Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu

Well, no, I don’t have pneumonia or the flu. Nor do I feel much feel much like rockin’ since I have a sinus infection that has laid me low. (I always get sick when I travel, which makes my idea of going on the road after my father is gone a bit foolish.)

This infection has made me concentrate on myself and is helping me forget my brother. I tend to worry about him, though there’s nothing I can do for him. I tried to get him help while he was here, which came to nothing. I tried to protect him as much as I could, but only put myself in danger. Now that he’s back in his home state and on his own, he will have to take care of naphimself as best as he can.

When he was younger, the whole world was his backyard. He seemed to be able to live anywhere until he got the hoarder’s disease and became tied to “stuff.” (A lesson to me to get rid of even more of my stuff, though I doubt I will ever be able to do what my sister did — get rid of everything that didn’t fit in her car.) But now that he is older and developing physical problems as well as mental issues, the world seems alien to him. He says it’s changed, and that it scares him.

Still, he did want to go back to Colorado. If he can hold himself together long enough to make the rounds of social services, he will be okay. Could even end up with a small pension. He admitted he didn’t want to be here, that he got stuck, and perhaps in the end, I did for him what he couldn’t do for himself — get him out of here. (At least that’s what I tell myself, and for all I know, it might even be true.)

One of the reasons we needed him to go was that my father was rapidly declining. We didn’t think the old man had long to live, and the house couldn’t be put on the market with my brother living in the garage. But my father is doing better, so much so that he can be left alone some of the time. My sister, who came to help and who precipitated the exit of my brother, is thinking of leaving, and so once again it will be just me and my father in this house of ghosts.

Since my father needs to use a walker (though most of the time he carries it), he won’t be able to fix his meager meal (and if he could fix them, he wouldn’t be able to carry them), so I can fix his food before I leave for dance classes. (I’ve missed too many classes as it is, and will be missing more because of my sinus infection, and dancing holds me together.)

Mostly I’m just listening to old movies (watching them with my eyes closed, and dozing off periodically), drinking tea, and trying not to think of the next step, either the continued care of father, or what is in store for me when he is gone.

Thank you again for all your prayers, support, well wishes, thoughts, and comments during this trying time. You helped me in more ways than even I know.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Becoming Matriarch

My father once teased me by calling me the matriarch of the family since I am the oldest living female. (I had to stop here to think. Am I? I’m still in middle age though I am sliding down the banister into the early years of old age, so it seems impossible that there is no older female, but I can’t think of any except some distant relatives.)

Today, however, I feel as if I have graduated into matriarch-ness. My father finally conceded (at least for the moment, anyway) that he can no longer do his accounts, pay the bills, keep up with house repairs and everything else that needs doing to make sure everyone is comfortable, so he “passed the torch” to me. (Those are the words he used.) I told him I’d continue doing everything his way, but he said as long as the accounts were understandable to the executor of his estate, he didn’t care how I did things.

spiderSo here I am, matriarch of our dysfunctional little family — one elderly father who seldom leaves his bed, one dysfunctional brother who refuses to leave the area, one sister who has come to help and leaves whenever she is free, and me who sometimes dreams of leaving and sometimes dreads it. Besides that, the house is so big that something always needs to be repaired. I feel like a black widow spider, sitting in the middle of my poorly-spun web, but instead of me twanging the web to attract insects, the insects twang me, keeping me trapped in the center of it all.

There are others in the family, far-flung siblings that I used to keep informed when my father was ailing, but for some reason, during the past couple of weeks I haven’t felt like sending out my usual emails, maybe because no one is contacting me to see how he is doing. The truth is, I wouldn’t know what to say even if they did. He is definitely declining at an ever-rapid rate, but he is peaceful in his isolation. If anyone wanted to come, of course I as matriarch would give permission even if he were not so disposed, but for now we’re just letting the days slip away, one after the other, taking each minute as it comes.

I’ve played many different roles in my life. Some roles, like daughter and sister, have been with me from the moment I was born, but this new role of matriarch will not be long-lived. When my father is gone, probably within a few months, I will slip off the mantel, turn everything over to the executor, and head out on my own, unencumbered by any responsibility. For now, however, here I am, doing the best I can in a strange and bewildering situation.

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Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Living Offline

I seem to have more of an offline life lately than I do online, which is a throwback for me. I didn’t get a computer or get on the internet until 2007, but they came at a time of upheaval in my life (my mother was dying and my life mate/soul mate was declining) and they proved to be lifesavers. Well, mindsavers. I needed something to occupy my mind to keep from giving in to foolish worry (foolish because there was nothing I could do about either situation except to be available when needed), and learning has always been my forte. So I learned what I could about using computers, navigating the internet, blogging, social networking, and everything else that goes to making up an online life.

Origidesknally, I was gifted with a year of the internet, and after checking out libraries and finding other interesting sites such as the Internet Movie Database, I wondered how I could possibly use this unexpected gift. I figured that by the end of that first year, either I would find something to do, or I would get rid of it.

It didn’t even take a year, just a few months. Not only did I find something to do, I found a life, excitement, friends, even love of a sort. (I loved blogging from the first time I posted an article and understood what blogging was all about.) I also found support and encouragement. I don’t know how I would have dealt with the death of my life mate/soul mate if it weren’t for the bereft I met because of opening myself to the blogosphere.

Now, almost three and a half years after his death, I’m looking around my offline world, and I’m finding life, excitement, friends, even love of a sort. (I love walking with the local Sierra Club.) I no longer seem to need the screen of a computer to filter the worst of my worry or pain. I see the world through the excited eyes of child rather than the angst-ridden eyes of a bereft and lonely woman.

Parts of my offline life are hard, of course. I’m looking out for my 96-year-old father, dealing with problematic family members, and experiencing occasional upsurges of grief, but what isn’t hard is easy. Fun, even.

Instead of fearing the rest of my life alone, now I’m looking forward to seeing what I will make of myself.

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(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”) Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.