I Cannot Crush a Pill
By Jo Pelishek
I can handle a lot. Job changes, financial stress, moves. Thirty years of marriage. Twenty years living with, advocating for children who have mental, emotional and developmental challenges. Filling four weekly pill boxes. Calling insurance companies, pharmacies, benefits specialists, adoption workers. Juggling appointments, school meetings and therapies.
Yesterday, we observed the anniversary of our daughter Mary’s passing with pizza and released balloons in her memory, as we have each year. She was not the first child of ours to precede us to heaven. Grief is a very hard thing. There is little choice but to handle it.
I’m learning to handle my husband’s chronic, debilitating illness. I can handle the extra ‘taxi’ runs for kids, when he’s too tired or hurts too much to go out. I’m beginning to organize chores, menus, and expectations better so the kids can help out more. It’s not easy, and I’m not always cheerful in the process, but I can handle it when his energy is gone after a full day at work.
When my son who has autism tells me for the 97th time that day that he thinks I’m beautiful, I try to act as though it’s an original compliment. When my youngest daughter screams that she hates me while throwing things, I breathe deeply and remember that her behavior is due to unique brain wiring and isn’t a personal attack. Between a very dependent son and an explosive girl is my daughter who is quite independent and leads a full social life. I try to smile while catering to Erika, her friends and their whims. I become weary, but think I can handle it.
Just now, my 19-year-old son asked me, “How does time work? Does it go forward or backward? What does it mean when it says ‘nine oh three?’ What comes after seven?” Soon he’ll be telling me about the robots he intends to build.
Yea, I can handle quite a bit. It’s my life. What I know. What I do. Three days this week I’ll drive 120 miles to meet with doctors. The other two days will include an overnight trip for a 20-minute appointment that requires a total of eight driving hours. I’m feeling tired, but think I can handle it. The foot brace I must wear adds to the challenge, but I’m able to drive – at least until after my surgery.
I’ve had a couple good weeks, felt like I could handle what life throws. Until today. Today, after presenting at a workshop that lasted five hours, I picked up two kids and drove sixty miles to another appointment. I gave Dr. Psychiatrist the mood chart I’d kept on them for the past month. We talked about blood work Emily will need to have done tomorrow, and about KJ’s therapy sessions.
“Mom, what comes after twenty – I was just curious.”
I’ve done a lot. Thought I still could. But when I explained KJ can’t swallow the large tablets prescribed without cutting them into fourths, leaving a film of white powder on the table, the doctor told me to crush the pills.
CRUSH THEM! CRUSH them and put them into pudding. My brain shrieked, I CAN’T DO IT! I CAN’T CRUSH THAT PILL! I smiled, headed out the door, and called my husband. “I can’t do it!” I insisted. “I do everything else, but I do NOT want to crush the pill!”
“Mom, what day is it tomorrow? What day comes after Wednesday?”
Call it rebellion, call it a breakdown, call it crazy. I crushed KJ’s pills for the first nine years of his life, hiding them in applesauce, candy bars, ice cream. I’ve done a lot of things. I can do a lot of things.
But for today, I cannot crush a pill.
(Note: Now that my children are independent, some with supports, I’m no longer responsible for handling the day-to-day meds! There is hope beyond today, moms and dads!)
About the Author
Jo Pelishek draws on her experience of raising five children, three of whom had disabilities. She has a background in journalism with a B.A. from Augsburg College, Minneapolis. Jo has worked as a disability advocate for several years, doing individual as well as systems advocacy. She and her husband live on a lake in northwest Wisconsin. When not working or writing, Jo enjoys time with family and Skyping with her granddaughters in California.