Ah, the holidays are here! Holidays and caregiving are like oil and water, dogs and cats, the Patriots and the Giants…you get it. To your already busy schedule, add the myriad of holiday tasks. And how do you keep your head on straight over the holiday season? I don’t know! Other than to find the humor, count the blessings amidst the chaos, say a prayer for strength and maybe, let something go.
I made the decision this year, to let go of my holiday party. Some years I have two – a daytime luncheon for my lady friends and an evening gathering for neighbors, couple friends and all the other folks we want to see! Not this year. I am letting it go. Too tired, too flustered, too busy. But mostly just too tired. I cannot fathom completing all that would be required- decorating, cleaning, cooking, whew! Can’t muster it this year. And that’s ok. I can just use the time to dream up ideas for next year!
I host the family Thanksgiving. We travel to the south for Christmas where there are children and Santa must visit, which makes travel unwieldy. So everyone comes to my house for Thanksgiving. My sister and her family which includes three teenagers, and my daughter, son-in-law and two grandbabies gathered. Unfortunately , my daughter waited too late to call the kennel so she had to bring her dog. This added to my two dogs, the cat that adopted me this summer, and my mom’s parakeet. With Mom’s move from assisted living to a nursing home, Birdie had to come to live with me. This means more gates in my house, to keep the cat and the bird separated. (One meeting, the first week, with the cage ending up on the floor, Birdie escaping, the cat looking confused at all the confusion, and my blood pressure hitting high numbers as I frantically searched for the squawking but uninjured parakeet, was exciting!)
It was a fun week but sad as well. My mom is not doing well, her decline is obvious and while in the fog of dementia she is still able to make her anger and power known. Refusing her meds, clamping her mouth shut and not eating – and of course there are her consistent bowel issues. My nieces and nephew spent time with her but her attention span is so short- she cannot focus on visitors- so it was unclear if she really knew who they were. We took the babies, and she would smile and seemed to enjoy them for a few minutes but would quickly retreat back to her agitation and fog.
On Thanksiving morning, I visited my mom early while my guests were sleeping in. Mom was refusing breakfast. I brought some home baked muffins and sweet potato pie. I kissed her cheek, cajoled her, begged her, tried to entice her with a bite. I had a spoon in one hand and napkins in the other and was leaning in with a yummy bite when WHAM! She balled her fist and nailed me right in the nose! I said to myself, “Ok, Mom, that’s it. I am sorry but if you don’t want to eat, so be it!! I have a housefull of family that DOES want to eat!” I kissed her goodby. Her private caregiver would try later to entice her with treats as I drove home to put in the turkey.
Then there is my geriatric horse. 31 years old and only in the past year has he had some geriatric issues that have taken more of my time and attention, He has been in my life for 26 years and provided much joy. Currently, he has a mystery sore on his tongue that requires an expensive ointment applied twice daily.
Then suddenly, shortly after my family guests left for home, my sweet dog BB, a handsome collie mix, began acting strange. It began at about 6:30 p.m. and got worse as the evening wore on. I packed him up at 9:30 p.m and off we went to the emergency vet. At 3:00 a.m. I arrived back home, after he had survived emergency abdominal surgery! I had to be back at 7:00 a.m.to pick him up and take him to our regular vet so I simply climbed in bed in my clothes.
The next morning I was off and running, after brushing my teeth and pulling my hair in to a pony tail. There is something to be said for the convenience of sleeping in your clothes. I picked B.B. up and delivered him to our vet’s office so they could assess him post surgery and continue IV fluids and pain meds. Leaving him in good hands, I visited my horse and applied the morning tongue ointment. Then off to the nursing home to take some supplies to my mom and check on her. Back to the house to begin the “after company” clean up. and shoot, while I was at it, I pulled out the outdoor Christmas decorations and put those up. From the outside, no one would know my ” bah humbug” attitude this year!
At the end of the day the vet called. She had been trying to get B.B. to eat. She wanted to make sure “the gut” was working well. He usually won’t eat much when out of his comfort zone so she suggested he come home for the night and I could try to get him to eat. I picked him up, got him home with all his new meds, and urged him to take a few bites, but he was not having it. I tucked him in to his doggie bed and ran off to the barn to do evening”tongue duty”. I would try again later. At least he had not punched me in the nose.
As I was leaving the barn, my phone rang. It was the nurse, Frank from the nursing home. Mother was refusing her meds, had spit them back at him twice. He was flustered as mother had been compliant with him since her arrival and he was most proud that she seemed to like him. Since I was already out and about, I told him I would be there shortly.
Lately, mom’s favorite treat is ice cream. We have a small frig. with a tiny freezer in her room and I try to keep it stocked with those small ice cream cups. But in the midst of the chaos, she had run out and I had forgotten to pick some up when I had taken supplies earlier in the day. I ran through the McDonalds drive thru to get a sundae. I ordered, proceeded to the first window to pay – and off I zipped to the nursing home. Until I realized I had forgotten to stop at the second window for the sundae. Quick u turn and back to McDonalds.
The ice cream worked and mom was tucked in bed after a yummy sundae with a few crushed pills inside. I finally arrived home and sat down on my kitchen floor to feed my doggie patient by hand. I was exhausted and really needed a Diet Coke to pick me up a bit. I asked my husband if he would mind getting one for me and he announced, ” We are out.”
I could cry, I could screem, I could flail and go find a bridge from which to jump.
I did think a few choice curse words and then simply bowed my head and prayed for strength. And I remembered those sweet babies and the way they felt as I cuddled them while they visited. I recall their giggles in the bathtub. And I think of my two year old grandson sitting at the dinner table a few nights ago. He calls us ” Ma” and “Pa” – his personal shortened version of Grandma and Grandpa. He sat there with spaghetti on his chin, his Spiderman fork in his cherubic little hand. He cocked his head to the side and proclaimed, “My have fun at Ma, Pa’s house!”
That is the Thanksgiving blessing I will hold on to as we move on to December and proceed to the New Year. Exhausted, but knowing I am still very blessed. I hope you, too can find some small blessing that will carry you through to 2016.