I wrote this several years ago and thought it fitting to repost it in loving memory of my father-in-law Ed Cutler who passed away January 5th.
During my husband Paul’s’ family reunion the group decided to go bowling. As the group loaded into several cars, I noticed my 83-year-old father-in-law, Ed, expressing his excitement as he grabbed his coat and walking stick. For most, the patriarch joining his family for an afternoon of fun and frivolity would not be something to take notice of, however; what made this unique is that Ed is legally blind and hard of hearing. He uses a folding blind cane to analyze his surroundings and dual hearing aids in an attempt to hear normal audible ranges.
Upon arrival at the bowling alley, he told Paul what size bowling shoes he needed and asked him to help him find the right bowling ball. Ed would feel each ball and inquire about the color, testing Paul’s patience as he rejected those not in his preferred color scheme.
He informed Paul that the two of them would switch turns, subsequently challenging Paul’s competitive nature, as he and his brother Mark are very aggressive sportsmen and my husband likes (needs) to win. Nevertheless, Paul agreed.
When it was his turn, Ed retrieved his own ball and Paul would guide him to the edge of the lane. Paul would detail his location in relationship to the lane allowing him to adjust his position for optimal velocity as well as the “natural curve” of his throw. Ed threw a gutter-ball each time, nevertheless, he insisted on this routine each time.
On the drive back, Ed laughed as he said, “This was a great day! I got to play an old game a new way”. He recounted the game with enthusiasm, sharing his excitement of being on the team and analyzing his technique so that he can do better next time (Ed surmised that his consistent gutter-balls boiled down to bad coaching by Paul).
Over the years, I have been inspired at how my father-in-law has coped with his escalating disabilities:
- He pursues independence vigorously. Each day Ed goes for a walk alone. Sometimes down the driveway or block, occasionally he heads to a walking trail and will go a mile down and back. He knows how many steps to the end of the driveway, down the street, as well as certain landmarks along the trail that assist in keeping his orientation on his location.
- He chooses to be in the mix of things even if he cannot fully participate. Each night the family played board games and, although he could not play, he would sit at the end of the table and “trash talk” (the clean version) the players. Give encouraging shouts of “great job” when a team scored a point and occasionally blurt out an answer giving an unfair advantage to the team at play (though it was only an issue for me when it was a point for the opposing team)
- Most importantly, he thanks God daily for his life, his challenges and the opportunities to overcome them.
Witnessing someone joyfully overcoming obstacles in their life is a reminder to be thankful for all we are able to do each day. We have a choice to make every day about how we live our life. We can wallow and complain about what we do not have or cannot do or, we can adjust to the circumstances that life throws our way and learn how to play an old game in a new way.