Tonight, my sister and I went to the movies. This may not seem like a big deal, but it was. I used to go to the movies at least 3 times a month, sometimes more, after Boris died. It was one of my favorite escapes. But then a global pandemic hit, which kinda messed up that activity. So, tonight was the first time since February 2020. We are vaccinated, so we felt like giving it a try. Masks were required and there were only two other people in the theatre. It felt so good to do this “normal” activity again. But, there’s always a *but* lately.
A little background refresher: My dad has Parkinson’s disease. He’s had it for ~20 years, but in the last 5-6 we have seen a significant decline. In the last 2-3, his cognition has worsened, which is common in PD, which usually impacts executive functioning. In December 2020, he had a bad fall resulting in a fractured hip. This landed him in the hospital for almost a week after partial hip replacement surgery. That hospitalization was a literal hell for everyone involved. He had hospital delirium and because it happened during a huge COVID surge, the hospital was not allowing any visitors. I was finally able to visit him and ended up staying about 36 hours to advocate for him, try and orient him, and get better information from the doctors. We got him home, but he needed help with everything. He was what social workers/health professionals would call “nursing home level of care”. The delirium slowly subsided, we went to a new neurologist, got different meds, and got him stronger with a lot of physical therapy. But, after 5 months, we know that fall has permanently changed everything. He is more confused, has more trouble communicating, and is much more unsteady on his feet. He cannot be left alone and needs help with most activities. Caregiving is so hard, as so many of you know.
So tonight was a simple, nice evening…*BUT* when we returned from the movies, just in time to help with my dad’s bedtime routine, it was obvious that my mom was struggling and frustrated. My sister and I “took over” and helped my dad in the bed and my mom later told us the challenges that happened while we were gone. The relaxing, happy moments I felt at the movies were now tainted by the frustration of caregiving and the guilt of leaving my mom to do it alone (even though I know this was not her intention nor should I have felt the guilt).
It made me think about all the *buts* in my life now. Everything happy or even joyful has a *but*. I am getting my Ph.D. *but* Boris isn’t here to share in the accomplishment. I don’t think I’d even be getting my Ph.D. right now if it weren’t for his death. I traveled to Hong Kong, *but* I went there to scatter Boris’s ashes. I traveled to Puerto Rico alone, *but* only because he isn’t here. I went on dating apps and actually connected with other people (which was a big deal for me), *but* that wouldn’t have happened if he weren’t dead. I am learning piano, *but* he should be here to teach me instead. And with my dad’s health, there are extra *buts* in my life, including tonight. The feeling I have tonight is different than with my loss, but it almost feels like nothing can just be purely joyful or happy anymore.
I know I should change the *buts* to *ands* instead. I know that is the healthier view. Sometimes I feel that way about it all–I am happy right now *and* I am incredibly sad that Boris killed himself. I feel lucky in many ways *and* I feel terribly unlucky in other ways. The *buts* just win over sometimes. I get stuck in feeling that everything has a gray cloud over it. I think I will have to continuously work to look at life with more of an *and* attitude, especially as I continue to navigate grief and caregiving for my dad. I know that two things can exist–deep sadness and joy. Sometimes my brain just cannot accept it.
I know I have a future of more *and* moments as I think about dating a new person. It feels like too much right now to figure out and I know I will rely on support from fellow wids who understand.
Just a heads up, I am switching to Friday posts instead of Sunday, so I will be back here this Friday with another post!