Sunrise Service

Sunrise by Cindi ParfitIt was another 5:00 am wake-up and go. At least it was warm. All winter I had made the same ride through rain and fog. Now spring was here and the sun had done its duty of getting up a little before me and warming things up a bit. I should have been on my way to a nice Easter sunrise service, but instead I was hurrying to go toss some crippled person out of bed, to assist him in performing his bodily functions, to bath him, to dress him, and to have him looking sparkling by the time his children awake.

I was such a sucker. I was actually sprinting to the task. My girlfriend, Kind Art Tutor, sometimes felt that Dave took advantage of me.  This feeling was usually precipitated by Dave calling me in the middle of having dinner or studying with her and asking me to sub for another attendant who had canceled for the next morning. Perhaps I was a bit too easy as far as saying yes. I must admit there was one month, in which Dave was  short  of attendants, that I ended up averaging six mornings and a couple of nights a week of meeting his needs. It far exceeded the convenient part time job that would not interfere with school for which I had initially bargained.

Perhaps, I was pulled by guilt. After all I was healthy and had full use of my limbs. I was so healthy that some of my friends had half-seriously started calling me the “paragon of physical excellence.” People stopped me in the gym and offered me money to train them. I ran, biked and swam with my tri-athlete friends. My friend Kurt who was on the wrestling team with me always complained that all I had to do was stand in the middle of the quad and flex and women come over to talk with me. (I should have let Kurt know that I never had more women approach me than when I was walking with him, but I chose to protect him from an over-inflation of ego). Dave probably would have had all these things. He was a handsome man who resembled a young Harrison Ford. In fact, one of his favorite Halloween costumes was to dress as the Indiana Jones character.  If he could stand he would probably stand about 5'10-5'11.   In high school he had been both athletic and intelligent. He had everything I had and more until that drunk driver hit him as he was walking along the road.

Then again it was more likely that I was pulled by fear. I knew I had been blessed beyond what I deserved. I was acutely aware that it all could be taken away from me in a split second of error. In all of my years of playing football I could have hit someone wrong and be just like my friend Carl whose high school football career was ended by paralysis. There was that narrow stretch of roadway with no sidewalk along which I walked home from high school. It would have been the perfect place for some drunk returning from happy hour to make a wrong swerve and maim me.

What I feared most about being like Dave or Carl was losing my self-sufficiency. The worst torment for me is having to rely upon someone for assistance. I could imagine how uncomfortable it was to have to constantly seek help from others. I had anxiety attacks if I had to ask to borrow a pencil in class; I could imagine the torment of having to interrupt someone in the middle of dinner to ask them to wake up early next morning and get me dressed. I always figured it was not as hard for me to say yes as it was for Dave to ask.

I was probably the easiest person to ask to come by on Easter Sunday morning. Ironically, I usually did not work on Sundays because I reserved it for going to church, but on this most sacred of church-going occasions I could not ignore a plea for help.   As usual, I found the spare key and entered the house as quietly as possible. If everything went well I could get Dave up and dressed before his children, who were visiting for the weekend, woke up. However, everything was not destined to go well.

Dave had been fighting off some intestinal disturbance. Apparently, whatever bug he had took advantage of him while he was sleeping.  The result was projectile diarrhea. He was covered in the stuff from his chest down. I would need to clean him up some before I could grab him and put him in the shower. However, before he reached the shower, he would want to sit on his dump chair and get cleaned out internally to make sure there would not be further embarrassing accidents later in the day.

I had to work fast.  The schedule was always tight with Dave.  During the week he had to be out the door at 7:00 am to catch the bus. He was fastidious in his personal grooming. He wanted his tie straight and his collar neat. He was an attorney and he wished to look every bit as professional as anyone (able bodied or not) in his office. This morning I did not have to worry about catching the bus. I had to worry about his children, Ted and Katie, who would be awake soon wanting their dad to be ready to hunt for Easter Eggs and take them to church. I had to get him dressed and get the mess cleaned up before they got up.  I certainly did not want them to see him in his current state.

I was working as fast as I could with my hands, but my mind wandered to a different place. I was asking the question. How could you love someone and do this for them? I was partly thinking about Dave’s marriage. He had met his ex-wife while he was hospitalized after the paralysis. She had been one of his nurses. I wondered at how an able bodied woman could fall in love with a quadriplegic. On some level it was not too far-fetched. As I had said before Dave was handsome and intelligent. Still the demands of being linked to a quadriplegic must have been great. The extra effort required certainly must have put a strain on the relationship. On the other hand, having to give so much probably helped to build the relationship in the first place.  It sounds a bit twisted, but Love is a strange thing.

Having worked with Dave so much in the previous few months, I had developed some feeling of attachment to him. This was an unusual thought. Dave was one of the most demanding people with whom I had worked. When something was not just right, he had this habit of lowering his head and in a hushed tone of complete disgust muttering “no...No...No...No,” as his head shook just slightly. It made you feel really pathetic because you could not get his tie straight.

Nonetheless, I felt some bond to him. I did not want him to be embarrassed in front of his children. I was part of his life because of what I did for him: I was the guy that was willing to reach inside his body and clean out his bowels, I had massaged his back so that he could cough up the phlegm when he had pneumonia, and I had rushed through traffic to get him to work on time.  I could not do these things with complete emotional detachment. With this thought in mind the corollary to my first question came to mind, “how can you not love someone and do this for him?”  What a way to spend Easter Sunday morning.

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