Because I Have Limits

Warning:  Salty language ahead.

I spent nine hours today getting ice chips, and talking to doctors, and putting away food trays, and generally waiting on my daddy, who is still in the hospital.  Except for hating that my dad is miserable, I had a great day.

A great day, despite coming up against what others might call a weakness, and I call knowing my limits.  It went like this:

Dad: “I’ll lift myself up, and you pull up my shorts in the back.”

Me: “Nope.  Not gonna happen.”

“Whadda ya mean?”

“I mean I am not digging my arm under your ass to grab your shorts.  You’re going to have to lift yourself higher and pull them up a bit yourself before I get them.”

“Some day, you’ll probably have to wipe my ass, you know.”

“Nope.  I’ll spend all of my retirement money and get you ’round the clock care.”

My dad just shook his head.  How had he raised such an ungrateful, wimpy daughter?

Don’t get me wrong, I love him.  Love him.  Love him.  Love him.  And I can sit there with him all day.  Telling stories. Watching him sleep.  Praying for him.  I can be annoying to nurses if that will get the job done.  I can figure out how the beds work and how to get a spirometer when one hasn’t been ordered.  I can make jokes, and laugh at his jokes.  I can spend nearly an hour helping him get on his two prosthetic legs, try to stand up, sit down, try again, and walk to the bathroom.  I can show up and really be there.

But I cannot, under any circumstances, touch my dad’s butt.  Or get anywhere near his nether regions, where I might accidentally graze his you-know-what.

I’m sure that some of you have lovingly attended to your dying parents’ bodies.  And you will find my declarations grotesque.  Or you will think I am missing out on one of the most blessed experiences you have ever had.  I believe you.  And I admire you.

But I’m not you.  I’m me.  And I have limits.

I know what they are, and I try not to violate them.  It allows me to show up.

It’s how I homeschool as well.  I have limits.

I can snuggle the boys, and read books, and watch cool soccer moves on YouTube.  I play boring board games and pay rapt attention to boring stories about their days.  I show up at soccer games and VBS performances, and my heart breaks with joy when they are joyful.  I have learned to love what they love, from Thomas the Tank Engine to World Cup Statistics.  I can show up and really be there.  As long as it can be done sitting down.

I don’t do pretend play and I don’t play sports, even though both boys would enjoy me so much more if I did. They will look back on Jeff as the parent who was fun and who spent time with them.  I will be the one who made them read and do their own laundry.

But that’s okay.  I show up, give them what I can, and pray that it will be enough.  Because I have limits.

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  • Andy

    How can 'putting the bud in the bud vase' EVER be beautiful – when it's your dad?!?!? Limits are a good thing. Ask my mother, who is still traumatized.

  • Uh, "His you-know-what"?

    Actually, I think you're being too hard on yourself. In particular, I'm remembering the time when we arrived at my parent's home at Tahoe – I think it was the first time you were to meet them. My grandmother was there and badly in need of a bath – a project that I wasn't about to touch. I was amazed when you came to the rescue, helped her get in the tub – buck naked – and scrubbed her up nice and clean. I remember you told me afterward how droopy her body was in various places. I was thinking, "Yeao, my fiance is awesome!"

    Of course we were a few years younger then, and you may have still been trying to impress me. Or maybe you weren't yet in touch with your limits. All I know is that you better not let your daddy know about this – he'll come back demanding equal treatment.

    Finally, what you give our boys is simply amazing. And you know, even if I were the one sitting down because I somehow learned my limits, the boys would still think of me as most fun – dads totally get a buy on this. I agree that it isn't fair. It's just the way it is.