It’s quiet, it’s weird, it’s boring, and it’s empty. It’s been almost two weeks and counting. I am keeping count and don’t know why. I daily mark the calendar faithfully but I am clueless to the reason. My son is not here. He is up, out and about, and doing great.
I am home alone and it’s throwing me off. I said it before; quiet has its own sound. Believe me, it can be nerve racking. No hospital visit, no doctor’s appointment, no two hour trip down Interstate 65, no transfusions , no units of blood or platelets needed, no bags to pack, no waking up in the middle of the night from screams for help, no fear of what to find as I turn the corner, no heart beating out of my chest, no nothing. I hear his voice even why I don’t hear his voice. It’s quiet and it’s scary.
With this hiatus of peace, I clearly get a glimpse of soldiers fighting in war. My dad’s best friend fought and served in the US ARMY during Vietnam. What makes him amazing is not that he served once, but he returned to serve in the heat of battle two more times. Let me say it again, he was drafted the first time but volunteered to serve the second and third time. Who in the hell or better yet, why in the hell would you return to the place of war, death, and destruction? You have been rotated back off the front lines of battle, to rest, recuperate, and possibly return back to a civilian lifestyle, where there is no visible sign that a war is even going on. Why go back?
Why take the time and list the crazy list of events that go on in the everyday life of a caregiver and patient and make it sound like you miss it? Do you miss it? I wish I could have asked my dad’s friend, “Did you miss the crazy?” The answer is of course, No!! The problem becomes the abrupt transition out of one extreme to the next. I don’t think we are built for this. When I returned from the war in Iraq, we had what was called a debriefing. This seemed to be a clinical word for “Whatever you do, don’t tell anybody what you saw or heard.” What goes on in Kuwait, stays in Kuwait, I guess.
The word sounds like what divers do after coming up from great depths in water. They sit in a Decompression chamber. Even this seems like a period of time to understand and adjust from one environment to the next.
In caregiving, there is no debriefing or decompression chamber. From my Aunt’s account of life after the death of her husband, she was slammed back into life and its expectations at once with the benefit of debriefing or decompression.
Let me go back to daddy’s friend from Vietnam. What made him go back three times? What makes my aunt frantic and sad about new life? What makes me sound like I’m complaining about what some think I should just be grateful for? Let me explain in my own little abstract way.
This feels more like dancing to a song being played over the loud speaker of your life. Living is the equivalent to dancing to the song. Somehow the song is placed on pause and you are forced stop dancing. Now you are made to live a life in another place and time for two years. You are forced to stop dancing and be whisked away somewhere else to live and exist. Now you are placed back on the dance floor you left two years ago, and the pause button is lifted. The song that you danced to two years ago begins playing exactly where it left off and you are expected to pick back up with the same step and tempo as before. What makes this impossible is, the song and the dance floor are the same, but you are not the same person you were two years ago.
I have aged, and my experience has aged me. It is our desire to keep on dancing than to stop and start again. The rest and break away from the heat of battle may be good, but the years spent getting use to the craziness has become normal. The only way one would want to come out, was if there was a guarantee that we didn’t have to go back.
I am attempting to say to you that life after caregiving can be just as difficult as life as a caregiver. Finding one’s rhyme, reason, and rhythm again can be quite the task. Of course, I am still in it, but I must admit I feel like the fish in the aquarium looking and wondering a few things. One, why is everybody out there looking strange, and secondly, what happens when I have to live out there?
As for now, I will seek to enjoy this two weeks rest with one shoe down and the possibility of the other dropping, and hoping that the morphine of caregiving doesn’t wear off before its time to reenlist for Vietnam.