Friday, November 11, 2011

Stepping Up

Deb: There are times in your life when you need people. You may hate that you need them, but the current and present fact of your life is that you do. I am not an easy ask. I think I have mentioned that before. I decreed years ago that I would be always the bestower and never the bestowed. Asking for help is something I struggle with. But that rug has been pulled from under me of late. As it turns out, you don’t have to ask for help when the help arrives before you can muster the courage to ask.

When my Mom had her emergency almost a month ago now, I was a big pond away. My two “stepupsisters”, Cheryl and Mary, were all ready on it. In fact they discovered the severity of Mom’s condition and stepping up got the ball rolling and was ultimately responsible for saving my Mom’s leg. They moved swiftly with no questions asked. They just did what had to be done, pushing their own lives of laundry into literal and figurative baskets. They put the proverbial band-aid on the gunshot wound until the doctors could assess and scramble to help her.  And stood by her so she would be daughtered until I could get home.

Knowing they were stopping their own clocks to step up, I thought I better get the extended family involved simply to be there for my Mom and Dad in the form of visits or phone calls. So I called my cousin Scott. He and I grew up more like siblings than cousins. His Mom was my Mom’s only sister in a family of six kids and they were extremely close. We lived down the street from one another, shared the same schools, holidays and events. Scott is three weeks older than me and his twin boys are a month older than the boy. Our boys are close as well, to our everlasting joy.

Again, I was not looking forward to asking and again, I did not have to. Before I could finish the sentence regards Mom’s precarious circumstance, his plan was launched. He called key family members, got to the hospital, liaised with the doctors and nurses, picked up and delivered my Dad, cared for my Mom, made her laugh when she was scared and kept me informed every single step of the way until seconds before my plane took off from Heathrow.

That night he and his stepupsister wife Lorette were at the hospital. My Dad had already gone home when Scott and Mom were informed that they still might have to amputate.  Mom was clearly upset but resigned to doing what needed to be done to prevent the further spread of the gangrene. Scott texted me and I phoned my Dad from London to tell him, and he was devastated. I turned to Colin and I said, “It kills me that he is sitting along at home trying to come to terms with this information.” Just as the last words were out of my mouth, my text chime rang in with Scott’s words, “Hey, Lorette was just thinking that it is so awful that your Dad is sitting there alone with this news and wants to go over, make him tea and sit with him for a while. I’ll stay with your Mom. Is that okay?” Colin and I were sitting in the theatre when I got this text and I burst into grateful tears. Spent the whole first act trying to stifle my crying and part of the second act sleeping it off on Colin’s shoulder. It was awful when I realized I would have to wait a day to get out of London, but wonderful knowing I was being more than represented.

The next day when I landed in Toronto, I arrived to copious texts from Scott reporting important details, including the fact that they had done an angioplasty which might just save her leg. His diligence breathed hope into my panic for that trip from the airport to the hospital. A trip I did not have to take alone thanks to the third stepupsister, Barb, who was there as my shoulder and my chauffeur. Arriving in her hospital room was like showing up to a party. Cheryl had just gone home to tuck her daughter in, Mary was there, my brother Craig and his wife Jacquie, and Scott had just left knowing I was on my way.

In the days to come I would marvel at friends and parents of friends and cousins and uncles and aunts who more than stepped up with phone calls and visits and flowers, balloons and candy. Erica, the gal who cleans our homes, has been twice, our friend and dog walker Claude has been three times. All I have heard this last month is, “What can I do for you?”, “What do you need”, “What does your Mom need?”, “What does your Dad need?”  Also there have been the silent steps of people who just show up and visit or phone or bake or send cards, treats and balloons.

I can’t say that this really showed me who my friends are. I already knew them well in friend and family form. They are the people who step up. Now it’s my turn to step up with thanks. Rather than say, “They will never know what this has meant to my family,” ... I’ll make sure they do.

Barbara: Okay, out and out bawling now reading this. The step-ups are a remarkable bunch, aren’t they? I’ve known your cousin Scott from your get-togethers over the years, Deb, but my appreciation and admiration for him just skyrocketed.

And I will also say that Deb’s gratitude has absolutely spilled over in this time of need. I can’t tell you how often she has marvelled at the support you’ve extended her here on the blog, at the many hours her friends and extended family have spent visiting her Mom at the hospital, at the kindnesses bestowed all around.

You know what else impresses me—and this from visits to both your mom’s hospital and Nana’s—the step-ups in the medical system. We hear so much complaining abut indifferent or remiss healthcare (a situation I don’t doubt), that it’s worth a shout-out to those tireless men and women who bring their best selves to their job at the sickbeds. We notice you too. Your good humour, your patience, your respectful care. We bow to you. We thank you!

PS In honour of today's Remembrance Day––talk about stepping up––a sweet and beautiful video. Here's the explanation that goes with it:
A lone young Belgian boy is waiting to salute the Canadian troops passing by who had been attending a memorial service. Such class from our Canadian troops - watch what they do for this little boy. The "Eyes Right" command is the biggest compliment troops on parade can pay and is reserved for dignitaries in reviewing stands. Every now and then something just makes you smile!!!


  1. Beautiful piece about how friends, family, stepups fill your heart with gratitude and warmth. Really moving, when you are not used to asking for help, when you are someone just used to taking care of everything and then life takes over and gets ahead of you.....and you need are very blessed with all the people in your world so willing and ready to help Deb, in your time of need. Barb, you sound like such and wonderful supportive friend (always there) I am fairly new to this blog, but it does my heart good to hear you both. thank you

  2. Barb you are so right about the men and women at the hospital. We could not be happier with the loving care my Mom has received at St. Michael's hospital in Toronto. Every single person from every department has been kind, thorough and caring. And thanks Mary-Jo. Actually I have something special to say regards Mary-Jo. We met last night!!!!!!! It was at a wonderful event for Oolagen a charity for children's mental health issues. I was so thrilled to meet her charming self. Glad you are with us Mary-Jo!!!

  3. Deb, this is such a wonderful post! Throughout my time at Berea I have been on the receiving end of countless "step-ups" and it has blessed me beyond words! I am now trying my hardest to offer up my help whenever it is needed, and, mostly, without expecting anything in return! :)

    I, too, sometimes have a hard time asking for help so these people are doubly gratifying!!

  4. Thanks Holly. I'm so glad you have been on the receiving end and I am sure that in your life you will be on the giving end too. Thank God for these people in our lives.

  5. Deb -

    It's very simple: You are loved.

  6. A lovely post Deb and a reminder to thank all those who have been helping me out the past couple of weeks. I know I've said thanks to all them at one point or another but I think I'll do it again.

    BTW thank you ladies for this blog, it helps.

  7. I'm so thankful for my "step ups" in my life! I have a feeling in the recent weeks/months I will be depending on them more, and I know they will be there for me.

    I cherish those individuals in my life. Thanks for giving me a moment in this crazy day to sit back and reflect on them :]

  8. Between your words and the video I feel the love and if I lived in Toronto ......

  9. O.k., let's make it a love-in. The reason so many are so willing to step-up for Deb is that she is the step-up Queen herself. Deb bends over backwards not just being there for you by doing necessary things but by anticipating what they might be and getting there before you knew what you needed. She has, over the years, turned her life upside down to be there for me at all moments in every way. In my deepest, darkest times I have never been alone. She has seen me through it all. She sets the step-up bar very high and inspires us all to make the jump.

  10. Mary-Jo, welcome! So happy to have you here -- and thrilled to hear about your connection with Deb. Holly, Kelly and Erin -- thinking of you guys!!! sending love. Madge, oooh, if you lived in TO!!! Would be grand!

    Cheryl, my darling Cheryl, so right you are. Deb is all that. As are you. Love you both!!! xo Barbara

  11. So so happy you had such great friends to help you out. :) I can relate to having difficulties when the need arrises to ask for help. A while ago, when mom was still here, I got very ill with some sort of virus and literally couldn't get out of bed hardly at all. I finally called mom and asked her for help, and even though it was her day to volunteer at the nursing home, she came running. Later on she had said she thought for sure I was dying because I never asked for help, ever. She was scared she would come in to find me sprawled out on the kitchen floor with the telephone still in my cold hand. Too funny, but it helped me to recognize what a problem it was for me to ask for help, or even to graciously accept someone doing something nice for me like paying for dinner. I've gotten better about that but not without a lot of pain and smiles thru gritted teeth. :) I realized that it makes people feel good when they do things for others, and by not allowing them to, I am basically taking their gift and asking for the receipt, if you know what I mean.
    Sorry, I seem to be blog-jacking. :) I hope your mom is doing well. You hang in there, girlfriend, though I know you will by all the support you are getting.

    P.S. BARB! hi.

  12. Hey baby!! We love it when you guys get on a roll -- that's when all the good stuff comes out. This is a great -- and important -- story you shared with us, Karen. These stories bear repeating too. We know it's hard, friends, but try not to -- as Karen so perfectly says -- ask for a receipt! We're all in this together. xo B

  13. These kinds of stories renew my faith in people. What a beautiful story of love and devotion to family.

  14. Thanks Rigel. What a lovely thing.

  15. Deb: I'm So happy and relieved that you have so many people who are ready and willing to help in whatever way they can. Sometimes the littlest thing can overwhelm your heart so much you can't find the words to describe how grateful you are. Now, when it's definitely not the littlest thing, the fact that you couldn't ask didn't matter. Your 'uppers' ;) were there to answer.

    Karen: My dad is exactly the same way. He won't say boo if he has a splitting headache or anything. This past Monday, he told my mother he was feeling pressure on his chest and couldn't catch his breath. Time to head to the hospital. He has a cardiac history and he had tons of tests, which all came out negative. The assumption is he's catching/caught a cold and it knocked him for a loop. Gotta hope that's all it is.

  16. And many many people are worth having faith in aren't they Lisa? Karen that is such a great story. Despite your desperate state, I could totally relate to it. And what? Blogjacking, you? NEVER. We love when pepes we love do the riffing! Cheryl you are very kind. all I can say is that I have always loved helping people more than I like being helped. As you can see, I have clearly made my peace with being helped. Kelly what a lovely way to put your gratitude. Thanks Madge, I will imagine how lovely that would be!Erin that is so nice. They will love to hear it from you again.

  17. It is a beautiful feeling when you allow yourself to be held by love. Although I too enjoy being the giver, and not the one in need, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to let others love and care for me. It's quite a miracle to experience the exquisite goodness in others, and a gift to the giver as well.

  18. "The exquisite goodness in others" Thanks Hollye.

  19. "a shout-out to those tireless men and women who bring their best selves to their job at the sickbeds. We notice you too. Your good humour, your patience, your respectful care. We bow to you. We thank you!"

    Holy DOOdle! This is nice to hear- we don't get it too often- much appreciated on behalf of my collegues!

    On the "help" thing- well, i think it depends on who you have in your life who can help when it's needed. I learned not to expect help mostly bcause well, it was never forthcoming. It's not that I don't have people in my life who care about me ( u know who u R!) but " times is hard" and friends & family live demanding complicated lives- many not even in the same geographical locale. and for me- I'm don't want to know that that's where the limits r in a relationship- MUCH rather suck it up and cope than know for sure that that's the line not to cross in maintaining a relationship.
    On the other hand I've learned that I am strong, what doesn't kill me does give me resiliance, and I have yet to learn my limit as to what will be too much to cope with. Sufficient. Self.

  20. This is amazing and wonderful (gives me goosebumps, and makes ma nearly burst into tears).

    I'm not very good at asking for help, either. I don't know why...I just try to do everything on my own. Struggle with my own problems. Cope with my life. Whatever.

    On the other hand I love to help other people. I like to observe others. A good friend once said: She's like a diary. You can write everything in her, and she never forgets.

    I just want to be there for the people I love. I know I'm not the most self-confident person. I'm shy and anxious. But I always try to help, even if I have to overcome myself. =)

    It feels good to make other people happy. To lift some weight off their shoulders.

    Indeed...friends know, when you need help, and they help you without waiting for you to ask for help. ♥

  21. Sharon and Becki, thanks for your from-the-heart comments. It's so hard, I know, to accept help (or to give in to the odd sensation of being vulnerable). I struggled for years with it. And some people truly have no one around to help, and some people do need to learn what that means. But I think it's part of our human process to learn to both give it and to receive it. Both are essential to our survival -- and both are gifts to each other. So, Sharon, you have a shoulder here when you feel less than self-sufficient. And Becki, your friend's quote is stunning. I absolutely love that! It's so great you can "overcome yourself" to do what you need to do. xo B

  22. {{{{{{{BIG HUGS TO DEB}}}}}}

    And a quick chorus of Carole King's "you've Got a Friend"!


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