Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Emotional Blackmail

I really dislike it when people try to manipulate my emotions. While I'm a very emotional - some would say "volatile" - person (after "Dances With Wolves" came out I decided that my Lakota Sioux name would have to be "Cries At the Drop of A Hat), and while I express those emotions regularly, I don't like to be forced into it. I had a big problem with Richard Paul Evans' first book "The Christmas Box" (aside from the obvious literary reasons) because I felt the whole plot was contrived to make me feel sad and cause me to weep. I've wept lots of times over books...but only the ones that didn't try too hard to make me cry.

My emotions have been very active lately - what with placing my Dad in assisted living and all - and it really doesn't take much to set me off, but rather than weeping last night I was ticked. (I'd have used the other euphemism, but let's keep this clean.) I did my usual routine: race home, feed the Feline Diva, change clothes. Then I had some of Dad's laundry to fold. Then I went to visit him.

One of the first questions I asked was: What did you have for dinner? Oh just this little ball of ham. That's all? Yes. No potatoes? No. Any bread? No. Vegetables? No. Salad? Oh...just this little bit. (Thumb and index finger squeezed together to indicate a miniscule amount.) That's all they gave you? Yes. Are you hungry? No. Do you want me to go and get you something? No. Are you sure? Yes.

We went on to other things, but the subject came up again later. Well, when they give you just this little bit of rice... (Again with the thumb and index finger. But rice?? He never mentioned rice.)

Are you sure you're not hungry? Yes. Shall I go get you a cheeseburger? No! Are you sure? Yes! There are some crackers here, do you want them? No! I could get a different kind of cracker. No! I'm going to go talk to them. No! Okay, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to get the little fridge from home and bring it over and stock with Ensure, and if you don't feel like you're getting enough to eat I want you to drink an Ensure, okay? NO!

So I got frustrated and gave up, told him that obviously nothing I suggested was helping and I was going to go out and talk to the cook before I went home. I gave him a perfunctory hug and left.

On the way out I spoke to the lady in the kitchen. "Excuse me, could you tell me what you had for dinner here?" Sure, we had spaghetti casserole with biscuits, and cauliflower and broccoli. Didn't your dad get enough? Is he hungry? Should I take him something?

"Did he eat okay?" Oh yes, he ate everything on his plate...and he had a cupcake.

The light bulb went off. If I think they're starving him there, then surely I'll take him out of that awful place, right??

I assured the lady that everything was fine, and that he probably was trying to paint a bleak picture of the situation so I'd let him go home. She of those "oh yes I know that song" kind of smiles. I'm sure they see that type of thing a lot. Emotional blackmail...plain and simple.

But I'm on to him..........

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Messy Life, Messy House, Messy Mind

As my very dear friend Susan says, I haven’t been the sharpest crayon in the box lately. (I also haven’t blogged lately…but that’s another story.) My father has been in rehab, after a couple of falls, and I transferred him on Saturday to an assisted living facility. I have to say that it wasn’t fun, and I’m feeling very ambivalent about it…although everyone tells me this is the right decision: [1] he is safe (and I’m not worrying about him when I’m at work); [2] he’s getting three meals a day (where before he would eat…oh, say…pretzels and Diet DP for breakfast); [3] there are people there all the time (instead of him sitting alone in front of the window for ten hours); and [4] I am no longer “on call” for the 118 hours a week that I’m not at work.

I still feel, though, as if I am sort of on call…while he was in rehab I would often go and see him on my lunch hour. And every night I would race home, feed the cat (who must have canned food three times a day), change clothes and then go spend at least an hour and a half with him in the evening. As a result I would get home around 7:00-ish (sometimes later), and I ask you, who wants to cook a good, healthy meal at 7:00?? (Well, maybe some people do…but I am not one of them!) Therefore I was eating pretty poorly (embarrassingly, because of the “pretzels and Diet DP for breakfast” reference above). I was also stressed and tired – physically as well as emotionally. Whatever I had in my hands when I walked in the door – tote bag/purse, groceries, laundry from the rehab – went on the kitchen table (or under it)…and stayed there. I just didn’t have the emotional energy to try to keep up with the house and what was going on with Dad.

Fortunately I’ve just had a four-day weekend. And even though all of Saturday was spent moving things into his new room and getting him discharged from rehab and moved into the new facility, I managed to straighten up most of the house. My mother, years ago when I was living alone in an apartment in the California Bay Area, said to me: “Honey, I think you’d be a much happier person if you kept your kitchen cleaned up.” I’m sorry…’scuze me????? What did the one thing have to do with the other??? Well, as in every other thing, my mother was absolutely right. I am happier if my kitchen isn’t covered with dirty dishes…and that goes for the living room (I don’t mean dishes, but I do mean clutter), and the family room and every other room in the house. (I must delete the craft room from the list…because it’s so bad right now I’m pretending it’s located in a different time zone. Hopefully this problem will be addressed in the near future.)

The room my Dad is in is very nice (it’s larger than the other option I was given – and of course more money, but I think he’s worth it - and with the other one, he would have had to leave the room to change his mind). It’s got two windows, so it’s light and airy and bright. There's room enough for his motorized recliner and a second nightstand, plus his wheelchair and walker. My brother bought him a new 26” flat screen TV which will hopefully be installed this week. And it’s neat as a pin. (And I’d like to move there myself. I mean, after all, his meals are fixed for him, his laundry is done, they check on him regularly, there’s a nice living room and a gazebo out back…sounds idyllic to me.) I imagine, however, that when I get to that stage in life it won’t seem so ideal. For now, though, I’m trying to find the positive aspects of this for Dad, and trying even harder to find peace within myself that all will work out in the best way for both of us.