Enough. Just enough.

for-petes-sake

This week I had two people mention that my work calendar was a bit behind. This actually isn’t that unusual since I frequently forget to change over weeks into any given month. But January. You guys, I’m not sure I worked more than five full days in my office.

I worked from the hospital while I watched my dad uncomfortably shift around, without any arm or leg strength. I worked from the ER while they checked him for broken ribs from yet another fall. I worked from the ambulance even, on my phone, emailing what I thought was a “be in tomorrow” but turned out to be a “be in next week. probably.” I worked at the Rehab center while he lied to the physical therapists about how and how often he falls, while my mother alternately refused to care for him anymore and tried to leave on a vacation, while biting my tongue as he ranted about his roommates, the conditions, life.

I worked in between putting our remaining and beloved cat to sleep and cleaning the house, trying to rid it of the smell of sickness. I called HR while picking my daughter up that day, hammering out some long-standing and stagnating issues, and then sat with her while I explained that our cat wouldn’t be coming home. On the way to the car, I held her hand and mentally ticked off the list of things I needed to get done the next day. “We’re all out of cats!” she proclaimed from the backseat, eyes welling up and so we cried a bit together while I ignored the constant pinging of chats from my staff.

I worked while I talked to her school that morning, jotting notes while hearing that she maybe had lice. Or maybe it was awhile ago. But probably there was nothing alive there, now. I dictated an email to my computer while scanning my phone for a lice solution and texting my wife.

I worked with a broken finger, crushed by the car door I thoughtlessly slammed on it. The nail is destroyed, the tip shattered, but now I have a new split, which makes typing emails on my phone easier. It’s still my dominant hand though so showering takes much longer, giving me ample time to decide which issues to push forward and which interpersonal dilemmas to handle first.

I stopped working, momentarily, when my phone fell in the parking lot and the screen broke into a million pieces. And then when I was at the gym, for about 30 minutes, until I tried to dismount the stationary bike at the front of the gym and fell flat on my face, banging my splinted finger. I was thinking of the evaluation I had yet to turn in and how to frame my accomplishments in a way that would still merit an increase but not oversell.

I also did not work while bandaging my wife’s finger, after she cut the tip off and passed out on the floor. She and I are both bandaged now and are significantly more knowledgeable about wound care.

It may look like I haven’t been working. But I’ve been bending the limits of my own multi-tasking and every bit of technology I have, often at the same time, in order to not fall behind. My staff are understanding but I’m exhausted. I hope I’m hiding it. I’d like to actually work*, from my office, during actual working hours.

*I am aware, of course, about family and medical leave, and the importance of self-care in general. But my boss is pretty understanding and so I had the time I needed. The self-care I need is a series of uninterrupted, boring days, not punctuated by my mother’s outrageous behavior, my father’s debilitating illness, and my everyday woes. I am also not a workaholic (which my wife would confirm wholeheartedly) but I am responsible and diligent and refuse to let life get the better of me.

 

 

 

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And Didn’t Even Proofread This

I’m sitting in the parking lot of a local park like a creeper which is something I wouldn’t be doing if it weren’t raining which it is, and has been, which is making it hard to look on the bright side of things.
Things.
Things like my having to call an ambulance for my gasping and uncomfortable dad after my mom cheerily left. “Call the doctor honey, dad fell this morning and I’m worried about his ribs!”
Things like spending the better part of the last four days in the hospital keeping him company even though I haven’t been to work for more than a couple of hours this month.
Things like a text from my mother at 1am telling me that she couldn’t spend the morning with my dad and would I please followed by a last minute call to say that he was probably being discharged and couldn’t I go because, well, she just can’t.
She can’t. She can’t do anything. Follow instructions (mom, don’t go back to your house, I’ll take care of it). Keep her new house clean (mom, where is the walker for dad? under that heap of…things?). Keep her wits together (mom, we’ll find his wallet, relax, it’s in the house. mom, stop trying to flip the bed over.). Be there for my dad (mom, why aren’t you going  to come say goodnight to dad or have dinner with him?) Be there at all (mom, you’re not dressed, or rather you’re half dressed. mom, you can’t leave without shoes. mom, please open your eyes so you can help me pack a bag for dad).
I need her to pull it together. Somehow. My wife and I moved them to an apartment last week. Her sister and our friends chipped in to pack boxes and watch our daughter. We packed everything when she left the house for a hotel, leaving dishes in the sink and blood on the bathroom wall. We unpacked everything before she walked into the new place so she wouldn’t feel overwhelmed. Yesterday she drove an hour to her old house “to get dish tabs” and even though she realized on her way out of town that she could just go to the grocery, she still went. My sister came for 24 hours to get the dog and in the process stirred enough around that she snapped my mom out of the carefully complacent place I’d settled her into and suddenly she was 16 places at once and doing everything poorly. She won’t set up an appointment with a psychiatrist even though the office is just waiting (I’m just too busy to do that, she says). She won’t take a breath (I have so much to do, she says, while doing nothing at all). She’s letting the crazy spill all over everything and asking me to mop up the mess.
I’m stretched about as far as I can go. Well, I thought I’d reached that point already but here I am tapping into something more so clearly things are capable of getting worse, I’m capable of handling worse. I wish I wasn’t. I wish I could be as fragile as she and my dad are.
And so, I’m in this park. Eating a sandwich I don’t like because it was the thing advertised as a deal and my capacity for complicated choices, like sandwiches, ran out yesterday. Watching the water splash onto the empty basketball court and wondering how deep this reserve really is and how I can possibly replenish it.

What’s Next

These are the things that have happened since the new year.

My mother decided to move with my dad to town.
She signed a lease.
My dad sort of signed the lease since he can no longer hold a pen.
My dad had a nose bleed that covered the bathroom in blood, according to my mother.
My dad fell, so many times.
I packed some of her essentials.
Debra packed more of her essentials.
Debra changed all of her utilities.
This made my mother cry.
My mom packed things like a double boiler she only uses for candy and most recently used to scoop up sewage.
Because the plumbing failed again,
And the heater. Again.
Both need major replacements.
They moved to a hotel.
My dad spent 15 minutes meowing like a cat.
My sister informed me that her therapist told her to check-out since she is stressed, and pregnant.
We had to take in my parents large dog. Now we have three. She is not potty-trained but our new rug is pretty absorbent.
It snowed and the car got stuck on the ice.
And then the heat stopped working.
Because the heating coil failed and the oil pan cracked. And I don’t have $2400.
But that’s okay, since they can’t fix it until Friday.
So we have to rent a car to go pack more of my mother’s things since the movers come tomorrow.
And my mother, well, she blamed me for “taking her husband” and “taking everything” but you know that I didn’t.
The next appointment is today, four weeks early, to see what’s wrong.
Something MUST be wrong.

Ways Cancer Doesn’t Suck: Interventions Edition

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You all, my mom, who was volatile? fragile? difficult? to begin with, has pushed my sisters too far. I’d say me, too, except that I’m pretty sure I stepped over the brink years ago. In fact, I emailed her therapist for the three of us, asking for her support in helping mom get to a psychiatrist who can diagnose and manage medications instead of relying on her own diagnosis that she relays to her general practitioner who prescribes what she asks for.

The therapist suggested we meet with my mom and she was receptive, although we told her that it was to help find ways to support her which is not entirely the truth. My sister is in town for the week, thank goodness, because I was not doing this on my own. I don’t have the greatest relationship with my mom to begin with and when she starts looking for someone to blame, she going to land directly on me. I spend some of every day afraid of her. It’s exhausting.

But! Without the cancer we wouldn’t have had the chance to do this with her. She would have never had a therapist. And now we have the chance to get through to her, maybe. It won’t be the first time we have tried, but she’s so conscious of what other people think of her, that she’s likely to stay put and listen since it’s good manners. So there’s your latest awful, terrible, no good cancer silver lining.

I’ve Got You

I picked my father up off of the floor for the first time. He’s not a small man and I couldn’t do it alone. He fell in the hallway, crashing into the ground, into the wall, smashing his head and neck into a strange position. I slipped him to the side and watched as he quaked. My not delicate, strong as an ox, can fix everything, dad has fallen a lot lately. Usually, it’s just my mom with him and after an hour or so he recovers enough for the two of them to drag him back into a chair. Next time, 911, my mother says. I don’t think the falls really sunk in until I found myself kneeling, arms around my father, meeting my wife’s eyes.

It’s okay, dad, I’ve got you.
You sure, kid?Of course. You spent so much time scooping me up, it’s my turn now.

But the truth is, I did not have him. I was in no way certain I wasn’t going to collapse. We did it though, the three of us together, dragging him back into a chair. My mother was hiding.

The doctor doesn’t have a good reason for the falls. His cerebellum is swelling on both sides a bit, but that doesn’t explain the way he walks, the tremors, or the falls. Although, the doctor says, the are some things that signify Parkinson’s and they suspect that, if the swelling goes down and things don’t return to the usual, shitty, state of normal, that it may well be this, completely unrelated, disease.

Because of course the fuck it is.

 

By Tomorrow

Find a place to see Christmas lights, my mom says. You know the kind where the shops are decorated and the trees are strung with white lights, she says. It shouldn’t be loud, my dad says. Or crowded, or cold, and it needs to be wheelchair accessible, says my mom. Maybe the downtown walking mall, she says.

I agree that yes there is a tree, but I’m not sure about other decorations. Not the stores. And it’s all outside, I mention, and there will be a lot of people.

No, she says, the street is lined with those trees that are lit up with the teeny white lights.

You are thinking of another place, I say. I don’t know if I can find a place that meets all of these things, I say.

Well, think harder, she says. We want to go tomorrow.

Spoiled

Rampant privilege ahead.

I’m not a social media junkie but I have accounts with the big companies. I use them all differently and some of them infrequently. Twitter is useful when I’m working at a conference, but I use Facebook to keep up with the lives of hundreds of friends. Many of them were only close colleagues for a month or two but the intimate quality of the Foreign Service means I knew their children, had dinner at their homes, and helped them drink the whiskey from their bottom desk drawers on the hard days. It’s a delight to see their lives all over the world and a window to a former life. Mostly, these days, I use Instagram because it’s the pictures that matter most to me and is less of a political platform for the obsessed, irrational, and uninformed.

I also own a smartphone and on it the apps that keep me connected. I am embarrassed to admit that I actually spent time ranting to my wife when Facebook split out the chatting messenger function to a different app. I have changed my tune. I’m incredibly grateful for the change. Because I can’t be there anymore. I can’t see all of the terrible, horrible news my friends share. I can’t see the terrible, horrible bias of their friends. I can’t do anything but crack the door to peek out at the bullshit that is life right now. Call it self-preservation. Beyond the email notifications I get for a few close friends, I don’t see a single picture or hear interesting anecdotes. My larger circle is altogether gone and I miss them. But not enough to endure this world. Not right now.