By David Gillaspie
I was a staff tech in a civil service clinic, not a
battlefield doc, but he didn’t need to know that.
“Two days. Maybe.”
Two days? Maybe? Two days? One?
It dawned on me to make the only gesture that mattered.
For two days, I could earn a lifetime of good merit points
in heaven. Not that I need them; but if the entrance
requirements change, I’d like some extra credit points.
So I did it. I said it.
“What about taking him home for his last days? We can do
that, can’t we? I’d do it.”
The doctor bowed his head in a solemn nod.
“That is always the best.”
I don’t know if he said it as part of the insurance
script to get patients out of the financial stream, or a
hospital policy to open up another bed, or the heart-felt
words of a compassionate fellow human being, or a little of
all. What matters is I volunteered for the second time
in my life. The first time was the Army for two years;
this time as a caregiver for two days. Death with
dignity. I went in to talk to my wife, mother-in-law,
and two teenaged sons.
Four years later, after a series of fortunate caregiving
experiences, Grandpa Ken has slowed down a bit. From
his death bed in the hospital where he could barely move one
finger, he climbed stairs with assistance a month later.
Instead of an IV tube, he took his meals at the dining room
table. Keeping him moving was the key.
Today, he moves around in a wheelchair instead of a
walker, and I feed him in his recliner, but he is still on
his feet. He stretches out and makes the moves needed
to get from his recliner to his wheelchair and back.
These are moves the professional in-home caregivers cannot
perform due to licensing and insurance considerations.
In their view, Ken would be best treated if he were bed
Over the years, we’ve interviewed agencies, as well as
private caregivers, to come in for a few hours. Some
came ready to keep him moving, realized the challenge, and
quit after the first day. One quit on the first chair-
to-chair transfer attempt. One agency sent a man in
his seventies as a caregiver. It continues to be an
interesting adventure, and now I’m the only person in the
world who can move Grandpa Ken; the world champion of
Grandpa Ken moving.