Yesterday afternoon I visited Mom and Dad and stayed for about an hour. When I left, relief flooded through me. I'm finished (for a little while) I thought. My conscience wiped clean, I drove home in anticipation of some "me time" after a weekend on call for the hospital.
Why is this so hard for me? I'm not alone; my brother and sister say similar things although they manage to stay longer when they visit, hour after hour. I can't.
Racking my brain for something I could do to bring a flicker (even the briefest) of joy into my Mother's face, I bought a a single serving size ice cream at a nearby grocery store on the way. When I walked into the home, Mom was sitting at the round table in the family room and Dad was in his usual chair with his eyes closed. Mom had a pained expression on her face, a look I see more than any other these days.
"Hi, Mom. Hi, Dad.", I said.
Dad opened his eyes and his typical big smile was followed by a raised arm, mouthing the sound "YEAH". He's always glad to see me. For this, I'm grateful.
Mom looked up with a blank stare. Sometimes I wonder if she sees me, really sees with recognition. She said hello but the expression of worried confusion never left her face.
"I brought you a treat, Mom. Ice cream; cappuccino chip."
She ate every bite.
I know she enjoyed it but I had to extract feedback from her with questions. "Did you like that, Mom?" I just had to hear from her that something I did might, however briefly, pull her from her private, inner reality into the here and now.
She washed the ice cream down with a glass of diet Coke. I like to watch her drink carbonated stuff because after every sip, she burps. Every single sip. And, for some twisted reason, I think that her burping is funny. I laugh. So there. She laughs too; sometimes. I suppose that's why this little ritual of coke-drinking serves as my little treat. Otherwise, there's nothing much funny about any of these visits. Grim and grimmer.
Poor Dad. I feel for him as he watches his life partner struggle with progressive dementia. She says things to him that are mean spirited, things he's done nothing to provoke. I think to myself: "what goes around comes back around" but that's the subject of an entirely different post.
Dad is frail. He's lonely and bored. Looking for an equivalent "joy-maker" like the cup of ice cream brought for Mom, I asked him if there was anything I could bring him. Special food? Snacks?
"No sweet Kitty", he said. "Just bring yourself."
Turns out that "just bringing myself" is awfully hard and getting worse all the time. Despite the knowledge that just my presence brings him happiness, getting in my car and making the drive there gets harder and harder. Some days I'd rather do anything else. Almost. The grinding voice in my head nagging at me to get up there, to be a "good" daughter, is a powerful force.
What is wrong with me?