A Small Variety of Super-Power

My radio is playing an NPR piece on super-heroes and super-powers, and it sends my mind in odd directions. Physically, I am a lot less super than I used to be. I can’t run, or do even the half-lotus I used to be able to manage, never mind a full lotus. Valiantly putting off the inevitable hip replacement is perhaps an acceptable substitute for those abilities. But I have just, in the last month, become accustomed to doing something I had once thought I could never do, which maybe makes up for all my forfeits to time. I can change an adult diaper.

Long story, elided here for the sake of various people’s privacy….I had hoped that, by the time the patient came home, continence would be restored. The last night in the convalescent facility, it became obvious that there would be no such restoration. [I hate these abstract constructions; as an English teacher. I would give them a D at best, but they are mandated by the requirements of privacy.] So I asked the night nurse who came in to do the last change of the evening, to teach me how to do it. I had a moment of panic, not quite an attack, just “what happens if I really can’t do this? I can’t do this! Now what?” Then the nurse, bless her heart [I never learned her name—I was too rattled to ask at the time, but she is in my prayers regularly, whoever she is] walked me through the whole business, telling me as she went along that the first time she had ever had to do this was for her mother. At first, she told me, she didn’t think she could ever do it. Maybe that is how everybody reacts at first. But it was her mother, and it was an act of love, and she learned, not only to do it competently, but to do it ungrudgingly and lovingly. In the course of explaining this, she taught me to do the same.

The panic subsided quickly. The competence engaged immediately, like the gearshift on a good car. My other worry had been that, even if I could do it, the patient might not be able to accept my doing it. I turned out to be wrong about that, too. We have developed a routine, involving good humor and occasional references to Ann Landers, and as much self-help as the patient can provide.

Other changes have amused and startled me. I no longer wince at getting my groceries in multiple plastic bags. I welcome it, the more the better, because they are an essential tool for the process. I do have occasional ecological (and even economic) qualms at my profuse use of paper and plastic. No doubt I could use cloth if I really had to, but I no longer sneer at new mothers who just won’t. We all do the best we can.

Invisibility? Useful for the dishonest. Flight? A great saving for the frequent traveler. Perfect pitch? I know, no super-hero has it, but if I had my druthers, it’s the one I’d ask for—naah. I have the super-power I need right now.

Jane Grey

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