Dear Blog Friends:
It is now almost 2 weeks since Bert left. Writing the previous post, in which I recounted all the events that led up to his coming and his hasty departure, proved to be remarkably cathartic. The night I posted it I slept well, after a time when I had spent many nights awake and restless.
I am thankful for all the kind and wise comments from my blog friends. They helped me get perspective. Some of you expressed understanding because you have found yourselves in or knew of analogous situations — Ernestine, Maria and Pauline. Some of you praised Jerry — Lucy, Dale, Marja-leena and Betty — and I am so glad. Bert is Jerry’s brother, something I had written about in earlier posts but failed to make clear in my last post. That is the reason the hospital released him to us. They said if there had been no family he would have been sent to a nursing home.
Jerry and Bert lived very different lives. Bert is, and always has been, a loner. Jerry is a man who wants to be married. His comfort and happiness depends on a close relationship with a woman. Bert has friends; he talks more than Jerry, but solitude is Bert’s greatest need. Jerry is careful, thoughtful, methodical and dislikes controversy. Bert is careless, creative, erratic and he enjoys argument and litigation.
Hattie and Maria pointed out the failings of the system to deal with situations like this. I think the hospital personnel tried to do their best, but coping with an eccentric elderly man like Bert who had a drug dependency was more than they were ready for. Jerry was always uneasy about how things would work out, because he knew his brother and his brother’s need to do things “his way.” But Jerry remained calm, reasonable and strong the whole time.
Some of you emphasized the addiction — Jan, annie (of Canyon Cottage), K (my old friend), wisewebwoman, Darlene and Natalie — and I certainly think that was a factor. But it was more than that. He wanted desperately to control his own life. Isn’t that what we all want? The sad thing is that he is no longer able, mentally or physically to do so. Many of you — Jean, Rain, Tabor, Deborah, Annie (of Mzodell’s page) — saw that, and reminded me of it. That helped. Some commenters left simple, loving words of encouragement — Freda, Brighid and Elephant’s Child. To them and to you all I am deeply grateful.
Writing about it forced me to remember all the events and preparations that Jerry and I went through before we got to the hospital, all the tedium and stress of the hospital experience, how much I worried that I would be unable to carry out accurately all the instructions I got from the nurse, the physical therapist and the occupational therapist. I reviewed in my mind the tiring trip home, worrying about Bert, about traffic, about the dogs. And once at home and bone tired I remembered cooking dinner, cleaning up, getting Bert settled and finally sleeping badly as I had been doing for days.
I could see why the next morning I was unprepared for Bert’s sudden demand that I give him all the pills and all the hospital records and instructions. I am still saddened as I remember how I lost my temper and the argument that ensued. I am ashamed that I was impatient and unwise in what I said. But I realize that I was pushed far by worry and exhaustion and Bert’s unreasonableness. This doesn’t mean that I don’t still have deep regrets. I do. But I understand better why it happened.
I think there are a lot of lessons for me to learn from this experience. One’s flexibility diminishes in old age; I was afraid I was not up to the task of caring for Bert, that I would become too tired. I was nervous about not having medical help available — I had been unsuccessful in finding a doctor in Bellingham for Bert. Jerry’s and my routine would be changed. Our life has an easy cadence that would be interrupted. I think one should undertake less in old age, and we were taking on a huge unknown.
All my commenters recommended going easy on myself. I think that’s a piece of advice that everyone who is getting up in age should remember every day.
Love to you all.