Just when I feel overwhelmed by my Dad’s declining health, it seems that the sleep gods conspire against me.
My anxiety – and accompanying sense of hyper-vigilance – built to a pitch over the weekend, even while my husband and I attempted to relax in Northern California’s playtime paradise of Lake Tahoe.
Over the past month, the medication that had been working so well to control the symptoms of Dad’s long-term congestive heart failure sputtered and stalled in its effectiveness. His weight dropped from 204 lbs. to 188.5 over three weeks, and then, when we cut back the dosage, spiked back up to 198 in less than a week.
My brother, who came into town to “spell” me for my anniversary trip, called me Saturday night. His voice was choked with emotion as he explained that Dad looked as weak and worn out as he’d seen him. When he asked Dad how he was doing, Dad replied, “I don’t think I can pull through this…”
That night, I left my cell phone on in case my brother needed to reach me in an emergency. Then starting at 1:30 a.m. that night, I started this exchange via text with my young adult son, who was finishing up packing for a 5 day cruise the next day. What’s funny about this is that I just couldn’t let go. I felt utterly driven to ensure that my son did not – gasp! – make a mistake packing:
Him: Do I really need a carryon? I was just gonna keep it simple with a rollaboard.
Me: It if fits that’s fine
Him: Fits what? I was gonna check it
Me: Rollaboards can go in the overhead bin. Then it can’t get lost. If you are going on a cruise your bag will never catch up if it gets lost. When you connect there is more of a chance of it not getting on the 2nd plane. It’s up to you but it’s safer
Him: I have the red one, will that fit? [The red rolling bag is ginormous.]
Me: No. It has to be one of the small black ones. Sounds like you don’t have a choice unless you have a duffel that qualifies as a carry on. Southwest is pretty good about getting bags there so you’ll probably be fine. Don’t check your computer – keep it with you.
Me (again): The carry on can’t be longer than 24″ [Note: I have now gone on SWA via my cell phone to actually check the limitations.]
Me (again): Be careful not to oversleep
Me (yet again): Can I go back to sleep now?
Him: Yeah, sorry, I’m just gonna check it
Me: OK but keep your computer with you. Put your name and home address on a piece of paper inside the checked bag. Make sure it has a luggage tag too or put a paper one on it at the airport. Travel safely.
Me (again): Got your passport? Keep that with u too
Him (now at 2:02 a.m.): Found a duffel, using it instead & I’m not bringing a computer
Me: OK but if they make u check it remember to keep your passport with you, preferably in something by your feet. Passports can get stolen out of backpacks in bins. Students get targeted by thieves.
Me (finally): OK goodnight. I love you. Have fun.
Him: Gnight mom! Love you too & I’m sure we will
You can guess how the night went after that. I didn’t fall gently back into slumber.
On Monday, I made a record 20 phone calls to my father’s doctor, to friends and family who visited my father at his assisted living apartment, and to family to report in. At the time, Todd and I were attempting to complete a 7 mile hike.
That night, I was awake from 3 a.m. to 5:45 a.m. I’d drift into sleep and pop right back out of it.
I know I am not alone. Over the weekend, a dear friend lost someone she’d known and loved since childhood. She texted me last night, “Just took pill… haven’t slept in five days.” My brother who had been upset over the weekend texted me Tuesday, “I slept finally last night, though I had a 90 minute break in the middle.” Another close friend posted on Facebook: “Being the ‘sandwich’ generation and responsible for taking care of both parents and children sucks! Why do both generations have issues at the exact same time?????”
Five question marks is about right.
“Grief is a journey, I’m told,” my friend texted last night.
Yes, it is. But I am fortunate to not be on the trail alone.