I remember when my dad had his stroke that took his speech. A brilliant man, a scientist, he was always a man of few words. Now he had none.
My siblings all live elsewhere. I pulled over in the car and nervously made the call. Though never close, we were at that moment. We were loving, supportive, a team. It was amazing how we rallied. I remember it like it was, as they say, yesterday. The closest we might have ever been. That moment.
Four years later, a heart attack, a near deadly infection and now in skilled nursing, it's hard to believe how much WE have deteriorated right along side my dad. I often want to stay in the skilled nursing and just curl up in a ball. My soul is as sick as it's ever been. Does that count for care?
I moved in to help my poor mom who is a worry wart by nature. She's guilt ridden, as though this is somehow her fault. It's taken a terrible toll on her. Insomnia, late night migraines, throwing up. No, I'm not exaggerating. It goes in stages but that's the worst. I hear her, quietly suffering, because she won't take my help, your help, or anyone's help.
My three siblings are living in three ways 1) wealthy retirement 2) beautiful village, not rich, but working hard 3) living by the rules of a religion many consider a cult so emotionally cut off from us. Though, well, we do get a weekly call. Yay.
When my dad was in ICU last month, we all had different idea's about what to do. I was deeply resentful that the two sisters swooped in while I had been there with my exhausted mom all along, trying to keep it together. Who were they all of a sudden telling us what to do? Unfair, you might think. At least they were there.
Wait, no, the religious one made a 2-hour appearance. The rich one took completely over, calling the doctors and nurses "the help". Yes, seriously. And the one in the village? She was the best. Strong, silent, there by his side, but yet so angry. An anger that has followed her for years. No idea why, but I miss her. The fun, adventurer has been gone for years. Now was this new angry person who, thankfully, was kind to my mom.
And so here I am. Tonight the skilled nursing said my dad needs a 24-hour sitter. My mom is 80 and simply can't. I finally landed a very competitive job that I love and I miss work constantly. I feel like it's just a matter of time before I am politely dismissed. I apologize constantly, co-workers don't know me and it's not their problem anyway. My mind sometimes drifts to this mess though I do find work a great, wonderful relief from the misery of this "new normal".
So what now? We have an assisted living facility picked out. If they will take my very ornery father, who falls constantly, it will be such a relief. Otherwise my mom wants to take him back home. Which would be a disaster. Just when I had forgotten the names of the nightly firefighters, they will be back, rescuing my dad again, whispering to each other that he seems "mentally ill". Nope, guys, he's always been that way. A dictator who does what he wants, a wife who doesn't argue and kids who never questioned. Except me. The family "rebel". Now he's just an older version of all that and that's one more thing to throw in the mix. Old childhood crap, rising to the surface.
I'm quite certain I will eventually fall apart, piece by piece, defeated.
Too many options, yet, not enough.
No control, helpless to make any of this stop and get worse.
Caregiving is not just one person deteriorating. It's everyone falling apart. Together.
I guess I should be grateful for that? We are, alas, together again?
Meanwhile, it's strangers/friends who remind me I'm not losing my mind. They are the most kind, and loving. They remind me of what it is not to fight all the time, to have those undertones of resentment in every conversation.
So there it is. Thanks for listening. You are all I got, internet stranger. And it's everything.