Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Oh what a night!

That's the title of an old seventies song. "Oh what a night!" they sang, "Late December back in sixty-something". Yeah well my "oh what a night" was just last night. We spent seven hours in the ER for a stomach flu. Nasty business, the stomach flu. The ER isn't too backward either. It ain't nasty but it's no luxury hotel either!

The thing I realized or perhaps came to terms with, last night was this: when I write, I'm focused on the planning and execution of the financial branch of the caregiving equation for the simple reason that that can be controlled. What cannot be controlled, is when you're going to have to call 9-1-1, ride in the ambulance, and have your parent admitted to hospital. What cannot be controlled is what happens when the ECG comes back 'irregular' and instead of going home at 3:30 am, you have to wait another three hours for more tests to be run to ensure that the vomit and diarrhea aren't some weird symptom of some other, grander cardiac episode. (Bless God, they weren't.) Sometimes v&d are just v&d, if you know what I mean.

At the end of the day, I talk a lot about controlling the finances because that's all you can control. And I'm big into controlling what I can. Since it ain't much, I'm fixated on money like a panther is fixated on its prey.

I write at length, sometimes more coherently than others, about what it takes to keep the wolf from the door financially. What I cannot write about, because I don't entirely know how to do it myself, is how to keep yourself from shattering into tiny little pieces each time the fragile stability you've created (real or pretend) is threatened by an 11:15 pm 9-1-1 call.

Years ago, I told my family that we needed to build a resource base because navigating the rough roads of illness is tough enough without added burden of also being in dire financial straits. If' I've only ever said that implicitly before; if that's only ever been the unstated subtext to my writings before then here it is now, writ large and explicit: we make a plan and execute it because when our Mummy or Daddy is sick, we want to be able to do the best for them without fear of the consequences. We want to be able to preserve the dignity of the well and the ill simultaneously. That takes work. A lot of it. That work is more of the 'stewardship' I talked about (not especially articulately) the other day.

You are the steward of your parent's dignity and it will take more than a little effort to care for and protect it well. You will have to risk something if you are to gain something. For me last night, I had to risk holding my mother's hand. She was never a touchy, feely parent, so reaching out to her physically requires taking a leap. But she is my mother, and let's be honest, this journey through Alzheimer's Disease is a journey to the ultimate fork in the road where we will be separated first by silence and eventually by death.

So tonight, using less strident tones than I usually do, I'm asking you again, to be good stewards of your parents' resources; their opportunities; their futures. Sometimes the things over which stewardship needs to be exercised don't yet exist or are ethereal like your parents' dignities. You may be being called to be the steward to a future they can't see but you can. That was my call: to see it, to demonstrate it and in the absence of their belief or support, create it anyway, and then fight like h@!! to hold on to it!

Gandhi said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Well, we need to "Be the stewards we wish to see in our families". OK, that's not nearly as euphonious as Gandhi's quote, but I think you get my point.

Had to jump up and go see what Mummy was up to. That's the second spill of liquid on to the table and floor in under an hour. What's up with that?

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