The New “Normal”

The Crankee Yankee and I moved my 92-year old dad into our home last week. Having him with us is a joy and a pleasure. It takes all the worry out of all of us; no more road trips up to Wolfeboro, NH where Dad and Mom lived for 60 years. No more phone calls in the morning and evening to check up on each other. Best of all, no more worry about Dad’s health or ability to get around.

Dad is relieved not to have any chores to do, anything to worry about or stairs to climb. We told him that we would take care of him first and foremost, and that he needn’t worry about doing anything he doesn’t want to do. Because of this major life change, Dad is doing a lot of resting. Who wouldn’t?

He has a small bookcase right beside his bed that holds everything he needs morning and night; two glasses of fresh water with bendy straws, his pills, a small flashlight, tissues, his watch and an small airhorn. When he needs us, all he has to do is honk the horn, and one or both of us are there.

My best friend (and sister-in-law) and her husband, the Crankee Yankee’s younger brother, have taken her mother into their home to care for her. They have taken excellent care of her for nearly six years. I get my best advice on how to handle my dad from her. She told me kindly that is normal for me to worry about doing the wrong things; that this will soon become my new “normal.”

We do not know how long we will have my dad with us; each day is a gift. It is my job to manage his pills, which initially terrified me—what if I made a mistake and gave him the wrong pill at the wrong time, or forgot a pill, or <insert paranoia here>. But, as with all things, it gets easier as we go along.

After all the many years of Dad supporting me; beginning with him legally adopting me when I was four years old—it is time for me to support and help him. The Crankee Yankee could not be sweeter to him if Dad were his own father.

When we lost my mom to metastatic breast cancer in December of 2015, she wanted to go; she was ready to go. She had no fear of death, and looked forward to moving on to a new transition. Dd feels the same way, and what a beautiful gift that is to us!

Of course, in my own selfishness, I would love for him to have a warm and sunny spring, a lovely summer and a beautiful fall. I would love for him to sit on the porch with us in our rockers, enjoying the scents of ripening tomatoes and fresh mint. I want him to be able to eat all the corn on the cob from the garden that he wants.

I want to drive him to the ocean and take him out for lobster rolls and fresh clams. I want him to enjoy being driven around wherever he wants to go, and I want to take him to have one more big backyard BBQ at my brother and sister-in-law’s home.

But this is not up to me; it’s never up to us. A higher and more knowing, loving presence has all our lives in hand, and when it is time to transition, that’s when we go forward.

Dad knows that all his paperwork is in order, his wishes are known, his obituary is written, and he knows that in time he will lie next to my mother and across from his parents in the pretty little cemetery in Wolfeboro. But most of all he knows that for now he is cared for, every need is met, and that he is appreciated and loved beyond all measure.

As the Crankee Yankee continues to work on the upstairs renovations (Dad’s bedroom, bathroom and sitting area), I stay close by to hear Dad when he needs anything. I don’t like leaving the house unless someone is near enough to hear him. Often I sit waiting to be needed, and I find a solace in that. I realize I don’t want to be anywhere else but here; waiting and listening. In just a week’s time, I have come to treasure this time that we have.

We never know when our time is up, but any act based in love is worth while, even if all we do is sit and wait to be needed.

It turns out that this is enough.

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Fun With Job Sharing

Well, I have to say that the Crankee Yankee has been extremely helpful during my knee replacement recovery. In our house we each have jobs we have been used to doing for going on 15 years. So when one of us is out of commission, the healthy one takes over the sick one’s duties.

That being said, it doesn’t always follow that the person who is kindly taking over our jobs does it the way WE would do it….to the point, I am very grateful to the Crankee Yankee for all his help, especially doing the laundry as I am still pretty wonky on the stairs.

Some of my jobs that the Crankee Yankee is doing for me now are these:

  • laundry
  • dishes
  • kitchen clean up
  • cooking

…to name a few. But the Big Three; laundry, dishes and kitchen clean-up/cooking—are the Holy Triade of the dilemma.

When I do the laundry, unless I’m doing sheets and pillow cases that should be washed in hot water; it all goes into the washer on Cold, then Low on the dryer; sheets and towels go on Hot water, then Medium setting on the dryer.

The Crankee Yankee will painstakingly separate each item in the laundry; towels in one load, undies and socks in another, and clothes—all on different settings. Then he folds everything and brings them upstairs. After that, I can take over. So far, so good.

Dishes are another story. When I do them, I first flip over the magnet on the washer; it’s two cats, one standing with its legs together, one with its legs apart. The ‘legs apart’ cat means that the dishes in the washer are dirty and need to be washed.

Once the wash is over and I put everything away, the ‘legs together’ cat signals that the dishwasher is ready to receive dirty dishes. Well—you can imagine what happens next; I end up putting dirty dishes and silverware away because the ‘legs together’ cat magnet is still up. So I have to resort to the old ‘scratch and sniff’ method….

Now on to kitchen clean up and cooking. My way has always been to clean up as I go along; that way, by the end of my preparations, dinner is ready, and there is no mess to clean up. Not so with the Crankee Yankee. Everything, and I do mean Every. Single. Thing; is out and on the kitchen sideboard. And even when the food is prepared and ready to eat (BTW, the Crankee Yankee is a pretty good cook), everything that was out there stays out there.

His party line is ‘don’t worry about that; I’ll clean it up in the morning.’ YUCK. I can’t go to bed with all that mess out there, drying and festering away. Plus I don’t want the cats to get up there and ‘hand wash’ the dishes (if you know what I mean).

But mainly I just can’t sleep knowing that there is a beg mess out there. So I just have to clean up before I can sleep.

If I don’t, the idea of all that mess out there will ruin any chance of sleep I might have. Not only that, but seeing such a mess upon rising the next day will bum me out completely….and yes, I am well aware of the control freak that I have become.

So, the next time that your other half is out of commission, do make a list together of job duties….then feel free to ignore them as you choose.