Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Sounds divine, non?
Non. Not even a little bit. I didn't stay in my pajamas all day by choice. It just so happens that my arrival home the day before coincided with my father's arrival home from a 3.5 day hospital stay, and the next day it was my duty to be his primary caretaker.
Now, it was a scheduled surgery, not an accident, and he's going to be just fine or even more than in a few months. Yes, it was scheduled for the time I'd be home since Mom and One of My Siblings (the other missed Christmas with us this year) both work and the doctors said that it was either have someone available for him 24/7 for the first week or he was to go to a rehab hospital for post-op care.
The idea was that we'd trade off shifts and no one person would have to shoulder most of the responsibility. Unfortunately, it didn't work out that way, and I took point with my mother close behind and Sibling a helpful, but a little more removed third.
That first day alone was awful. Dad needed something constantly, whether it was a machine adjusted, a urinal emptied (luckily, I stopped gagging about this the third time), food, meds, drinks, physical therapy assistance, and so on. He was finally okay on his own for my brief shower, but I cried before, during, and after said shower, partly because the whole thing was wearing me out and partly because I was so mad at myself for feeling so worn out and selfish, and it was only Day 1.
The good news is that it got better. Dad got stronger and gained more independence each day, and we sort of fell into a somewhat predictable routine. Despite everything, it was still mostly refreshing to be home. There's also something to be said about fighting and going through hellish ordeals with someone you're in a committed relationship with, something I don't often experience. You know that no matter what you say and do, you still love each other and WILL work it out. Of course, that makes some things sting more, but it still gives you hope.
Of course, I do wish that my dad had not once, but three times, not used his lucid moments to get after me and my lack of dating life. The last time was actually during Christmas breakfast and found me 1) swearing in front of my parents for the first time in my life (it was only "damn" and used for emphasis, but still) 2)storming off and 3)crying on the bathroom floor for an hour.
Not really a Christmas memory I wish to keep, but only one of the three of us in that conversation was on heavy medication at the time. He'll remember it happened, but he won't really remember all the details.
But like I said, it did get better. Even if neither my mom nor I had a full night's sleep (there were meds to given in the middle of the night) and taking care of a middle-aged post-op man is surprisingly like unto taking care of an infant, at least I was with my family. I did get out of the house a few times, and I showered, at some point, every day. Christmas itself didn't suck entirely and by the end of the week, there was far more laughter than tears. Plus, I never actually had to watch my dad relieve himself or bathe him, which would just have been embarrassing for both of us.
It was just a MAJOR adjustment to go from my solitary life to taking care of my father full-time, and not the vacation I was hoping for. I am most certainly glad I was able to be home for and with my family. If I had to, I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
I feel for those who have to take care of a parent or spouse full-time for more than a week. I don't know how you do it. I hope this experience helps me less self-centered the next time I have an opportunity to serve in a major capacity, or even a minor one. I know I learned quite a bit about communication and patience this week, I just hope I can keep those lessons with me.
I also wish my dad a very speedy recovery, and Mom and Sibling the patience to carry on without me.
How was your Christmas?