An Unexpected Trip - Part 1

January 13, 2011

I have not been posting lately because I’ve been without Internet access. To find out why… read on.

Tick, tick, tick. The clock on the wall in my parent’s tiny living room/dining room/kitchen is reminding me with each second, that I am still not asleep. I am trying to find a comfortable spot on the pull-out couch which, when opened, fills the entire space. I have had to make an unplanned trip down to their “just big enough for us” home in Florida because my mother is not well and my father, who is her primary caregiver, was reaching out for help. At eighty-seven and eighty-nine, my parents, my father especially, is extremely protective of their independence. For him to even consider calling 9-1-1 to get my mother help means that he is desperate. So, I waited for a snowstorm to pass through and grabbed the first flight I could. Snowflakes were still drifting down from a dark sky when I left NJ on Saturday and headed to Tampa.

I left my husband behind to care for Lauren along with her caregivers. George should not be lifting Lauren and has a difficult time feeding her. But he perseveres and does his best. I don’t like to ask him to do so much, but what choice do I have. M is scheduled to work 10 to 10 on Saturday and Sunday and then N and C will cover from 7:30am till 10pm during the week. I don’t know how long I’ll be gone. I don’t know what I’ll find when I get to Tampa.

I speak to my parents several times a week, usually. I ask them questions. I ask about their health, what they’re eating, how they’re faring with the weather. And…they lie. I know they do. They don’t take their pills. They tell me what they think I want to hear. They protect their way of life. I think they could be more comfortable, less stressed, maybe healthier, if they lived where, and how I want them to. But that would not be their choice, their life, it would be mine. How can I think about denying them their right to choose how to live when I protect so fervently my daughter’s right to choose how she lives? I protest, rationalize, plead with them to let me help. “Come back to NJ.” “We’ll find you somewhere to live.” “We have better doctors there.” “You have family to help with whatever you need…. to make your life easier.” “No,” they say,”We’re staying where we are. We’ll be OK. We’re glad you’re here. When are you going back?”

I don’t know. My mother has done further injury to an already bad back. At least, I think it’s her back. The doctor has done no blood work, no tests, beyond an x-ray. He sent her home with pain pills that are not helping. After a week, she is still in the same amount of pain and can barely walk. I am here to assess the situation and my father’s ability to handle it. I plan to do what I can and get back to NJ as soon as possible. I’m needed there, too. There’s another snow storm arriving on Tuesday. George calls to tell me that M has called in sick. Now, there is no staff all day on Sunday. I can’t let him try to handle an entire day by himself. Fortunately, N swoops in and takes Lauren for the majority of the day. George will only have to give her a snack and put her to bed after watching some TV with her.

This is the first emergency trip I’ve had make to Florida. I know it won’t be the last. Will I be compelled at some point to force my parents to accept more help? How exactly does one go about that? I am all too aware, that in this small haven amongst the palm trees, more than one clock is ticking. Tick, tick, tick.

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