Thursday, July 30, 2020

Sometimes I'm wrong

By my shield and sword
By my soldier's heart
We made it through the wars
We made another start

Well, I was wrong.

Mostly.

Eleanor is home and although it’s been a bit of a wild ride, so far it hasn’t been an epic fail.

For the moment she has a home health care aide. She didn’t resist or balk at the price tag. I’m not sure she knows the price tag, specifically, just that it’s not inexpensive.

She’s frail and knows she needs the help. She gets confused but hasn’t been combative. There was a kerfuffle when her other daughter-in-law called while the aide was out, picking up supplies, with permission from daughter Ellen.

The aide left while a physical therapist from Medicare was at the house, and it’s unclear whether or not there was a brief gap in care, where Eleanor was left alone. Her sense of time is askew, so she said she’d been left alone for a long time, and didn’t know where the aide had gone and when or if she was coming back.

The middle son and his wife, the other daughter-in-law, assumed the worst and took it up with the home health agency, reportedly in a not-nice way, so there was some concern that the aide or agency might give notice. Not because of Eleanor, since the service is trained and paid to deal with elderly folk with cognitive impairment. But they're not prepared or expected to deal with aggrieved relatives hurling allegations.

We talked and got it all sorted, sort of. The upshot, basically, is that the brother and sister-in-law took their ball and went home. They disputed any wrongdoing but agreed that they'd not speak to the agency directly again. Apparently they're not speaking to us either, except in the most minimalist way, since they are still in charge of the financial aspects since the middle son is attorney in fact for Eleanor. (Neil serves in that role for their dad, a division of labor agreed upon many moons ago).

The best case scenario from where I sit, 600 miles from ground zero, is for Eleanor to regain strength and improve cognitively, now that she’s home with one-on-one care, plus visits from various therapists. Maybe it’s even a good longer term solution if Eleanor is happy with it. Perhaps if she rebounds enough she won't need round-the-clock care and may be able to get by with a few hours a day. Right now though she needs help with everything.

It’s such a shame that, thanks to SARS-COV-2, her world has gotten so much smaller.

In normal times, we could think about an assisted living situation where she’d have activities and the companionship of peers once she gets stronger, assuming she will. But at the moment, these facilities are potential petri dishes for Covid, as well as keeping residents socially distanced from each other and unable to have visitors.

At least for now, Ellen can get down to see her. And at some point we’ll probably plan a visit, especially if the pandemic abates. I think Neil is delaying that, knowing that at any time there could be a crisis where he’ll have to go on short notice.

How unfair is it that his parents, in their 92nd and 91st years, respectively, have no idea when they’ll see their sons again.

I almost said when or if, but I’m trying to be positive, and return to the refrain, this too shall pass, this too shall pass.

Last week we were planning to take a little road trip to Craggy Gardens which is off the Blue Ridge Parkway just north of Black Mountain. It’s part of the National Park system, about 100 miles west northwest of Charlotte.

The weather prediction wasn’t good though, with thunderstorms threatening. So of course we had nothing but blue skies once we decided to postpone the trip.

Everything just seems too hard. Will restrooms be open? Will we find a place to eat? Are picnic areas safe? Will there be crowds requiring masks?

But mostly I think the longer we stay home, the less I want to go anywhere. And I don’t want to be that person. So we put if back on the calendar for August 7, our twelvth wedding anniversary. That should make us more likely to push through the inertia and actually go. We were hiking in Shenandoah National Park the weekend we got married. So this will be an appropriate way to celebrate.

One of the writers who I follow on social media, Claire Bidwell Smith, expressed poignantly what I think many of us are feeling. She spoke of being caught up in the minutiae of this strange new life, “these same walls and meals and long, flat afternoons.”

From the day I retired from my day job, I’ve never found time heavy on my hands. Quite the opposite in fact, time sped by, the hours, days, weeks, and months melting seamlessly into one another. I was surprised by how compressed time felt, how, with every day my oyster, I never felt there were enough hours in the day to get everything that I wanted to do done.

I'm still well able to amuse myself. As long as I have yarn and glass and books and the internet and online streaming services, I'm good.

Right now though, this all feels a little more forced, a little less effortless. I have to think, what shall I do now, what next?

I wrote this recently, in an email to a friend.
I hear you about your day to day life not being that different. Ours isn’t either, since we are both essentially antisocial introverts. I’m exaggerating, but Neil especially is content with very little social interaction. If he plays softball once or twice a week, that’s plenty for him. I need a little more, so I’m usually taking classes or doing volunteer work.

I have a love-hate relationship with travel, so I’d be lying if I said I miss it terribly. But it does break up the routine, and makes me appreciate being home all the more. By now we’d have been to New York and New Jersey twice, to Dallas and to Houston, to Boston and to Maine in June, and we’d be packing right now to go to Crater Lake and Lassen National Parks.

Instead we can’t seem to plan a weekend at the Outer Banks. A day trip to the mountains feels like a hurdle to overcome.
There are moments lately when I still feel astonished, incredulous that this is happening. We'll have what feels like a normal evening, dinner, reading, television, ice cream. I'll go to bed and lie there, thinking about what lies outside, out in the world. So many things changed in so many ways that were unimaginable just six months ago.

And yet, here we are, putting one foot in front of the other, living our best lives in changed circumstances.

What else can we do?

One thing is certain. It could be a lot worse. This is only a moment in time.

I once said, in the aftermath of my broken relationship with Marty, "while I lost a half year of my life, life is long enough to spare it."

I was 48 years old when I wrote those words in 2002.

Even it's closer to a year or more by the time this strange time ends, I stand by those words still.

At our age, at least, life is long enough to spare it.


There's another home somewhere
There's another glimpse of sky
There's another place unlearned
And a face not memorized

There's another quilt of green
Where the trees throw down their shade
There's another way to lean
Into the wind unafraid

There's another life out there
Beyond your quiet room
Use dead reckoning
The sky, the stars and the moon

There's another storm to chase
There's another bridge to burn
There's nothing perfect here
Another lesson to learn

There were days I gave into losing
Empty spaces of my own choosing
There were nights I forgot to hold on
So I let go, I had to let go

There's another home somewhere
That I close my eyes to see
I will find you there
You will know it's me

By my shield and sword
By my soldier's heart
We made it through the wars
We made another start

Just beyond the trees
Not so far I swear
There's another turn that leads
To another home somewhere


(Mary Carpenter © Mary Chapin Carpenter Dba Why Walk Music)