But first there were all those dropped shoes to think about.
In the last year, on both sides of my and my husband’s families, our parents have suffered extraordinary health problems that have required our attention, our time and increasingly our assistance.
Or rather, my attention, my time and my assistance.
As anyone doing the stay-at-home gig knows, much of the work we do is unquantifiable. It’s not measured in hours, initiatives or projects completed as it’s done in the corporate world, but in conversations — time spent talking about and listening to the needs of those we care for, and in taking the action necessary to provide that care.
Which usually means more conversations — with doctors, appliance repair people, teachers, babysitters, landscapers. Anything that happens during the day, at the house, is our domain. So, in addition to making sure there are clean clothes and food for when people get home, I’m the one calling the insurance adjustor and the contractor when a freak storm takes out a piece of our carport.
In the case of our parents, it has meant numerous hospital visits, arranging home-care, or waiting for a phone call telling the result of a scary test. It has meant signing one parent up for on-line bill-paying to make sure the property insurance gets paid (by me), and discussing end-of-life requests with the other. It has meant spending weekdays, and weekends, traveling back and forth to Staten Island and Queens.
All the while, I keep things moving. Lunches get made and homework is done and our own bills are paid, sometimes late, but they are. The Parent du Jour keeps chugging along (thanks in large part to Ms. @KDWald) and other friends help by taking my daughter for long playdates and sleepovers so I can catch up. I cry in the shower or in the car, because there’s no other time to process the emotional fallout of what’s happening and because I don’t want to frighten my little girl.
It’s been tough, (she said, in the understatement of the year), but I keep going. These are the most important people in the world to me; my daughter, my husband, my parents, my in-laws. They are the world, to me. The dilemma is not in finding the way to keep my commitments to them all, but to keep my mind on the clock.
I may not like the way we’re spending our time these days— solving problems or putting out fires, rather than taking trips or celebrating milestones — but that’s not for me to say.
Someday we’ll all be gone.
I want to go knowing I gave the people I love everything I had while we were still here, together.