Last week, Jeeves was reading through old e-mails. Before we lived together, for about a year and a half I lived at my dad's. And during most of that time, Jeeves was living up in New Haven, CT. When he finished his clerkship, he went on a trip with his mom to India for six weeks (he had a lot of lag time between jobs, and it seemed like the best time to go on a long adventure). That was in August-September 2009. The only way for us to communicate was through daily e-mails. My friends, we wrote LONG e-mails, filled with details about our days, and it now serves as an interesting snapshot of my life in August 2009.
Dad had been diagnosed in May, and had started chemo in June. My memories of that summer are that the chemo made Dad sick, and that working full time plus making sure he ate every day and taking him to chemo too was tiring and stressful for me. I also remember some minor stuff, like going down the shore (that's what we call it in Jersey) with Phil, Emily, and Reefy on a sunny August day. But I forgot a lot of other stuff too. I forgot just how sick Dad felt. How tired and lonely I was. And how I couldn't seem to catch a break (to wit, I sent my car through the car wash and the bumper fell off; the bike chain came off my brand new bike while I was riding it; and I had low grade paranoia that my boss was going to yell at me for something). I was kind of like Charlie Brown, I think. Poor summer 2009 Megs.
Hearing my own voice in those old e-mails made me feel better in a weird way because it was a tough, tough time, but I made it through, and there were a lot of good happy things that came after that.
Dad is home from rehab. I stayed for 3 days. It felt like weeks. It was a mixed bag. He's much better than he was, but I don't think he's ever going to go back to how he was (physically, I mean. Mentally he's pretty much back to normal). He has a visiting nurse and a home health aide. But for most of the time, he's still on his own. What would be most comforting for me and my sister is if he were in assisted living. But he is very opposed to this, and we can't make him. When I left yesterday, I thought, well, I've really done the best I can. I was exhausted, I had forgotten to take my Pepcid so I had heart palpitations, hadn't really eaten much all day, and I was experiencing shortness of breath (thanks to lack of room since Manuji is taking up soooo much space now and running up and down my dad's staircase a bajillion times). When I made it home, I pulled on yoga pants, climbed into bed, and did not get out other than to eat the dinner Jeeves ordered for us. Then I got back into bed. It may sound silly, but yesterday evening was the first time I really realized that physically I cannot do this anymore.
A couple of weeks ago, Anh gave me a speech about how all a parent wants is for their child to be happy and have his/her own life. She was saying this as a way of encouraging me to step back from Dad Care a bit and focus on my own life/impending child. Nothing she said is wrong. And I think logically my dad would agree with her. But the experience is different. Anh is a healthy, young parent to two little kids. My dad is 78 years old, has metastatic colon cancer, and has managed to take care of himself alone for a long time. And now he can't anymore, and he knows this. But it's a lot easier to become reliant on the assistance of a willing daughter than a stranger, even a paid stranger. And so while I know my dad wants me to be happy, I also believe that he is more comfortable asking me to drop everything and rearrange my life than he is with paying people to help him with some of the embarrassing or mundane tasks of his life.
I know that in some cultures, it's expected that you will take care of your parents as they age, and I think this is fine and good. I would be happy to do this for my dad. The problem is that my dad (despite offers from both me and my sister) rejected the idea of moving in with one of us. So, he wants me to take care of him, but in his own home in NJ, which is just not possible. Oh, my dad would never explicitly say to me, "Come home and take care of me," but I also know from various things that he has said that this appeals to him. So you see, I don't think it's as simple as saying "parents just want their children to be happy and live their own lives."
I was venting/opining on this topic to Wendy today. Wendy has a lot of experience with this stuff - her father has been ill her whole life, at time deathly ill, and her 92 year old grandmother (who is in assisted living) is still extremely reliant on Wendy's mother for all sort of things. Wendy put it thusly:
Old people are funny. There's this brain cycle where in many ways the older people get, the more they perceive the world the way they did as children. There's a general self-centering that takes place, even in people who never put themselves first. I've seen it in many of my relatives, and my grandmother and father like to talk about it. Ten years ago, your dad would have been horrified at the thought that you were doing so much for him and putting your own life on hold to do so. Today he probably doesn't even consider it. It's not that he's being selfish, it's just that it truly doesn't occur to him that you might be paying a price for doing all this for him. In some ways I am glad about the timing of your pregnancy because it means you will have to step away from this and let [Sissy] step up or force your dad to accept help from others -- whether you want to or not. I bet if Hot Pocket [Wendy's nickname for Manuji] weren't a factor, you would just be giving 100% to your dad and have tunnel vision about ever getting out of this cycle.
Dad says some of this is related to fear of dying. As you know, it drives me crazy when Grandma makes Mom drive her to doctors or checks herself into the hospital at 3 am for crazy reasons and lets the shitstorm fall on everyone else. I rant and rave to Dad about how inconsiderate it is of her to be so demanding of Mom and never to think of what might be going on in her life. Even though Dad agrees with me, he says that at that age (granted, my grandmother is 92, so I'm not directly comparing her to your dad) people are so afraid of dying that they can't see anything else.
In many ways, what Wendy says makes a lot of sense to me because I have seen this self-centeredness arise in my dad, a man who has never had a self-centered bone in his body (especially when it comes to his kids), and because I know he is scared of dying.
For awhile, I felt guilty about Manuji - that somehow it had been selfish of me to want a family of my own when what I should have been doing was just taking care of my dad, or that if Manuji weren't in the picture I would be better able to manage my dad's situation. But it passed because Manuji's kicks and thumps and sticking his butt out on one side of my belly are what makes me feel happy and optimistic right now. Because I love him so much already and making his baby registry a few weeks ago was such a wonderful distraction. And because I'm just so excited to see him and I can't imagine not having him in our lives.
Anyway, that's it. Dad is home. It's time for me to step back a bit. I'll still take him to his oncology appointments while I can, but I'm not going back out there for a week. Today my sister filled in for me at his house and actually did a pretty good job (although it was really good that the home health aide was there too, and had remembered one of the 5000 things I said was "really important" because she repeated it to the visiting nurse who was able to set up an appointment with an ostomy nurse to visit Dad at home). I wasn't there and somehow the world kept spinning. I'm not convinced that Dad is going to be able to stay in his house long-term, but for now, he seems to be okay.
As for me and my pregnancy: last OB appointment a few days ago included the super fun glucose tolerance test. I do not have gestational diabetes. But they tested my iron and I am anemic. So I have to take an iron supplement. Lately a lot of people have been telling me that I look "small" or I don't look 6 months pregnant, or I don't look like I'm going to have a baby in June. So I developed a bit of complex that maybe Manuji was going to measure behind, etc. But Dr. C measured my fundal height and declared it "perfect" so all those "you're so small" people can suck it. Jeeves said he thinks that those people think they are giving me a compliment. I will remember this, and will always remember that the only appropriate commentary to a pregnant woman is that her bump looks "perfect" or "adorable" or something like that, and not "huge" or "small."
We also bought a memory foam topper for our bed which has done amazing things for my hip pain. I am back to loving my bed again.
Today I am 28 weeks pregnant. Third trimester. Already.
And behold, my most important purchase of the week. Boy did I earn these: