Caring for a parent, Self-care

The Rainbow Connection

Thursday was one of those nights. You know the ones, I know you do, where you lie awake with an endless-loop soundtrack running through your head of all the things you need to do and all the things you need to worry about until you are completely overwhelmed with the list and with life.

It’s time for an eye exam and a physical exam and I need a new doctor for both. I need to change a dentist appointment for a month from now (there’s a biggie). I need to decide if I want to apply for Social Security, which means getting definitive information when there are gaps in my data that I can’t fill. I need to call TIAA-CREF in North Carolina and see if they did what I asked them to do months ago—I think not. It’s time to start planting my new garden. And I can’t figure out how to keep the rabbits from getting in under the gate. Not that I have really seen rabbits here, but surely they are out there. I’m not writing as much as I want to. And what if my car gives up for good? Stupid little stuff it’s best not to think about in the middle of the night when everything feels like too much.

And then there’s the big stuff. How and when will my mother’s life end, what will happen between now and then, and can I hold out through that uncertainty? The paint on fascias is peeling and if I tell Mama she will say she doesn’t want to put any more money into the place and we just need to sell it before it needs anything else; and we are off and running on that again. She won’t let go of control and it makes it really hard for me to get done what needs to be done. When she is gone can I really keep this place up? Do I want the responsibility? Will I be able to afford to live here? Will I be able to afford to live anywhere? Do I even want to live here? Can I physically do it? My knee has been hurting, and my hip aches in bed. What the hell am I thinking! I’m thinking about things one should not think about in the middle of the night when everything feels like too much.

And on top of all that Christina is leaving Grey’s Anatomy (again) and she is my favorite character. Really, she’s the only character I like. She has that tough girl, driven persona and doesn’t let shit get in the way of her dreams. But sometimes her vulnerability gets through and she softens her edges and she cries. And we don’t expect it from her. It makes me love her.

I finally slept a little, and with my morning coffee I took action. I made a list of what I need to do. It really is not such an onerous list. I left out the part about staying on the hill. I don’t have to think about that now. I’m here as long as Mama is alive, and then the year it will take to clean out the house whether or not I stay. I felt better. Then I realized I hadn’t called Emma on her 30th birthday the day before. Yes, I sent a handmade card and a heartfelt letter; and I texted with her; and I had just seen her. But I didn’t talk to her! On her birthday! I’m such a loser. That put me over the edge and the tears spilled out.

I opened FaceBook. There was an update from a writer friend in New Hampshire: her husband’s cancer has returned. And another from my hairdresser: her husband’s cancer has stepped up its moxie. I really have nothing to snivel about.

I moved on down the feed and opened the YouTube video of John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John reprising “You’re the One That I Want” on split screen with the 1978 original version. Damn, they’ve still got the stuff. Olivia is older than I am, and John just two years younger. I cried some more; not for lost youth, but for the vitality of the present; and for hope.

I spent too much time trying again to figure out Social Security—unsuccessfully—and marked it off my list. I’ll think about that later. I changed my dentist appointment, made a plane reservation to visit NC in the fall (I hate making plane reservations—so final), and some of the other small stuff. Then I donned my overalls and headed for the garden. I dug a damned fencepost hole myself and mounted the old mailbox—having figured out how—to put my garden gloves and tools in. I planted the rhubarb plant Mama and I got at the Farmers’ Market on Wednesday, along with bean seeds and the lettuce, chard, and broccoli I started several weeks ago.

Still haven’t figured out the gate. I miss my daddy so much when I work on this land—and when I don’t know how to do something. Today I found his measurement calculations penciled on a scrap of a 2×4 I was about to use. What I learned from him: it, whatever it is, can be done. What I didn’t learn from him: how to do it. I’m a little peeved about that. But I’m figuring it out, one thing at a time—not his way, not the best way, but my way. Maybe the first learning is the more important one.

After dinner, as I am cleaning up, I glance out the window. The rainbow takes my breath away. Hope. Faith. Love. This place. It’s the one that I want; and at least for now, I will keep on dancing.

Hills, valleys, and rainbows

4 thoughts on “The Rainbow Connection”

  1. I was thinking of my daughters as I read your blog. And though I was not a care-taker per se for either of my parents at their end, I was care taker of two husbands and a lover who died with different cancers. I know about the lists, the worries, the concerns, and all the while preparing for the loss of them and the grief to follow. Thank you for such a real blog that can be felt in the heart while reading it.


  2. That night-time dervish dance is so infuriating. it makes it clear why people feared the dark. It is different. The quality of thought, the inability to just “snap out of it”, the weight of the air in the mind. And I even like the night. But get on the devll train and there’s no jumping off till dawn. And then, by God, you wonder what was so impossibly oppressing.

    Know that I’m there in the night-time hours when you need me. Time and space are NOTHING.


  3. Very inspiring Gretchen. Thanks for articulating a dark night of the soul. Now I realize that when the mind chatter becomes intense it means that I’m tired and need to rest – a nap, if possible.


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