When my kids were young, they fell in love with soccer. I was “forced” into coaching, when one of their coaches, an employee of Midwest Energy, was called out of town for an extended period of time because of damaged powerlines related to a tornado. A new coach was needed.
Soccer was a new sport in western Kansas, at least at the competitive level. In Hays, it was comprised of only one or two teams. To play other teams meant participating in tournaments, which required distant travel and overnight stays. Such travel and multiple overnight stays was an unheard of concept in Hays. Back in the early days of my coaching, it was not uncommon for me, my fellow coach and a couple of parents to travel to the tournaments with four to six kids in each of our vehicles (it prompted me to go through a series of Suburbans). Motel rooms were littered with sleeping bags on the floor, and I got very little sleep during those forays.
It always was interesting. It seemed like when we would load up the kids at the beginning of the trip, everything was organized. But as the weekend wore on, stuff happened and my organizational skills seemed to start falling apart.
We would try to do our dinners together. Golden Corral and like restaurants became the destination of choice. Getting everyone there, sitting them down, getting meals paid for, keeping kids’ money separate for each of them, loading the kids back up in the cars, and getting back to the motel, was “herding cats.” It was not unusual for me to try to make a list with the kids’ names on it, and check those names off as we moved from place to place — to be sure everyone was accounted for.
The realities were that we would get to a game and it would be either an exciting win or heartbreaking loss. Kids would have their stuff all over the tournament grounds, new teams would be arriving, and we would have to move our players to a new location or back to the motel. It was not unusual to have to return to the tournament grounds to find something someone left behind, or depart a motel only to have the motel ship someone’s something back to us.
It is pretty easy to stay organized in life, as long as everything is running smoothly. It is when life gets “exciting” that our organizational skills become challenged. It also becomes difficult when we go down a path that we were not expecting to go down, or a path that we go down is a lot more complicated than we ever thought possible.
Just the other day, I had a family come into my office going down that new path. In my meeting was Dad and his two sons. Mom was in the hospital. Mom had fallen, ended up in the hospital, and was going to be discharged in a few days. Sons were frantic. Dad, with his own very significant chronic illness issues, was certain he could make it another month or two or maybe three, without any outside help.
In talking with Dad, I went through some scenarios with him. It became apparent to me there were some crossroads he did not realize were coming up. There was not a good “checklist” for him to follow.
Dad looked at me and said, “I can make this another few months. I am not yet in crisis.” I looked him in the eye and I said, “You are already in crisis.” I know he was a little bit stunned, but as we talked further, I think he breathed a very deep sigh of relief. Someone was going to take care of this. Someone was going to be sure everything gets done. Someone was going to be on his side.
I have been in those situations myself. A few years ago, my stepfather was quite ill, and the illness caught me by surprise. It was not one of these gradual illnesses, but a “jumping off the cliff” illness. I was afraid I could not catch him. One of my care coordinators and an attorney in my office really gave me some great guidance through the process with my stepfather. The care coordinator actually was instrumental in preparing me and the whole family for my stepfather’s passing. There were so many loose ends I could not have taken care of without that guidance along the way.
Let me go back to soccer. We had a tournament in Emporia. We had a great win one evening and all went to dinner. We got all of the kids there, fed and went back to the motel. I knew something was wrong. Somebody was missing. Finally, I realized it was my son, Dan. We jumped into the car, flew back over to the restaurant, and there he was sitting on the steps. I do not know how angry he was, but he has never let me forget it. I remembered 14 other kids, but forgot my own son.
It is really OK to get help when you are in a health crisis. Health crises present issues that affect the family, estate plans, finances, as well as some thorough care decisions. Seek help. Don’t leave your son behind.
Randy Clinkscales founded Clinkscales Elder Law Practice in 1985. He is a 1980 graduate of Washburn Law School and has represented clients at the administrative, county, state and federal levels.