Twelfth Night

Tonight is twelfth night.

No, not the beginning of Mardi Gras season — that’s also Twelfth Night, January 6.  That’s when Carnival season opens in Louisiana.

Instead, it’s my twelfth night of blogging.  One of my dreams about retirement was to have time to write.  Well, I have time now, but find it used in very different ways than I’d planned.  I am writing — but not necessarily about what I thought would be the subject.

Yet it’s a subject that spoke to me, that came to me out of the very changes I’m dealing with.  Retirement, yes, but also caregiving for my father.

In the twelve nights, Dad’s been so weak that he could barely eat.  He’s been in the hospital.  Yet he has worked at physical therapy, improved, and despite the four days in hospital has improved.  He pulls himself up, he can walk with a walker, he feeds himself easily, and his appetite has returned.

A month ago, I was pretty sure he’d never recover enough to stay at home. Now I’m sure that he will come home to our home again.  It will be changed, but it will be safe and wheelchair accessible.

I’ve worked at a breakneck pace, driven by a need to complete the home renovations in a 3-week period.  The 21 days were up on Thursday, and we’re still working on the house, but I think we’ll be done by the weekend.  If you looked at the house, you might doubt that, because furniture and other things are completely out of place to free up rooms for new flooring.

Yesterday I painted bathrooms and packed part of my belongings in my bedroom.  Completely exhausted, I gave up trying to completely finish my room.  I had to leave, visit Dad, and drive to Lake Charles.  I’m here until tomorrow.

Just how tired I was became clear when I came in, put on my nightshirt, and crawled onto the bed with a blanket.  Too tired even to put fresh sheets on the bed, I simply skipped that and went to sleep.

Today I am still tired.  I guess I simply worked at such a pace that I couldn’t keep it up.  Add to that the stress of dealing with Dad’s quick trip to the hospital.  Even with as good a staff as I’ve found to be at Southwind, I have realized that had I not gone to visit on Monday evening, no one would have called the doctor, and Dad’s fever might well have climbed.  Would his infection have slipped into sepsis?  Possibly.  Heavy dosages of three different antibiotics have prevented that, though.  For now.  Infections are always part of the reality for dialysis patients, and constant monitoring of dialysis grafts is necessary.  Staying alert to changes, to anything unusual in behavior or demeanor, is second nature now. No one knows Dad’s normal state better than Kay, or me, or our closest neighbors.

Stress?  I must pump cortisol out like crazy, because I can function under stress like a well-primed pump.  But when the stress is relieved . . . I collapse.  Which is what I have felt since Saturday.

So my twelfth night is a night of indulgence, an indulgence of allowing myself to acknowledge just how tired I am, and a reminder that caregivers are limited in their energy.  Everyone tells me to remember to care for myself as well as for Dad.  I try to do that.  I have Lady Days with friends where we get pedicures and manicures.  I have massages once a month.  Sometimes, though, what I want is just to sleep.

I don’t know what I’ll find when I return to Egan tomorrow.  I don’t know whether my bedroom has been emptied so that new flooring could be put into place.  I don’t really know what the schedule is, since the surprise of having to rewire the house. Frankly, at this point the memory of the bags and boxes and piles of belongings moved out of place and stashed wherever there is room intimidates me.

One step at a time.  One task at a time.  Deep breaths.  And sleep.

Blogging helps me process what’s going on, what I’m feeling, and while I might not have chosen to write about retiring, returning to Egan, and caring for Dad, those are the subjects that have chosen me.

Tonight’s post is shorter, reflects my state of exhaustion.  Tomorrow?  I’ll discover it as it happens.

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