future. You can be happy or miserable in the same circumstances and it all depends upon your perspective.
Is there someone who hurt your feelings and now you are shutting them out? Is there someone you think about and immediately your irritation/anger bubbles to the surface and so you shove the feelings right back down? If so, start thinking about ways you can look at the situation differently. You get to decide whether you want to live with a negative or positive attitude.
Choosing a positive and healthy perspective gives you have more happiness to enjoy and to share with world around you.