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The Mount Rushmore Syndrome

April 4, 2011 - Mike Donahey
Some readers may find it odd to see the word syndrome follow Mount Rushmore in the title of a blog or elsewhere. Syndrome is one of those 50 cent words that means in short, a disease or condition. Read on and you’ll get the point.

For years I carelessly viewed my Mom and Dad as Mount Rushmore figures — bigger than life and seemingly indestructible. A co-worker having experienced some of the same issues I’m dealing with now knew exactly what I meant in the Mount Rushmore example.

While growing up Mom and Dad were rarely sick. And if they were they didn’t show it. Before retiring approximately 25 years ago, Dad worked almost 40 years at Clinton’s DuPont Cellophane Facility. He missed all of two or three days of work due to illness. I knew he was really sick once because a doctor came to our house and gave him some medicine.

Once upon a time one wage earner could pay the mortgage, family of seven expenses and still have a little bit left over. So, Mom was a homemaker exclusively when not helping with Cub Scouts, Little League, PTA and so on. I knew Mom would not be well only when I would see her resting on the couch after a long, tough visit to the dentist’s office. When Karen and I started raising our family about 27 years ago, I didn’t give much thought to my parent’s health. After all, there were bills to pay, a career to advance, a house to buy and so on. And I still thought of them as Mount Rushmore. And over those 27 years time took its toll. I’ve read where time is the only enemy of beauty and innocence. Add healthy people to the list. It hit Mom first. Karen would tell me after visits home that Mom’s arthritis was getting worse. That explained why, among other things, the number of Mom’s amber colored prescription containers on the kitchen shelf gradually increased each time we visited. Arthritis to me was one of those problems others had that were talked about — and resolved — in television commercials. While arthritis was hard on Mom, the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms, followed quickly by cancer, then a stroke, were too much, even for Mom. The cancer and stroke were a fatal one-two punch. At least for Mom’s sake, it was quick and she didn’t suffer much.

Dad has been fighting bone cancer for awhile now and the disease has been hard on him. Depression. Dramatic weight loss. No appetite and other issues too numerous to mention here. Dad is not letting on how much pain he is in, but his rapid-use of pain-killing medications tell a different story. The bone cancer is insidious. It seemingly chips away at him day by day. Dad wants to die in the house that “Mom picked out.” We want that for him too. But the cancer may not make that possible.

Helping us through Mom’s death and Dad’s struggles is our Christian faith. It tells us, among other things, that those who earn eternal life are free of the pain that encumbered them while on earth. We know at some point soon Dad will be in heaven with Mom and free of the pain he endures now. There is much, much comfort in knowing that.

The Mount Rushmore figures — as historically significant as they are — can’t hear “I love you.” Nor can one give them a hug. Say “I love to you” to your parent or parents and give them a hug. If distance interferes, telephone and tell them you love them. Do it now.


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