2018 Travails

Last year, 2018, started out like any other year for me and my dad. We had a rhythm going of me taking him to doctor appointments and following those up with grocery runs and sometimes medicine runs at the local Walgreen’s.

At the beginning of the year, my dad was grossly overweight. It hurt for him to walk very far, and a friend of his who stayed with him the first month and a half of the year got Dad fixed up with a cane. My dad likes toys that bring attention to himself, so he was thrilled with the purchase.

During my dad’s friend’s stay, dad had a few doctor appointments, and his friend wound up playing a bit of nursemaid to Dad. Not the fun time he was expecting, so he left a month early to head back to Wisconsin. That broke Dad’s heart and he vowed he’d take a trip up to see his friend during the summer time to get out of the Florida heat, which he did.

I planned and saved for that trip, and I prayed that I could trust dad to not drink his way up to Wisconsin the moment he stepped foot into Jacksonvile Internation Airport and out of my sight. My trust was misplaced, because the moment he found a place to whet his whistle, he started drinking. In the little time it took to fly from Jacksonville, Florida, to Green Bay, Wisconsin, Dad got plastered. And plastered he stayed for the whole four weeks he was away.

In the meantime, I was dealing with flooding in Dad’s apartment. Apparently, shortly after Dad left for vacation, several pipes burst in the ceiling and flooded the place for so many days that water was pouring out the front door and collecting into a three-foot circular puddle.

By the time Dad returned, the apartment had been put back together. Too bad Dad wasn’t the same. He had money left over from his trip and he started sweet-talking neighbors into taking him down to the grocery so he could buy his prescriptions (which come by mail) and he’d come out of the store with a six-pack or bottles of liquor. He stayed pickeled for two-and-a-half weeks. In that time, he managed to get me taken off as his. Social Security payee, which meant I had no way to pay his bills, save out of my own pocket. In the heat of all this, Dad wound up having a heart attack.

While in the hospital, Dad’s kidneys started failing, and I had to remind his doctors that Dad was a DNR–do not resusitate. After about three weeks in the hospital, he was transferred to a Life Care Center for rehab. He lost loads of weight and though he was not sure on his feet, a fall risk, he did his best to walk.

Dad loved it there. I was in the process of making his stay permanent, when I got talked out of it by my brother and boyfriend. Since Dad’s been home (October), he’s been an absolute nightmare. He wants spending money. He wanders for miles around the area with his walker at all times of the day and night. He consorts with questionable people who drink alcohol in public. He sorts through ashtray bins to see if there are any butts he can smoke.

I can understand Dad wanting to have spending money, but with him his spending money will be used on booze and cigarettes, two things that are contraindicated with all his medications. Not to mention he’s a nightmare when he’s drinking.

On top of all this, his paranoia has set in. He’s accused me of comeing into his apartment and stealing from him. What, exactly, I don’t know. There isn’t anything over there that I could possibly want. He surrounds himself with junk. Actual junk that he’s picked up off the side of the road and out of the garbage. We had a cleaning lady come in last week and remove all the garbage, clean the carpets, and rooms. He probably just can’t find some special junk he was partial to and is blaming me for its disappearance.

I’m taking him in to see a neurologist on Tuesday to determine if he’s had a stroke, if he’s developed pseudobulbar affect and dementia. It’s not going to be a fun trip.  I’m going to have to ask the doctor to help me get him a psych eval for him. We need to build up the case that he needs to go back into long-term care and stay there. His activities are too risky. He engages with sketchy people, one of whom stole his cell phone. He has a history of this, but it’s usually when he’s drinking. I just feel as though I’m dealing with a drunk every single day, and it’s affecting my ability to create. It’s affecting my relationships. It’s affecting me. I need someone to help me get him in a facility where he will be well taken care of, safe, and where he will have lots of activities to keep him busy and happy. That’s all he really wants at the end of the day is company and things to do and see.

We’ll see what this week brings.

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A Dawning Realization

My dad’s best friend, Jim, is coming for A Friendly Visit in January. He’ll be here for three months.

Earlier today, my dad called me to let me know that Jim will need to have a doctor when he comes down, because he needs, among other things I’m sure, to have his blood drawn every month.

No problem. I can get our doctor’s information to Jim.

Hours pass.

I sit down to prepare my writing plan for this week, and it dawns on me that I am now going to have to take care of–at least in part–Jim’s medical needs, too. It’ll be like having two dads to care for.

I truly don’t mind overseeing these two’s medical care. I’d rather know what’s going on with them than not, so I can make certain they’re not doing anything to harm themselves–which they will. Fifty-three years of experience assures me of that.

It’s just that I also realized that it’s not going to stop at medical oversight. Jim will have a vehicle. The two of them will want to go on road trips. Neither know where to go around here, so it’s going to be up to me to be their human GPS, since neither has a smart phone.

Is it harsh to say I don’t have the time to play travel guide? In truth, I don’t have the time. I have writing and editing and consulting to do. I have my own ailments to deal with.

Neither do I have the inclination. Dad, as you know, was never around when my brother and I were growing up. He wasn’t a part of our lives as we grew into adulthood, because he was busy being a drunk, getting into trouble (read: sitting in jail), and going through wives and girlfriends (sometimes simultaneously). We didn’t want to be around him.

Now, I’m faced with these two. Who, together, will get into trouble. They will act like little boys, as they have done for as long as I can remember. Will giggle when they’re caught.

And I find myself unable to see the humor in everything that’s going to come next.

 

The case of the ball that lost its bounce

What is it that stops you in your tracks?  For the past several weeks – several weeks – I have tried to think of how to describe what I have experienced since I brought my dad back to Florida.  It’s not so much frustration as it is pressure, but not the kind of pressure that breeds anxiety.

I’m not anxious.

I know what needs to be done to move ahead, but that’s just the problem.  I know.  I know, because I’ve done it before, and I know not one part of what I have to do is going to be easy or appreciated.  It’s that knowledge that has my stymied.

If you can, imagine yourself inside a ball that’s filled with that gooey stuff inside a stress ball.  I feel as though I’m inside that ball.  I’m a lump that gets manipulated by a huge hand.  Each finger is a different stressor, and I’m desperately trying to press myself back into the relative shelter of the palm.

It’s just not working.  The fingers are rolling me into contortions all over the inside of that ball.

Every breath I take, from the moment I wake until the moment my head hits the pillow (notice I don’t say “sleep”),  I feel the atmosphere compressing that ball.  Think about it:  the force of everything compressing equally over that ball.  I’m in the middle, and I can’t move.  I can’t breathe.  I have to heave a sigh just to take in air, otherwise, my breathing is so shallow, I have to think myself into taking a breath.

My mind feels suspended.  There really isn’t another word for it.  Blank doesn’t quite describe it, neither does empty.  I feel too much inside my head, see too much.  The sense of overwhelm is like a too-thick layer of skin and it paralyzes me.

Don’t get me wrong, to look at me, you wouldn’t know anything was going on with me.  I may strike you as too quiet, aloof even.  All business with a pleasant face.  My humor, as always, would be dark, biting, even self-deprecating.  I’d make you laugh, but only so I can get you to go on your way.

I’m the queen of placation.

The problem is that it takes every ounce of energy for me to emit that façade of interaction.  I would receive no energy from you.  I would only be throwing my energy at you to get you away from me so I could force myself back to the dad-tasks to get them done as quickly as possible so I can accomplish at least one thing for myself.

It doesn’t always happen, the doing something for myself part.  That’s why I need my notebook.  Not my smart-phone, not my laptop, but my plain paper notebook.  Jotting is quicker than booting up and typing.  Flipping is faster than searching.  I need my notebook to quickly show myself what I’ve done as much as to remind me what I need to do.

And that’s just it:  I now have too much to do.  Dad is a 24-7-365 job.  Even though he’s in his own apartment – he’s living on the other side of my woods – Dad calls every couple of hours to ask me if it’s raining where I am.  (He’s about 300 yards away).  He and the dogs will pop over at various times throughout the day to visit.  Unannounced.  Dad just wants to tell me about his day and show me an ungodly number of pictures he’s taken of virtually nothing, and I can’t stand it.  I don’t care that he’s seen the same ducks he’s seen for the past month.  I don’t care that his neighbor has moved in or out.  I don’t care.

I do care that he’s safe and well and that he has enough to eat and that he will always have a place to call his own.  Every day.  I just want that to be enough, but I know it’s not.  I have to dig deeper inside myself, drill out my marrow if I have to, in order to find that last speck of whatever it is – life, I guess – to make me get up tomorrow so I can lead him through another good day in a place that makes him feel secure.