Helpless Unhelpfulness

One of the most frustrating things about being disabled, whether by accident, illness, or aging is the limited ability to help. I am restricted in what I can do to assist in simple household tasks or, in my case, for example, to aid in the care of Bodhi-cleaning up his pees or poops or putting on the grip socks he needs for his weakened legs. And often when I offer to pitch in, the response I get is that it’s easier if I do nothing, I may even be getting in the way.

So the fact of my dependency upon others affords them, desired or not, opportunities to give. I am left with a question of what I can share with others
than thanks and good humor. Sometimes, I cruise the web looking for short handled brooms or mops or scoopers, but little encouragement comes my way.

Christmas Eve day, waiting on my wheelchair in front of the house, a woman walked by and asked how my dog was, as she has not seen me on my wheelchair bike in her neighborhood where we regularly rode for many years as part of our exercise routine. “We haven’t been out much lately,” I responded. “He has something like I have and it’s difficult for him to walk much. “ As I rolled into the van, I started sobbing. I feel so useless to Bodhi and he, I realize, in the simple present centeredness of dog being, is so helpful to me. Again my teacher, for he has no complaint, no complaint at all.

And, of course, that is the point. My helpless unhelpfulness is not extraordinary. There are so many people in this world in situations so much more terrible that I am almost ashamed to write of mine. Families under falling bombs, parents of very ill children. I need not go on listing so many who can only see and suffer. At least I can reflect without fear the love my beloveds give me.

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2 Responses to Helpless Unhelpfulness

  1. Ron Krouk says:

    As I helped my father out in his last few year (97-100), I was often grateful for the way he went on with his life such as it was and became. Little or no dwelling on complaints, no self pity, and of course the gratitude he let us know he felt for our attention. Thank you for making it a similar pleasure to be with you and Sheila too for how she handles her (perhaps more difficult?) role in the equation.

    Do you know Schein’s book “Helping”? It’s an extremely clear investigation of the difficult mix of feelings on both sides (helper and helpee) which gives a lot of perspective even as it doesn’t relieve the feelings which accompany either role.

  2. Debbie Sinai says:

    Dear Bob,
    My eyes filled with tears as i read what you had written about Bodhi. You write and express so beautifully, that i can just picture what you write. (Well, i also had the privelege of visiting you and Sheila in Marblehead, so that makes it easier). And as I read, i felt that G-d compensates people…your verbal expertise compensates for your physical limitations. None of us are perfect in everything! Bob, you truly have a gift,and it is wonderful how you share it with others and enrich their lives.

    I also have a dog, and have had in the past, and I know the love for this wonderful creation. I always think of the last line in a National Geographic video i once saw on dogs(in the days of videos), that “domesticating the dog is undoubtedly the best step mankind ever made.” I can imagine how much you miss Bodhi, and i hope that you will find a new dog soon, and it will be devoted to you as well. You too will be doing a good deed by giving it a chance. And the best medicine is to get another one.

    Wishing you and Sheila and the family a wonderful New Year ahead.
    Love, debbie

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