Monday, October 08, 2007


It's hard to deny that some things slip and become messy when left to their own devices. In my absence, my house and property have become two of those things.

I woke on Saturday and left to take a walk with Chienne around 7. It was after nine when I finally got in the shower, having spent time in front of the house long after my hound went inside. I tugged at massive weeds that had invaded the pretty flowers Friend and I planted. I cut back some of those flowers which had covered most of the walk leading to my door. I clipped the tallest shoots from the bushes as they reached for the gutters, far above their friends which were holding the shrubbery shape as they should have.

The yard also looked awful and I had a mound of trash that needed to be hauled to the dump. But the flower bed bothered me most - a certain sign that I've been gone a lot and in the moments where I am around, not caring much for that which exists around me. Facing the signs of that - wiggling branches that had lived long enough to become woody in order to aid my rusted clippers in trimming them back - was a little sad. Knowing that I was sacrificing flowers that would have been pretty if properly tended and instead cutting them back and putting them in trash bags made me frown too. But I soon grew hot and tired, glanced over the small bit of space around my front porch and nodded with some satisfaction. It had been bad, but I'd mostly fixed it. My hydrangea lived despite some very poor conditions. I revealed my tiny lilac after I'd pulled many weeds.

I hauled trash away yesterday and mowed my lawn. The air conditioning man is here now and running the heater which smells like burning dust to prepare for winter. My bills are paid and house is semi-clean. I'm making progress.

"Let me know if I can help." I told Chris - one of the fellows in my group. He followed me to my office after seeing me on the bus on Friday. We talked about my mom and how things are going and he offered sympathy and prayers. He's working on a project which is in my area of experience. Joe had written me while I was home to ask a question and I replied as best I could. Now that I was back in the office, I could be of more use.

"I'll let Joe know." Chris said and patted my shoulder before moving away. I bit my lip as I sat down and woke my computer. It's hard to rely on someone who leaves without notice, I thought with resignation. People at work have been wonderful and understanding, and I regret that I've cemented "not so reliable" as part of my professional reputation. So I doubt they'll ask for help and I might have been useful. The circumstances of being an adult sometimes suck.

"I'm sorry to hear that." I told Maria after she shared that she was gone for some time this summer in order to aid her own mother's medical plan. "It's hard. Trying to balance the demands of your life against the needs of hers. I worry about things here while I'm home, but they feel distant. Not unimportant, but beyond my help or control. And so I exist in the moments where I can do something - ask questions, talk to doctors, make sure prescriptions are ordered and filled, shop for groceries, clean the house."

She nodded in response. "It's hard to be away." She said and it was my turn to nod. For me, there was no choice but to head home when called, despite the fact that I had plans and schedules and other things to do. They would have had to drag me out of that hospital screaming too. I had my chair that folded out into a reasonably flat surface for sleeping and I could lie there, eyes closed, and listen to Mom breathe until she needed me.

There were times when she'd call for help getting to the bathroom. When she'd be confused by the beeping of the IV stand. When the nurses would forget her next pain pill or when I had to protect her against over-eager students who wanted to dig in her hand for veins. There were other times when I'd blink myself awake to see her trying to move the heavy stand that held bags of fluid and the machines that monitored them.

"Mom?" I'd ask, escaping my chair/bed and taking the few steps toward her.

"I can't see you when I open my eyes." She explained. "I need this out of the way so I can make sure you're there."

"I'm here." I soothed, avoiding the bruises on her hand to kiss it, then her cheek. "Ready and willing to press that call button." She smiled back at me and I would pull a chair closer and hold her hand until she drifted back to sleep. After that happened twice, I made sure her line of sight was clear of disturbances. If it gave her any comfort to have me there, then there I would stay.

Yet I wept on Monday morning when they told her she couldn't go home. "I'm scared to go." She told me, crying and clinging to my hand. "What if I'm still bleeding? Or can't control the nausea once I get back to the house?"

"It's fine to stay." I told her, wiping at my own tears and knowing we were both overreacting to the stress and exhaustion. "You stay as long as you need." But my lapse in control was due to the pressure from all sides. So I snapped at Dad when he called.

"I don't have enough notice to take off work tomorrow." He groused when I told them Mom wouldn't be released until Tuesday or Wednesday. "Won't they let her go today?"

"No." I said curtly. "So I guess I'll call Jill and tell her I don't know when I'll be back because there's nobody here to handle things! I'll see you when you get here."

He arrived later, having stopped at work and taken the whole week off. "I want to do the right thing." He told Mom. "Katie's mad at me for not doing the right thing before now."

"Katie's just tired." Mom told him.

And it's hard not to be. I didn't like asking Cousin and her family to come check on the house. But I insisted upon buying them dinner and am heading over tonight to repay a favor. I hated that the flower bed looked hideous and the yard just as bad. I'm embarrassed at the state of my air filter that the AC guy gingerly removed.

I don't know what to do about it - I'd make the exact same decisions again without question. But it is sucky and sad to return to situations that needed attention I didn't have the energy or ability to give.


LauraTS said...

I don't think I've ever commented on your blog before, but I've been meaning to say this for awhile and figure now is as good a time as any--

I very much admire your commitment to your family and think you are incredibly strong for holding up so well under so much pressure. For what its worth, I think you're a little bit amazing.

Best wishes,

post-doc said...

I'd remember if you'd commented before and I'm grateful you said something now. That was a very sweet, absolutely lovely comment. Thank you. I'm not feeling very amazing or strong lately. So thank you - it really was a lovely comment.

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