Saturday, January 17, 2015

Living with the New Normal

So here's the thing. You can plan and prepare and think of all the possible scenarios for "what if." What if a parent dies? What if a parent becomes incapacitated? What if your spouse becomes sick? You can obsess and stress and think you are ready, but when that phone call finally comes that puts your life into high gear and on a new course, you end up just flying by the seat of your pants and hoping that you are getting it right, or if not right, at least close enough.

My dad's stroke has left my tiny family treading water. He can shave, bathe and take care of minor personal needs, but he can't drive and gets lost in his own home. He forgets to drink water, eat or take his medicine if someone doesn't remind him. My mom leaves him alone for no more than 2 hours at a time. The weirdest thing, though, is that the stroke has left him wanting to talk nonstop. He will talk to anyone near him and will often repeat himself. It is draining.

The short term memory is not returning. He asked me to change out his cable box for the new high definition box. He wanted to "help" but knew he couldn't. Part of managing his stroke by himself has turned him into a control freak, so he wanted to tell me what to do every step of the way. Only it went like this. I would start to pull the old box out and he would become agitated and say, "Wait a minute. What are you doing? Give me a minute to think." So I would put my hands down and sit and wait. After about a minute he would say, "Why are you just sitting there? Go ahead and take out the box." I would start to pull it out and he would freak out and ask me what I was doing. This happened no fewer than 6 times before I finally just quickly yanked the box out and took the control away from him.

It's funny. We laugh about it. I want to support him. But I wonder, is this what it is going to be like forever?

The most ironic thing about all of this, somehow my dad's stroke has triggered a whole flood of repressed childhood memories. Nothing (well, only one thing) that is horrible and nothing that my mom or dad have done to me. But things that had been long gone have slowly seeped back into my brain. Memories of riding motorcycles with my brother. Sledding down a hill in a park in San Jacinto with cardboard on the one day it snowed during the time I lived in Houston. Little things. Things that wouldn't matter to most people, but when you have no childhood memories at all, it means something.

So that's were I am right now, trying to come to grips with my new normal and figuring out a way to let go of the fear that something else bad is just around the corner. Because walking through life with one hand covering your eyes is no way to live.

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