Crofting: Getting Used to Things Not Changing

wearing a path

I like routine. I like things to be well-ordered. I like things to be repetitive. I want to use my mind-space for the big questions, for pondering the meta-truths, not for rewriting the script on a daily basis. Farm animals and a husband are good for keeping my feet on the well-worn path.

Despite the seller’s evidence, it looks as if Vanilla is not in kid. She hasn’t grown any wider in the belly, and her udder is still empty. She is filling out through the upper ribs, though, probably from good pasture and a daily grain ration after a winter of hay. I’d say her condition is improving, as is Tara’s, which foretells a good mating and maybe twins when they are bred in the fall. I’m not terribly disappointed, as I need to get a milking stand ready, and buy good milking pails. Getting to know the does before they are bred means they will be easier to handle when they have kids.

I had a slight surge of confidence that our financial picture would gain some rosy hues, but so far that isn’t happening. While I have a number of queries out about articles and books, I haven’t heard anything yet. My experience is that editors may take a month or more to address freelance ideas. My four small freelance online articles are now just three; I am withdrawing the fourth because the editor keeps asking for technical changes. After I have patiently explained there is a basic incompatibility between their proprietary word-processing programme and those extraordinary programmes that run on my laptop, Windows 7 and Google Chrome, she still thinks that somehow I can shoehorn links and jumps into the document. For the $15 fee plus the possibility of revenue sharing (which so far has amounted to a penny), spending three or more hours manhandling software isn’t my idea of time well-spent. I have an editing test to submit for the possibility of free-lance work, but the company is expecting a near-perfect recall of an edition of The Chicago Manual of Style I have never seen. I have to code-switch, too, now that I have been in Canada using British conventions for ten years. I have a couple of small changes to make and another read-through, and then I will zip it off to the home office and await their refusal. I am, in fact, a very good editor, but the universality of publishing marks has evaporated with my youth. Now editing mark-up depends on the meta-programme.

Perks family, 3 Generations

Nicholas likes and needs a regular routine. Any disruption, no matter how much he enjoys it, exhausts him for a couple of days. His schedule revolves around making sure that nothing unexpected is going to happen. He asks me the same questions at the same time every day; he says the same things in the same circumstances. He tells the same jokes at the same trigger words. I’m used to it, but it must be perplexing for people who don’t know him well. The stroke two years ago blunted his keen wit as well as his appetite for adventure and novelty. I keep the routine pretty much in the same groove. He loses track of anything complicated and new. He has no more interest in film or travel. In a group of people, he will speak to just those he knows well, perhaps afraid that he will lose the thread of the conversation. This does happen a lot. One old friend said to me after trying to carry on a conversational theme with him, “I miss the old Nicholas.” I hadn’t really worried about it until then; I was occupied with trying to cope with the changes in circumstances. All I had to say, to avoid bursting into tears, was: “I try not to think about it.” Of course, I had been with him at the onset of the stroke, when he was falling and unable to talk. I was with him in the hospital when he would not know where he was or what was going on. I saw him through the aftermath of the bad fall and injury that put him in ICU for weeks. I have seen him advance from being unable to bathe or dress or tie his shoes, to being able to do all this for himself.

He hasn’t lost his intellect even though he has lost his ability to engage in dialogue about intellectual subjects. He still follows astrophysics and theology. He can explain things just fine, but he has a difficult time articulating an answer in a creative way. With the loss of more than half his vision he has also lost the ability to track well, and he has lost a lot of depth perception. He uses a cane for guidance and balance, and he will stop and ask for direction or assistance if he needs it.

This is not going to get better. If anything, I can see that he has regressed a bit in the last few weeks. We did expect this. There was some pre-existing damage before the stroke, probably from sports injuries.

Does this limit me? Yes, it does. But he is not just my responsibility. It is my joy to care for him. This is the task God handed me. I know it could be much worse. Someday he may get to a stage where I won’t be able to care for him at home, and I am prepared to do what I must when that day comes, and find him a sheltered environment. I will not make the vain promise that he won’t go to a nursing home. I have done a lot of home and institutional pastoral care, and keeping an incapacitated person at home when they would be safer and healthier in a managed environment is short-sighted and often selfish.

I sometimes wish I had the luxury to be sentimental and a bit selfish.



12 thoughts on “Crofting: Getting Used to Things Not Changing

  1. Wishing I could give the world to help you – not in “pity” but compassion for all struggles – and praying God’s continued help and comfort to you, and knowing He can and does far better than our limits and best intentions.

    • Thank you for your kindness. We at least know the rent is paid, the utilities caught up, food is on the stove and in the cupboard. All animals are fed and in good health. We are all right for now. And for that, we give thanks.

  2. Praying for you both. Strokes really do change a person, our neighbors husband, Ron, had one about 15 months ago, he was in the hospital for 4 months, he now lives at home. Ron can walk with the aid of a walker, he lost his ability to swallow so feeds himself through a tube inserted into his stomach.
    All he wants to do is sit in his chair with a blanket and stare at the tv, he goes to therapy twice a week and it exhausts him. Nancy, Ron’s wife, has had to really make a lot of adjustments, it is hard on both of them, she has to help Ron dress after his shower, he hates to shower because it wears him out, so it becomes a battle of wills, he hates to go outside, yet sometimes we catch glimpses of the old Ron, his mind is sharp, his speech is poor, but he still gets a good joke and will sometimes sit with everyone to visit. I think Ron stays to himself because he has such a hard time communicating. Strokes really do strange things to the brain.
    Nicolas is fortunate to have you, make sure that you take care of yourself too. My neighbor was warned by the hospital staff that after a stroke victim goes home the strain and stress on the caregiver takes it toll.



    • I think if Nicholas were more disabled by the stroke I would have in-home nursing. He doesn’t really need it. My landlady thinks I should see if I can get some in-home help, though, with things like cleaning and meal preparation, at least occasionally. That would give me some respite, although he is all right on his own for a few hours.

  3. If you can get in-home help, take it, you may not even realize that a break is needed. Nancy takes a couple of days away every 5 months or so, she asks her adult kids (there are 7 of them) to pitch in and help, unfortunately they do so begrudgingly, but she finds it nice to stay in a hotel and have a night or two of uninterrupted sleep.

  4. My best friend’s husband had a stroke about a year ago. He has recovered much and has no loss of senses or paraylsis, but he is different, too. Once a voracious reader and writer of poems and stuff, he reads nothing now and gave up writing. He has no interests really ( he did suffer from this before to a degree but now it is magnified) and he is so tired he shuffles around and looks like a man who is ready to die. In fact, my friend, who has cared for loved ones with Alzheimers, feels he is making his way through the beginning stages of it. Like maybe the stroke kicked it off? It sounds to me like Nicholas did really well with this stroke, even though there are some issues. He sounds to me to still be a very interesting man who has much to give!!! It is understandable that others have not had a chance to get used to “this” Nicholas”, but if they can they will develop an appreciation for him and his changes. There are things about our friend that I prefer post stroke. I find advantages even in disadvantages if that makes sense. I SO understand how painful and shocking it can be when people express concern or shock at the difficulties or changes in our loved ones!! I go through this with Patrick when people see him have seizures and other related difficulties they never knew he and we had to deal with. They get upset and they look at us with pity and it shocks me. Because I am at peace with it and because I do find the blessed in these challenging circumstances and see God’s will at work in all kinds of ways. I have no pity for us or for you, but I have empathy and sypathy for those times when we have to deal with our situation through others eyes and for those times we get a bit burned out or feel we are not handling things the best. It is wonderful your husband has you and Patrick has us and that we all embrace our lives as they are and enjoy them. We are doing exactly what we were meant to be doing and when we see others react with shock or whatever, it just emphasizes this fact. God equips us to do this and glorify Him through it.
    Love, Joanie

    • Nicholas is certainly more subdued than he was. The satirical aspects of his humour are gone, and he is much gentler than he used to be. He used to be quite critical and even sarcastic. He is more emotional, and much more open to telling someone that he cares about them.

  5. My beloved mother who died a couple of years ago from a massive stroke had two strokes before that. The first one was very minor and she recovered quite well and after half a year she was back to her usual self. The second one was worse and although she both recovered her speech, her ability to walk and write she was somehow different after it. I cannot say exactly how but different. She was herself still but in a different way. She gave up her hobby of embroidery after the second stroke. I asked her why and she said that she was so bad she didn’t want to look at the table cloths after she had embroidered something on it so there was no point. I found a table cloth she had started embroidering after the stroke later when she had died. Yes, it was not as excellent as her other embroideries but still much much better than mine on the top of my ability and very beautiful. In a way I am a bit saddened that my mother’s perfectionism in her embroidery made her give up many years of her hobby because she would have been able to create many more beautiful things if she had been able to give up her thinking that ‘very good’ was not good enough just because she used to be excellent.

    • It’s sad that she did not persevere and at least enjoy the work itself. Nicholas can be like that, as well, and doesn’t like to take on anything if he isn’t certain he can do it well.

  6. I feel I might be missing a point here and if I have hurt you or Elin or anyone who is going through this, I am sorry. It just dawned on me how you might miss the way he used to be. I know we find ways to cope with that and do appreciate what we have, but it would be hard to deal with the loss of aspects of a person we love. Please forgive me.


    • No apologies are necessary. I wasn’t hurt or insulted, and I don’t think Elin was either. It’s kind of you to be so sensitive about it. There are things I miss – his old energy level, his sense of adventure – but he is a kind, gentle, intelligent person now. It would be a lot harder if he had more upper brain damage or if his personality became difficult, as happens with Alzheimer’s patients sometimes.

    • No I was not offended either. (I am by the way very hard to offend so don’t be frightened)

      The whole thing with it sometimes resembling Alzheimers is not that strange, having strokes can cause the person to have similar symptoms. My paternal grandmother did not have Alzheimers but acted that way in her last years because she had tons of miniture strokes that didn’t do anthing to her physically but slowly slowly affected more and more of her brain until she acted that way being very forgetful and needing around the clock care.

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