Not to worry; John is fine.
I realized something last week: In the past few weeks, I got so caught up with Shadow Lane, John’s mother being in and out of the hospital, worrying about John and his work, figuring out my new client’s work, etc., that I completely forgot about my stepfather. I felt bad about that, so I called him.
He sounded awful; I could barely understand him. It was like he was speaking around a mouthful of marbles. Things had taken a bad turn for him. A couple of weeks ago, he fell. He got pretty banged up, so he tried soaking some of the aches in a warm bath. But when he was ready to get out, he couldn’t. He literally could not get up out of the bathtub.
He had to call 911 and they had to break into his place and haul him out. How humiliating. And then, his neighbor took him to the doctor to get checked. While there, they asked what happened, and before he could answer, his busybody neighbor blathered on about his fall, about not being able to get up out of the tub, etc. That set off red flags, one thing led to another… and they took away his driver’s license.
My stepfather doesn’t complain, but his life is pretty miserable. He misses my mother. His body is falling apart. He can’t do any of the things he used to love. Most of his friends are gone. His grown kids are… well, they leave much to be desired, let’s put it that way. But the one thing he always said to John and me: “I’m OK as long as I can drive. If I can’t drive, I don’t know what I’ll do with myself. Might as well put a gun to my head.”
And now he can’t drive. I think they just handed him a death sentence. I’d never heard him sound so defeated.
I felt so, so horrible for him. And all I wanted, after I got off the phone, was to talk to John. But I couldn’t. I wasn’t seeing him that night. He was going to be in a pipeline all night. He called me before he went in, but I told him nothing. I didn’t want to burden him with this when he was just about to pull an all-nighter doing physical labor in an underground pipe. So I kept it to myself. I wanted to talk to someone, but I didn’t know who.
Saturday morning, John came home around 9:30-10:00, but he had some things to do and then he was going straight to bed. The family gathering (his aunt, cousin, one of his sisters and his brother & sister-in-law, all going to visit his mother) had been moved until Sunday. So I didn’t say a word, just told him I’d see him that night.
Last night, I got to his place at 6:30; he was still asleep in his bedroom. I went in, and as soon as he called me over and I lay next to him, I lost it. All the worry, first over him and then about my stepdad, gave way, and John was alarmed as I started bawling out of seemingly nowhere. First, I wanted to make sure he was OK. “Are you all right? Did everything go OK? Do you have to go back to work?” I sobbed. He said he was fine, the inspection went fine, they didn’t need to do anything further and it was over. What a relief.
I told him all about M. He said all the right things, just as I knew he would. “That’s just awful… that’s so sad… Poor M. He doesn’t deserve this.” I just kept weeping that it wasn’t fair, how much did one person have to suffer. That he had taken care of my mother all those years, and now he had nothing to live for but he kept on going and going, with everything being taken away from him, including his dignity and his independence. Then I blurted, “Sweetie, I’m sorry, but I just can’t do the family thing tomorrow. I can’t handle it. Your mother has four kids and all sorts of extended family taking care of her, watching out for her, taking care of her every need. She lives in a nice place with all kinds of things to do. But all she does is complain, and I can’t stand it. All old people should have as good a life as she does. If we go there tomorrow and she starts up with how bad her life is, I’ll think about M and I will completely lose it.”
John didn’t argue. He didn’t say a word to try to convince me otherwise. He just put his arms around me. After a moment, he said, “You’re right about Mom. But she can’t help it. You can’t be mad at her about it.”
“I’m trying not to be,” I wept. “But it’s hard! I’m angry! I’m angry at the unfairness of it all. M never complains, all he’s ever done is take care of people, and he has nothing. Your mother has everything and everyone she needs, and yet all she does is talk about how awful everything is.”
John sighed. “Yeah… it does wear on you after a while.” He gets it.
So, after a while, we got up and went for sushi. Poor John was still wiped out, so we came home and I watched TV while he fell asleep on the couch. Then, this morning, he left to go to the family thing. I slept a little longer, then got up, showered and left. We didn’t get to spend much time together. But at least I got to see him, and he got through a high-stress and low-sleep week unscathed. And I didn’t have to go to the gathering. I really don’t think I could have handled it.
We’ll go see my stepfather soon. I wish he were closer; if he weren’t 75 miles away on a bitch of an L.A. freeway, I’d drop over and do things for him. He’s going to look into getting some live-in care. Meanwhile, I will call more often.
Onward with the week. Yesterday was ST’s birthday. I wish we could celebrate our birthdays, one week apart, together like we did last year. But that’s over. I wish I could see Mr. D tomorrow, but he is out of town. So… I need to keep busy. Be productive. Find something fun to do, and don’t think too much. And remember that next weekend, and next Monday, will be awesome.