Brody: Don’t pull a Clyde!

Published 7:49 am Tuesday, January 31, 2017

By Jean Brody

Sun columnist

In my speeches to nurses in training and assisted living facilities across the country and in my columns for the past 27 years, I have often referred to my phrase, “Don’t pull a Clyde.” What I mean is when we are sick, in pain or even very lonely, we need to allow those who love us to know how we feel and not shut them out.

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Clyde was a real friend who, when he was told he had terminal cancer, shut his wife Ann out all together. It broke her heart. She so much wanted to help him through his final journey but he would not allow it. He died alone in his bedroom, separate from hers, not because she pulled away, but because he did, desperately clinging to his desire to spare her. But in doing so, he became a recluse and angry.

The point in my phrase, “Don’t pull a Clyde,” ever since I saw her pain is the same thing as “Don’t hurt me by pushing me away.” The thing is that, though it feels like we are sparing our loved ones, we are hurting them deeply. Did you ever think of it that way?

The truth is, as we age many of us become hard to deal with. We are set in our ways, crotchety, not so easy to love and if you combine this with the fact  our adult children (and usually our basic caregivers) are busy raising their own family and having a life, it is easy to develop a disconnect.

At the most vital time the aged need understanding and to be honest with their loved ones, they feel like a burden and they “pull a Clyde.” Everybody involved is pulling a Clyde and hurting each other. Isn’t that sad?

As you may recall, my own sweet Daddy had Alzheimers and got to the point he did not know who came to visit him in the nursing home. He would even say things like “What is the difference?” and “Who cares, I can’t remember who comes anyway.”

But my wonderful Mother, in spite of that, came to spend every day with him because she knew it made a huge difference. She knew on some level it registered with him that when she patted him, kissed him, brushed his hair, fed him grapes, he was being loved, cared for and he was not alone.

She felt he knew the feeling of love. Why did that work for them? Because he never “pulled a Clyde.” Love works.

Admittedly, there were times when we did not want to hear about or deal with his depression and fear of it, but his never pulling away from his family kept him connected and my Mother was never left out of his life, right to the very end. Joyous!

Thoreau said, “We are all dying of loneliness.” When I think of his words, it breaks my heart because it does not have to be so. I wonder what difference it would make in the world and in our lives, if we just promised ourselves two things:  never to pull a Clyde and shut ourselves off from others and their needs, and to always be open and learn to listen. I have the feeling if we did this there would be a lot more joy in the world and a lot fewer lonely people.

The view from the mountains is wondrous.