Role Switch

In Columns, Life With Laura by Laura Stinson

Sometimes things happen that we never expect and then we just have to deal with them. We must step up to the plate and do what is required of us, whether we are prepared to do it, and whether we think we are capable.

Very recently, my grandmother fell and broke her hip. I know that doesn’t sound like much. Older people very often fall and break their hips; it’s not exactly a strange phenomenon. Except, my grandmother isn’t even out of her sixties yet, and is one of the healthiest women her age that I know. She’s not one of those crazy, physical fitness grandmas that you see on television commercials. She’s just a regular grandma who spends a lot of time working in her garden and with her friends.

That’s actually where she fell, in her garden. I’m not sure exactly how it happened.

She’s not even all that sure how it happened. It was just “one of those things.” One second she was up and fine, the next she was on the ground with a broken hip.

Here’s the thing, if you didn’t know. Hip injuries take a long time for recovery. She’s lucky she didn’t have to have hip replacement surgery because that would probably greatly extend the recuperation time. She’s been back at home now for about a week, but she is spending most of her day in bed and, when she does get up, she does so with the aid of a walker.

It’s really weird. Ever since I was born, she has been the one to take care of me because my parents had to work. Whenever I was sick or injured or recuperating from my own surgeries, she would be the one to sit there with me while I watched TV, slept, or did whatever I could to stave off pain and boredom. She has had the ultimate pleasure of doing the most disgusting things for me, the most basic things, when I couldn’t do them for myself. When I was in bed for months with a cast on my arm and one on my leg, she helped me use a bedpan, bathed me when I asked her to, and did just about anything because I couldn’t do any of it myself. Helping someone with a bedpan definitely tests the limits of love and care.

Now, the tables are turned. I can’t help her very much physically. All I’m really able to do is go to their house and sit with her so my grandfather can get out of the house for a few hours, talk to her about my day (which isn’t very interesting conversation), and fetch and carry things for her so she can keep herself occupied.

I’m not sure how I feel about this whole situation. I feel confused, because in my mind, this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. When we’re young, and even when we’re not so young, we tend to view our caregivers as infallible, invulnerable. We never consider the fact that one day we might be giving care to them. I know I certainly never imagined that. I always thought that she and my parents, or anyone who had cared for me in that capacity, would always be around to do so. I never thought that there would come a time when one of those individuals would be dependent on me for any kind of help. Now, I’m chauffeuring my sister around because there’s no one else to do it. I’m cleaning house (sometimes) to help take the load off my parents since they both work full-time and my mom is picking up a lot of slack for my grandparents. It’s not a bad situation, it’s really not. But, it also isn’t a situation I ever thought I would find myself in.

Now what? I guess I continue on without much complaining, though the stress is certainly weighing me down. That’s not the “now” I mean, however. I mean, what happens if I get hurt sometime in the future? A broken bone will lay me up for quite awhile, unable to drive or do much of anything I normally take for granted. Who would take care of me? It’s not really worth worrying about at this point, but it is something that crosses my mind from time to time. And I don’t just mean while she is recuperating from her injury, but I mean in that infinite hole we call the “future.”

Yeah, it’s just a broken hip. She’s doing really well, recuperating a lot quicker than normal. This won’t keep her down for very long. It did make me consider mortality, a topic I have never enjoyed considering. I know there will be a day, hopefully many, many, many, many years in the future, when my caregivers will no longer be able to take care of me or will no longer be around to do so. It’s scary. I don’t like being an adult. Adults are much more insecure than children. The truly blessed children never have any real worries. Someone is always there to help them, to take care of them, to protect them. As an adult, I have to now wonder, is that going to continue to be true for me?