So far my sabbatical has gone like this:
Week 1: Rest, take 3 or 4 hour naps, do little. Outcome: built up reserves
Week 2: Holiday activity, travel and family visiting. Outcome: used up most of my reserves, but managed okay with planned breaks and rests.
Week 3: Flu, flu, and family injury. Outcome: exhaustion
Mary and I visited her family in Connecticut last week. Almost as soon as we walked in the door returning home, Mary became very sick – fever, vomiting, coughing. I was exhausted – foggy, confused, physically tired – from my longest trip since my injury, and suddenly Mary needed things I did not have the energy to give. Attention, direction, assistance, comfort.
Last Saturday and Sunday are just a blur to me. I was barely functional and all of my extra was going to Mary. Based on reports from Mary, she felt well taken care of and loved. Towards the end of weekend, I found myself feeling angry and resentful that I could not give Mary everything she wanted, needed. I found myself feeling put upon as my energy dwindled and my tasks grew. And then I realized – hey, most of this stuff is actually optional. The world won’t end if you don’t do the dishes, don’t get the paper, don’t make dinner. The world won’t end if pillows and used tissues are strewn about the floors and furniture. Definitely not the time to have guests over, but also certainly not a terminal condition.
As Mary’s illness dragged on, we staggered through as best we could. Then, a bombshell on Tuesday – my mom fell on Monday, broken her hip, and was having hip replacement surgery stat. Over the next several days I kept in touch. Mostly I talked with her nurses and surgeon, because my mom was too heavily drugged to make conversation. I kept my talks to her simple – “Mom, it’s Kim. I want you to know I love you very much and that I am thinking about you.”
Mom had a rough day on Wednesday, and difficulty recovering from the surgery. That night, the nurse I talked to calmly said “You might want to come out in the next day or two to see your mom.” My first response was – “What??!? You know I am in Vermont, right? Do you really think I need to fly out to Oregon?” She said yes. She would prefer someone told her when it might be time, instead of being surprised and missing the opportunity. What was not directly said was that my mom might not make it past the next few days. Hip replacement is a big surgery, and my mom is not in the best of health. Damn.
Off the phone, crying on Mary. An irrational determination slowly creeps through me. I can make anything happen for my people. I can be there for my mom. Looking on kayak.com to see what flights cost January 1st out of Burlington to Eugene. $1500, $1200… best price of $600 for a one way flight out there. And then what? I would stay in the hospital? Travel the 40 minutes each way to my parent’s place at Blue River? A familiar, determined part of me says – Yes! Do it!
And then, reality sets in.
I am not the person I was before I hit my head. My resources are much more limited. Regardless of how much I want to go charging off and save the day, I have limitations. I was exhausted by a 5 hour drive and being away from home for three nights. That is with a lot of space and time to rest, a stable quiet environment to retreat to. The reality of what I am considering – a 12 or 14 hour travel day with two connections, no way to get away from the noise of the airplane engines… not possible.
Part of me is like – sure, you say it’s not possible, but really, if you wanted, you could make it happen. In one sense, that is right – it is possible. I could flex my plastic, pack a bag, and climb on board. I would be in Oregon within a day.
What would I be on the other end? I do not actually know – that is the frustration with this injury. Experience tells me I would be deeply overextended, probably unable to make whole sentences. Wisdom tells me that that level of action would compromise my body and mind and I would not be able to function independently when I arrived. I would become another liability, not a help to the situation. Destroying myself while trying to save someone else makes little sense.
And functionally, what would I do in Oregon that isn’t already being done?
After hearing the news about my mom on Tuesday, by Wednesday I had a fever of 102 degrees F. Thursday, my fever broke but my head was so painful all morning that all I could think about was how I could make the pain stop. A day later, I am still coughing – deep chest coughs hawking up crud. No hospital in the country would let my contagious ass see an elderly patient who is physically compromised – nor should they. I could bring death to my mom in the very act of visiting.
So, reality says it does not make sense. Reality says I come up short between what I think I should be able to do, and what I can actually do. Bollix.
My practical partner, Mary, asks me if I could be at peace if I did not see my mom again. My immediate reaction is NONONONO!!NO. And once I processed the reality of my situation, and acknowledged my limitations, I realize – Yes. Mom visited me for a week during Thanksgiving. I was sick for most of the time, but the last day I was up to playing some games with her. I had a wonderful time. It was a time I felt close to my mom, and felt confident she knew I loved her. When I sent her off at the airport, I felt good about her visit. So, yes, Mom and I ended on a positive note. If I do not see her again… that will break my heart, and I will cry and cry and cry. Also, I am at peace with our relationship. I love you Mom. If it is the right thing for you, please pull through. Heal quickly, do the rehabilitation, and be up and about soon. I would like to see you again this year.