I stepped outside this morning to retrieve the daily newspaper from the box at the end of our driveway. Sometimes, on days without respite and therefore no opportunity for a walk with the dogs, this is my only foray outdoors, especially if the weather is lousy and Michael is particularly immobile, unable to even poke his head outside. On those days I hunker down and watch movies, knit, and nap between the various household tasks that must be done everyday, boring things like meals, dishes, laundry and, of course, whatever Michael's many needs might be beyond those basic domestic tasks. On those days sometimes the only utterance from Michael is to mimic the yawns, whines and other chirps emanating from the two dogs.
This Sunday morning feels like it could morph into one of those sluggish days. The sky has an ominous hue of dark grey to the west, the wind is murmuring, hinting at pent up rage, and the air feels oddly heavy and summery despite the cooler temperature, almost as if a thunderstorm looms. It is an appropriate measure of my mood, that I could have a meltdown but I'm just too tired to do so, preferring the prospect of wrapping myself up and retreating from the world, if only I could step away from the essential tasks at hand.
Michael's 87-year-old mom went home yesterday. I bowed out of that task, insisting to her that other family members accompany her home, fill her fridge and make sure she was comfortably settled. She phoned as usual this morning to report her immense relief. She sounded happy. Fingers crossed. But I could feel my energy suddenly draining out of me, perhaps from my own relief of being able to stand down for a while. It has been an intensive three months, culminating in sleeplessness and high emotions this week as we all faced this next step of her life - her desire to resume "normal" activities. All have agreed to step back and let things unfold, however that may be. More fervent crossing of fingers.
That aside, though murmuring like the wind in the background, I can take stock of my reserves. If only I could see into the future and know how much more energy I need for this job. Not that I want it to be over - though I have to confess there are days when I wish it were so - but it would be nice to have a crystal ball to plan and prepare for what I can only imagine will be a difficult time ahead. Will I be able to see this through to the ideal end of Michael spending his final days or years comfortably at home? Will I have to muster up the strength and courage to hand him over to others to care for him? That is a prospect I dread, especially as I have had the opportunity to watch a cousin attend to her frail, anxious husband in the same retirement home where Norma convalesced. This woman, who makes daily visits and stays overnight on weekends, looks worn out, stressed out. The placement of loved ones into institutional care doesn't necessarily lessen the load, I've learned. And it can most certainly add to the guilt that all caregivers seem to carry.
Obviously, I cannot map out the future. Can anyone? I have a few big hints how this story will end but I can't cheat and flip to the last page, something I admit to doing when I read a book where it becomes too difficult to go forward without assurances of the end results. I just have to continue to plod through what is becoming a story of epic length and hope that the stormy plot twists aren't too dark and ominous.