A letter to my friends

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.

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14 Responses to A letter to my friends

  1. I really hope that your life soon resumes its usual even tenor. I do understand the concept of taking on less – but would you/could you have said no to Bert? Even suspecting that it would turn out badly. This last post emphasises that you are a caring person and I suspect it is a part of who you are. By all means learn from the experience, but do try to cut yourself some slack as well. And, as for regretting that you were impatient, sleep deprivation has been used as a torture for millenia for very good reason. You were not at your best, and neither was Bert who must have had fear to add to the complex mix of emotions swirling around.

  2. Marja-Leena says:

    Thank you for your letter for I, and all of us I’m sure, have been wondering how you are.
    I’m glad you are sleeping better and feel that we’ve helped a little, like talking things out with old friends. You still feel upset and that’s understandable, being the caring person you are. Now just take care of yourself and Jerry, that’s the most important thing. Love to you.

  3. rosie says:

    We can only ever do our best. And it seems you did. Now it’s time to forgive yourself maybe, and accept that not everything is possible even with the best intentions

  4. Annie says:

    Hey, thanks for the letter and I am glad you are feeling better. Sadder, but wiser. As they say, old age ain’t for sissies, it’s not easy.

  5. Deborah says:

    Oh Anne, I am so glad you have written this. You have achieved a perspective that is far more balanced than the one you were driven into by regret and guilt. You are a thoughtful, kind person – that much is very clear. You and Jerry tried most sincerely to help Bert, and should only be commended for that. None of us have perfect control over our feelings and the expression of them, and your regret over your anger is yet another sign that you are wonderfully human.
    Thank you for your kindess in acknowledging the support you have received here. I hope you continue to sleep better.

  6. Brighid says:

    You care, you tried….
    I’m not at all sure that we helped, I think you helped yourself by writing about the situation…
    but I’ll except your kindness…in thinking otherwise.
    We have your back!

  7. Brighid says:

    Well for cry’n out loud…would like to blame the “except” typo on something besides a brain fizzle…

  8. Rain says:

    Sometimes, in any stage of life, learning to say no can be one of the harder lessons. If someone though does say yes and later learns no was the right answer, it takes courage to step up to the plate and admit it. I hope the relationships can be salvaged but if not, it’s what it is. Remembering someone as they were is part of dealing with such things in old age or when they have gotten into substance abuse. Just tough all around but it sounds like you have a handle on it

  9. Lucy says:

    Really it’s the kind of thing that anyone on the outside would see as your being put in an almost impossibly difficult position, you went above and beyond, did your best then had to salvage what you could for your own and Jerry’s sanity and well-being, and that there was nothing for you to reproach yourself, or for anyone to to reproach you, with. A little way down the line and you’ll still feel bruised and sad but it won’t look nearly so all-consuming.

    We all have stuff like this, but as life goes on it doesn’t get any easier, and we really do need to look after ourselves more, I think. I feel that very much now and I’m a few years behind you yet! Life is short and precious and self-sacrifice is over-rated in most instances. Your sympathy and efforts to understand Bert are a credit and also a help to you.

    It often helps to write, and blog readers are generally good listeners, I find. Take care of yourself.

  10. annie says:

    We can only do what we can do, I have learned that lesson all too well. You are a wonderful person for even attemptnig taking him into your home.

  11. Natalie says:

    Anne, you’re being honest with yourself and others and that’s a major blessing. I too feel sad about Bert, his isolation and the tough times he will be going through, and I hope that at some stage there’ll be an opportunity for reconciliation, even at a distance. Meanwhile I send you all much love, good health and abundant good cheer.

  12. wisewebwoman says:

    Thanks for the lovely letter Anne. I’ve found over the 6 years of my blog that putting stuff out there goes a long way to a fresh perspective and second guessing ourselves.

    Bert will do what’s best for Bert.

    You and Jerry get to move peacefully through your days.

    All is well.


  13. Pauline says:

    What a thoughtful thing to do, to write us all a letter. Thank you in return! You’ve come to a conclusion those of us of a certain age must face – we simply can’t do all the things we’d like or even think we should. But, we still can do our best. That can be a comfort.

  14. What a time you’ve had, Anne. Hope you and Jerry have a wonderful and restful Thanksgiving.

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