Being Lunch Meat in the Sandwich Generation

I never thought of myself as liverwurst before, but it does connect and bind the two pieces of bread into a sandwich.  Or maybe vegemite.  Peanut butter is an aspirational concept.

I am a member of the sandwich generation.  The child that needs to provide for her parent(s) and her child(ren). I, and so many like me, are the spread between the pieces of bread.  We keep it all together.

Last week, Dad called, saying he was locked in his art studio and that he needed me to call the police.  He had his coat on and was cold.  I told him I would call him right back on his home line and if he answered that meant he was really at home and just momentarily confused.  He agreed.  But he didn’t actually hang up the phone so I couldn’t get through.  I called the home health aide and we agreed that I should come over and calm everything down.  We are only called in when the episodes lasts long enough to be totally freaky.

I came over, and Dad agreed to take off his coat, since I was doing the same.  Now, how to convince a scared man that he is really in his home?

“Dad, if this were your home, would you know where you keep the scotch?”

Of course,” he said as if I had impugned his very core.  [Ok, I guess that is good.]

Dad went right for it.  Score 1 for the older generation.

“Dad, if this were your home, where would your underwear drawer be?”

Dad found that, too.  Score 2.  While we were standing in front of his bureau, I asked:

“Dad, do you recognize some of the people in the pictures?”

He did.  Not all but most. Score 2.5.

“So, Dad, if this is not your home, then it is doing a good job of making you comfortable.”

“But you see all of the paintings . . . ” He was referring to the paintings and sculpture in the living room and dining room.

A-ha.  He doesn’t recognize that those are his and Mom’s.  This is a huge downward trajectory for Dad.  “Daddy, those are your and Mom’s paintings and sculptures.”

He seemed to start to understand.  But not yet.

“Dad, if this is not your home, then this is a great art studio.  I am going to have some wine while you have dinner in your dining room.  Join me?”

Dad ate a little and had a little wine (less alcohol than scotch).  We talked.  Mostly non-sense (as in I had no idea what he was talking about) but slowly he was calming down and returning to earth.  Finally he said:

“It is good to be home.  And so lovely to have you over for dinner.”

“Yes, Dad, it is a treat to see you midweek.  Now I am going home.”

We kissed good night.  I hugged his home health aide knowing that she allows me to have a life separate from Dad’s because she only calls in the cavalry when she cannot snap him out of it within a reasonable time and he is a flight risk.

I get home and hug and kiss my son.  We talk about the day and the weekend ahead, during which we will all attend a Bat Mitzvah.

“E-mom, remember, don’t hang around me during the Bat Mitzvah.  It will be embarrassing.”

“No problem, buddy.” What I wanted to say was, “I don’t want to watch you and tweenage friends behaving in a way that will make me skin crawl.  Besides, I am going to hang with the adults and behave in a way that will make you cringe from afar.”

But instead, I took my victory from the top bread and didn’t squeeze too hard on the bottom bread.

Maybe we could be a panini.

Trumpet in the Time of Migraine

I heard he played a good song . . . .

Ok, that is from Killing Me Softly.  A classic song that alludes to a song — not actually sung — that speaks of a woman’s (or every woman’s) hopes, desires and yearnings.

My son is learning to play the trumpet.  I was having a migraine.  We live in a NYC apartment.  “Killing me softly” were not the words that came to mind.

Torturing me screeeeeeechingly, but please kill me quickly.

In truth, my son is getting better (even said the curmudgeonly upstairs neighbor).

But if this be the music of love? (asked someone in a Shakespearan play).

Then stick a sock in it.

Love my child?  Of course.  Every tone that come out of his mouth?  Nah.  I have evolved from the true Yiddisha mama.

 

Hello! Yes, it’s been a while Part 2

SOS (my son, source of sanity) was away this summer —  7 weeks at camp.

He came home with some virus, etc., that eventually infected everyone in his wake.  But more on that later.

Shortly after he came back (with clothes so gross that they needed to be burned), he started sneezing and blowing his nose.

“DUDE, get a tissue!!!”

“E-Mom, it was just a powder, not a mucous heaver!”

Ok, not only does my son have huge, smelly feet, and that slouchy style of sitting but he was distinguishing sneezes for me.

“Dude.  Dude. Dude.  Dude.  Every sneeze needs a tissue and I never want to see a mucous heaver.  That requires an exit — post-haste — into the bathroom, ok?”

The “mucous heaver” was a scab waiting to be scratched.  I resisted and inquired after the more dainty powder.

“I get what a mucous heaver might be — and all of the joy of living has left me just visualizing it — but what is a powder?”

“A thin, gentle spray.”

Ugh.  A thin, gentle spray of typhoid.  I renew my demand that all sneezes need a tissue.

A few mornings later, I have a stuffy nose and other symptoms of my son’s “sharing is caring” largesse.

As I am clearing my sinuses in my bathroom, I hear SOS shout from the hallway, “E-Mom, awesome HORNBLOWER!!!”

For a small, embarrassing and base moment, I have fit squarely into my 12 year-old’s world.

Just call me Horatio.  Horatio Hornblower.  My son is elated.

The truths about roller coaster rides.

The first truth about roller coaster rides is that it can be scary, exhilarating, fun and vomit-inducing, but, at its end, it delivers you to its starting point and you wobble out onto terra firma.

The second truth is that you don’t need to go to an amusement park to ride one.

Thursday began like any other day.  I was late getting to the office for a call with opposing counsel. I didn’t even try to blame the trains.  I emailed him on my subway ride to push back the call 15 minutes.

When I get out of the subway, I receive a text from Dad’s home health aide (HHA).

“Have your sister call me immediately.”

My sister, SOB (sister of blogger] is a doctor.  This is not good.  I call SOB immediately.

SOB, it’s [Blogger], call HHA immediately.  She just texted that she needs to speak with you.  Call me after you speak to her.”

I am shaking.  Is this the day?  I don’t exactly remember the walk to my office.  But as I start to turn on my computer, my ringing cell phone snaps me back.

“It’s [SOB], HHA had to call 911 because Dad is basically non-responsive.”

Is this the day that Dad dies?

SOB and I know that we have to run to Dad’s house before anyone takes him to a hospital, so we can evaluate the situation.  He is almost 94 years old and has told us, again and again, that he wants to die in his bed.  And, unless there was acute pain or discomfort to relieve, being in a hospital is only torture for a person his age.  Old age is old age.  This is not a curable condition.  It is a fact of life.

I run part of the way there.  SOB is still in traffic.   I look at Dad.  He is now alert and comfortable on the gurney.  He knows me and seems relieved I am there.  He has no pain but looks so tired.  He smiles as he does when family walks into the room.  Our embrace is awkward because he is on a gurney.

“Dad, [SOB] is coming any minute and we will figure out whether you need to go to the hospital.”

“Yes, darling.  Let’s wait for [SOB].”

The EMTs tell me all his vitals are good.  Apparently, Dad slumped over at breakfast and HHA couldn’t rouse him.  She literally lifted him and had him lean on her while she got him to his bed in his bedroom.  The EMTs said he was non-responsive when they got there but with a little rubbing on his sternum, he started to wake up.

Dad hovered between life and death and came back to life.

So, TODAY IS DEFINITELY NOT THE DAY.  Still, the crisis isn’t over until the EMTs unstrap Dad from the gurney and they leave his house.

And Dad had mentioned heart disease, so the EMTs want to take him to the hospital.

“Dad is in mild heart failure.  Who isn’t at almost 94?  There is heart disease in his family, but he takes no medications, except an evening scotch.”

And then Dad says:

“They might not get paid if they came all this way and don’t come back with a patient.”

The EMTs smile.  They understand that my father wants to do the honorable thing.  They are also a little confused by his seeming clarity in one moment and his dementia in another. The EMTs wait for SOB to arrive (G-d bless professional courtesy).

Then Dad said:

“Before we go anywhere, I have to say goodbye to my wife.” 

The EMTs look at me and look at HHA, who is 50 years his junior.

“NO, NO, NO,” I say.  “Look at the wall.  See the painting?  That is Mom in 1967.  He needs to say good-bye to HER.”

341279902308_0_ALBOMG OMG OMG.  This still could be the day.  Oh, SHIT.

The EMTs were fabulous.  One was a little circumspect, probing about my knowledge of Dad’s medical and mental state.  I appreciated his concern and we walked a little away from Dad.

“Look, my father has been exceptionally healthy his whole life.  He is at the end of his life.  If he is not in pain or gasping, why would I want newly minted doctors (it IS July, after all) poking and prodding him?  But, let’s wait for the real doctor, my sister.”

Then that EMT starts to test my knowledge of Jewish culture and Yiddishkeit. The Blogger family name is stereotypically Jewish.  And he was testing me to figure out if I understood the Commandment to honor my father and my mother.

SOB walks in and consults with the EMTs.  Then she says to both of them:

“Last time he was in a hospital, it was for a brain bleed resulting from tripping on the sidewalk.  Although he was in neuro ICU and was watched by a private nurse, he got out of bed twice and fell both times.  Since then he wanders.  A hospital is not a safe place for him.  He has terrific 24 hour care at home.  And my sister and I are each a cab ride away.”

Both EMTs understood.  The circumspect EMT (who turned out to be an observant Jew) was more comfortable when we knew some Yiddish and when we told him that we had been through this drill before and we had tended to our mother in her dying days.

He said, “We have to call the supervisor.  I fear Hashem [G-d], my wife, gobblins and my supervisor, and your dad said he wanted to go to the hospital before you both arrived.

“I get that.  Make yourselves to home.  Can we give you something to drink or eat?”

The observant Jew demurred.  The other EMT said, his wife packs food.  So I asked, “you fear both your wife and Ha-Shem on this score.”  He nodded.

The EMTs and Dad start to talk.  They ask how he feels.

“It is the end.”

“End of what, sir?”

“The end of my life.”

Those words hang in the air, until interrupted by the arrival of the supervisor.  The supervisor calls the doctor on duty.  Everyone groans.

“What’s wrong with this doctor?” I ask, thinking the nightmare has just begun.

“He’s been sued a lot.  He will want to enforce transport to the hospital.”

WAIT. WAIT. I have power of attorney.  My sister has health proxy.  We, and our 24/7 nursing care, take excellent care of Dad.  We see him all of the time.  We know his wishes, his medical history and, hell, what he eats in the diner and what he hates in a museum.  We speak to him everyday and see him every weekend.  Dad has told us what he wants and he trusts us.  And we love him.

DIDN’T YOU SEE THAT HE WASN’T AFRAID ANYMORE WHEN HIS CHILDREN ARRIVED?  THAT HE PERKED UP? HOW CAN THIS DOCTOR OVER THE PHONE ENFORCE THE TRANSPORT TO THE HOSPITAL?

Well, he did.  SOB and I would not stand for it.  Dad was sitting in a chair talking and feeling comfortable.  He didn’t need to go to the hospital.

“Call the doctor back. NOW!”

At this point the EMTs are rooting for keeping Dad home.  And I was ready to name Dr. [Blank] in a lawsuit.  After the doctor spoke to Dad, he asked to speak to the daughter who is the lawyer. NOT THE DAUGHTER WHO IS THE DOCTOR.  This is some paranoid dude.

“Yes, Dr. [Blank}.”

“Ms. [Blogger], BLAH BLAH BLAH. BLAH BLAH BLAH. BLAH BLAH BLAH” – I made the universal hari kari sign so everyone in the room could feel my pain — “Your father could have any number of issues.”

“Dr. [Blank], he is almost 94 years old.  Can any of those potential issues be prevented by a hospital visit today? We can agree that the answer is no.  And you have our family’s thanks for not compelling transport to a hospital.  I appreciate your advice on guardianship.  Thank you, doctor.”

The EMTs cheer the outcome.  We hugged one EMT and I said to the observant Jew, “I won’t hug you or shake your hand, but I would if you weren’t observant.”

“Thank you.  In this case, I fear my wife first.  Hashem, second.”

SMART MAN, THAT EMT.

All non-essential personnel left.  I went out to get pizza for everyone.  To celebrate success after the two hours that felt like ten.  We ate.  We all sacked out for an hour.

SOB went into Dad’s bedroom to check on him.  He was glad that he stayed at home.  He was glad to have his children around and he felt loved and supported by all of his children, even though our brother lives far away.  He told SOB what a lucky man he is and what a good life he has had.  The drift toward the inevitable is beginning.

We all got up a kibbitzed.  Soon it was cocktail hour.

“Dad,” SOB started, “there needs to be a new rule in the usual [Blogger family] protocol in these circumstances:  If ambulance comes, no scotch at cocktail hour.”

Dad wasn’t so ok with it.  So I had to draw it from him.  The new addition to our protocol:

IF AMBULANCE,

THEN

58128Dad fought it tooth and nail and enjoyed the tussle with his kids.  He was present in a way he is not usually.  His mind was more clear (but still out there).  He was a little pale, but he survived.

The day turned out to be a great day, because:

We met wonderful people — the EMTs — who care about the people they help.

And, Death took a holiday of sorts for our family.

SOB and I stagger off the roller coaster.  The ride was rough but everyone survived. 

Father’s Day 2014

Hallmark holidays suck.  At least on Father’s Day.  At least for this mother of a father-less son.

I block it every year.  I can’t ever remember that it is Father’s Day until we trip over it.  And then I think,

“Oh shit, will SOS be ok?”

Ok, I am not a good planner when it comes to this “holiday.”  I block it because I cannot conjure up a facsimile dad.  There is no vegan turkey for this thanksgiving holiday.

And then I fixate on our aging Dads.  Because it is easier.

SOS was not in a great mood today.  But, thank G-d, he spent some special time with Cousin Gentle.

The clan gathered for dinner.  Still, SOS was in a whiny mood.  I assumed it was the Father’s Day thing, but interestingly, he was very cuddly with me. I could not read the signals because usually when he is feeling different about having two moms, he is mean to me. I was bracing for that treatment all day.

At dinner, we toasted our fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins, sons and grandsons.  Dad was disconnected and confused.  FOPOB was surprisingly present and engaged.  The world was upside down.

After the ganza mispocheh (the big family) left, I went into SOS’s room to talk.

“Dude, I want to talk about Father’s Day.”

“Why?”

“Because this is one of those days when I regret that you don’t have a dad, because it feels like everyone is celebrating having a dad and, so today, but really only today, I hate that you don’t.”

“Really, E-Mom?  It is ok.  It is like being Jewish at Christmas.  Is that what you wanted to talk about?”

Ahhhhh. I made special note of the “OMG-you’re-so-lame-how-do-survive-a-day-in-the-world” tone.

I smiled to myself.  (I couldn’t give SOS the satisfaction.)  And I thought of Crosby, Still, Nash & Young:

And you, of the tender years can’t know the fears that your elders grew by,
And so please help them with your youth,
they seek the truth before they can die.
Teach your parents well, their children’s hell will slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams, the one they fix, the one you’ll know by.
Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.

SOS, my best and toughest teacher, in the subject of life.  I learn these lessons because my happiness depends on it.

Happy father’s day to all, whether or not it applies.

The Years Spin By and Now the Girl is 50

Dear Mom:

So I have moved 50 times ’round the seasons.

And my dreams have lost some grandeur coming true.

There were new dreams along the way.  Some of them still matter; some were fantasies of youthful exuberance and abject cluelessness.

I am not scared of growing older.  (Ok, I am not happy with droopy eyelids you gave me.)

And now I drag my feet to slow down time (or the circles, to keep the Joni Mitchell motif).  Really, to hold onto to the stories and memories of you, Dad and the older generation.  I look at the old pictures to remind me of the people who made me (for better or worse) the person I am today.  Those fallible, lovable and wildly eccentric (ok, our family once was poor, so I think we only qualify as “crazy”) people.

I am starting to forget some of the stories. Dad has forgotten almost everything. I can’t lose you any more than I already have.  And I need room to experience and remember the joys of your grandchildren, all three wonderful boys, and especially my little guy, SOS.

Years ago, when I imagined turning 50, I thought I would have security, maturity and direction in life.  And I fully expected that you would be telling me the story about my birth, as you always did.  Life doesn’t conform to expectations; they are really hopes and desires locked into a time and place.

Even though life at 50 is nothing as I expected, I feel lucky looking in my rear-view mirror and I am (cautiously) hopeful about the road ahead.

Ok, maybe I am scared a little about the road ahead.  I have to remember that I am strong and the road these past years hasn’t been a cake walk and I am still standing.  And I have to draw on the memories of those who made me strong without wallowing in the past.

But it is hard when you, my biggest cheerleader, are gone.  And sometimes, late at night, when the world is too much with me, I need a guiding hand, a loving voice, and my Mom who had lived through so much, quieting my fears.  I try to imagine you.  It doesn’t always work.

Tonight, we had a pre-birthday dinner.  SOB and I fought over the check.  (Could you tell her to let me win just a few times?)  SOB and I told the stories you would have told about SOB’s birth, BOB’s birth and my birth on our birthdays.  The same stories, over and over again.  And they get better with each telling.

One of the best stories concerns SOB’s birth.  Aunt Gertie, who had three sons, waited until you opened your eyes to storm into your hospital room and screeched at Uncle Leon [Dad’s brother], “See, Natie could give Elsie a girl!!”  Mom, you always said that was the most painful part of childbirth.

Have I mentioned recently how much you would have loved and adored HOSOB?  Such a pity you never met.  And I know you would be so happy that Cousin Gentle rounds out the crew.  I know, I know, why can’t Dallas be closer to New York?  You tell me, Mom.  You are as close as they get to the Big Guy.  Ask Him to work on plate tectonics or something.   See what you can do.

Mom, you are the missing person at every gathering, every simcha and every sad time.  And I miss your warm hand always reaching out to hold SOB’s or BOB’s or mine.  Even at the end, you always reached for us.

And we still reach back, hoping you feel us across the great divide.

I love you forever, Mom.

~ Blogger

Big Game

Yesterday was game day.  The big one.  The game that unites more Americans in a single activity at the same time than any other event at any other time:

THE SUPER BOWL.

SOS was very excited.  I found this odd because SOS is not so much a player as he is a (more-than-slightly reserved) spectator.  Let’s be honest, his favorite sport is rigorous reading of incredibly sophisticated tomes.

On Saturday, I asked SOS why he was so interested in the Super Bowl.

“I am interested in all cultural phenomena, [Blogger]!”

Well, all right, then.  While I loved to play sports, I am a pop-culture moron.  He will be far better equipped for the real world.

As late as Saturday, we were non-committal as to which team to support.  The Sea Hawks are from Seattle and we have family in the Northwest Territories.  But, Peyton Manning is Eli’s brother and Eli is our home town-ish QB.

Two things tipped the balance in favor of the Sea Hawks: our Washington and Oregon family were in town and we saw the first play of the game which was a disaster.

By 6:35pm on Sunday, we were firmly in the Sea Hawks’ camp.

SOS brought out a football to hold during the game.  And, I thought, there are things that all boys do.  It is on the Y chromosome, along with smelly feet and spank magazines.

We started to throw the ball around the living room and we “ran the ball in” and tackled each other during some commercials and some play time.  All the time, I was scared that his brains will spill out of his head in a bad fall.  Nothing more than a few scratches and bruises — on me.

(That boy can tackle.  OUCH.)

I had to throw a red penalty schmatah [Yiddish for rag] on our field.  And I stood up and declared:

“TOTALLY offensive and painful jab to a mother’s breast.  10 yard penalty.  3rd down.  Time-out, [Blogger].”

Then we giggled.

“[Blogger], you are the dad I will never had. But you are also my mom which is a bonus.”

I got misty-eyed and proud.  And that is probably politically incorrect, but I don’t really give a damn.

In a split-second, as if to remind me that we are not the family in a Lifetime made-for-TV movie, he announced:

“The Sea Hawks are winning by so much that it is boring.  I am going to catch some Downton Abbey until bed.  Tell me if anything exciting happens.”

He scurried off into another room to watch a drawing room soap opera already in progress.

But he left the football with me.  Thanks, bud.

There, but for the grace of G-d, go I

About a week ago, SOS asked me, “why don’t we give to people who ask for money on the street?”

Oh, no, time for a lesson in cynicism.

“Well, buddy, we don’t know if they really need money and, if they do, are they using the money to buy drugs or food?  I used to give to everyone and then I realized the hard lesson that some people are not being truthful.”

My answer did not sit well with me at all.  I kept thinking that children will heal the world unless their parents interfere and fill their minds with cynicism.

We were doing errands yesterday.

“Hey, bud.  Remember the conversation that we had about giving to people on the streets?  Well, I want to talk more about it.  We give to charities that help these people.  We are willing to pay more in taxes for social programs and we go door to door to help get out the vote for people who will institute these programs.  But it doesn’t mean that a particular person will be helped, just that we will make inroads in resolving the problem.”

“Ok,” was SOS’s non-committal answer.

Sometimes, kids ask those questions that make you think about all the juicy rationalizations that make your life livable with a more-or-less clear conscience.

And my easy, arm chair liberal answers didn’t sit well with me either.

I should have said, “I don’t have time to get down and dirty with strangers.  I can’t get involved and take on every person’s broken life.  And Darwin is right.”

There.  I said it. (to you and not to my son)

Last night, I could not sleep.  As crazy as it sounds, I kept thinking about Rabbi Hillel: if I am only for myself, who will be for me?

Being homeless is my number 1 neurotic fear.  And yet I told my son that it was ok to look away when you see the homeless.

During my sleepless night, all the things that I should have done, shouldn’t have done, did, and didn’t do, haunted me.

Tonight, the three of us had an early sushi dinner. We picked the closest Japanese restaurant because it is beyond cold outside.

We were on our way back from eating lots of sushi and dropping a lot of money on dinner.

As we crossed onto our block, I saw a mother with an elementary school-aged child taking recyclables out of the trash cans.  They had a cart like the homeless.  To be honest, I have never seen homeless Asians.  It was 7pm and that child should be home.

I told POB and SOS to go ahead up to the house.  I had to go back.  I needed to make sure the girl had a warm coat, gloves and a hat (she did) and that they weren’t going to spend the night outside.  I went over to the mother, “do you have a place to stay tonight?”  She didn’t understand and was a little afraid.  I must have been very earnest in my question.  “Do you have a place to stay tonight?”  I repeated.  I would have given them money for the night, if only because it would mean strength to fight another day and rest for a child before a school day.

Pause.  She smiled.  “Yes. Yes. Yes.  We have a home.  Thank you.  Happy new year!!”

I smiled and walked away.  And I wondered, was she telling me the truth or protecting her pride?

I won’t ever know.

What I do know is that my child pushed me to be more than I was yesterday.

God bless the child.

Life with Father

On Friday night, at 11:35pm, the phone rang for the third time in 30 minutes. Everyone else in the house was asleep (or trying to sleep anyway).

The first two times were wrong numbers.  On the second call, I said to the guy, “I am sorry to tell you, but you wrote it down wrong or the woman just gave you the wrong number.”  I felt bad for him and angry at Denise — the woman he was calling.

The third time, I was steamed at the spurned would-be lover.  And I answered the phone with a serious attitude.

Hello!!”  I answered gruffly and angrily.

[Blogger], it’s Dad.”

Uh oh.  This was late for Dad and there was a worried sound in his voice.

I don’t know where Mom is.  She isn’t home yet and I have been waiting for her.  And I don’t know how to reach her.

My heart leapt into my throat.  I knew I could not tell him the truth in stark terms — that Mom is dead almost 11 years, so I opted for:  “Um, Dad, Mom isn’t around anymore.

SIDEBAR:  If I were a member of my grandparents’ generation, I would clear my throat (“achem”) and say in a thick East European accent:  “Vhat-vhat? [Mom] is dead.  Years ago.  Go to sleep alrrrready.  Staying up won’t bring her back.”  So much for the warm and fuzzies.

I don’t understand!” Dad continued.  “No one told me!  What kype [“type” and “kind” mashed together — a Dad signature mashable] of an operation are we running around here?

Ok, so no gentle reminder of Mom’s death was going to snap him back into today’s reality.  I swallowed hard and close my eyes.  The last thing Dad needed at 11:40pm was to relive Mom’s death.

Dad, I meant that Mom isn’t around at home tonight.  Mom and [SOB] are having a mother-daughter sleep-over.  They spent the day together and now Mom is staying over.  But don’t call because [SOB] has to get up early for work and they are already asleep, ok?

Why didn’t anyone tell me?  I have been worried for hours!

Dad, I am sure that you were told.  It is that sometimes, people forget.  And maybe you did, too, at least this time.

I heard the sound of Dad’s displeasure.  A little muttering that he does when he is unhappy or feels he has to worry needlessly.

This is good news to me.

Phew.  That meant he was willing to accept this explanation.  Because this explanation preserved Mom’s existence.

Everyone will call you in the morning, Dad.  I promise everything is ok.  Will you go to sleep now?

I wish someone would let me know what is going on around here.

Daddy, I know.  Please go to sleep and you will see everyone tomorrow.  Good night.  I love you.

I love you, too, darling.  But we have to change things around here so I am included in the plans.

You are so right, Dad.  Good night.

Good night, darling.

Next call is to SOB who was asleep.  I dialed, she answered, and I cut to the important stuff:  “Dad called me looking for Mom.  I told him that she was sleeping over at your house but you had all gone to bed already.  Just in case he calls.  Go back to sleep.

SIDEBAR:  I am closer to my grandparents’ generation than I thought.

This episode is not uncommon for older people at night or in the early morning, after they wake up.  On Saturday morning, he was confused but in a different way.  By Saturday lunch, he was generally ok.  Lunch today (Sunday), SOB reported that, with gentle prodding, he was able to remember that Mom died.  But he repeated something he always says: Mom surrounds him in the apartment and he is happy there [a true love story].  And he is comforted and reassured by talking to his kids.

So, he needs to remain shrouded in his happy memories, in that apartment, until he is reunited with Mom.  And his children must keep him grounded in the present.  Or lie to him, if necessary, until we can be face-to-face until we can gently guide him back.

Next week:  Mom goes on a week-long synagogue retreat for the Sisterhood organization.  And she is rooming with Judy Zimmerman, our former rabbi’s wife.  [Just like she used to.]  Are you listening, SOB and BOB?

Daddy’s Angels (but our devils)

Once an elder needs care, it is not so easy as having loving people come into the house and care for him or her.

No, you have given birth to a family unit, with individuals perhaps older than you.  Your elder has new kids.  No, this is not science fiction. This, THIS, is the new normal.

Dad has four aides — two share the 12-hour day shift and two share the night shift.  Everything revolves around his care.  Dad is a lovely man and three out of the four aides have become attached to him, and he to them.  The fourth one does her job.  And that is all we ask.

But in the fight over who is the favorite and who takes the best care of Dad, there is palace intrigue.  They check up on each other and rat out each other.  As if Dad is some power broker, rather than a jovial, yet clueless man.

So, these last 14 months, I have had to intervene, referee and speak with any number of supervisors in order to keep Dad’s routine the same.  Because we, as a family, do not believe that a night aide who is competent, but not warm and fuzzy, should lose her job because she and Dad don’t “connect”.  But there have been “cleanliness” issues and Dad is decidedly uncomfortable with her.  Reasons enough to make changes but we resisted, out of respect for a person’s right to earn a living.

Now, there is a battle royale between the aide of whom Dad is most fond and the one of whom he is least fond.  For those of you who are old enough to remember, think Linda Evans and Joan Collins in Dynasty.

You can imagine how little patience one can have for this when it is playing out in my life.  Sometimes I wonder if I am on Jerry Springer, i.e., Shit Time in the Day Time.  (Is he still around?)

In the end, we set out clearly both our priorities and must-haves with the agency.  And what will make us go to another care provider.

I want everyone to keep their jobs.  But Dad needs to be happy.  And so I was forced to prioritize jobs and positions.  In life, my parents have erred on the side of preserving peoples’ jobs, even if it meant less for our family.  I followed suit in the Great Recession (some called me a schmuck, but I can look in the mirror and only worry about wrinkles).

The problems started almost at the beginning, and I needed to make a decision.  If the internecine battles cannot be resolved, then I voted one off the island.  (Or whatever, the reality TV lingo is; now you know the cerebral punishment that is worst than death.)

I am good with my decision.  But I am sad about having to make it.  But I will stand by it, especially face-to-face with the reassigned aide.  Because I owe the aid that respect.

Maintaining Dad’s world is too important.  But not without unintended consequences arising out of new situations and relationships.

Nothing in this life is easy.  But the saving grace is that Dad doesn’t even have to know.

He can walk blithely on, happy and kibbitzing with his attendants during the day and sleep as well as possible in the night.  And, at long last, after all Mom and he did for us, this is the least we can do for him.

But I didn’t know making this type of decisions in this economy was in the bargain.

Dad is fine; my soul is diminished in the process. This is the reality of caring for the elderly and the infirm. The new world that needs the brave (and the compassionate and the guilty).