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I Want To Do As Long As I Can

132. I Want To Do As Long As I Can

This starts with a story from when I worked in a nursing home as a music therapist. Each morning the day started with people coming into the white activity room to have coffee, to hear the news, to do a craft. And there was one woman who had had a stroke and one side was paralyzed. She maneuvered herself around in a wheelchair and every day we would set up her craft which we would fasten to a table with a clamp, and she would work all morning doing that craft with her one available hand. At the end of the morning, she would undo the clamp and put it in her lap, followed by the rather cumbersome craft. She’d wheel herself to the activity office door and one person would take it from her and put it in the office.

One day toward the end of the time she had left for some reason and I dismantled her craft and took it to the office. She came wheeling in, went to her table, saw the craft was gone, and stormed over (on her wheels) to me. She was mad. I didn’t know why. She didn’t have speech. I just couldn’t figure it out.

A month or two later I broke my ankle and was off work for a while, but then came back on crutches. I was managing to get around quite well, and felt good about it. But I also discovered that people were knocking themselves over trying to help me, sometimes coming close to knocking me over. I interrupted them and said, “I’m doing fine. Thanks but no thanks.”

Then, oh then, the proverbial lightbulb lit up and I thought of the woman with the stroke. I went to work the next day and set up her craft and once she came in, I hurried over to say, “Good morning—I want to ask you something.” She smiled, and nodded her head for me to go ahead. I reminded her of her anger and how I couldn’t figure out what had upset her. She frowned. Then I launched into what I was discovering as I walked around on crutches. I told her how I figured out how to do things—how to open doors, how to get what I wanted from the kitchen—and I also told her how people were rushing ahead to anticipate what I was going to do and doing it for me. I said, “It frustrates me because these are things I can do for myself—and if I can, then I want to do them.”

Before I could get to my question, her smile had started. I asked the question anyway as I said, “Is that what you were upset about—that we were doing something that you can still do for yourself???” Her smile broadened, her head nodded in the affirmative, and with her good hand she took hold of my hand and shook it as she beamed!

Silently she was saying, “What I can do, I want to do myself.”

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