For any new readers, this is a continuation of my current situation which involves being back in Virginia, where I grew up, from my home of 15 years in Kona, Hawaii, where I lived with my beautiful late husband until his death in 2013 and further into my strange new world without him with a new boyfriend and my dogs, until the foreclosure is complete some unknown months from now.
Thursday is d-day - Dad-day, the day he comes home from the rehab/nursing home he's been for the past three weeks due to a fall that resulted in a small stress fracture in his back. We've been told over and over to expect it to take up to a week for him to readjust back to a more "normal" environment...but even though he will be back in the house he's lived in for the last 42 years it will not be the same. We are hoping the sense of familiarity will snap him back to a more reasonable sleep schedule for one thing, but he will not be able to sleep in his old bed since that is up a flight of stairs. So we are outfitting the office downstairs with a rented hospital bed, and hopefully the night sitters who have been helping out at the nursing home will continue to come during the nights. Even three of us, my mom, brother and me, will be sorely stretched to deal with his every need for the other 16 hours of the day. And right now my brother is not even here, he is at his home in Charlotte to care for his own family, and his own health issues.
Dad can't be left alone even for one minute because the dementia has taken a steep dive and he is mobile enough to stand and shuffle around with a walker but not in any steady way. So he often just forgets and shuffles off without the walker. Another fall would be devastating. For the elderly, falling is one of the most common reasons that things go downhill at the end. It's the beginning of the end, as this has proven to be for my dad, since his fall last month. And he is restless. He refuses to stay in any one place, bed or chair, for very long. I'm not talking 10 minutes, I'm talking 10 seconds. So it is a real challenge.
I get it. He is uncomfortable. He doesn't feel well. He feels out of control of his life, his surroundings...he is having to make a big life transition during a time of ultimate confusion.
For 83 years he has done what he wanted and gone where he wanted...well, for the most part, since mom has helped him quite a lot during the last couple years as his symptoms have increased. Both of their quality of life has suffered immeasurably as a result. But the past month has been a huge shock to him. He doesn't understand where he is or why he has to be there, or why he can't get up again, why he has to sleep now, why he can't sleep, why he still doesn't feel good sitting in that chair...no place is comfortable, no position feels good, nothing is familiar.
I get it. I am still ambulatory and have all my wits about me (well, most of the time) but let me tell you I totally get his confusion and malaise. I've been talking about a move back to the mainland for awhile now, but this is rapidly speeding things up in terms of my own life. On the other hand...well, the timing with the foreclosure of my house in Kona is coming down pretty fast too. So I would have had to make some tough decisions anyway.
I might have tried to stay in Kona, somehow, for a time, in my own familiar town, with my dogs, my new job, and my boyfriend, who is miserable at this turn of events I might add. Or at least go back and forth as much as I could afford. But now I really can't. And while we are trying to take it day by day, all the huge decisions we are facing are confusing, and unsettling. To move everyone and everything at the same time is overwhelming. I am sure we will get through it, but my own sense of familiarity is also being ripped out from under me. I'm losing the house where I was happy with my husband for 12 years - and three more with the musician. And I am losing my childhood home at the same time. I write that knowing all too well that the pain and hardship for my parents in this transition is just as hard, if not harder. I still have life to live while they are both dealing with the concept that this will, most likely, be the last move.
I have to add a point about how awesome my mom is. She is, amidst all the exhaustion and frustration, a total trooper. She is strong, both physically and emotionally, enough to say things like, well, I've lived my life, now it's time for you to live yours. Make the decision I'll be fine with it.
Not everyone has family so amenable and considerate. I know this all too well.
A bright spot this week was the opportunity to connect with my friend Margaret. Any of you long time readers might remember she is a fellow widow whose husband also died suddenly, too young, and is my same age - middle age, cough cough, leave it at that. She has been one of the saving graces in my life; we were connected through my aunt. She happened to be here in Virginia and we met for brunch. Thank God for her. Thank God for my widowed friends, who get the grief, who get the challenges of the changes, who are facing, or have faced, many of the same decisions and hardships. And thank God for the friends and family who think to get in touch and ask how things are going. It makes it bearable, knowing I am still in their hearts, no matter the distance, as I walk away from a life I've known for so long, into yet another strange new world