I told Joanne if I ever wrote a book about our experiences post stroke I was going to call it , "At Joanne's Feet." There are a couple of reason's for this. One is that I spend a lot of time on my knees literally at her feet. She has an AFO (Ankle Foot Orthotic) that she needs to have put on and then her left shoe goes on over that. It's nothing she can do for herself. In fact it is a little like a wrestling match to get it on right and get the shoe over it from time to time. In the literally hundreds of times that I have put the AFO on I am starting to get a little better at it, but it's still a little tricky. So there I sit, on my knees grappling with this contraption and Joanne's left foot.
The AFO makes a ton of difference and there is no way she could walk without it. She is still on a cane, but the AFO keeps her from rolling her ankle. So about 4 times a day we go through the AFO on, AFO off procedure, where I am at Joanne's feet.
But the title also has other implications. Being at someone's feet is a learning posture, and I have a lot to learn every day about Joanne. Even 18 months in to her stroke, I am still finding things out about what she likes, doesn't like, what she wants to talk about and what she doesn't. I am learning how she desires to be treated. I am learning what gives her a good quality of life versus a poor quality of life. I am learning what brings her joy.
A few examples:
Joanne hates tacos. We have been married for almost 21 years and have eaten tacos at least twice a month during that time, but the other day when we were planning menus she said, "You know, I never really liked tacos." Wait a minute: all these years you have kept that to yourself? So now tacos are off the list.
Joanne loves to have her back scrubbed when she takes a shower. I use a loofa and have at it and she adores that, follow by a vigorous scrubbing with the towel when the shower is over. And she has to take her shower every night after dinner in order to sleep well. No exceptions.
Joanne loves big, gaudy rings. I think I had and idea that she liked rings but didn't know the extent. And the bigger and gaudier the better. She puts one on every day.
Joanne has very little concept of time. We have been learning so coping mechanisms, but it is hard for her to keep track of all the comings and goings and who will be where and when. Her iPhone has been a Godsend because we can the alarm on her phone to go off when anyone is away to ring at the time they are supposed to be home. The trick is to "beat the alarm" and get home before it goes off. If it goes off, it is a simple call to find out where one of us is and that puts her at ease.
Joanne loves to be read to. Both her dad and Emma have spent countless hours reading to her and she never gets tired of it.
Joanne hates the sound of her own voice and will avoid talking on the phone at almost all costs. She has a very monotone voice and very little volume control and she talks very slowly. So she is pretty sensitive to that. So I take most of her calls. There are a very few people she will talk to, but even then it is a stretch for her.
And the list goes on. I feel like I learn another little something every day. And I want to learn. I can improve Joanne's quality of life if I pay attention to what works and what doesn't. That's where the "at Joanne's feet" learning posture is so key. I hope that as they years go by I will always be at Joanne's feet, helping her in very practical ways, but learning from her as well.
Please pray that I will keep my passion for serving Joanne in practical ways as long as learning from her on a daily basis. Pray that me heart remains tender towards this amazing woman and that I never get lazy in what I do and what I say.