pt. 1 of how many?

Last night when I was caring for my father as everyone slept I felt this cynical laughter in my mind when I thought, I am on as many drugs as he is right now! Of course this was not at all accurate. It was true I had taken some of his oxycodone because I’d been feeling terrible, terrible, almost panicky terrible, and I’d taken some of my cough medicine because my cough was getting worse and worse as the night progressed. I got through last night in the best way I could, and I was a damn good nurse to him, and at 5:30 AM I was ragged and felt I wasn’t serving him best so I woke my mother.

Tonight, though, despite a pharmacopoeia no longer needed by our patient, and wine in the kitchen, I’m coping au naturel. It is terribly hard but I would be kidding myself to think it would in any way be easier to attempt to deaden myself. I am alone and awake. My daughter, son, and mother are sleeping (my mother and daughter, in the same bed, sweetly). My husband is gone, vanished, I don’t know where he is but I will assume he is taking care of himself for the night. My brother is on his way from Portland.

Am I trying to grieve at 1 AM in some noble, lone wolf way or is it my worry for loved ones, my incredible ability to caretake for others, that I won’t sleep until I know my brother is safe in the house? Based of what I’ve seen over the last few days I’d vote a thousand to one Yes. Caretaking makes me laugh because even when I find I am skilled at it, I can’t truly do more than be present and loving. The pain is up to them.

So many images from today I wish I could write them all out as much as possible, let them loose in a torrent. Indeed I am glad that my writings here are my journal and it is my right to do so. I can remember the gratitude I felt seeing the mortician and his assistant, or helper, or whatever he was, when they arrived. They were in suits with ties and the whole kit and had a very swanky bag to transport my father’s remains (the stretcher was a bit short, though). Here’s what I liked about them: they were so present, calm, not at all condescending, they were unafraid.

The little dog Tuck, his silhouette at the open front door as his companion is taken away.

When my father died… well, I can remember every detail but I won’t write about it. Something happened later that I can write about. See, apparently I’m a washer, cleaner, tidying and making beds and doing dishes. This afternoon I had washed my father’s clothes and bedding and when I opened the dryer I found the shirt just last night in the wee hours I’d helped him into, and the shirt before that I spent time with him on Thursday when he ate his last bit of food, a plum. The washcloth I’d used on his forehead, I’d found that on my own last night, and it gave him comfort. The shirt was hard for me. Just minutes ago I held it against a beating heart. I was hurt to see it again, inconsiderate, mute. I miss him so much it feels unbearable in a way so very uncommunicable to others.

After he was out of the house I wrote his obituary. What pressure, especially since I consider myself a writer! I had to laugh I hadn’t started it sooner; but I didn’t let myself worry too very much about it either.

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