I am woman….hear me blow snot bubbles…..
I am also a card carrying member of the “sandwich generation”.
And I would like to punch whoever came up with this notion of superwoman right in the left boob.
Suck it Enjoli! What’s wrong with asking for help? Idiot!
#ineveraskforhelp #becauseimstubbornnotbecauseiminvincible #letsjustgetthatstraight
Last night I hit a proverbial wall. I tried to body slam my husband into it with me as I flailed through my house looking for a lost item. This was the second crisis phone call of the week. The first one was Tuesday night with my mother pleading that I speak with my father who insisted that…
… three men…
…picked him up from somewhere…
…drove him around and threatened him…
…scared him and said they would hurt people…
…and dropped him off at the place he is now and he has no money and nowhere to go and he can’t pay the bill for where they put him…
I did the precious little that I could to assure him that he was safe and I would never let harm come to him which he promptly forgot because he has little to no short-term memory left. And round and round we go. He doesn’t know his home. He doesn’t know my mother. He doesn’t know where his money is or if he should go to work. He tries to help but only gets in the way. He tries to remember and can’t and we get frustrated with him and then feel the guilt because none of this in our control, let alone his.
Last night I got the call that he lost his wallet. I searched and at one point stood in my living room covering my face with my hands as I fought off tears. Maximum fusion was met. Critical mass. Defcon status.
When they tell you that a loved one is ill, I think it’s human nature to cling to the furthest marker of the health barometer. My father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2013. The life expectancy of an Alzheimer’s patient is five to ten years. So ten right? Ten years is great. One whole decade. We can pack so much life into ten years. We got this. By then, who knows, they’ll have a cure. This is what went through my mind upon his diagnosis; coupled with an overwhelming relief of finally being able to define what was happening to him. Isn’t that a grand word? Define. Oh it’s been defined alright, but we all deluded ourselves into thinking that somehow we’d escape the dirty details.
They don’t prepare you for things like how to tell your mother that her marriage of almost fifty years is effectively over. There’s only one participant left in it. Spouse has been replaced by caregiver which is a modern-day synonym for superhero. Screw Batman….he’s an idiot. Have you met my Mom? That’s a superhero.
They don’t tell you that you’ll have to face the stark terror in your loved one’s voice as they imagine horrible things happening and you can’t comfort them because in their mind they don’t remember who you are. They don’t believe you when you say it’s alright because they’re old and tired and truly believe that all of their money is gone and they’ll be arrested momentarily for being a bum. That some days they believe they’re 25 and not even married yet and the lady who is so nice and cares for them isn’t their wife but a nurse and then they catch a glimpse of themselves in the mirror and don’t see the hale and hearty 25 year they think they are. And you have to watch their face drop in horror as the reality settles on them again and again and again.
They don’t tell you that Medicare covers relatively nothing in terms of adult daycare or visiting nurses.
They don’t tell you that your marriage vows…the mind’s eye promise that as their spouse you’ll see it through to the bitter end rarely happens. It’s too much and at some point you will have to offer up your spouse to strangers to care for them. Or that your daughter who tries to help truly sees what a marriage is all about. It’s not the wedding day or the pretty ring he bought you for your anniversary. It’s dressing him. Bathing him. Blocking the door at night so he won’t wander. It’s loving him in spite of sometimes a very unlovable behavior. It’s smiling at him when you want to cry. It’s quietly redirecting his attention not to remembering the good time, but forgetting the bad times he’s grappling through right now. My mother has truly shown me what marriage is. So has my husband as I reconcile all of this information.
They don’t tell you that in addition to balancing your own life, work, house, chores, children; that now you’ll have to keep tabs on keeping the caregiver in balance as well. Because if they go, this whole house of cards goes with them.
They don’t tell you that you have to discipline your parents for hiding stuff from you.
They don’t tell you that you get angry. That some days, you resent your entire life being put up in the air ad infinitum. They don’t tell you the horrible weight of guilt for ever feeling angry about any of this. They don’t tell you that to feel this way is human and very, very forgivable.
So my husband has stood by me through all of this. This post is truly a love letter to the man who doesn’t like facing his wife falling apart. I yelled at him that he wouldn’t even hug me because he was such a caveman and that women cry and it wasn’t tears of sulfuric acid that would dissolve all of his chest hair and what the hell was wrong with him that common sense couldn’t dictate in his world that perhaps I need comfort. What kind of a monster???
SO WHAT DO YOU WANT SHANNON?
ME WANT HUG CAVEMAN.
So he held me as I choked and sobbed. My father is gone. He’s still here but he’s gone. And I faced that fact down yesterday as I calmly tried to reassure my mom that we’d all be okay through a series of phone calls to gauge the status of what needed to be done. I cried until I semi dry heaved. I cried for my Daddy. I cried for the fear I heard in his voice. I cried for my Mom. I cried for my husband who is forever helping me pick up the pieces. I cried for my dog who was upset that I was crying. I cried for my daughter who is trying to juggle her own Titanic sized list of responsibilities. I cried because I needed a pedicure. I cried because I can rarely make plans anymore. I cried because the only comfort I can give my father is to shelter him and feed him and read to him just like he did for me as a child. I cried for things I can’t control and even a few that I could. I cried for the frustration that I, the one who always comes out on top, couldn’t win this one. There’s no winning.
So Magilla, God bless his dear heart, tried to comfort me with sweet words. He said softly, “One day at a time babe.” I snarled back that this wasn’t AA. He lamented that there was so much weight being put on me, “Babe, Mei Mei went back to school and you’re watching Wee Baby Child 4 nights a week, and he just started school and your Mom is leaning on you a lot”. Queue my mouth railing and ranting that my mother was a strong woman and he just didn’t get it and Mei Mei needed to further her education because what if I got hit by a bus (pretty sure this sounded like an excellent alternative at the moment in his world since I’d made it clear he couldn’t even breathe correctly on this fine evening BUT HOLD ME).
He finally shook his head and informed me that I wasn’t the only one. “We’re all in this”.
We’re all in this. Whether our loved ones are fighting a large battle or a small, we’re all in this. Whether we are fighting a large battle or small, we’re all in this.
There is no level of sympathy required. I do what I do out of love for my family. I was raised to believe that family is the only thing that matters. It is the end all be all of our existence. That being said, we do what we do for those we love and who love us.
We’re all in this. None of us are immune to aging. None of us are immune to watching our loved ones die. None of us are immune to our peculiar reactions to these events.
I don’t write this for pity or for any other purpose than that of stating simply for anyone going through something….
Therefore the grace of God go I.
I lean on the strength of others in my life that I know love me and don’t judge me for my humanity so that one day they may lean on me while I do the same. If this isn’t the bare essence of what our lives are meant to be, then I don’t know what is.
We’re all in this.