Dysfunctional Siblings Create Hell on Earth

My idea of Hell is this:

Imagine you are destined to take care of your 92 year old parent who has dementia and can’t walk.

The most positive part is where you live. You live in a beautiful Resort house on the beach. The view is marvelous. And it might as well be, because you really don’t get to go out and have a life outside of the house. On the outside, it looks like a nice situation. But it isn’t. You are locked into a situation where you live in a gorgeous resort area, with a marvelous view, but the downside is you are without a life. Your hours are spent overseeing the needs of the parent, no matter that he has 24/7 care givers (they are paid, but not too bright). In spite of the appearance of living in a cushy life, you are constantly battling against two siblings who are intent on removing you from living there, have already stopped paying you for your work (an agreement you all made was for you to be paid, and for 6 months now, you haven’t been paid) and create a weekly crisis.

The attorneys you have to hire to fight back against the craziness of your siblings are costly. To abandon your parent is an option, but then again, not an option your conscience can stand to make. No one who had any sense would be overseeing him if it weren’t for you. He deserves to be taken care of.

Every dime you make by dumpster-diving and reselling treasures is spent on your attorneys. You haven’t had a 24 hour break in over 6 months. Plus, the pollen count gives you serious headaches, enough to make you want to contemplate suicide. The emotional stress of seeing firsthand the deterioration of your favorite family member is bad enough, but what about you? Who takes care of you? When do you get to process your emotions? Your mother died, unusual as it may be, that has helped the situation by removing one thing the two crazy siblings were wanting you to take on. They actually wanted me to take care of two invalids at the same time, not just one, but two. Further, they are intent on doing anything they can to limit your control of the situation. And, well, they have succeeded with that.

I am not paid. Not fed. No perks. Just a place to live. A place with an ailing parent, who will one day die.

Lull in the Crisis

Just let me take a few days off, and Dad seems to take a health dive. For instance, on my return from my visit with my first cousin, I got a phone call that Dad had fallen. Little did I know that there was a brand new, green Home INstead caregiver with him. She did know much. This was her first time elder sitting–EVER.

The caller, Ashley asked,”How do I get him up off the floor?”

“WWWWwwwhhhaaaaaatttttt?” I answered. What in the world? She is asking ME how to get him off the floor? What kind of elder sitter is this?

I was already annoyed that my car’s AC wasn’t working. On the drive down, I had experienced 8 hours of unairconditioned discomfort to Fort Walton in the sweltering heat, praying for rain. Now I was trying to prepare myself psychologically for the return drive in the sweltering heat. Somehow I had had to redirect myself from a wrong turn, wondering if I was taking myself miles in the wrong direction, make a U turn, sit at traffic lights, hot, with sweat running down my back, sticking my backside to the hot leather seat. I was already feeling panicky from my wrong turn. My arrival time had already shifted to a really late time. It was getting dark.

I stopped for gas and to call Ashley back after I though the crisis over.

“Well, if you can’t help him off the floor, you are gonna have to call the EMTs or get the neighbor to help you,” I said watching the gas pump gauge go over $50.00.

Nearing the $70.00 mark, the gas pump continued. Ashley asked for the neighbor’s phone number.

Jesus, I thought. I don’t have that phone number!

“Just look in the phone book under Jack Carmichal!” I said, feeling like yelling. God, it was hot here. Was I in Hell? I shifted over into the shade, watching the numbers continue up on the pump’s gauge.

Did I have enough credit for that amount? I didn’t have any cash. That was gone. Do you wash dishes at a gas station if you can’t pay, I thought forlornly. This could be trouble coming.

The Cure Closes ACL Festival in Rain

Heavy rain the final half hour of the cure’s 2 hour show was the sign that cinched the cancellation of the third day do the ACL 2013 festival. It didn’t matter that I traveled with a terribly expensive flight from Georgia to Texas for the three day music festival, rain was more powerful than man. Doggedly determined to involve myself in living and at least viewing performing arts, I packed a knee brace and gear suited for festival going. Being

officially disabled now for two years, but in pain for fifteen, I had acclimated to availing myself of services offered for assistance, whether a wheelchair or an aisle seat, making it possible to travel. This wasn’t easy. It wasn’t nearly as easy as when I was healthy, but it was a compromise that I made. That was the price I paid for working after the car accident. Never again could I wear high heels. Never again could I walk, skip, dance, run without dire consequences.

I was shown how to gracefully accept help by a lovely group of Canadians who fought over who would push my wheelchair through the Chicago Art Institute. They had learned the awful truth of growing old, of injuries, I had not. Behind my back they commented that it was a shame I was in a walking boot (modern day cast)instead of bejeweled evening shoes at the ballet. They were so kind. They taught me a love and compassion for myself that I had never encountered. I nearly backed out of going to Chicago, and was glad that I didn’t.

My mission is to live my life without regrets. I have never regretted taking a trip.

The ACL Music Festival was a new type of trip. An affectionado of alternative rock all my life, the festival was a candy store of music that appealed to my tastes. But what about the walking? Well, that was a concern. Even though it was a “5 minute walk” away from the park, there were two major hills to scale. I had a tremendous, painful blister on my heel after the first day. Thank goodness I didn’t have to carry a chair. While it was super nice of my hosts to offer me a folding chair to use, it must have weighed 30 poulds. Well, actually it wasn’t that heavy, but it sure felt heavy to my nerve damaged arms.

The hardest walk was the detour I took in the dark and rain. After The Cure played, we all walked out in the rain and dark. I got lost and rambled around many blocks for 45 minutes until I arrived at the right house, rain soaked from the waist down. There were streams of rain surging through the streets and sometimes I was wading through 4 inches of water. I was tired, wet, annoyed and hungry. I had stopped in a gas station to buy two chocolate bars and some Perrier. The pile of people (mostly in their 20s) under the scant awning of the gas station were singing, laughing and having a grand time. Their happiness was infectious. It was a pleasure to remember the young abandon of singing, semi drunk on life. They were cute. Oh Dear! How old I sound!

By the time I got up to my room, I had a major blister on my thigh from my knee brace. Ignoring blisters is something that you do naturally if you were a ballet dancer. I was surprised at how tender my skin was and how quickly the blister grew. This was definitely not the highlight of the trip. However, now I have another happy memory of how I struck out and spent two days hot, blistered and sunburnt and still believe that I had a good time. It was all fun. It was an adventure. There weren’t a lot of people with grey-white hair like mine there, to be sure. I may be really old on the outside, but I still remember how to appreciate singing in the rain like a 20 year old.