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Don't be afraid of a little help from friends

July 01, 2007|By KATE COLEMAN

It was 40 years and one month ago today that the Beatles released "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

I still have the record.

Yes, kids. A record. Vinyl. 33 1/3 rpm.

Ringo Starr sang "With a Little Help From My Friends" on the landmark album. Joe Cocker sang the song at Woodstock, and the Lennon-McCartney ditty is ranked No. 304 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.

I'd place it a little higher. It's becoming my theme song. I do indeed "get by with a little help from my friends."

Needing help isn't easy. Accepting help can be harder.

But as the symptoms of my multiple sclerosis have increased, needing and accepting help are becoming facts of my life.

Outings often are adventures. Where shall I rest my cane so I don't trip the waiter in the restaurant? Can I handle the theater steps to see the movie?

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Laughter was abundant on a recent Monday morning - as well as all the way through the long, hot afternoon. There also was plenty of sweat as an amazing crew of friends - Laura, who lives in Shepherdstown; Dale and Nancy, with whom I grew up in New Jersey; Nancy's sister, Jean, and Dale's husband, Dominic - organized a "garden party" in my yard.

They called themselves the "Garden Hoes" or "Hose," or most likely, knowing their humor - "Garden Hos."

Laura, extremely knowledgeable and organized, had stopped by the previous Saturday armed with a notebook and figured out what needed to be done. She arrived at 8 a.m. on the appointed day with plants and tools and straw hats bearing silk hydrangeas and peonies. Dale's cap had a spinning propeller on top.

I expected to be here but left for a while to take another friend to a doctor's appointment. We got back in time for lunch, which Nancy provided.

They pulled. They weeded. They wrestled Virginia (creeper, that is). Dominic cut down a dead dogwood and took a truckload of stuff to the landfill. I paid the fee. Big deal.

By the end of the day, they had filled - and I mean filled - 10 large paper lawn-and-leaf bags. Of course, I wasn't able to drag them to the edge of the street for pickup, so I had to call Dale and Dominic back to do it at the end of the week.

Afterward, we sat on my patio, surrounded by lovely flowerbeds and pots blooming.

"Will you help me, please?" are difficult words to say.

I am blessed with friends - oh so many of them - who are really good at figuring out what I need before I do and jumping in to help before I ask.

A little more than five years ago, when my now 89-year-old mom was 83, I wrote a column lamenting her reluctance to let people help her.

I understand her itch for independence, but I'm coming to understand that it's OK to let go of things I can no longer easily accomplish myself and to let friends help me.

And I'm coming to understand that accepting their help can be my gift to them. It doesn't quite measure up to hours of hard labor, but I think it'll do.

The garden crew have tentative plans to work in Nancy's yard later this month.

Since I'm not much for heavy lifting lately, Dale suggested that I contribute some readings.

I think I'll sing instead. I know just the song.

Kate Coleman writes a monthly Lifestyle column.

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