Overwhelming sleepiness prompted me to indulge in a rare after-dinner cup of tea to get me through the evening.
Meal-time had been wild and stressful - normal. Michael took too large a bite of pizza and had a rather spectacular choking fit, gagging, gasping, vomiting, coughing, contorting, convulsing, face turning impressive shades of blue, snot, tears and saliva pouring down his face. Once the drama had passed, he attacked his food. I admonished him repeatedly and impatiently to take small bites, chew thoroughly, sit up properly, concentrate on the task at hand - all wasted words. Halfway through, he suddenly needed to visit the bathroom, a normal break in every meal. I followed him in a minute or two too late: Accident all over his clothes and the floor. Then, on returning to the table, he finished his meal and stood up again, this time abruptly, knocking a half glass of apple juice over the table, the newspaper, the floor, but not quite onto the computer parked just beyond the flood. I flung the cloth napkins into the spreading pool to stem the flow then shuffled him off to the living room, ordering him to sit still while I mopped up the mess. He jabbed uselessly at the remote control. I felt frustration boiling beneath the surface, my voice edged with annoyance.
The tea erased my fatigue but left me wide-awake, now near midnight. I was consumed by an unfocused restlessness that made reading impossible but cupboard cleaning a must. I found a notebook stuffed into the bedside table I had emptied onto the floor. I sat down to flip through it. There were lists of Christmas presents purchased over the years. There were pages devoted to crunching money numbers in case of this or that eventuality. There were a few dreams recorded, now long forgotten. There were rough drafts of sad letters to my sister (did I ever send them?) and there was this, strangely and messily scribbled backwards in my notebook, not long after my sister died on April 19, 2011:
Resentment has no place in the human heart, least of all in the heart of the caregiver. Holding on to past grievances can fester like a poisoned sore, incapable of healing. One must empty that store of accumulated, perceived injustices to remain sane and stable through this job.
I rarely allow myself to pay a visit to that collection of complaints. I thought I had dealt with it all, had sealed the lid securely and pemanently. But, alas, now and again my ugly resentment rears its head and I must wrestle it back into the box.
It catches me by surprise, when I least expect it. Tonight, for instance, was an ordinary night, filled with the usual dumb television, lots of knitting and, happily, lots of phone calls from kids and friends. So I was pretty content by Michael's bedtime. It wasn't until I started the nightly calming prayers that I was suddenly grabbed. I tried to focus on the words but I could only think of our aborted train trip (blogpost "Journeys", March 1, 2011) and how it was to have been the last opportunity to see my sister and her husband before they died. We had put life on hold and had spent two years waiting for a surgical procedure (blogpost "The Long Dead-End Road to Surgery", June 4, 2011) that was then abruptly cancelled just months before I finally booked the trip. But it was too late. Michael's dementia and psychosis were too advanced to endure such a journey. That too had to be cancelled.
I had been angry, frustrated, sad, all at once, but I don't think I cried much at the time. There had been far too much to deal with at home trying to stabilize Michael's mental health that was careening out of control and just survive the ordeal.
But tonight it erupted. Hot tears stung my eyes as I imagined completing that journey and seeing my sister after all, holding her frail body, probably both of us crying. I'm crying as I write this.
Michael was oblivious to what I have had to give up for him, indeed what had had to be given up for years before. In a flash, just for a moment, I hated him, but just as quickly the anger abated and I imagined Ann herself. She calmed me; I told myself he wasn't responsible.
* F.S. Church,"Opened up a Pandora's Box", 19th century