Today I’m not working. I took the day off two months ago because I wanted to have a day to myself prior to going on a three day weekend trip to Rhode Island with my wife to see the mansions in Newport.
I thought it’d be a day to catch my breath and relax. Go to the gym, then maybe do something for myself for a change. Play God of War on Playstation, pick up my dusty guitar, read the book I have from the library about writing creatively. A few hours of time just for myself.
I don’t have it anymore. My wife is at the hospital caring for her mother who was checked in yesterday because of mental confusion, a really terrible cough, massive fatigue. She has dementia and now apparently is sick with something else too. A full day of diagnostics and we aren’t any closer to pinning it down.
I need to contact some nonprofit agency today to figure out if we can get some kind of care for them. This absolutely cannot continue in this way — it is destroying our lives. We are stressed at all times now. Jennie is in service to her parents, I am in service to Jennie, all of us in human bondage to one another. This is not what I want our marriage to be: Slavery.
I feel like all of my posts in OD are universally negative but I don’t have much positive to talk about — the problem with caring for sick people is that they are always sick. The stress does not let up.
Example: Jennie gets home last night from the hospital around 9. I cooked for her — timed it so that dinner would be ready just a few minutes before she got home. Fresh macaroni and cheese, the good shit from the deli at Stop and Shop, re-fried on a skillet so some of the cheese is mildly browned , a dash of paprika and salt the way she likes it. Breaded chicken in the oven, tender, not overcooked, juicy. She’s barely hungry but I force her to sit down and eat while she gives me the updates from the hospital. Once she’s eating she finally acknowledges yeah, dinner is good, thanks. I do the dishes while she continues to talk about her sick mother.
Once that’s done her brother is texting her about theories why mom is so sick. Jennie reads the texts to me and keeps exclaiming how stupid and irritating her brother is. I say yes, agree. It is my job to agree with her. I cannot read a book or play a video game or even watch a show while this is happening. This critical thing — caring for her mom — it seems that it is important for this to be our 100% focus until it’s over. To do anything else would be to say to Jennie: I don’t care about your mom and I don’t care about you.
And yet, this is agony for me. I need a break from this, a break that doesn’t come.
Later, in bed, Jennie gets a call from the hospital. It is eleven now, and the nurse who calls is apologetic about the time. Jennie, I can feel, is ready to get out of bed and drive to the hospital if she needs to. But she doesn’t. The nurse just wants to go over some practical stuff. What are her medications? Does she have dementia? Can she speak any English anymore? (Not really, she’s greek and the dementia has destroyed the small English vocabulary that she had built up.)
Finally the call ends. Jennie agrees to go to the hospital again at 9 in the morning. I hold her and touch her back until she goes to sleep.
This morning I wake up at 7:30 and go through the ConstantObligations to get us ready. She takes off at 8:30 to the hospital, I am left at home figuring out how to spend my day off.
I have to do our shopping, clean parts of the house, go to the town dump, go to the gym to do my physical therapy, call the VA Care place to get started on options for the oldster care, and start getting ready for our vacation to Rhode Island that will probably not happen after all. I have therapy at 3, too — something I’m dreading now. I’ll just be rehashing all of this shit again. I also just realized I made a haircut appointment for noon. I haven’t had it cut for 5 weeks and it’s shaggy.
I remember making this appointment. I was thinking to myself: I’ll look nice and handsome for Jennie for our trip. She loves it when I get my hair cut, she looks at me a different way for a few days after, like wow, my husband is hot again.
The memory, overlayed with what feels like certain knowledge that we’re going to cancel our trip to caretake her parents instead, a weekend full of anxiety, misery, uncertainty and limbo, brings tears to my eyes. Instead of connecting with one another we will be doing stuff that drives us apart, makes me resentful.
This is not what I want in my life or my marriage. Something must be done.
And yet, there is nothing to be done except accept it. Life is often not what we want.
I have to get going or I won’t be able to fit all my errands in.