Lately I have found myself in various situations in which I have been without an adequate response to people asking the question, “How is Strokeman?” I wish there was some way to filter through that question and determine exactly what kind of information they are looking for. Do they want the status quo answer of, “He is just fine”, or are they looking for something more in depth? And how in depth, exactly? Most of the time I give what is considered a “too much information” response, and regret it. But lately, I have found myself trying out the, “just fine” response. Then if they ask for more information, I try to give it to them in small bits and pieces. I never quite know what people think they know about our situation, and I never quite know if they really want to know or if they are just being polite. I also have this struggle within myself about saying, “he’s just fine,” when he is NOT just fine, in my humble opinion.
In the past couple of weeks I have had conversations that included in part these interchanges:
1. “So, sometime you need to come meet your sister and me in W- and have lunch, I know this great place”
“Uh, I will try, but it is hard for me to get away like that”
“Wouldn’t that be fun? We will have to plan that soon!”
“Uh, I can see…”
(third person) “Her husband had a stroke a few years back and is still very dependent”
Then ensued a volley of questions and answers that culminated in this statement:
“Sounds like you need to apply some tough love!”
Thank you, practically-a-stranger person, I have never thought of that!
2. “How’s your hubby?”
“Oh, he’s ok, just doesn’t want to do much but lay in bed and watch TV”
“Oh! I thought he would be fully recovered by now!”
3. “How is Strokeman?”
“Is he still in rehab?”
“No, he wasn’t making enough progress for insurance to continue covering it”
“Is he able to speak?” (this from someone who has seen him several times since the stroke and is evidently not very observant. I had to ask myself if it was really worth it to try to bring this guy up to date)
“Uh, yes, he never lost his ability to speak.”
3. “I hear that Strokeman is feeling kind of depressed and doesn’t want to leave the house”
“Yeah, he is having kind of a hard time”
“And there is nothing we can do about that!”
“Well, actually I have been praying about someone…” interruption by a third party, and exit of inquirer.Ok, so maybe there isn’t anything you can do about it.
I realize this doesn’t seem very gracious of me. It is just kind of exhausting to try to figure out what exactly people want to hear, and to try to figure out what exactly they know. How far back in the story do I need to start, and how long do I want to spend talking about this right now? And am I going to end up crying and ruining the day for everyone involved? How much inane advice can I take from people who don’t understand what I am dealing with on a regular basis? How do I explain this strange mixture of the old man with the stroke man that keeps me constantly guessing where I need to put my foot down, and where I need to love and honor? And where is that line between telling people what they want to hear and violating Strokeman’s right to privacy (no matter how ridiculous his sense of privacy is)?
I think here is where I am supposed to bring in the spiritual application and come to a conclusion on how I have learned to deal with this. The problem is I don’t have anything to offer here. The answer to these questions are still blowing in the wind somewhere. What am I learning? To give short simple answers and give people only what they specifically ask for. Life is complicated and relationships are messy. And we are all just stumbling along trying to do the best we can. And if you see me smacking my gum its to keep from grinding my teeth.