The Up and Up

Dad was released from the hospital on September 1st. Some of the nurses cried upon his release, Mom tells me. He is so gregarious and warm and hard-working with strangers. He saves his worst for Mom. In the depths of his mania he saw her as his captor and now he fights her tooth and nail for the freedom to do things he wants (and very much shouldn’t) do. This is how we treat our lovers, our partners. You made the mistake of opening yourself up to me and I will in turn reward you with the privilege of seeing me at my cruelest. You will also get my best and I will get yours, we hope. And that will be enough or more, we hope.

I desperately want to keep Alexis from my worst, but she will get it. No doubt she will get it. And I will most likely get hers.

Physically, Dad is so much better. He is subsisting on three pureed meals a day and is walking — slowly and unevenly, but regularly. We had a handrail installed that leads from the street all the way up to the deck and grab bars added to each of the bathrooms. The nurses cautioned Mom not to leave Dad by himself at all for the next three weeks, while he adjusts. She is transitioning from the role of wife to the role of caretaker/wife, something that I can’t suppose either of them ever wanted to happen but something that both technically did sign up for. Sickness and health and all that.

The mental side of things is a little less clear. It’s tough for me to get a whole lot out of Mom as she is now pretty much always with Dad and can’t be 100% honest over the phone. But I get the sense that things are not improving in the same consistent manner that they are in the physical department. I don’t know. I got back to New York a month ago and in some ways it might as well be the moon. I looked forward to my flight back. A whole day in which the only thing required of me was silence and existence. I was in neither Carmel nor New York and could relish the grey area in between. But instead I spent every minute wondering if Dad was sundowning and if Mom was helpless without me. When I got back to our muggy apartment at midnight, Alexis met me in the kitchen. I knelt and pressed my head against her swelling belly and cried for the third time since this whole ordeal began. The first time occurred when Mom described Dad’s fall to me over the phone and the second when Alexis and I walked into Dad’s hospital room on our third day in California and he said groggily, “Don’t you have anything better to do than take care of the old man?” Alexis had to occupy him while I cried in the hall.

“I’m lost,” I said to Alexis, my face buried in her belly. She ran her hands through my hair.

But then, only 12 hours later, I felt lighter, a little more distant from the chaos. Dad was about to be transferred from the hospital unit to the rehab unit. We had a long line of incredible family members and friends coming into town to assist Mom. She wasn’t helpless at all. I felt better. Then I felt guilty for feeling better.

It’s a balance. I am trying to stay involved. I don’t know what is needed from me, what is required of me, what is expected of me. I have always been more comfortable being told. I have always been a coward.

This year (or maybe the rest of our lives) shall be dubbed ‘The Great Re-Adjustment’. Dad is adjusting to recovery. Mom is adjusting to her new role as caretaker. Carly and I are adjusting to our new roles somewhere in between worlds. The great wheel spins.