I’m just back from a trip to visit Dear Old Dad. At 96, he needs 24-hour in-home care provider support. One of my sisters also lives with him, another lives two miles away. I pinch hit for the residential sister, as do my four brothers.
And we’re still nearly tapped out from the sheer stamina that’s required to care for one fairly healthy, fairly financially secure Aged P. Dad is in hospice, for a number of reasons, but he can still beat me at cribbage (on a good day), still feed himself (do not leave good ice cream unattended around that guy), and will take his meds as directed much of the time.
But he no longer walks. He’s down to “stand and pivot” with assistance. He has days when he mostly sleeps, days when he won’t take his meds. Days when he can barely hold the cards and wants to know where Mom is (RIP Mom 2/5/16). The care providers try hard, but they are underfoot by necessity, and they sometimes have their own dramas. Then there’s the visiting nurse, the hygiene nurse, the church lady who brings communion, the gardener…
I went bananas, three different ways. First, I’m no longer used to being around people–real people–24-7. My solitude tank hit empty, and this made me irritable. Second, I’m not used to having my time commandeered without notice. If Dad yelled for me, I was supposed to present myself forthwith, offering solutions to whatever the problem of the moment was. If he ran out of some hygiene supply, if the care providers had a personal emergency… as “case manager,” my role was to spackle over all the gaps in the care plan.
Being infield utility meant very little writing productivity, and that too, made me grumpy.
Third, Dad lives in suburban San Diego, in a neighborhood where the houses are close together to maximize views of the ocean. You would not believe how many power tools, leaf blowers, car horns, barking dogs, and screeching children, can be packed into one residential block, and they all start up at 7 am. My silence tank went bone dry.
Since coming home, I’ve been knocking out my writing to-dos and getting back into the stories. I’ve also hibernated at my QUIET little house, which I have a strange compulsion to Big Clean. The kind of clean where I fill up contractor bags and throw out furniture the dog has ruined. Maybe a purge is a better word. Asserting control over my time, my space, and my imagination is gradually bringing me right, but lordy, am I in awe of my sisters. Greater love hath nobody, ever, than those two ladies show our father who art in San Diego.
Have you ever had to recover from a “vacation?” A family reunion or business trip? How do you negotiate your re-entry, and is there something about home you’ve learned to appreciate more fully for having missed it? To one commenter, I’ll send an audio version of Tremaine’s True Love.