As all and sundry probably know, I’m in elder care mode this month. Dad is 92, Mom 89, and they are valiant, uncomplaining people, who–somewhere along the way–learned to enjoy being waited on. Then too, each has bouts of confusion, each has physical frailties, and to put a cherry on top of this sundae of challenges, Dad has lost the ability to sleep through the night.
I’m fried. Later this month, another sibling will rotate into the on-site care provider slot, and then another, but my hitch has been emotionally challenging–these are the people who’ve always been there for me, and now they’re…. sometimes not there are all. And it has been physically challenging–I’ve been at the emergency room at 5 am, up and down all night, and responsible for stepping and fetching to the drug store what seems like daily. Also managing the housework, the meals, and other mundane tasks that my mom alternately tries to “help” with, or outright sabotages.
The difference between the present situation and caring for small children is two-fold. First, we can’t look forward to that proud, difficult and happy day when the kindergarten bus comes by, and competence in the big world starts easing our responsibility closer and closer to self-sufficiency. This situation can go on for another ten years, and the trajectory is toward ever increasing need and grief.
Second, when a parent is out and about with small children in tow, we see the situation plainly from 50 yards away. “Parenting in progress–either help or stand clear.” Nobody in the grocery store knows I’m so tired and anxious, that trying to park my truck in their stupid little urban So-Cal parking slots is inspiring me to bad words. I’ve coped with situations in the past few weeks that have honestly horrified me, and there’s more of same in store for me and my loved ones. This doesn’t show, and there’s nobody smiling at me sympathetically at the playground or in the produce section.
A good friend put it this way: When it’s family, you have no choice, but you can look for the Zen moments–the flowers, the puppies, the new babies who beam a smile right at YOU, your favorite oldie coming on the radio as you’re struggling to find a parking space you can fit your truck into.
At the gourmet carry out, the nice guy threw in a half dozen scrumptious chocolate chip cookies for free. The home health nurse verified Dad’s vital signs, and then asked, “But how are you?” When the CNA started and ended her shift, she hugged Mom, and I could practically see Mom glowing as a result.
We’ll get through this, one moment at time.
What are some of your moments? Times when the kindness of strangers, the benevolence of the universe, the perceptiveness of friends and loved ones lit a candle for you when you thought you were plumb out of matches?
To one commenter, I’ll send an audio version of “The Bridegroom Wore Plaid.”