Where do we get our
beliefs of simple things, such as, whose job is it to do this chore or that chore. Mowing the lawn, for example, is it a male or a female job? And why do most people grow grass around their property that is not native to their part of the continent? From my perspective it is a male chore to mow the lawn.
As a boy – it was mine
How do things like this get started? I have always – at least in my memory – thought of mowing the lawn as a man’s job, chore, duty. No doubt dating to my childhood when it was the chore I was assigned somewhere around the time my brother graduated high school and left for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. I would have been about twelve years and certainly tall enough to push a lawn mower and not injure myself. I have no memory of whom in our family mowed the weeds before me. I assume it was my older brother but I have no memory of watching him do that task but he probably did. He is gone now and I cannot ask him.
It was my chore to keep the estate spiffy and shipshape. Did I like it? Indeed I did not.
As a man – I thought mine
Over time things get ingrained, ground in, always assumed. That is your job. Just do it. When we bought our first house I purchased or somehow obtained a ultra low end lawn mower. It was a tiny back yard and much was given up to english ivy. Why I ever decided to remove much of the ivy and turn it into lawn is beyond me now but at the time we had one child with another on the way so a place for the kids to play was probably the motivation. I also built some garden boxes, a sand box for the little people to play in and the neighborhood cats to crap in, a raised vegetable garden area, a strawberry bed, a swell picnic table and a rabbit hutch with rabbits. It was a busy six summers there. I was not yet thirty years old. We were fertile. We had three children when we moved to the big house.
I had my own schedule when it came to maintenance items such as mowing the lawn. Building the lawn is way more interesting and fun than mowing it. Occasionally she and I would argue until I discovered that she actually enjoyed mowing the lawn. She would mow it and I would assume incorrectly that she was trying to show me up. Our first lawn was tiny and I had an electric mower with a 100 foot long cord. She loved it and she could do it during nap time. It was quiet. I gave up the maintenance duty on the lawn.
As a father – my son’s job
When we moved to the new big house with the new big lawn and the mostly dead American elm in the back I bought another 100 foot long extension cord. This worked for awhile until it became too cumbersome and I gave in to purchase a low end gas powered mower from a big box store.
The elm was removed, another vegetable garden was installed and a cherry tree added to round out the crop yield. The kids were growing rapidly. She and I decided that it would be good for the kids to have some responsibilities around the homestead and its maintenance. Some jobs more important than making sure that the two freezers did not contain too much food. We gave our middle son the duty of mowing the lawn and he seemed to like it initially. I eventually gave in and bought a riding mower and he liked it even more. There are many fine stories to go with the riding lawnmower of questionable manufacture.
Household chores in our new life with PD
In our current life with this disease of Parkinson we try to avoid having it be the center of our life and rule over all that we do but some days that just seems impossible. Some days the distraction is insurmountable but over time we have come to grips with the fact that it is simply more efficient for me, the husband, the father, the care partner to assume most of the regular chores and Cheryl can do ones that she deems need doing and she is up to the task that particular day. Some days she does nothing other than survive. Some days she busies up her day with several little things which takes a toll on her physical well being and the following day is a survival day. I like routine so I have selected certain days for certain major chores.
I have developed three laundry group days. Monday is wash-the-bed-sheets day. Wednesday is wash-the-towels day. Friday is wash-the-clothes day. On Friday I split the wash into loads that make sense to me not her and we have sparred a bit about what is in each load but we do not any longer. I believe she has lost interest in laundry and its routine. On wash-the-clothes day I also look at the checking account to be assured that we are not getting too rich and do any book keeping and bill paying. Over time I have put many regular expenses on automatic.
On a daily basis there are a myriad of other little things that I do to keep things rolling along. It now seems trivial when I reminisce about my anger with her stealing my thunder and mowing the lawn without telling me. (Yes, that was the source of my once ill-placed anger.) These days I look forward to being with her and caring for her.
Morning routine includes dressing the bed. In our other younger life I never did this. In this life I have made some adjustments to suit me since it is principally my daily job. Evening routine includes making dinner and when I am out of gas or merely think we are isolating ourselves too much we go to a restaurant and let them make dinner.
Cheryl has had difficulty lately with an evening routine that allows her to wind down and sleep through the night. We have been adjusting the timing of her evening meds. Because she often complains of taking so many pills, we have adjusted her dosage slightly and on her nurse practitioner’s recommendation we have adjusted the timing of a med that is intended to help her sleep. She takes that about thirty minutes before she heads to bed.
These slight adaptations seem to be working for her, not always but for the most part. She seems to be sleeping better and generally through the night except for the occasional bathroom trip. In addition she occasionally makes the bed – well twice so far – because I think she feels good enough (rested enough) to do that little chore.
After the second time I thanked her for making the bed up and got push back in the form of, I know how to do it!
AHA – store the little victories away in your heart for later. Keep your mouth shut if you are unable to make your praise and thanks not sound demeaning. And do not take it personable when she snaps at you, for at that moment she is there as she always was before this disease of Parkinson.
And never raise your volume, she will think you to be angry whether you are or not.