General Independence: a story as old as the hills


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knee deep in the road apples of the 4 horsemen
mangling some of the specifics because this here is a publicly visible forum

The ongoing saga of a man named Cedric

Some recent while ago, Cedric was stressed out over pending biopsy results when a life-altering event occurred. Fortunately, his neighbor Janet happened by at the time and got him to the hospital, where they were able to minimize the damage, but now Cedric is coping with a slog of a stroke recovery.

He lives in Hinterville, a very tiny town. This is partly because he likes the wild country, and partly because he has a streak of the antisocial. The setting contributed to the fact that Janet found him and got him to ER: in a place like Hinterville, you learn to get along with, make friends with your neighbors, because you have to.

He liked to make his own beer and other stuff, and to muck around with vehicles, including a large scoop loader with 6' tall tires. Now, of course, he cannot do any of that. He is overcoming partial right side paralysis, so even just walking has been difficult. But worse, his language center got hit pretty hard, so he cannot speak but a few syllables and cannot read. Not being able to read would be brutal for me.

Janet has been taking care of him and taking him to therapy, and when she has to be away for long periods, Carol takes him on (her place is in West Bumfuck, a bigger town not far from Hinterville). At this point, though, Cedric has become a nuisance. Janet described it as living with a teenager: you tell him "don't do that," so he does it and gives you a stare of challenge.

And, sadly, I understand. Years and years ago, way before any of this, I wanted to write a short story on the subject. Cedric was a highly independent person. I was raised exactly the same way. Just try to imagine taking care of yourself, and sometimes others as well, in full control of your life, and suddenly that gets yanked away. Suddenly you are dependent on others to take care of you. And you appreciate them and their help, but the frustration simmers and burbles inside you until at last it starts to foam up over the sides. You honestly do not want to piss your friends off, but the stroke has affected your personality in odd ways. You are unable to not be a pain.

This is probably the most difficult part of being a caregiver. People that need to be taken care of, especially the previously independent ones, still have to express themselves. It is the most human of behaviors. And often the only way they can ends up being by lashing out. Just remember, if you ever feel up to the task, it will be much harder than you realize. Unless you have a sea of patience and forgiveness at your back, be very cautious about considering such a role.
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