Saturday, September 24, 2011

The Chair

I'm getting a lot of rest and relaxation while I'm on my 'med-cation'. Here I'm in an ancient leather Lazy Boy recliner. A few decades ago it was a Christmas present to my father-in-law. He logged many hours on this baby in a few different residences and at the end stage of his life it was his escape from his bed in the nursing home. He had it sitting right next to the window and he'd sit there basking in the warmth. As I lay here crippled I thought of him. At age 30 he had a particularly nasty episode of polio and was left without the ability to walk. From age 30 to his death at almost 80 he sat either in a wheelchair or some other chair. We tried to help him by getting him comfortable places to sit to give his backside a rest. He was constantly re-adjusting himself in the wheelchair because of painful pressure areas. He tried every kind of seat cushion and whenever something new was on the market he would try it in hopes of being more comfortable. Once a product came out that was supposed to be the end of his troubles. A gel cushion would give support yet avoid any direct pressure areas. Your butt would just happily float along wherever you went. We were all excited about this state of the art cushion. The problem was that after only weeks of use, the gel cushion became a pancake. Flat and hard. No good. What a disappointment. My father-in-law was not a big man and with his atrophied muscles he was well within the average or below average weight for his height. So, it was back to the drawing board. He never did find one that was really satisfactory. He did have a sheepskin that he sat on that helped some. I have that now and am using it as well as his chair.

As I'm in my period of being unable to walk I think of him a lot. At first he was able to use a walker some of the time but soon he became too weak because of post-polio syndrome. Gradually his wheelchair became his home away from home. I rarely, if ever heard him complain. If something was uncomfortable for him or he wasn't able to do something he would make a joke instead of whine. I'm feeling restricted because of what I'm going through right now, but I'm so very fortunate. Unlike Al Friesen, I have an end date. I know that in a few months I'll be walking again independently. He never had that assurance. When he had polio, my husband Dave had it as well. Neither one of them was expected to live but they both did and went on to have incredibly productive lives. In spite of the recovery, that experience in 1956 changed their lives forever. I'll hit those details sometime. It's an incredible story!

What I'm getting at is this: There are a lot of similarities between what I'm going through now and what he went through. I'm trying to have a good attitude and make the most of this time. It's not that hard to keep my chin up for a few months. I'm having a hard time understanding what it would mean to try to do that for decades like Al did. He suffered privately. Sometimes he would let us in on his grief, but usually he kept it in. That's contrary to popular thinking--we're supposed to seek support and let our feelings out so we can do things to improve the situation. In the mid-fifties there wasn't much in the way of that kind of support so he suffered in silence. It would, undoubtedly have been much healthier for him if he had outlets to help him, but he managed to rise above so much adversity and carve out a place for himself and his family. I loved him for many reasons, but I also learned from him. I'm taking a page out of his book and am going to make the most out of a situation that could be destructive. As I sit in his chair I'll try to channel some of his energy and love and hopefully be an example to others of how to handle adversity with dignity.


  1. I miss him! What a lovely post to pay him tribute.

  2. I miss him, too. Lots of good memories!