BETWEEN THE LINES

Things that help

August 5, 2015

I haven't posted a blog in a while; this has been a difficult period for my family. Until recently, my elderly father lived in an independent living apartment, with help from me and from aides in the facility. In the past month, he has had three ambulance rides to the Medical Center Emergency Room, three hospital admissions with significant problems and ďproceduresĒ to address those problems, and three returns to the skilled nursing rehab part of his community. Thatís a lot for a 98-year-old blind man, who is also hearing impaired. Heís exhausted and so are we.

Most of us go through similar crises with elderly or ill family members sooner or later. Eventually, most of us experience the broken U.S. health care system. They are so good at saving lives, at high tech interventions, and my father has certainly benefited from that expertise. But they are often poor at communication Ė between departments, between providers, with and to the patient and family. Still, there have been, there are, some amazingly kind and thoughtful and helpful individuals and we are so grateful for their caring.

But thatís not what I want to write about. Iíve been thinking about the things that have helped me during this month. Things that have offered moments of respite, even of joy, in the middle of the sorrow.

The first is wildflowers. Iím so lucky this happened in July, when Robbyís garden and the land around us is in full and glorious bloom. Coneflowers and daylilies, susies and coreopsis, poppies and balloon flowers. Even a Monarch butterfly in the milkweed patch by the kitchen window.

Second is music. I admit that in recent years I forget to listen to music; words fill my brain. But this month Iíve rediscovered the dusty CDs and the ipod shuffle and even Ė amazing! Ė an afternoon on the lawn at Tanglewood. Iíve listened to a lot of music since that first awful dash to the E.R., mostly in the car on the daily drives to and from the hospital or the nursing home. The two most healing albums have been American Beauty (Grateful Dead) and Hijos del Sol (Viva Quetzal). Go figure.

The third thing that kept me sane, or close to sane, is work. Deadlines. My laptop has been close by all month. My dadís medical issues came as I was still on book tour, so Iíve had to reschedule a few events and figure out how to be away from home as little as possible. This crisis also occurred as I signed the contract for my next book, and worked furiously to finish the revision. The novel includes hospital and nursing home scenes and it probably didnít hurt to have those sensory details so available. Mostly it helped to be able to lose myself in a different narrative from my own.

Finally: family (Robby and Jenn, especially) and friends. You know who you are. Thank you.