Our Bittersweet Family Life
We had an unseasonably warm fall day while Todd’s sister was visiting from out of state last week. I asked Todd if he’d want to head down to McLain State Park just 15 minutes from our home.
“I suppose,” he said somewhat reluctantly. He wanted to be social even though he was tired.
He makes an effort to participate in the family activities that he can do.
Todd’s shower aide put pants on him. I put a jacket on him, and our son loaded his dad in our accessible van. I drove us to the shore of Lake Superior, making slow turns and avoiding bumps to keep Todd’s neck from being jostled.
Even though it was 10 degrees cooler than the 74 degrees inland at our house, our son took one last, quick dip in Lake Superior. We enjoyed the fall scenery and took a bunch of photos.
That evening, we played a game together at the dining room table, but we only got through one round before Todd had to call it quits. After the shower and the outing, he was exhausted.
The following day, his sister took our kids on an adventure about 45 minutes north of our home to explore Estivant Pines, a stand of old-growth white pines near the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula.
Todd and I stayed home. Even if it were accessible, he wouldn’t have been able to handle two exhausting days in a row. Plus, it was too far away for me to go and leave Todd at home by himself. I had a lot of projects to get caught up on around the house, so I wasn’t bored while they were gone.
Nonetheless, it was bittersweet when they set off for the day. I’m always glad when our kids have opportunities to get out of the house to do fun things. I just wish we could all go.
In the beginning of the disease onset, we packed in as many trips and outings as we could, but it became more difficult as the disease progressed. Now, caregiving is easiest, and life is most comfortable for Todd, when he is home.
At home, we have family movie nights and game nights. We’ve found games we all enjoy that Todd can play, too. When we play Apples to Apples, he directs us on which of his cards to place. In Say Anything, he gives his answer verbally, and someone else writes it down. He plays Scrabble without the benefit of rearranging his tiles, and he tells somebody which tiles to pick off his tray and where to place them on the board. We’ve even played Pictionary with Todd drawing on the computer using his head mouse.
I treasure the times I get to head out and do things with the kids. The other weekend, I took them to ride the chairlift at our local ski hill to see the fall colors. It’s only 10 minutes away, and my mom was on call next door in case Todd needed help.
Occasionally, we hire caregiving help so I can go on longer outings with the kids, such as taking the kids on a day trip to go downhill skiing at the Porcupine Mountains an hour and a half away. But those trips are also a little bittersweet. I text Todd pictures throughout our day, wishing he could be there with us.
Such is family life with ALS.
What bittersweet moments have you experienced with ALS?
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