Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Catching Our Breath and Our Balance

Well, today was one of those crisis-evaporation days. Mom's doctor told her that she won't have any surgical procedures, that her heart's working better than they thought, so they're just keeping her on meds. She moved to a room without a heart monitor, and (from a conversation she had with me) seems resigned to going to a nursing home for rehab. She's happy about no surgery, though!

Dad met with one doctor, rather than the two we'd been told would see him. This doc said that Dad will have another test -- I don't know what -- tomorrow, and will then be shipped back to Reno for the week or two it will take a national committee to decide whether to let him into the study. Oy! If he wants up being a) selected for the study and b) randomized to the experimental group, rather than the control group, they'll fly him back to Palo Alto to have the procedure in January.

So he'll be back here for Christmas, and Gary and I won't be going to Palo Alto anytime soon.

I should be relieved about all of this, and of course I am, especially the part about Mom not needing surgery. I also feel weirdly disoriented, though. I've been in crisis mode for so long that having it yanked away suddenly has thrown me off balance. Mom's happy; Dad's annoyed and frustrated by delays but in good humor; I feel like I'm in a fog.

The prospect of a January procedure also alarms me, because I can't afford to be in Palo Alto at the beginning of the semester. So I'm hoping that if Dad's chosen for the procedure, it will happen at the beginning of January (classes start after MLK Day), so I can be there, but that means that I need to start digging into the huge pile of work I'd normally have ignored until after Christmas: annual-review materials, course planning for next semester, reference letters for students applying to grad school, written work by grad students whose committees I'm on, and so forth. This is especially true because there's no way of knowing when the next crisis will hit, and how much time and emotional energy it will eat.

Oh, and I have to write my Christmas homily!

But my brain doesn't want to do any of that stuff right now. My brain wants to melt into a puddle and sleep for three days.

This effect is exacerbated by the fact that I couldn't swim today, since the health club had no heat or hot water. We visited our friend Katharine, who had hip-replacement surgery yesterday and seems to be doing splendidly -- as Gary said, "It's so nice to visit someone in the hospital who isn't in horrible shape!" -- and then went to the grocery store to look for soy cream cheese for me to eat with the lox my sister and BIL sent for Christmas. (They also sent Belgian chocolate. Yum!) Our local Safeway had no soy cream cheese, although I can usually find it there. I'll have to make a Trader Joe's run soon.

I got a shred of work done this evening; I hope the pace picks up tomorrow. I also spent some time fretting about Christmas. Will Dad be in a hospital, a nursing home, or his apartment? We'll have to bring Christmas to him -- in all the craziness, we haven't gotten a wheelchair ramp for the house yet -- but we'll have to make sure we bring easy-to-eat food. I have one gift for Fran, and Dad's suggested others, but what small, useful thing can I give him to open on Christmas?

On the phone tonight, he said, "I don't want you to give me anything for Christmas. You've done enough."

"I've already given you those new slippers," I said. (This was a mini-saga back when he was waiting to go to San Francisco; the hospital lost one of his beloved fleece slippers, so we ordered another pair as an early Christmas gift, and hoped they'd arrive before he left for the city, and they did, but they were the wrong size, so we had to reorder them.) "And anyway, if I want to give you something, I'm going to give you something."

"Brat!" He sounded genuinely annoyed.

"It won't be anything big, Dad, but I want you to have something to open on Christmas."

"I can tell I shouldn't have even brought up the subject!"

I do want to give him some little thing, but I can't think what. I'll figure it out, though.

Just as soon as my brain starts working again.


  1. HOORAY for some good news! So very glad your Mom's heart is working better than had been thought and hope her rehab stay is short and helpful! So hope you can get a couple good, solid nights of sleep and days with swimming; you deserve them.

  2. Amen to all that Terri said, Susan! Looking forward to more news as things resolve themselves. Could your Mom get pet therapy while in rehab? Hope your week improves and you get those days of needed rest and exercise; you've more than earned them. Prayers continue for all.


  3. I'm glad things are looking up for everyone -- you all deserve some good news!

    As a fellow depressive and former parental caretaker, I say, if you feel like sleeping all day, do so. One or two will probably be enough.

    Re: the present for your dad, here's a sort-of idea. I know your dad isn't as old as mine and hasn't had the same experiences, but one year I scoured the antique/junque stores of Reno and bought Dad a hard bound 1935 Collier's Atlas of the World. He traveled so much pre- and during WWII and he loved seeing the world mapped as he knew it and reading about all the places he'd been, written roughly at the time he'd been there. Would your dad enjoy some memories of the areas he's lived in? Something like that would also be portable and he could take it to Palo Alto to enjoy.

  4. I sincerely hope that the consumption of soy cream cheese with bagels and lox is due to being lactose intolerant. That is about the only reason such an abomination is allowed.

    Thus speaketh the scion of generations of Jewish bakers.

  5. Anonymous5:16 PM

    Dear Susan,

    So glad to hear that life is letting up a little. Like Inez, I say, if you need sleep, take it! The work won't go away by itself, alas, but it will surely be easier after a proper rest ...

    Good luck with the end of the semester,


  6. Caregiving can be very rewarding...but the phrase "caregiver burden" also very true! Take care of you first....there are other folks helping to take care of your dad and Mom and (hopefully) Fran....but you need to take care of YOU first - it's not selfish, it's the only way to keep up eldercare - it's not a sprint, it's a marathon.

    In terms of gifts - hard candy, PJs, new bathrobe, subscription to newspaper or magazine,(often can order on line) some music CDS that might help him reminisce about earlier stages of life (if he has a CD player he can manage) wireless TV headphones (Sony has some for about $65 available on line at the Sony site, requires a couple of batteries, allows the wearer to have TV as loud as they like but no one else can hear it) if he is hard of hearing, some fancy jam or jelly or cheese (every diet needs a few treats), a gift coupon for a trip to the barber, a set of large print playing cards if he likes cards but has decreased eyesight...a restaurant gift certificate and menu (ideally a place that does a lot of takeout - he and Fran could order a meal and use the gift cert to pay for it..of course, you'd have to pick it up and deliver it..but it would give them a 'special treat' meal), a disposable camera so he and Fran can take some pictures of their new place to share, prestamped cards and letters, preprinted large size return address labels for their new home...hope some of those ideas help!

  7. Thanks so much, everybody! Miss Mouse, great ideas. Inez, I like your idea too, but he can't see to read these days. Lee, I hope the nursing home will allow pets! Arthur, I'm allergic to dairy, but do the best I can with the available substitutes.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.