“Responsibility – the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone.”
I learned this lesson of responsibility at a very early age. My dad was a quadriplegic as a result of being infected with polio. When he was finally able to come home from the hospital after two years, he needed an attendant to feed, bathe, dress and take care of his personal needs. My mom had to work in order to support our family and was fortunate to have earned a degree in education. She returned to teaching school which she had been doing prior to staying home to raise my brother and me.
Over the years we had many caregivers for Dad. They didn’t need to be educated or trained. They needed to be responsible, compassionate, caring and treat my father with dignity. Some of these caregivers were absolute gems; trustworthy, dependable and conscientious. And some of them were irresponsible, lazy and dishonest. Sometimes the caregiver wouldn’t even show up for work. It happened too many times over the years; I was probably seven years old the first time. I think the caregiver may have called to say she couldn’t come, because I remember Mom and Dad discussing what they should do. Now I absolutely adored going to school, but someone had to stay with Dad as Mom had to work and there was no family close by. I do remember shedding tears because I didn’t want to stay home. I was too small to get Dad dressed and out of the rocking bed, but I could shave him, wash his face, make him breakfast and lunch and feed him. I could hang the newspaper from the ceiling with a wooden frame and clothes pins so he could read it in bed. As much as I hated missing school, these were special times with my dad. He used to say I was his favorite daughter. And my response was always “but I’m your only daughter.”
For the caregivers to simply not show up, was very irresponsible to say the least, and it was potentially life threatening… to leave a handicapped person with limited breathing capacity unattended for an entire day. Fast forward to when I was thirteen… the junior high school was half a mile away from our home. One day several of my friends and I decided to sneak off the school grounds to go to my house for lunch. I doubt that Dad even knew we weren’t allowed to leave the school premises during the school day. We walked in the house to find Dad rocking in his rocking bed, not having had breakfast or lunch or the use of the bathroom. I was devastated to know he was so helpless in the situation, and needless to say I stayed home the rest of the day.
It wasn’t until 1968 that technological advances provided my dad the ability to use the telephone, to make and receive calls. He could wear a headset and with a slight squeeze of his hand call an operator for assistance. This was a godsend as my brother was already off to college, and I would soon be gone as well. Dad could call for help and would no longer be left to a caregivers’ lack of responsibility.
Taking care of my dad and watching others take care of him helped me develop my sense of responsibility in my personal and professional life. In my career I was always accountable, went above and beyond the requirements of my job, took on extra projects and exceeded my own objectives. I am sorry that Dad did not live to see my successes in the business world and the personal lessons that I learned along the way.