Days are beginning to melt into each other. My couple doesn’t like the idea that they need help in order to stay in their home. Yet, the demands are so great that I rarely have time to think about anything other than feeding them, making sure they are clean, making sure the house is clean…..
My social life is nil.
I did see Ben today and that reminded me how insulated I have truly become. Except for seeing the ex-husband on occasion to pick up an extra fan or some stray kitchen items we need I don’t see anyone else that I know. Facebook, a once weekly trip to Blogstream when I can stand the slow server, and email have become my link to the outside world. Walking the north shore of Canandaigua, eating ice cream at The Muar House, and hanging out at my old Starbucks haunt seemed almost surreal to me. I’ve only been here two months and it seems like six.
The pattern of my days totally revolve around the needs of my couple and their house. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed. Other times I know that I wouldn’t do anything else. I’ve lived my adult life overwhelmed. Whenever the county called with one more, or three more, children….I never turned them down. Even at 53, when they called me about 15 mo. old Gabriel, I couldn’t resist. There is something needy about needing to be needed, isn’t there?
The mornings generally start off a little rocky but are always a relief from the night before. The initial confusion can seem difficult to attend to when one is normally a little groggy. On a bad nights sleep, which is the norm, it can be horrendous. It’s still easier than the evening when the sundowners takes hold and the flashlights come out. I sleep with my bedroom door open and the minute I hear them stir I immediately go out and start working in the kitchen. This has an extremely soothing effect, especially on the husband, who I believe is secretly afraid he won’t have anything to eat unless he sees a female moving about the place. I head straight for the coffeemaker and make a full pot. It has been my salvation more mornings than I care to think about. Once the first cup is down, I am able to joke and make light of the confusion using my limited knowledge of Espanol and NYC Mafia voices. This breaks the tension of them not remembering me from the day before. I tease the husband about needing to eat and saying it’s not fair that a skinny guy like him gets to eat all the time without gaining an ounce. A smile goes a long way with this couple and I have been a smiler all my life, even on my most down days, so it works.
I quickly get a bowl of cereal at his place with a small glass of juice. As the wife sleepily makes her way out to the dining room I make sure she is taken care of too. Later, around 10, depending on when they got up, I will make what I call a “second breakfast” of scrambled eggs, toast, more juice, and/or waffles. I don’t wait for him to ask for it, by then it’s too late. At that point he is cranky and about to move into The Land of Make Believe. Mr. Roger’s knows what I’m talking about. I don’t ask either because I might get a negative response. If I do I have learned the hard way that he doesn’t mean it.
During the second breakfast I turn Susan Boyle on the CD player in the kitchen. He doesn’t particularly care for TV or music but I have learned to override that because it keeps the wife from the non-stop blathering that she is prone to and that drives him more crazy than the aforementioned. The music, in particular, is very soothing to her and sometimes I can just feel myself relax when I see her take a breath, close her eyes and inhale the sweet sound of Susan’s voice.
At that point I return to my room and leave them (within hearing distance) to their own devices knowing that I will hear a “help me…help me” if the husband needs help getting up. The more I let them do for themselves the better for them……if not for me. It truly is true that if you don’t use it, you lose it. In their case they are losing things daily but the regression will be worse if they do nothing. I am certain, at this point, that they will not try to actually cook anything other than a cup of tea in the microwave, and they show no signs of the classic Alzheimer’s wandering so I don’t have to worry about that either. I have already told the son that if that ever happens I will have to give my notice. This job is so all-encompassing withOUT that factor that I’m at the limit of my abilities right now.
Later, I will clean bathrooms, vacuum, do laundry, etc. It is set for Meals on Wheels to bring lunch five days a week. Initially I told the son that he didn’t have to have that as I can cook for them. It’s good that it’s still coming though. It gives me a break from cooking yet another meal each day and they really like the meals that come. There is this sense that it’s like take-out. While they eat lunch I usually do some kind of dinner preparation. As they are constantly looking for sweets, I bake little cupcakes or cookies. I decide what to make for dinner and take everything out of the freezer that I’m going to need for later.
Ever since I was separated from my husband and family I pretty much stopped cooking. For 36 years I cooked three meals a day. The husband took to eating cereal only after I took a job outside the house, before that expecting French Toast or eggs every day like his mother used to give him. As the family grew and grew the cooking took on gargantuan proportions. Near the end I was cooking for 8-10 on a daily basis, assuming no stragglers showed up as they usually did. I used to say that we had the MCC crowd, The Hardcore (youth group kids) the Elim students and the Roberts Wesleyan contingent. As many as 5 extra could show up unannounced any night of the week. Cooking then didn’t seem like a chore as much as I just didn’t even think about it. Food was everywhere in the kitchen in a seemingly endless stream of preparation. I view cooking as a necessary evil now. Fortunately my couple likes simple food that doesn’t require a lot of thought or attention.
As said previously, the husband likes to see me puttering around the kitchen. I think he is relieved to know he’s not home alone with a wife who can’t do it anymore. I’m not much for puttering though. I move speedily, get things done quickly and move on to other things. It’s all those years of all those kids and all that housework and all that yard work. It’s never going to change. The wife makes comments about wanting to help me and I have learned not to deny her the asking knowing that she’s never going to follow through anyway.
Afternoons are the quietest time and I have learned to appreciate them. When they settle down, I settle down. Evenings, with their constant questioning of who I am, why I’m here, who hired me, and bold statements that they are just going to up and sell the house and move back to their hometown will come soon enough. I’ve learned to let sleeping dogs lie. Don’t borrow trouble, as they say.
By nightfall I’m tired and it’s the worst time for all of this to take hold. I am trying to find ways to relax. I have found recently that I have this vacillating pain on the left side of my jaw. Having no health insurance of any kind I am pretty on top of anything that smacks of a problem. At first I thought it might be a toothache. Never having had a toothache I wasn’t sure what they felt like but I’ve heard they are horrible. The pain really isn’t in my tooth though. It’s in my jaw. I HAVE had TMJ before and that is what I think it is. I know what you are thinking…what does this have to do with everything else I’m talking about? Because the pain comes and goes I believe it is from grinding my teeth and is stress related.
So, I had a great day today. It is teaching me to make a point of having more ‘great days’. If for no other reason than if I don’t take care of myself I can’t take care of anyone else.