And, several times over the past year—in an attempt to explain myself—I started out to write a breezy “things have sucked but I’m just fine” kind of post, but, really, that’s bullshit, so I stopped. I hate being vulnerable, and will go a very long way to avoid admitting I’m struggling, but even I couldn’t believe that happy crappy.
I’ve been my father’s primary caregiver for a while. He’s not quite at the point where he requires heavy duty medical type care, but he’s needed someone there, to be keeping an eye on things and helping him, even if he won’t always admit it.
It’s basically parenting in reverse. And I’ve never had kids and can’t apply those parenting lessons backwards, so this is all new.
Kids generally get better. A day will come when they’ll make clear they no longer need your assistance with a particular task. The end goal is launching them successfully into adulthood.
But taking care of an aging parent is the opposite. They get worse. The end goal is death. And you won’t know that they need assistance with a particular task until they either tell you or something goes wrong.
In my experience it’s almost always the second one. And then along with emergency medical visits or panicked 911 calls or arguing with doctors, you get to deal with the crushing guilt.
What did I miss? How did I not see this before it was a crisis?
A few months ago, my dad moved into a new place, where he can transition seamlessly into different levels of care as he needs them. I’m no longer the only set of eyes watching out for him. I’m feeling enormous relief that I’m no longer the only one keeping track.
So, maybe, I can get back to work.
But having a writer’s imagination is no gift in this situation.
My dad is in his late 80s, dealing with chronic severe pain and limited mobility from a serious injury forty years ago as well as spinal stenosis, along with a bunch of other medical problems that come with being old.
Aging is a brutal process. Every time I sit down and try to write one of my own stories, I start obsessing over his, worrying over how it will eventually end.
But I have to get back to work, for my sanity and for my financial survival. Book 4 has FINALLY started to gel in my mind (as well as 5, 6, and 7) and maybe this time I’ve got the real story instead of the mess caused by grimly trying to meet word counts while my mind is elsewhere.
We’ll see. Thanks for your patience.
(And if you’re a caregiver, know that no one really gets it who hasn’t gone through it. If nobody else has told you, you’re doing a good job and it’s important work. If you’re not a caregiver, but know somebody who is, call them. Offer to take them to lunch. Don’t give them shit if even lunch is too much to deal with right now. Just knowing somebody gives a damn really helps, even if you can’t do more than that.)