enPR: ĭn’və-lĭd, IPA: /ˈɪn.və.lɪd/, SAMPA/"In.v@.lId/


invalid (plural invalids)

  1. One who is confined to home or bed because of illnessdisability, or injury
  2. Any person with a disability.

So tomorrow afternoon friends and family will gather to say a final farewell to Harley. Where do I start with Harley? He was my brother-in-law, he lived next door, he just turned 69 last August, and he’s had a lot of physical problems, most of them have come along in the past 5-10 years. He was diagnosed with multiple myeloma a while back and had beat that, or so we thought, but in the past couple of years a bunch of other stuff has happened: A heart problem, diabetes (including losing three toes), peripheral neuropathy, a dislocated shoulder. Then the doctors told them that the bone cancer was back.

More disturbing to my sister Iris, and to all of us, was his decline mentally. This is a guy who was pretty much a genius in regards to computers and engineering, before he retired he had been middle management at a couple of well known companies. In the past year though he could hardly be left alone because he would get up in the middle of the night, forget that he has to use a walker or cane, and fall down. He was a big guy and when that happened it would take two of us to get him back up, sometimes we couldn’t and would have to call 911.

That’s what happened this past September. Iris felt comfortable enough leaving Harley here for a few days to go visit her grandkids in another state. Since I was still not working she asked me to look in on Harley, take him to a couple of appointments, and help him with a couple of his OT exercises for his shoulder. She’s done so much for me that I was happy to help, although it’s always been awkward between Harley and I.

See, Harley never cared for me. He’s very hard to engage in conversation, very hard to read, but you can tell when he likes somebody. He was crazy about Tania, from the minute they met each other, and they have kept in touch over the years. They are on opposite ends of the political fence (pretty much everybody in my family is on the opposite end from Tania and I) but they used to trade good natured political barbs and jokes via e-mail.

I thought for a while that the fact that Tania would marry me might have earned me some points in Harley’s estimation, but not so much. Ever since I came here I have felt like Iris was the one who wanted to help me. I’ve always felt like Harley has been putting up with me because I’m his wife’s brother. Iris pretty much told me once that Harley doesn’t understand how I could forget to renew my car’s registration, get arrested for driving without a license, etc. I get that. Looking back sometimes I don’t always understand it either. I didn’t really know this, but I always felt like he looked at me with an amount of scorn for screwing up my life so much I had to come out here and leave my daughter behind in California.

But lately it seems like the roles have reversed in an odd way. My recent unemployment notwithstanding, I am getting stronger and healthier: I’m walking three miles at least four times a week, my blood pressure is within reason, my depression is reasonably leveled out due to Celexa. Meanwhile he had become a problem. When he was at the Rehab hospital after the shoulder surgery, Iris had to stay there with him overnight because he would try to get up without calling for help. That took a huge toll on her and since at the time I had recently become unemployed she asked me to stay with him for a couple hours each day so she could get some things done.

Harley had progressed a bit since leaving the rehab hospital and, like I said, Iris felt comfortable leaving town for a few days. The first couple of days went OK, I checked with him from time to time and went over to help him with his exercises, no issues. Then one morning I got a call from Iris, she had tried to call Harley and he hadn’t answered. I went over there and found him on the floor, he had tried to get up in the middle of the night, didn’t have his cell with him, and had been lying there for several hours. I was able to get him up on the couch, got him something to eat, and then later on I helped him get back to his bed. I checked on him several times that day, and he was asleep for most of the day.

I told Iris everything that happened, we stayed in touch and she was coming home in a couple days anyway, so I guess we thought I could handle it. Two things I should have done: I should have checked on his medications, and I should have just stayed there with him. I should not have trusted him to stay on top of his meds himself, especially his insulin, and I should not have trusted him to stay in bed or call when he needed help. That night the same damn thing happened, he got up and I found him on the floor again the next day.

I did make plans to stay over there the next night, I did keep an eye on him regularly, almost hourly, but sometime in the early evening he tried to get out of bed, fell, and I couldn’t get him up. I checked with Iris and we decided to call 911 to take him to ER.

It didn’t occur to me that he hadn’t taken his meds, but that’s no doubt a part of the reason why he declined that week. They admitted him from the ER, Iris came home, after a week or so they released him, but he just gradually got worse. Another toe got infected and they admitted him again, then they sent him home last week and he died a day later.

Invalid: Someone who is seen by society or others as not valid. We don’t use that word anymore, for good reason. Toward the end Harley had become an invalid, the past several years I wondered if he saw me as an invalid. Sometimes I think I was an invalid caretaker during that week Iris was away, that through my inattention I let him get worse.

Iris and the rest of the family thank me for my help, they say that they are thankful that I’m here to help with Mom and to help Iris and Harley…but I didn’t help. I let him become more of an invalid, and by the fact that I’m here some might say that I’m an invalid father. I should be in California with Boodles at any cost.

Of course, none of us are invalids. No one is invalid, not valid. We all have validity in God’s eyes. I know this, at least I try to know it.

So long, Harley. I’m sorry if I let you down. I didn’t mean to. Forgive me, and maybe I’ll catch you on the other side.


6 thoughts on “Invalid

  1. Watching someone’s decline is difficult, but it leaves you a different person. I think it can either give you a stronger will to live or a sort of apathy about the future. Either way, there’s no way to forget the impact of watching someone slip into that stage.

    • Yes, in my case it makes me think about how I live my life. Choices I make, ie diet etc. Definitely want to be realistic about the future, but not apathetic about it.
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting AC!

  2. Don’t be hard on yourself. Certainly, you did what you could and thought you should at the time. I’m sure all is forgiven and if he had the personality I sense that he did…..in the end….he still thought to himself “Look at my invalid brother-in-law.” but……in a nice way.

  3. I’m so sorry I’ve been caught up in stupid stuff and didn’t read this until now. You are NOT invalid. You helped all you could. No more of this or I’m going to have to go all Henry on your ass! Nobody wants to see that.

    Later my dear friend.

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