As I am wont to do, I started noodling over the inevitable blog post several weeks ago. Where to start, how to do it? I couldn’t quite hit the ignition, and so it simmered in the back of my brain along with the rest of… everything… like how I should probably go get an oil change in my car and Chickadee asked me to look for something in her room and how I ordered groceries and asked for one of the pork shoulders that was on sale, “average weight: 4 lbs,” and I thought “Hmm, that’s a lot, but it’s so cheap, and I can freeze leftovers” and then they picked me one that was almost 9 pounds and it’s taking up so much room in the freezer, I really should, y’know, cook it up sometime soon.
And then, a couple of hours ago, while I was trying to do several different things at once, the phone rang. I ran to grab it and managed to trip and go sprawling so hard that I not only screamed and probably scared the absolute crap out of Monkey (who’d been upstairs doing homework but fairly flew down to see what happened), but I also managed to give myself so many lumps and bumps I eventually (after confirming that nothing was broken) settled onto the couch with a smattering of ice packs and a desire to never move again.
That seemed like a sign, I guess. So here I am. I guess it’s time, even if it took me nearly braining myself in the middle of the day for it to happen.
When we last left off, operation Relocate The ‘Rents had finally concluded. Otto and I returned home, ready to exhale and unwind a little, finally, and although my klutziness then (are you sensing a theme?) had landed me in a walking boot, all in all, things were okay. Kind of. I mean, I was kind of white-knuckling my mental health for a variety of reasons, but we were finally home for the foreseeable future! And I could start TMS again! Remember how TMS worked so well for me about a year ago? I was, once again, quietly drowning, but at least I knew relief was on the way.
So I scheduled my TMS start and tried to get back to the various things here that had suffered in our frequent absences, all the while checking in with my dad and stepbrother about how things were going in Arizona in terms of the transition and settling in and everything. Long-distance moves are an absolute nightmare, in case you didn’t know, and so of course the ridiculously huge delivery window given to us by the movers began and we waited and waited and waited and on the very last day, they finally showed up. At long last, my dad and stepmom were moved into their new apartment, and the New Normal could begin. Or, that was the plan, anyway.
Time is a little fuzzy in this window, but I don’t think they’d been there for two weeks, even, when my stepmom ended up back in the hospital. This was very worrisome, obviously, but my stepbrother and his wife assured me that they had matters well in hand—-and they did—-but then they called one day and started with “Don’t freak out” but, well, now my father was having some scary symptoms and they’d all been hanging out in my stepmom’s room and a doctor told my stepbrother to take my father down to the ER to be evaluated for a possible stroke. They followed orders and Dad was evaluated and released (no stroke). The next day pretty much the same thing happened, except this time they decided to look for congestive heart failure, and again he was evaluated and released. Diagnosis? Exhaustion. Go home and sleep.
My stepbrother—-champion among men, truly—-spent the next day going between his mom in the hospital and checking on my dad at their apartment; Dad apparently slept for nearly 24 hours straight. But the following day he was still noticeably off, and that’s when my stepbrother told me it was probably time for me to come out, if at all possible, because he needed to be with my stepmom and clearly my father also needed medical attention and possibly round-the-clock care until whatever was happening resolved.
Hey, at least I was out of the boot by then.
Otto found me a plane ticket while I packed my suitcase. I canceled my upcoming TMS. I packed a week’s worth of clothes and meds and at the last minute threw in an extra week of meds. Just in case. We discussed whether my stepbrother was overreacting, which he does not seem prone to, and concluded that a trip was the only logical course of action. Off I went.
Woooooooo I could probably fill an entire book with what came next, but I will spare you (and myself) and stick to the SparkNotes. It turned out that Dad was having an adverse reaction to a new medication his fancypants know-everything new doc had put him on, and while speaking to this man on the phone I could tell he was sure I was exaggerating and/or totally barking up the wrong tree, but he gave us an appointment and we walked in and my father sat down and began nodding off and drooling on himself so I was saved (in this instance) from looking like Chicken Little. It was weird and scary and STILL the doc said no, it can’t possibly be that med, but he agreed to discontinue it “just to prove his point” and Reader, it was totally the med, and Dad was back to normal shortly thereafter. Phew.
In the meantime, my stepmom wasn’t doing so hot in the hospital, and so we kind of worked out shifts so that someone was always there with her. Bless all the medical workers, seriously, but if you have a loved one who needs constant-but-not-ICU-level care in a hospital setting, Godspeed, because they are understaffed and overworked and you and your family are quickly going to learn how to do everything short of putting in an IV, because if you have to call for a nurse you’re going to be waiting forever.
So there were lots of long days at the hospital and my week was drawing to an end and I rescheduled my flight out another week. When not at the hospital, I reorganized the kitchen and hung up all the artwork that was still sitting in boxes and took Dad to various appointments and went grocery shopping and made comfort food. Dad kept remarking on how the apartment was starting to feel like home, and my stepmom seemed to be getting a little better, and we started talking about next steps after discharge, right around the time that my stepmom started complaining that her eyes were hurting. They were quite red, so every time a nurse came by, we would ask them to please have the doctor check her. They gave us some Visine and said she was fine. I was really bothered that no one seemed to think it was a big deal, because it obviously wasn’t normal, but hey, I’m not a medical professional.
One evening Dad and I tagged out from the hospital when my stepbrother arrived, and then we went over to his house to have dinner with my sister-in-law and the kids. It was delicious and we had a wonderful time; it was probably the most relaxed we’d all been since I arrived.
The next day, my sister-in-law tested positive for COVID.
Dad and I were encouraged to stay away from the hospital so we wouldn’t potentially expose my stepmom. This seemed reasonable. My sister-in-law had been exposed somewhere and the last thing we wanted to do was bring it into the hospital, right?
Wrong. While we’ll never know for certain, we came to believe that actually, my stepmom had it first. (Yes, Virginia, irony of ironies is catching COVID in the hospital.) The eye irritation she was experiencing was her first symptom, probably. (And yes, she was vaccinated and boosted.) But she was already sick. And I think she was already very, very tired.
Two weeks to the day I arrived, I prepared to fly home while my stepbrother called hospice. It felt wrong to leave, but I was out of medication, and insofar as everything could be under control when it feels like everything is falling apart, it was. My COVID test was negative and I shuffled through airport security and collapsed at my gate, texting with Otto while tears leaked down my face.
I came home and went to bed, and literally stayed there for several days. I rescheduled my TMS. One night I burst into hysterical laughter that turned to wracking sobs while trying to explain to Otto that I had been depressed before this all happened but at least since then everything had gotten much, much worse.
She lived another week, and then she was gone.
Grief is complicated and my family of origin has never hesitated to put the WTAF in dysfunctional (I know it’s supposed to be “fun in dysfunctional” but just trust me here), so it’s been a RIDE. There’s so much to unpack; I don’t know that I ever will. But here’s what I know for sure: my stepmom was a hell of a woman, and I am grateful her suffering ended, but selfishly, oh, I miss her.
The last time I did TMS I started feeling better at the halfway mark, and this time it took longer and I started worrying it just wasn’t going to work. But it did, eventually. Which means I am now nearly human again, functioning, managing, whatever. I am cooking again! Reading books again! Actually getting work done again! Having conversations without bursting into tears! It’s glorious. Or, you know, normal.
The girls were home a week ago—-just for a few days—-and that’s when I turned the corner, I think. It was so nice to have them here for a bit. (Related: How is it possible that I have adult children who live far away? That seems wrong.)
Barkley is back, too. Remember Barkley? The good news is that we did indeed get his custom wheelchair and now he can go for zoom-walks and he loves it. The bad news is that when I was with my folks more than I was at home, I passed him to another foster figuring he’d be adopted before everything settled down for us. And of course the worst news is… he still hasn’t been adopted (although he does have a meet with a potential adopter this week, so please cross fingers and toes). Barkley clearly believes I am his mommy, though. Once it became clear that the rescue would have him for a while and life settled so he could come back here, I went to see him, thinking he might not even remember me. And he LAUNCHED himself into my arms and covered me with kisses. He loves me SO MUCH. He wants to be in my lap always, and also barking very loudly directly in my ear. (I am totally kidding when I threaten to yeet him over the fence when he does that, by the way, should the rescue ask.)
Barkley just started on Prozac, finally, so ALSO fingers crossed that it makes him less of an anxiety monster. (The vet was reluctant to try it, saying it takes a while to work and we should try training. Welp. We have trained and trained, with a fantastic trainer. You know how Arnold says “IT’S NOT A TUMAH!” in Kindergarten Cop? Picture me on the phone with the vet, similarly bellowing “IT’S NOT BEHAVIORAL!” because listen, he’s soooooo sweet, but still so afraid/reactive, and we KNOW he has brain damage, so how about we just give him the damn meds already?)
So that’s… pretty much everything. Oh, except the fall today. So, we recently had the outside of the house repainted, which cost a fortune (because everything costs a fortune), on the heels of which Otto decided to repair a few spots on our fence himself, because he’s pretty handy, but it turned out there was extensive rot and we need a whole new fence. (Expensive! Woooo!) So while he was waiting on estimates on that, he decided to fix a few spots on the deck, and… same thing. So we need a new fence AND a new deck, and we just dropped all this money, PLUS I’ve barely been working because of… everything… and somehow in the midst of this we talked about how we need to do some repainting inside, really we’re well overdue, and I said Hey, I can take care of that. I love to paint. But not the family room, because I’ve done it once, but the ceiling is extra high and even with ladders/poles it’s a complete pain in the ass, maybe we wait on that and hire someone.
No biggie, right? Naturally the universe beheld our various trials and travails and one day we walked into the family room to discover that one of the weird decorative shelves (they came with the house) two-thirds of the way up one wall had mysteriously detached and hurled itself to the floor, taking a giant chunk of wallboard with it.
Soooooooo we’re gonna have to hire someone to fix the wall, so we might as well have them paint. Moooore money! Yayyyyy!
And as long as we’re repainting the room, we should (we reasoned) finally replace the ancient ceiling fan, as it is both 1) ugly and 2) a very dim light in a big room which has since had lots of lamps added to it. Why not?
I shopped and found an acceptable replacement and a nice man came and installed it for us last week. It looks great, has 6 speeds and speed 3 is equivalent to the old High so I imagine it could launch the house into the stratosphere, and the new LED light is super bright. It wasn’t even very expensive. Happy ending!
But… the old fan is sitting on the floor, sort of out of the way, awaiting a buyer or for us to get sick of it and take it to the donation center. And earlier today when the phone rang and I ran to grab it I somehow snagged my pant leg on a fan blade (I think?) and down I went.
Everything hurts. But I got up, and I’m okay. Okayish.
I know it’s a cliché, but hug your loved ones and tell them how much you love them. Every chance you get.