If you’re thinking this blog has been rather dry lately — it has. I haven’t really felt like sharing much of our “personal” life. Much of the last year has been — overwhelming for us.
For over a year, Frank’s father has had some serious health issues. Tests, surgeries, follow up appointments, billing, double billing, medications, side-effects, drainage bags, bandages.
House cleaning of two houses. Painting, renovations, upgrading — in two houses. Paperwork for another life. Nutrition, diet, maintenance — of another life.
I’m not complaining. What I’m trying to do is explain this new realm that now outranks all the previous priorities of our own lives.
Dad’s “regular” doctor is local, and so is his pharmacist, but they’re in two different towns. And any test, biopsy, surgery, emergency — takes us far away from home. Weston is almost an hour. Clarksburg, and hour and a half. Morgantown? Over two hours away.
Most of the burden has fallen on Frank. Paying Dad’s bills, giving him daily care, taking him to the doctor, pharmacist, grocery store — that’s been Frank’s life for the last year. He mixed his own duties and chores in between those duties, and so much just fell through the cracks.
As his wife, I must remind myself to be patient. Frank has watched his father suffer and weaken over the past year, and it hurts his heart and his brain. Some days his stress has literally locked him up so that he can’t think, can’t eat, can’t function. He does stupid things like setting a fresh hot pizza to go on the roof of the car and driving off.
For several months, both the patient and the caregiver were barely tolerable. It’s understandable, but still, I have to remind myself to respond with love.
We have been relieved lately because Dad has appeared to be on the road to some recovery. The issue of his heart, veins, stomach, reaction to medication seems to have passed.We already had catch up plans sketched out for the year – a camping trip or two, garden projects, home improvements…
But there was one test waiting. A small issue of growths in the bladder that, last year, was the least of our problems. But, they have now come back to the top of the list. In six months, one of them has grown, and following last week’s test, we were now facing a biopsy.
I can see that Frank just kissed this year good-bye. His interest in the seed catalog disappeared. The pressure to get all vehicles in perfectly running order has increased. The frustration with medical billing has doubled. His money-making side projects now are simply chores that may or may not get done, and he’s disappointed. He knows in the back of his mind, it’s possible he’s not likely to get there from here. He hates what’s happening, and fears what’s coming.
So many people in this world have become caregivers for their parents, and yet we feel so alone in this situation. I keep wondering if there’s a “Spouses of Caregiving Children” Support Group out there somewhere. I even feel bad writing this, because I know it’s not about me. It’s about Frank. It’s about Dad. It’s about the love and responsibility that comes with being part of a family. A responsibility we thought we were prepared to handle.
We were not. There is absolutely no way to prepare for this. It’s bigger than you think. More depressing than you think. More frustrating than you think. More time-consuming than you think.
There are more sacrifices than you plan for, more appointments, prescriptions, paperwork. “Aging” and “health care” are general terms you prepare for. Urine bags, drainage, blood samples, loose bowels, canes, walkers, bandages, depression, and pus are the very specific things you actually deal with.
And I have dealt with very little of it.
In fact, because it’s not my father, I have to stand back and observe, and help when needed, if allowed. I know I can help by being patient, tolerant, supportive. Even though when Frank really needs all that, he’s usually being a miserable cuss.
I feel worried. Worried what this biopsy could mean for Dad, worried what another surgery could do to his weak frame, worried about another year with a stressed-out, dysfunctional husband and what that will do to him. And me. And us. Worried that any joy heading our way this year will be tainted by the realities of life.
And yet, I am also thankful. I’m thankful that Frank and I are in a situation where we can be available when needed. That our business allows us to say, “We’re closed today, Dad has to go to the doctor.” I’m thankful that Dad trusts us to help and care for him. I’m thankful that I have a husband who feels so strongly about his loved ones.
Last year was tough on us, because it was tough on Frank, because it was tough on Dad. We’re all in it together.
And that’s family.