Saturday, June 7, 2014

Irene as Home Nurse, or Bedside Sitting, Part Two


My Great-Grandfather, James


For years after my great-grandmother died, my grandmother Irene took care of her father, my great-grandfather.  He and his sons had always “worked in the woods”.  In Maine that means logging.  Nowadays, logs, once cut and limbed, are “skidded” out of the woods to be loaded onto log trucks using heavy machinery, specifically “skidders”.  I once heard a logger bragging on his wife because she could “droive a skid-dah” as well as any man.
But in the old days, loggers dragged (“twitched”) the logs out of the woods using draft horses.  A good team of horses didn’t need driving; they knew the way on their own.  But a young boy's introduction to logging might be to drive the horses back and forth.  My father did that, learning to holler “gee” and “haw” for right and left. 
My Great-Grandparents, Beulah and James
I don’t know the details, but one day my great-grandfather was under a tree when it came down the wrong way.  It happens from time to time, and many of these accidents result in fatality.  So I guess you could say Great-Grandpa was lucky to survive.  His back was broken and spinal cord injured.  He became a paraplegic for the rest of his life.  I didn’t know him as he died before I was born, but I have always heard glowing reports of the love and respect his descendants had for him.
So I suppose that it is appropriate that I think of my grandmother Irene when I think of a  model for Bedside Sitting.  She was always busy and cheerful, and took so many hardships in stride.  She was the kind of woman who was up with the dawn every day, and to bed soon after supper was cleaned up.  I remember her thinking her light bill must have been minimal.  She always kept a garden, and was known to have awakened one morning to see a deer eating her peas.  She grabbed her .22 and sneaked out into the “daw-yahd”* in her bra and panties, and had venison for her freezer.
I could go on and on telling little “rustic” stories about her (she was a registered Maine guide, and known for her ability to track bear for her urban clients looking for a hunting adventure), but my main focus is how she was an example of how in former times, illness was attended in the home, and necessarily part of comprehensive domestic training.  More people were at ease with illness, as it entered and dwelt right in their own homes with them.  I am not for a minute lamenting the advent of hospitals and other healthcare facilities, just recognizing that the removal of sick people from our homes can have a distancing effect.  I have heard too many people describe having a fear of hospitals, and observed enough people looking anxious and ill-at-ease just entering the building to think that all of their discomfort in visiting the ill can be attributed to their concern for the patient.  I contend that both visitor and patient can benefit from somehow eliminating this anxiety.  I’m not sure exactly how to accomplish this, but I suspect that simply talking about it is a good place to start.
Have you a fear of hospitals?  Are you uncomfortable around people when they are sick?  Have you ever been the “home nurse” for a loved one?  Did you feel comfortable in the role?  I really want to hear your stories.  If you want to express an opinion on this topic, leave me a comment; maybe you’d like to be a guest poster.  I have no doubt that whatever your experience, someone will be helped by hearing your story.


*  In Maine, a “dooryard” is essentially the driveway, or more generally, the part of the yard which constitutes the approach to the house.  The term undoubtedly precedes the automobile, and every winter it is important to keep the dooryard clear of snow, so you can get in and out to the road.

2 comments:

Thimbleanna said...

What interesting posts about Irene! I especially loved what you had to say about people now saying "do what's right for you", etc. I feel like our generation is SO selfish.

A dear friend of ours just died a few weeks ago. She had seven children and none of them were very good to her (imho). I was talking to the oldest daughter (who I felt was one of the worst offenders) in the hospital a few days before she died and she was babbling about something that she had failed to do in regard to her mother (it was after I had commented that I had been at the hospital the previous night for almost 2 hours and was surprised that with 7 children and 50 grandchildren that NO ONE was with her) and she said "but I can't beat myself up about it". I felt like saying "Why not? You deserve it!". Her comment is so common among our generation when we want to make lame excuses for why we're lazy.

As you know, I've been in a similar situation in the last few months. Thankfully, our situation has improved wonderfully, but I could go on and on with your topic. Thanks, as always, for your wise words!!!

Lorrie said...

Irene sounds more amazing with each story you tell. Taking care of loved ones at home is difficult work, but can have loving rewards. Our region is moving towards providing lots of home care support so that people can stay in their homes (or with family) much longer. It's better for the patients and better for the government budget (our healthcare is publicly funded.)