Alright, I admit to borrowing the bio line for Tobia Menzies Twitter account. It suited what happened this week and the past five months. In grief, sometimes you forget to breathe. It’s like once the person you love stops breathing, you forget you’re still alive and must continue breathing.
For nearly five months, my brother and I rotated weekends with dad, with my aunt (mom’s sister) spent the week at the apartment. Three people did the job my mom did every day with dad, like making sure the catheter gets changed, greeting homecare, making sure dad has his evening snack, and that’s only a smart part of what was going on. I juggled work, dragging my brain out of grief fog to get things done, to bring some normalcy back.
Grief had to take a back seat four weeks ago when dad went into the hospital with a couple of infections. I went after work to make sure he has dinner and spent weekends at the apartment located down the block from the hospital. In short, weekdays, my bed with weekends the futon at the apartment. After nearly three weeks, finally, dad got panelled, and before you can say ‘whoosh,’ he was placed in an interim long-term care situation while we wait for a spot in our chosen personal care home. (Always the research nerd, this newer facility not only has private rooms, but their structure incorporates the latest in evidence-based geriatric care.) The home he’s in has old furniture but the staff seem kind and helpful, it’s close to me after commuting back and forth from home and work, and dad appears to adjust well despite not having a bed by the window.
Throughout the whole thing, I noticed my voice get creaky at work. I coughed more, causing my voice to rasp version and feeling draggy more than usual. During dad’s move, I felt more congested, the wheezing growing louder, and I felt alarmed. My hands automatically went under a Purel dispenser, while people at work coughed and took fist-fulls of tissues.
Then I really couldn’t breathe or felt I couldn’t. I arrived at the walk-in clinic ten minutes before closing, and they recommended the ER around the corner. I already felt tired, winded, and short-tempered to head to Urgent Care. Diagnosis: A virus causing my asthma to severely flare-up. Great, just great.
I took my puffer at the four-hour rather than the six-hour mark, took my course of prednisone, and stayed home from work. I also stayed away from the care home. Basically, my body said, “Right, since you’re not listening, we are shutting things down-NOW!” While lying in bed, I thought of dad. In five months, he lost his wife and now the only life he knew. He’s adjusting, but he wants to go home, but he knows his legs can’t enable him to carry on, even with increased homecare. My brother and I know we made the right decision. We did our best, we want dad to have a quality of life for the time he had left.
Yet I felt like crap.
My life felt like jig-saw puzzle pieces blown apart after someone flipped the table. I had watched LinkedIn Learning videos to get time management tips, improve my emotional intelligence, and tried to get my productivity up to the way it was before mom died. No online course can prepare a person for the chaos happening as parents get older, as parents die, and life gets redefined, hitting midcareer and midlife, all at the same time.
If you see me scribbling away at my local Starbucks, the black notebook holds the overflow of what I think, what I feel, and the confusion of this moment in my life. I read fiction, romances, thrillers, now horror as I stated Joe Hill’s NOS4A2. Between Netflix and books, I want to get lost as I scrape together enough of me to help students through the chaos of school, tucking everything away in my own version of an attic within my mind palace. Sometimes I close my eyes, stumble into the grand library of this mind palace, Richard Armitage reading by the fire, looking up with concern in his eyes and I say “Yeah, I had a day. How was yours?” My fantasies have turned pedestrian lately.
So, it’s no surprise my lungs struggle to take in a breath because lately, I have not had a chance to take one. In a way, you have my secret to dealing with stressed, confused, frustrated, overwhelmed or all of the above students. Sometimes it’s not about the boolean operators but listening to the undertone of fear, homesickness, and self-doubt. Sometimes students want to be heard. I do my best to make sure that happens. Luckily, I have people who hear me and this whole thing taught me sometimes the helper needs to ask for help from time to time.