Holding Pattern

I’m afraid my last post was probably too emotionally charged. It generated many responses and communications from people and had me wondering if I hadn’t made too much of a stink about things. Even though I expressed myself truthfully, I wonder if it wasn’t a bit self-indulgent. And I wonder if I may have stirred the pot too soon, as it were. I say this now because, after making a big deal of all that’s been going on, I begin to wonder if Dad won’t be here a little longer than I’d originally thought after all…

Why? Because he’s got a big, comfy hospital-style bed in the living room now. A bed which self-inflates and self-deflates in different zones in twenty minute intervals in order to prevent bed sores and keep circulation going, a bed which can raise him up to eat in a sitting position, and lower him down to sleep. He has been given – through this miracle operation of hospice – a full range of gadgets and accessories that promise to make his life cleaner, more comfortable and healthier than it has been over the past few weeks (if not months). All that and his lasting and evident sense of humor are telling me he may stick around for a bit.

I kinda wish I had a bed like that myself to hide out in right about now. Frazzled with a sudden influx of things going on at school and falling behind in a myriad of domestic chores, I haven’t showered in at least three days and my son and I haven’t had a fresh vegetable in nearly a week as I’ve had no time to catch up. I know it’s not just me; this time of year we grown-ups have a lot on our hands. With presents and parties and cards and driveways to shovel, I know I’m not the only one up to my ears in laundry and dirty dishes. Even the gal who drives my son to school in the mornings – usually a fairly upbeat and energetic woman – even she seemed a little worn and tired this morning. I thought I recognized that look, I certainly felt the same. So now that dad and mom are getting into their new groove, I’m feeling a bit of relief. This afternoon we finally have no commitments. No doctor’s appointments (Elihu had his braces put on yesterday), no car pool duty, no chorus to accompany, no students. So I’m taking the opportunity to go grocery shopping. Last night we ate the last of the pasta in the house and rounded things out with leftover party food. Ich. Can’t wait for a salad…

Elihu flies to Chicago this weekend too. I’m so very happy for him, he’s beside himself with anticipation. I’ve never seen him fill the Advent calendar so eagerly (ours is a series of pockets into which we insert a feather a day). I’m happy for him, and also relieved in that I don’t think dad will go while he’s gone. Never know, but I have a feeling. Having the house to myself is most welcome, but at this time of year it can be bittersweet, too. Last year was my only Christmas with Elihu here, and it wasn’t exactly a success. Santa found him alright, but a household of just two can be lonely on Christmas morning. So my heart is lifted to know he’ll be with his baby brothers, grandma and full household. On our end, it will be strange. Dad in his big bed, Andrew wordless, silent, unreadable, and mom chattering away to fill the space. And the tv on behind it all. I’d say jokingly that alcohol is a welcome buffer, but is it then fair to drink in front of Andrew? I don’t know. I really don’t like this situation. Likely I’ll drink. Most likely.

Mom and dad have the same birthday, January 6th. Epiphany. Imagine that. I still find it fascinating. I mean, what are the odds? They’re seven years apart, and their total years always add up to an odd number. A quick tally tells me they’ll be 165 this year. I find myself wondering if dad might wait til then. I wonder. Nothing is certain. How we’ll handle it, how I’ll be able to keep my professional self together until then, and after then. How life continues. I realize I’m sounding like the first person ever to have gone through this, but until an experience is personally yours, it kinda feels like it has no relevance at all to you. And really, it doesn’t. You pay so much more careful attention when you are living through something. You just don’t fully notice or appreciate things until you’re dealing with them. Like buying a car, or getting a haircut, or having a baby. As soon as it’s on your mind you start to seek out information. You want to hear other folk’s take on things. And then when that’s done, it’s off your mind again. And the time in between events is sort of a coasting, a living on auto pilot sort of thing. At least for me it is; it seems I travel through life from one heightened sense of awareness to another, with great wafts of less intense time in between. I feel a queer mix of both right now. With the house soon to be empty, and this great not-knowing going on, I don’t feel I’m really anywhere. Strange place, this nowhere.

The weather might be a bit blustery for travel this weekend, so part of my attention is going to that situation too. I think of my son’s plane, being de-iced, sitting, waiting on the tarmac for the opportunity for departure. Here too is an uncertain situation. He’ll be bringing a good book, a bottle of water and his DS. So he’s prepared for a long wait if need be. Never once in his years of travel has he ever been re-routed on account of weather, and I pray things remain thus. Nothing I can do about the outcome, so I’ll just have to wait and see.

There’s a lot of wait and see these days. Like an airplane in search of safe landing, we’re all just in a holding pattern for now.

4 thoughts on “Holding Pattern

  1. A lot of the problem that most of us have with the general Christmas season is that we have this concept that it has to be “the most wonderful time of the year,” as the song goes. This time of the year has an unrealistic reputation of being a totally joyous, festive time, and so when we feel stressed, worried, tired and sad, we feel like we’re missing out on something that we should be “getting”. That’s probably why we hear about people getting “seasonal blues”. We enter this time of the year thinking that we’re supposed to be overwhelmingly happy, and if we aren’t, then we feel like we have FAILED! At least, I do, but I keep trying to make something nice out of it all. In the ’80s (or was it the 90s?), some people used a phrase about “getting in touch with their inner child”, but I always found it more easy to get in touch with my inner grumpy old man! And that seems to be even easier to do as time advances… I guess that means that a lot of us have an “inner Scrooge”, but we don’t have to stay stuck with that. There’s always something nice to reflect on to lift our spirits a bit.

    I hope that doesn’t sound like a lot of “psycho-babble”! Just thinking out loud here, that’s all. There are always moments when I find that I can connect with whatever the old Christmas magic of childhood was, such as when I see sunlight sparkling off the surface of snow, or when I give one of my kids an early present. As artificial as we might think that decorations are, there’s something there, like a spark of the human spirit, trying to add a little something to make the normal surroundings a little nicer, a little more special. Of course, some decorations are just flat-out tacky, but other things can subtly add a nice touch to the atmosphere of the home. One of the best things to shake the holiday blues is to get outside for a while, and get some fresh air. That alone is helpful. Then, especially if you’re outside long enough to get good and cold, you feel glad to go back inside, where it’s nice and warm. The shift of perspective from being outside shovelling snow can make a difference, once you get back inside. If it doesn’t, then at least you tried!

    Here’s hoping that you have “a merry little Christmas”. Sometimes that’s the best kind. Instead of trying to make a big production of it all, it can be nicer to just have a bit of a quiet time. That Dr. Atkins might not approve, but I’ve always been a firm believer that a little chocolate can do a lot of good. Best wishes for you and your family.

  2. Hi, Liz. Totally agree with your addition of parents’ ages. For me everything seems very understandable when I know my parents are 171 years old!

  3. Liz, be sure your dad gets music in his life. In the nursing home where my dad was, I saw a woman who didn’t seem to respond to her surroundings at all. Then one day I came in and she was playing the piano! I saw many of them “come alive” at sing-a-longs too.

    Hospice is pretty good at helping to identify when the end is near. You are so in touch with the situation, I think you will know.

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