Do you remember being a child, always in a hurry to get to nowhere? I do – I remember how my father would yell at me to ... “SLOW DOWN.” Then would come the lecture about how my moving too fast without thinking would someday be the death of me. As I grew older, my penchant for reacting to events without thinking through the consequences did not, despite repeated admonitions, cause me to slow down. Until, that is, fate... kind fate as it were... decided to teach me a lesson.
I was perhaps 17 or 18 years old. I was, in my mind, like that of most kids my age, an exceptional driver. I was also a bit quick on the pedal when a traffic light turned green. One day, mid-summer, I was driving with my father and uncle, Dad’s older brother. It seems strange now that we were driving together in my car, but nevertheless, that’s how it was. Anyway, I had been driving in my normal way when, having just finished getting another lecture about my ‘lead foot’ from Dad, I found myself coming up to a very busy main intersection when the light turned red.
We stopped, first in line, and I found myself thinking that perhaps I’d teach the old man a lesson and not budge when the light turned green. So I did just that. The light turned green, and we sat. And as we sat, for what in reality was not more than 3 or 4 seconds, a car ran what was now a red light, sped across the highway directly in front of us, and slammed into the driver’s side of the car to our right that had proceeded as normal into the intersection.
The noise was deafening, the experience seared into our collective memories as the two cars collided and spun together in their metallic, grinding death dance. We three were stunned into silence. Looking at each other, fear mixed with relief etched on each face, we each realized that death had, at the last possible second and for no apparent reason, chosen another that day.
I learned to slow down that day. I learned that patience is, indeed, a virtue that must be learned, and practiced often. While I won’t pretend that I never again acted on impulse, I do now have the ability to catch myself and to consider future consequences prior to acting. It’s a skill that must be practiced and actual outcomes reflected upon if one is to improve over time. Age and experience can work wonders in this regard.
As caregivers, patience is our number one tool and virtue. Lack of patience can easily be our undoing. I would venture a guess that there are few of us who never get impatient with those in our charge, especially if, in the case of disease or accident, we knew them as they were before their affliction. Speaking for myself, it can be the little things that niggle away at me, like a pig on a spit, resentment slowly boiling beneath the surface. It’s at these times that life’s lessons, like that learned driving with my Dad and uncle, tend to serve me well.
I have learned to stop resentment dead in its tracks and to do so by simply looking at the woman I love and talking... first with myself... later with her. I remind myself that Mandy is not responsible for her MS. I try to imagine how I would be if, at times, each and every step I took felt like walking through a two-foot snowdrift. How lifting my arms would feel if they each had 50 lb. weights hanging from the wrists. In almost no time at all, I feel my resentment and underlying anger melt away, replaced with a renewed sense of love and admiration for a woman who, despite all that life has thrown at her, never fails to say “I love you,” who is determined, no matter how bad she feels, to make a sit-down dinner for the two of us each night, who sits up with me to watch our favorite TV shows, popcorn bowls in hand, and who, in the pit of her soul, reasonably fears what the future may hold for her, and for us.
Despite the weakening effects of MS, my wife is the strongest woman I know. Look at those in your charge and ask yourself, should the tables be turned, how you would fare in their place. Then practice some patience... and slow down.
Published On: April 21, 2008