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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Sleepless

It's 1:30 a.m. and I am still awake. This causes me some anxiety because my day could begin very early or my sleep be very disturbed depending on Michael's night. But I did it to myself today. I was hell-bent on getting the income tax forms completed. Why the rush, I can't tell you, but once I embarked on the project I was eager to see the end of it.

I rarely allow much time for intellectual pursuits. By the time my day ends I am usually ready to fall into bed, instantly asleep, probably from succumbing to the numbing effect of the television, Michael's preferred activity, that blares most of the day. He has maybe two or three hours a day where he is ambulatory so the television is his eye on the world when he has to be glued to the couch or wheelchair. I endure the incessant drone in the background, keeping myself busy with the running of the household which involves dozens, if not hundreds, of small tasks every day. If I sit for any period of time with a book or in front of the TV I'm asleep in seconds.

So the intellectual challenge of the taxes at first filled me with trepidation as it did last year, the first year I had ever tackled this household chore. Michael used to do it years ago but when it became very obvious that his cognitive skills had degenerated significantly, I, as tactfully as possible, suggested we hand the whole mess over to an accountant. It seemed especially appropriate to do so at that time since, with his sudden departure from work in 2003, there were drastic changes in our income and taxes anyway, complicating the process for him even more.

But last year I looked at the previous year's bill from the accountant and blanched. We could hardly spare that extra money with Michael's medical costs increasing (even though I now know they provide fodder for tax deductions). How hard could it be? Besides, my brother assured me that even if you screw things up, CRA and Revenu Quebec will sort it out for you. I would hardly say I embraced the task but I did approach it with some intellectual curiosity, resolving that if I really couldn't manage I'd bail and hand over to an accountant.

I plodded through things slowly, doing every family member's forms old-school; pen and paper. I had to. I need to see the numbers spread out before me on the page. I need to have that tactile connection to a task, I always have. I needed the guide books spread out on the table, handy for quick reference. And I didn't trust myself to handle, not only the steep learning curve of doing the taxes for the first time, but also learning how to use a new computer programme. Hey, I still do old-fashioned bookkeeping on top of my onlline banking because I never quite trust the computer.

I got through it and that was even with a broken right wrist that certainly slowed things down even further. The process was not only tactile but painful. And I did a fairly decent job, if I say so myself, with few errors.

This year I resolved to do the same but then my curiosity got the better of me and I
decided just to try out the online programme. Turns out I loved it - so much easier than last year's laborious method, but that slow tactile process certainly cemented the concepts into my slowing brain in a way the computer programme wouldn't have, doing all the calculations for me. That was okay for this year, though, because I at least had a basic understanding of the concepts now and could actually converse somewhat intelligently about things like capital gains and basic personal exemptions.

I immersed myself. The past few days have seen copious amounts of tea consumed and I found myself frighteningly oblivious to my other tasks. Michael was being made to wait for a trip to the washroom or even, one night, for his bedtime routine. When I finally surfaced long enough to pay attention to him, I found him perched on the side of his bed, half dressed, looking lost and exhausted. I had to shut things down immediately and attend to him. He looked up at me with sad, tired eyes, somehow acknowledging in that one look his absolute dependence on me for everything in his life. I felt chastened. I felt as though I had abandoned him for some frivolous affair.

On some level I must have known that I couldn't let this process drag out. This wasn't just a delicious challenge to engage my brain. There had to be a swift conclusion to this task. Better to have a concentrated sniper attack than a long drawn out, distracted affair. Once I got the damned things on their way I knew I wouldn't obsess about them any longer.

So, today was the day of completion, beginning as soon as I could this morning, punctuated by various caregiving tasks but wrapping up with a whoop of joy late afternoon. So satisfying. But clearly I cannot handle that much excitement because here I am at 2 a.m. and I'm wide awake.

What does a girl like me do for excitement? Her taxes.

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