Sunday, February 24, 2008

Go with your strengths

Yes, I have made it back from Sacramento. And on the way back, I silently thanked my dad for the Christmas gift of new tires for my car. Because nothing like driving the Yolo Causeway in rain and heavy winds.

On my way to Sacramento on Friday, it dawned on me that I had no idea where my dad would be when I reached there. Hell. I had no clue as to my stepmother's current whereabouts. When I called my dad's cellphone and got no answer, I called the one person upon whom I can always count to know his location -- his assistant. She has been with my dad longer than he has been married to his wife. She has been there through all kinds of things over the years. She is family. And it was good to talk to her because she was able to prepare me for my father's mental state.

After hanging out at my dad's office and hearing tales about how his in-laws are not pleased with the rehab facility at which my stepmother is now (Oh. And I got to teach his assistant two new words -- "bitchslap" and "bitchassness."), we headed over to the house to pick up clothes for my stepmother before going to the rehab center.

Her mother and her brother were there but fortunately they left shortly after I arrived -- or else there may have been some words. So it was just me, my stepbrother, and my dad there with her. The doctor who has been assigned to her stopped by for the first time during that time. After reading her file and checking her out, the first thing he asked was about hospice. But my dad and my stepbrother are having none of that. So after my dad left to attend a fraternity meeting and my stepbrother dropped me off at the house on his way back to the Bay Area (He had dialysis on Saturday), I had lots of time to think.

My first thought was about visiting on Saturday. But I also knew that lots of people would be coming by and would that be the best way to spend my time? And I guess I started thinking about this when I went looking for food on Friday evening and found lots of rotting stuff in the fridge. I made due with some cabbage and some black eyed peas because at that point I just didn't have the energy to go to the store.

Saturday my dad went to visit my stepmother after I insisted that he take a nap and I set about going through the closets. Their bedroom is upstairs. There is no way possible that she will be able to negotiate the stairs once she gets home; what has been the guest bedroom will now be their bedroom. The thing is that my stepmother has been using that closet for storage. I told my dad that I thought that it would be nice if the closet was filled with items that she currently wears when she returns. After completing that task, I cleaned out the fridge. It's a good thing that I have a strong stomach because some of that stuff just plain smelled. And then I made a shopping list and headed to the grocery store. By the time my dad returned, I had managed to make a pot of Brunswick stew and one of Beef Bourguignon. I left some of each out in the fridge and put the rest away in containers in the freezer. I also remembered that he was out of his favorite juice as well as milk. And this morning his blood sugar was at 100 instead of the 58 it had been earlier this week. My work was done for this weekend.

I returned home today knowing that my dad's younger sister was on her way up from Oakland. Ideally I would have liked to have stayed until she actually arrived but what with the weather, I thought it was best that I hit the road as early as possible.

One of the themes of this weekend is how we all deal with things. My mom, my dad's assistant, almost everyone else has said the same thing. My dad is used to fixing problems. (And this is why I make it a point to not cry in front of my dad. Because he sees my tears as just another problem that he needs to fix.) He doesn't know what to do when presented with a situation that has no solution. He doesn't understand that sometimes just being there is the solution.

In my family, these differences seem to be chromosomally linked. Because all the men in the family are saying things like, "There has to be another treatment available," while the women are saying, "Let her go with comfort and dignity." And so I will probably spend the next few days pondering why we react so differently. What in our dynamics makes us so.

And I know that there's probably some more that I'd like to say but now I need to take care of me a bit.

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