Tuesday night. A long, tiring day that began with clearing six inches of snow off the driveway and then driving to town for weekly grocery shopping. I’ve decided to add back the co-op grocery store, which in the interest of economy of motion, I had been skipping. I stop there now for the organic veggies, interesting juices, such as blueberry, and, of course, the freshly baked cookies.
My decision to return to the co-op for part of our grocery needs was motivated only in part by what can be purchased there in contrast to the regular grocery store. The fact is I had never been as enthusiastic about shopping there as Carol was. She placed far more emphasis on being careful about the food she ingested than did I. And prices at the co-op are high.
I recognize that my initial motivation to shop at the co-op again was to say hello to our nephew who now works there. He had just graduated from Michigan State, and I wanted to say to him something like, “See what a first class college education gets you, unpacking and shelving food stuffs.” I know, of course, he is just trying to earn the money he will need to live on when he begins his unpaid internship working for a local politician.
So, my intention was to stop there once, deliver that line, have a laugh, and that would be it. As it turns out, his schedule and mine did not mesh, and I did not see him there after all.
But something strange happened when I re-entered the store after not having been in it for perhaps a year.
I felt a positive vibe.
So the next week, and the one after, I continued stopping there, just for a few items, while continuing to do the bulk of my shopping as before. My attitude toward the store had changed. It felt right to be there.
And then I understood. Shopping there increased my hold on the then, on Carol as she had been, pushing back, for the while against the inevitable imposition of the now.
This made more sense when I told Carol the cookie she was having for desert, or the juice she was drinking came from the co-op. She quite clearly responded with a big smile and a nod. Of course, she was saying without words,”I always told you how much I like to shop there.”
Wednesday night. No appointments, no errands, no phone calls today. Carol in a reasonably good mood for most of the day. In the quiet I was able to attend to the business of being a writer, researching possible markets for my work, and that was a pleasant change.
Forecast is for snow tonight ending about noon when lunch with the guys minus one is scheduled. The one is now on the Alabama shore far removed from any threat of snow.
As I write this, I know the east coast is again being hammered. I hope my daughters and their husbands all got home safely.
Had I kept my plans to attend my grandson’s bar mitzvah, I would probably be driving through this weather. Maybe there’s some god looking down and declaring let’s give him a break. He could use one.
I do worry about my own well-being. Well, of course, I do. But for me if I wake up feeling a little off my feed, as they say around here, as I have done the past couple of days, I tell myself I just can’t get sick. If I do, who is going to take care of Carol.
When I make my way carefully over the ice and snow to cross the road to get the newspaper or the mail I feel my hip to make sure I have my phone in case I take a header as I did last winter when my feet flew out from underneath me and I landed on my back. If I have my phone, I can call for help.
For Carol, that is.
I think of the picture posted on Facebook recently of a family member, a young man in his teens, smiling back at the camera his arm in a cast from a fall on the ice.
I simply can’t afford to be sick or injured.
Of course, something would be worked out. But I worry nonetheless.
Carol as she usually does is sleeping on her back snoring loudly. The dog has risen from her bed and wandered into the kitchen. Sometimes she chooses to sleep by her food dish. Maybe she thinks doing so will somehow cause the bowl to be filled. If I am writing about the dog that means the well has dried up tonight and I will just stop for now.
Back at it on a Thursday evening. Day began, again, with clearing the driveway in time for arrival of caregiver relief and to enable me to keep my weekly lunch date during which we had a good conversation about guns and the second amendment. Somehow from deep in my memory I recalled that in Boston in 1637 that city’s government disarmed a group of dissenters from the prevailing religious establishment. I retained that factual nugget from my research years ago for a historical novel I wrote but never sold.
Nurse practitioner came later in the afternoon and found that Carol continues in fine physical shape.
Before the nurse practitioner examined Carol we had a conversation concerning the meeting scheduled for tomorrow in my house to discuss care strategies. The participants will be the supervisors of the hospital’s private duty program, the two aides who provide respite relief for me under that program, and a nurse who occasionally makes home visits, as she did last Friday to cut Carol’s nails.
In anticipation of the meeting, since it is deliberately being scheduled in my house so as to enable me to participate and provide my perspective, I wrote out what I would like these professionals to know.
To wit. It is my firm intention to keep Carol living with me in this house for as long as I can. From that intention everything else flows. First, I need respite relief from my 24/7 caregiver responsibilities. Thus, the primary help I seek from the aides is providing me time to do what I need or want to do. In addition, I appreciate the aide’s assuming certain tasks that I cannot do well, such as giving Carol a bath and washing her hair. One of the aides does that job much better than I can now manage, and I have no ambition to add that chore to my caregiver skill set. Finally, I am happy to have trained medical people here regularly who can alert me to problems I might otherwise not notice or be aware of.
When I leave Carol in the hands of the aides, I expect upon my return I will find her safe and her needs well attended to. All else is extra. If Carol is sleeping, as she often is, and the aide wants to do some minor housecleaning, good, go for it. I certainly won’t object. If the aide wants to try to interact with Carol, read to her, play music, or just chat. Good. But if Carol is not interested, that is fine as well.
In the library after the meeting. Young kids, perhaps first graders, are being coached into producing a puppet show version of Jack and the Beanstalk. I find it somehow refreshing to be in the presence of such youthful exuberance, the giggles of delight. Would that the world were so innocently delightful.
But it, especially my world, is not.
The meeting went well. We covered the points I had laid out, moved on to an extensive conversation concerning products I should buy to provide better hygienic care, and discussed strategies for improving interpersonal interaction with Carol, based on the aides’ experiences and what perspectives I could provide.
Fee fi foe fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman comes across the room in the teacher’s voice reaching but not quite arriving at a basso tone as the show draws to its close, followed by humdrum chore of taking attendance.
We also went over Carol’s meds with the idea of perhaps eliminating some that may not any longer be useful or perhaps are now even counterproductive.
The kids are energized by the show, their high pitched voices filling the sedate, book lined aisles of the library. A happy convergence of young minds and the world weary knowledge stored between the stiff bound covers of the books.
This morning I stopped by my office and saw, as I have countless times before, the old mechanical perpetual calendar on my desk. This is a device that provides three different wheels, one to change the day, one the date, and one the month. I have had it on my desk for probably close to half a century, stretching way back to pre-computer days into the present, wherein I continued to turn those wheels to reflect the actual day.
Until I stopped doing so.
On Saturday, August 12, 2017, two days after our anniversary, three days before my birthday, documenting the point I knew Carol would no longer be climbing the stairs to our bedroom. Actually, to be perfectly accurate, she had stopped dealing with the stairs some time before. Although I joined her in sleeping on the couch in our living room, I continued, as I do now, to climb those stairs every day for my morning shower and change of clothes as well as my occasional sit down at my desktop computer.
On one of those mornings, I stopped by my desk, looked at the perpetual calendar, and decided to leave it as it was that day August 12, 2017, the date certain when I acknowledged Carol’s now insuperable aversion to those steps.
Another in a long line of concessions to the new now pulling away from the remnants of the old then.
The library is suddenly quiet as the kids have exited. The only sound now besides my fingers hitting the keys of my laptop is the hum coming from the ventilation system.
That fixed date contrasts conveniently with the meeting this morning, the focus of which was to make the new now as comfortable as possible. There was no talk of the future, probably because I had declared in my outline of what I thought we should talk about that my intention was to have Carol in the house with me as long as possible. Therefore, any talk of the future and the changes it might bring, for now, is premature.
As though that future is not to be.
A useful, but necessary, fiction.