Thursday afternoon in the community library, where I have not been for some time. As I turned onto the road leading to this building I passed on that corner the site for the new library, and there I saw that construction had started perhaps trying to get a head start before winter sets in. That new facility will certainly be a boon to our community. The library in its own space will be able to stretch itself with more shelving, a community room for speakers, and so forth. On the down side, perhaps, will be the students at the new charter school now occupying this building will not be able to walk to the library as they now can, and that lost of immediate contact and familiarity with a library is not inconsiderable.
This morning Clare, the nurse practitioner who comes every three weeks or so, checked Carol and found her to be in fine physical shape, and she also remarked on Carol’s apparent cognitive improvement.
Which accords with my own observations as well as those of others who have seen Carol over the past weeks.
It seems, then, we have settled in to a period of relative stability. As I am a creature of habit, although one who deals with unexpected changes, good or bad, with decent equanimity, I am content to ride this period out for as long as it lasts.
However, on the way out today, Clare asked me if I had plans for a trip to New York in the coming months. She recalled my aborted intent to attend my grandson’s bar mitzvah last April, thinking that transporting Carol to the respite facility had turned out to be too expensive but now with her wheelchair, she could more easily, less expensively, be transported in a van supplied with a lift.
Perhaps so. But I explained that travel arrangements, and the costs thereof, were only part of the problem. My continuing hesitation was emotional, and frankly I don’t know if I am ready for a week’s separation.
Which I know, on one level, would do me some good.
But on another, I imagine would be difficult.
Would I feel guilty that I was somehow neglecting my responsibilities?
I don’t think so because no doubt I would have taken care to be sure she would be well attended to in my absence.
Would I think nobody else could replace me?
A ridiculous thought. Three times a week I leave her in the care of my relief aides. True, those times are for only a few hours. Yet, all three aides do a fine job. In that respect, I am eminently replaceable.
But, and this is important, those hours do not include potent emotional periods of going to sleep, rousing in the morning, and in a counter intuitive way, that period of sleep when I lie within a couple of feet of her, when I have held her hand before stretching myself out, and taken her hand upon rising and greeting her in the morning, when during the night I have heard her breathing, or moving about in the bed.
Yes, but who ever said irrational concerns were irrelevant?
Maybe I need to take such a trip once and see how well I and she do. If successful, it can be replicated.
I do need to find out.
But dealing with the impending winter comes first.
Come spring, we will see.
The library is very quiet. I might be the only patron now here. Time to pack up and head home. As I start to close my laptop into its case, I look up and see kids, maybe eight or ten years old, lined up under the supervision of a teacher about to march out of the library and back to their classroom. For all the advantages the new library building will offer, I will miss seeing these young people, their presence surrounded by books somehow suggesting hope for the future.
Monday night before election day. Political robo calls kept my phone ringing with increasing frequency all weekend and into today, the last call arriving well after supper. As usual my caller ID alerted me to these calls and so I didn’t bother getting up to answer them. But I noticed that my voice mail was not picking up the calls, and then I remembered the scheduled power outage starting after midnight and into Saturday morning. When the power came back, my answering machine had defaulted to its off position. I switched it back on just in time to catch another call.
That power outage somehow also seemed to have fried the motherboard in my new desktop. At least that is what the Dell tech diagnosed as the reason the unit would not power up. A Dell technician will install a new motherboard on Wednesday, so I’ve been told.
The falling leaves have opened up my view of the East Bay again, a sliver of water more gray than blue now visible. Some trees haven’t defoliated yet, so the view will get better in the next week or two.
Which also means that shortly I will be looking out over a blanket of snow as winter is knocking at the door.
It is something over a year since I started keeping this journal and posting weekly blogs from it. I began it for several reasons including sharing my experience both with others in my situation as caregiver, but also all those who are aware of, but have no direct experience with, the growing number of older people sliding into dementia. From more personal motivation, I need to be writing on something, and this serves that purpose. And finally, as a writer, I always consider publication, and so this material might become a book down the road.
A less obvious consequence of my regular writing about our situation is that it forces me to think about it rather than just react to it. I believe that is a valuable byproduct. Caregiving responsibilities can be exhausting.
But they can also become through repetition rather mindless.
And that is not a good thing.
Not for the recipient of the care, nor the provider of it.
On that reflective note, which had never occurred to me before it just popped into my head I will close this session with one last thought.
As a writing instructor for many years, I always encouraged students to think of writing as recursive. Reading what one has just written often enough leads to another idea, one that would not have occurred to the writer had he or she not been writing.
It is good to understand that as a writer.
But also as a tool for the caregiver.
More than writing about our everyday activities, or even the problematical situations that arise and must be handled, when I sit down at my laptop I open a door into my mind, and perhaps most importantly, my feelings. It makes me more self-reflective than I usually am.
And that, too, is a good thing. That is what in hindsight I see is precisely what I was doing in the first section of this post, delving into how I felt, and feel, about taking time off from my caregiving responsibilities.
My wonderfully gifted wife placed a quote attributed to E.M. Forster beneath her email signature. It is an apt closing quote: “How will I know what I think until I see what I say [write]?
Writing as an act of discovery, as a way to open the door to thoughts and feelings.
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