Back from Wit's End...

Posted by Gwen Mathews on March 2, 2011 

I am embarrassed.  I didn’t mean to not post a blog post for so long but the truth is, I couldn’t do it.  Don’t get me wrong, I could have written something but it wouldn’t have been much fun.  See previous post about my fun activities of looking after my parents.  And, I don’t mean insult to them by saying I have been looking after them but of late they have consumed much more of time, energy and focus (but way less entertainingly) than I do my teen and tween-age children or just about anything else in my life.

About three weeks ago, my dad ended up taking a trip straight from the doctor’s office to the hospital for what we anticipated was a weekend stay.  His little weekend turned into was a twelve day stay of one thing turning into another, lots of unanswerable questions, two heart procedures, and an eventual dismissal to rehab at a nursing home to rebuild the strength you lose after twelve days in bed when you are 85. 

I discovered over the course of the last few weeks the real meaning of the phrase “at your wit’s end.”  I used to think it was just kind of a mental exhaustion thing where you’re out of solutions for a demanding situation.  What I’ve discovered is that “Wit’s End” is an actual place where you’ve run out of jokes and the ability to laugh.  I didn’t know that such a place even existed but I stumbled upon it sometime in the middle of last week!   It's dead-end wall located right next to Rock Bottom where you just can’t laugh anymore and happenings that you could normally tell in a really funny way – only want to make you cry.  Or, really really mad.  Like when one of your siblings doesn’t ask how a hospitalized parent is doing but asks for the name of his cardiologist so that he can use him in the future.  Seriously, I could show you the text message but I deleted it in a moment of fury.  While I’m totally cool with angry writing, here at At Home in the Bluegrass, we try to have a pretty strict good humor policy.  The view from “Wit’s End” is a definite blog downer.  If you want to be depressed, go watch the news.

So, in addition to not writing anything for two weeks and learning the location of “wit’s end”, I’ve also learned what it means to take care of yourself.  That was the advice of a very wise friend who on Day 8 of my dad being in the hospital said, “Gwen, don’t forget to take care of yourself.”  At the moment she said it, I thought she meant doing stuff like eating healthy and not forgetting to exercise but late last week I had a great epiphany in the midst of writing an angry email (that I didn’t send) to some non-present family members that “taking care of yourself” means a lot more than just dragging out of bed at 5:30 in the morning to go run.  Self-care means not only eating right and exercising but it also means establishing boundaries about what I’m willing and able to do AND drawing the line at enabling other people to not shoulder their responsibilities.  I announced said epiphany to my husband late last week saying, “I think I’m a care giving enabler” to which he replied, “Really…have you NOT been listening to me for months?”  Ummm…apparently not.   

I made a third discovery in the past month too – everybody my age wants to talk about their aging parents.  Everybody has a story to tell.  It’s kind of like how we used to talk endlessly about our kids when they were cute little babies and our endless struggles of adapting to parenthood.  I can remember being absolutely captivated by my friends’ stories of how they were getting their babies to sleep through the night or give up their pacifiers.  I was desperate for any tip or trick for potty training and would gladly share a great success in making my own baby wipes.  These days I’m even more desperate for suggestions of how to get your parents to realize they really need somebody (besides me or my sister) to come clean their house or how to balance the demands of mother hood with the demands of daughterhood.  There’s much comfort in finding that I am not alone and the telling and listening of tales over the last few weeks has pulled me back from “Wit’s End”.

One day soon, I hope to get back to blogging about funnier things than parenting parents.  There ought to be lots to write about -- afterall basesball and lacrosse season are beginning and spring is right around the corner! In the meantime, maybe by taking care of myself, I can avoid the dreaded ledge of "Wit's End".  

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