Post Travel Blues

shutterstock_78323365For the last ten days, I was in New Orleans with my 11-year-old granddaughter, and Ralph stayed here on the farm with my son who lives in NYC. Actually, no, I have been back for four days, but I have had difficulty writing down words about how those days affected me.

Because they threw me into a slump I am still trying to crawl out of.

My actual time away was lovely. I drove my granddaughter to school and then spent the day working on final revision on my novel until it was time to pick her up. The rest of the time we played endless games of gin rummy, ate cupcakes, read and wrote—she’s begun her own novel (a little grandmotherly bragging slipping in).

And Ralph seemed fine when I called him multiple times a day. My son worked on his computer during the day, the way I never seem to get around to when I am home. He cooked dinner at night, or tried to—more than once Ralph forgot he was there and ate leftovers without him first—and they sat around talking.

The time together was a real gift for Ralph. My son is over 30, and I doubt they have ever been alone together for more than a few hours before in over 20 years.

It was a more complicated gift for my son. He recognizes that whatever memories he forms with his father now are important. But ….he found being with Ralph really, really difficult.

Although he offered to come again when he could to give me a break, he also admitted he found being with Ralph “annoying.”

“I don’t know how you do it,” he said as I drove him to the airport. The constant repetition, the inability to carry on a logical conversation. “It’s exhausting.”

So here’s what I have avoided writing: For months, years now, people tell me they admire my caregiving and I tell them it is not a big deal because that is what I tell myself, that my life has not changed all that much. But having another person in my shoes, alone with Ralph day after day the same way I am, and having him tell me how incredibly hard it was has thrown me into a tailspin.

I am feeling angry that after ten years of intense caregiving for my mother, I now face years of caregiving my husband. I am sad that after we worked so, so hard to save and improve our troubled relationship, after we found a way to be happy together, this damn Alzheimer’s has already chipped away at so much of it.Having been away, I see more clearly how Ralph is changing in ways I didn’t recognize before (and will write about soon).

And after four days home, I am in fact exhausted.

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7 thoughts on “Post Travel Blues

  1. Thanks for this – I struggle with the slow draining of companionship, and the effort to stay afloat, reasonably cheerful and encouraging, which is what it takes to live with a spouse who is drifting away. Hearing about the tough times actually gives the reports of the bright times more meaning. Keep writing!

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    1. I really appreciate your comment because I always have misgivings about sharing my less upbeat attitudes. And you are right–the bright times do feel brighter. I hope we caregivers can support each other with as much honesty as possible. The platitudes do not help. I’ll be thinking of you and hoping you “stay afloat”

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  2. I’m glad you had a good time with your granddaughter – and I’m glad your son realises what a tough job you have at home.
    People often tell me what a great job I did caring for my dad – it makes me feel a bit of a fraud because I used to get frustrated, angry, exhausted.

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    1. Thanks Mary. I often feel like a fraud for exactly the reasons you mention. And I felt it even more while caring for my mother. I think the feeling may come with the situation, the underbelly of the experience. But you obviously did a wonderful job caring for your dad. Sometimes others can see better from the outside….

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      1. And they see you doing a great job.
        I meant to say earlier, I am glad Ralph enjoyed having your son with him for a while and, despite how frustrating it was for him, I bet your son will be very glad he spent that time with his dad.

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  3. I am sorry I made you cry. I realized after talking to my son that I have a tendency to sugarcoat when I write to protect myself. But I think it is important to acknowledge the angers, resentments, jealousies, etc. so other care givers, particularly spouses, know they are not alone. I worry I am not as good a person as I should be when those negative emotions hit, but it feels important to share them. It is easier to tell you that you are an incredibly good person. I am so grateful for your honesty.

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  4. I was so jealous when you wrote about being able to leave Ralph and spend fun time with your granddaughter. I know I could never leave Clif alone. No one understands how difficult it is until they experience it. I shut down sometimes when he starts the repetitive conversations and it hurts that I can’t carry an intelligent conversation with this man I love so much. My heart goes out to you. Thank you again for sharing, even though it made me cry.

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