There’s milk all over the floor. Should I cry, laugh, or what?

A repeated accident has this columnist pondering difficult questions

Robin Stemple avatar

by Robin Stemple |

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An illustration of a blind man walking down a path with a cane. Floating musical notes follow him.

It happened two weeks ago. Then it happened again yesterday. Is this my new normal? If so, what to do? Should I laugh? Should I cry? Is a little spilled milk worth getting upset?

I’m an early riser, getting up each morning to say some prayers and read some meditations. Then I get my breakfast. I try to finish before my wife, Wendy, gets to the kitchen.

I move around awkwardly because of my facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD) and take up the entire kitchen when I’m preparing a meal. It’s best for me to clear out before she gets up.

My wife started working for the local zoo a couple of weeks ago, so she was up early for her first day of work. I let her get her breakfast and started to get mine as she munched on her toast. I got my bowl of cereal successfully poured and to the table. I retrieved the milk from the refrigerator without a problem.

Things went downhill from there.

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What just happened?

Although I do this every morning, for some reason, that morning I missed my bowl entirely. As a blind guy, I didn’t realize what was happening until I heard the waterfall of milk hitting the floor as my wife screamed.

I’m unable to get up off the floor without a lot of assistance, so she cleaned up the mess. I hate it when I make a mess. I hate it even more if I can’t clean it up myself. My wife and I have had an understanding for years that’s helped me stay as independent as possible. I do everything I can for myself. She’ll help if asked.

Despite the time it took to clean up my mess, my wife made it to work on time. She likes the new job at the zoo.

Life goes on. I poured milk on my cereal with no further problems over the next two weeks. The episode was just a one-time thing, right? It won’t happen again.

Yesterday it happened again. This time my wife wasn’t home. She’s been spending a few nights at my son’s home, helping take care of our grandkids while my daughter-in-law recovers from surgery. I heard the sickening sound of the milk waterfall. I stopped pouring and wondered to myself, “So what are you going to do now, Rob?”

We co-own our home with our daughter. She was still asleep, but I was too rattled to see other options. I called and asked for help. She did, with little complaint, but as I thanked her, I could tell she wasn’t a happy camper. We just bought our home in Pittsburgh a few months ago. I’m sure she was asking herself what she’d gotten herself into.

For some reason, this situation has been nagging at me since the second episode. The first time it happened, Wendy was right there, and she immediately jumped in to mop up the mess. I’m thinking more about the second time around. I could’ve retrieved a couple of towels and gotten most, if not all, of the milk off the floor. That thought didn’t even occur to me, though. I’m wondering if I may be losing my independent spirit.

I always like to bring my columns to a positive conclusion, but I’m struggling to end on a positive note this time around.

Am I prepared for the future as the FSHD progresses? When do I let go, adapt my schedule, and let someone else pour the milk? When is it time to ask for assistance instead of struggling to get a coat or sweater to come up over my winging shoulder blades? When do I put safety first and get a little assistance with bathing? The spilled milk has me asking more questions about the future than is healthy for me.

I know I share these questions with many others who deal with FSHD, other types of muscular dystrophy, or any debilitating condition. It’s naive to think that these changes aren’t coming. Even for those who are totally healthy, old age (I’m 65) will be the great equalizer. All of us will be asking ourselves these questions at some point in our lives.

My faith helps me continue moving forward despite the questions. I’m blessed with a loving family. They’ll help out. They have their own lives to live, though, and it’s a good possibility that at some point I’ll need more help than they can provide. There will be many more questions to answer as I continue down life’s road.

I have to trust that the answers will come to me — not necessarily when I want them, but when I need them. I’d find it difficult to go on if I didn’t believe that. I hope you believe that, too!

Note: Muscular Dystrophy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Muscular Dystrophy News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to muscular dystrophy.


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