Thursday, August 12, 2010

Serendipity in the Book Store

A couple of days ago, after Dad had a few hallucinations and mid-night pee calls I was ready for a break. Sweetie was home to guard the fort so I sped off to my favorite shut-out-the-world-place - Barnes & Noble. I knew I was on a time clock but I didn't let that bother me. I just soaked up the yumminess and splendor of the store. There is nothing like laughing at the noise and confusion of kids singing in the Children's department; renewing myself in the music section, test-driving CD's with serene titles like, "Music for Meditation, Healing & Inner Peace" by Steve Halpern, "Spiritual Healing" by Deuter, and the one I settled on, "Zen Breakfast" by Karunesh; and tickling my reading fancy with all the "NEW" titles filling up the tables by the front door.

My quest was for something to read before falling asleep at night. I was looking for a suspense story. Something to get caught up in so I didn't want to put the book down. But I would have settled for something sweet and romantic and girly. Instead, to my amazement, I found myself, in the death & grieving section. My hands glanced over traditional books on the subject by Kubler Ross before landing on, When Parents Die - A guide for Adults. As if placed in my hands by guiding angels, the book fell open to page 90 where I read this paragraph:

Double Binds
If your parent is dying, you're probably finding that no matter what you do, not matter how hard you try, and no matter how well you ultimately accomplish your goals, you always feel as if you have offended someone, deprived someone or hurt someone.

... Something always seems to be bumping other obligations out of the way. It's impossible to do anything without getting in a fix.

This is the double-bind, the "damned if you do and damned if you don't" dilemma. In the case of looking after your parent, it's a situation in which no matter what you choose to do, you will probably aggravate, anger or hurt someone - or you'll at lest feel as if you did.

... What is [also] at stake, often as not, is your basic self-respect.

... Pulling the whole situation together takes a toll. You want to do as much as possible for everyone, but doing so may leave you feeling lost in the shuffle.

... Everyone and everything seems to be taking up your time and energy and patience and sense of humor until it's hard to tell if anything's left. Where are you, meanwhile? Somewhere in there, hiding under the bed in your mental attic.

No, I thought to myself, I'm standing in the grieving section of Barnes & Noble having a God-moment. But I can totally relate to that hiding under the bed thing.

So I bought the book. It is not what I'd call "light" reading, but I trust my Sweetie will pick me up something from the library with enough murder and mayhem to entertain me between chapters on Neglected Grief, Burden of a Slow Decline, and, last but not least, Funerals and More. I don't know why I feel the need to read about what I'm living through. Maybe it's to help me feel less like the only person in the world going through this - to make my small, confined world feel bigger.

To change the subject a bit, I've been wondering about the name of my blog - Random Thoughts. Seems my thoughts are anything but random these days. Like walking into the bookstore and making a beeline to the dying section, my posts are really nothing more than a way to journal about life with dying Father. Does it get tiresome and boring to you, the reader, like it does to me the writer? For what it's worth, I really appreciate knowing you're out there somewhere, reading what I have to say and bolstering my courage somehow with your invisible presence. I'd also like you to know that when someone leaves a comment that says I've struck a chord with them, or brought back a good memory, or you share part of your story with me, I feel like I'm on the right track.

Jon Katz says we each need to tell our story. Today my story is about caring for my Dad in his last days. We all know how it's going to end. As the time for a funeral approaches, what I'm beginning to figure out is that although the chapter about ME and my Dad will be over, the next chapter of my life will be just beginning. I've caught myself thinking about my future. Like going to the book store for an hour or two, thinking about my life after my father's death is a bit of a reprieve from the work of care giving.

I'm kind of scared. The world I've known and always had to fall back on is going to be way different. Will my family die along with my parents? What will it feel like to be an "orphan"?

I'm also kind of excited. The last time I had an opportunity for a new life, I was way too young and naive to do much more than ride the romantic wave of anticipation. I was eighteen dressed all in white and dreams.

Now I'm 58 with a few good years ahead of me. What am I going to do with those years? Is there something I've always wanted to do and couldn't because of my obligation to someone else? Is there someplace I want go? Will Sweetie and I find a way to fill our days in joyous unity or suddenly yearn for something else to fill the void? Will I find a new someone/something to occupy my life so I don't have to think about me?

Chapter 8 in When Parent's Die is about "Personal Changes." Maybe that's why out of all the books in the store, the Great Librarian in the Sky led me to this one in particular. To give me a foretaste of what's to come. Who knows?

Wishing for you a "reassuring and practical guide" to follow when you are unsure about the future,
Merry Me

*When Parent's Die; a guide for adults (revised edition) by Edward Myers, Penguin Group, New York, NY , pg 90-91


Anonymous said...

I'd say that Ed Myers has described you to a "T" from my vantage point - how you want to do it all, how you do do it all and better than anyone could and yet somehow still feel inadequate. Keep reading -I think this is a good one.

I am reading Eat, Pray, Love which is maybe not the genre you hoped for, but it is pretty good, amusing and enlightened reading. lg

paradox said...

First, I love love LOVE that you had a "work cited" at the bottom...this grad student giggled

Second, "Inner Peace" is never what I WANT to listen to...but EXACTLY what I need. (Especially in NYC traffic)

More importantly, Mary, what you write is far from tiresome. It's what's honestly talking in you right now. When Mami took care of my Beba..I never wanted to listen to her feelings about it..I was hardened to her. Your "Dad" posts soften that help me listen.

Remember the seasons said it :)