‎"...a little 'trouty', but quite good" ~ Eve Kendall, North By Northwest

Monday, August 5, 2013

Sanctuary

I moved out.
I didn’t mean to but there it is, for the whole neighborhood to see.
I haven’t wanted to talk about all this because of privacy and whatnot, but then I thought: there’s probably another horrible person out there and maybe we can be friends and be horrible together. The things I’m going to say are things you aren’t supposed to say.
Here’s the deal: When a family member is on hospice in your home, you’re supposed to feel all snuggly about spending 24/7 with them. It’s how it’s done.
We all know people we want to spend 24/7 with because oh my stars,  you don’t want to leave them. In fact, I’d put the entire rest of my family in that category.
Then there are those other people. The people you can’t leave because you’re not allowed to.
That’s the one we have.
You may be wondering how we got ourselves into this pickle in the first place. The fact of the matter is, my mother-in-law  wasn’t always a caricature of a grumpy old woman. Chris has been taking care of her for a long time. And for a long time she was great. Until she wasn’t.
As Chris said to the kids one morning, “Grandma used to be really nice. She used to be just like mama.”
You should have seen the look on Studley’s face.
He looked at me. The light dawned.
“Oh no,” he said
So, about my moving out. You know how you don’t realize something until someone else looks at it and for a split second you see it through their eyes and it’s not what you thought it was? It’s like that.
My extended family came by the other day to visit Grandma. They probably didn’t notice anything when they first got to the house, but after a couple hours with her they needed a little fresh air and took a walk in the yard. That’s when they spotted the tent.
And they laughed. Because it was so obvious.
I told them it was for the kids, but not even the kids believe that one.
I was doodling around on Amazon a week or so ago, avoiding something, when I saw the tent and had to have it. We can go camping! We can use it as a guest room! We can hide our heads in the sand! In the comfort of our own yard!
Chris says we need to fold the tent up from time to time, or at least keep moving it around the yard so it doesn’t “ruin the grass.” I put that in quotes because it’s less about the grass and more about his hope that if he makes me move it, there’s less likelihood that I will live in the tent permanently. I think the tip-off was when the carpet went in, followed by proper lighting and wifi.
My friend asked me if I’d put in a composting toilet yet.
It is admittedly the best money I’ve spent in a long time – partially because it gives the kids a place to go (it’s not for them, but I do let them borrow it). As good as they are at helping, it’s nice for them to be thoroughly off duty sometimes. When you’re in the tent, everything’s all birds and breezes. You never want to go back inside to reality.
I’m tired of reality.
Here it is: We are two thirds of the way through the six months hospice indicated – with no signs of winding down. If it goes past six months, can I sue hospice for false advertising? I might anyway, based on that stupid picture on the cover of the brochure they sent home with us. It’s not right. And it makes me feel bad.
The photo is of a woman my age, embracing a woman my mother-in-law’s age in a comforting hug. One of the hospice workers assured me they were actors.
If they were real people, they would look sleep deprived, with twirling eyeballs. The medium-old woman would be covering her children’s ears while the really-old woman visibly swore a blue streak at anyone within reach. The photo on the back of the brochure would be of the family rifling through the hospice care package and taking the good drugs for themselves.
This, by the way, is why they send drugs in very, very small quantities. I used to think it was because the patient is on hospice and they don’t want to waste any leftovers – which would be very New Englandy of them. Now I realize it’s because the family will eventually be driven to take the drugs.
One nurse came on a particularly bad morning. She asked how things were going and I went into a Lewis Black-worthy rant which I won’t repeat here.
“But how is she feeling?” The nurse said. “Is she comfortable?”
“Who the **** cares?” is what I wanted to say. “Would you like to go see her now?” is what I did say.
The nurse got the royal treatment.
When she came back out to the livingroom, she got on the phone to the pharmacy, stat. “We need better drugs,” she said.
I find this reassuring. It’s weirdly comforting to have a stranger empathize with you – especially after she has categorized you as a self-centered jerk.
But as comforting as stranger empathization is (shut up, it is too a word), it doesn’t beat the tent.
Having the tent is like being a kid and running away from home because no one understands you and they won’t miss you anyway and won’t they be sorry once you’re gone. It doesn’t take far – halfway down the driveway? The other end of the yard? – before you start to realize that you might have been wrong.
They might not understand you, but it’s okay. They do miss you – and you miss them.
And you will be sorry when they’re gone.
So you go back with fresh eyes. Because sometimes you need to see things the way someone else sees them.
And that someone is in a tent.

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