Saturday, January 21, 2017

Finding A New Normal

Normal is just a dryer setting PIN or MAGNET - 1 inch normal pin, normal magnet, pinback button, celebrate being different, fridge magnetThe concept of normal is a tricky one. I don't mean normal vs. abnormal, as in psychology, etc. I mean normal as in normal routine. How long does something have to happen before it becomes normal? And how do we deal with it when our old normal is replaced with a new one. I guess when it comes to something large enough, it forces us to reevaluate our priorities.

For me, the old normal started changing when Mom started showing signs of Alzheimer's, though it was a gradual thing. I tried to be home more and started doing my own laundry (Mom had always insisted, against my protests, that the housework was her job.), and some cooking. But it completely changed twice when she had her stroke. Once when she went in the hospital and again when she got home. I knew the first change was going to be temporary in that she was, we hoped, going to come home sometime, which was when the real change to a new normal took place.
Mom and Dad

Now, instead of getting up and quietly having tea, doing my devotions, and mucking around on the Internet or writing every morning, I'm responsible for Lola, our dog. I get up, take her out, feed her her breakfast, have my breakfast, get in and out of the shower as quickly as I can, and get ready for work before they get up so Dad can have the bathroom for Mom. If they get up in time before I leave for work, I make them breakfast. After school is another big change. I used to take my time coming home or not come home for supper at all when I had things to do in the evening. Now, I go straight home so I can take Lola for a walk before making supper, followed by cleaning up the kitchen. If I have time and energy left, I work on school stuff or read. But most of the time, I just have time to watch a little TV before passing out.
Don's in the center.

The key word in all that is responsible. It isn't lost on me that, until recently, I've had it awfully good, with nearly no personal responsibilities around the house beyond what I volunteered for. Now, I guess I'm still volunteering, though my services are a lot more vital than before. I just hate to think of how hard, maybe impossible, Dad's task would be if he didn't have my siblings and me to help. I know there are many folks out there in that exact situation and my heart really goes out to them.

Barb helps constantly despite
the fact that she lives far out
in the country and has a farm to
tend to. 
So I've had to re-prioritize, cutting back on some things, like going to my students' sporting events and other performances, and stop others, at least temporarily, like writing for ClutchMOV. Oddly enough, I have found time to work on my book and somehow got a couple thousand words written this week. But there's no routine for that like there used to be either. I just have to write when I find a little time here and there and be okay with not having hours to sit at my keyboard at a time. I'm happy to accept the disruption when it means I still have my mom.

Mom's been home for a week and, though it doesn't feel like it yet, I guess this is the new normal. Or at least it will be until my brother Dave gets here this week. He'll be staying here to help as long as he can, which will mean yet another new normal. So maybe normal is a tricky concept because it just doesn't exist. Maybe I need to quit thinking about keeping things normal and just take each day as it comes. It would probably be less upsetting each time something changes.

I just want to say that I'm not writing all this to complain about anything or for recognition. I have nothing to complain about and deserve no admiration for doing what any adult child should be doing for his aging parents. I'm so completely blessed to have, at age 53, both my parents still living. And my mother has spent her whole life since her kids were born dedicated to doing for us, so it's a privilege to have a chance to pay even a little bit of that back. I just hope reading about these experiences can help someone who's going through the same situation with a loved one.

Dave and Barb
And I don't want anyone to think that I'm alone in this. My brother Don and my sister Barb are here an awful lot--pretty much daily--and they bring so much food that there are many days when I don't have to cook at all. But all of our efforts pale in comparison to the time and effort that Dad gives. Except for short little snippets when one of us stays with Mom so he can go get a haircut or go shopping, Dad is with Mom every minute of the day. He checks her blood sugar before every meal, makes sure she takes all her medicines on time (she takes pills or gets eye drops five times a day), takes her to her physical therapy, takes her to the bathroom--I could go on and on. All the rest of us help when we're not busy with something else. For him, there really is nothing else. And though I know it's got to be wearing on him, he never complains. I'm proud to be his son. There's no question about it: God gave us a double portion of love when He chose us to be Dave and Nancy's kids.

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