I’ve been absent from the blogging thing for more than a year. Life – or, rather, my father’s life, caught up to me about a year and a half ago, when a health crisis in his life forced my two sisters and I to realize that his living on his own was not a good idea. For a variety of reasons, my home was the best one for him to join, so, since March 2008, I’ve been a caregiver.
It’s gotten a bit more challenging since late July, when an infection sent him to the hospital for a week and, then, to a rehab center for two weeks. He’s now driving again (one of the legions of old men driving Mercury Grand Marquis’ whom Cape Cod residents know to give wide berth), and kind of walking, with a cane. But he’s really just a fall or other health crisis away from real trouble.
I had the oddest dream last night. I was sitting at the kitchen tale, looking and feeling like my current, 50-year-old self, and I was about to take my usual allergy pill and realized I had three or four other bottles of pills in front of me. I started reading the labels and suddenly became very confused about when I was supposed to take which medication. And then I looked at something – maybe the refill date? – with the current date on it, did some math in my head and realized I was 80 years old. I looked and felt the same, but I was 80 years old. Very disturbing. It took me several seconds during the waking-up process to realize that, no, I really was still just 50.
I think this comes out of several recent experiences. Dad pretty much expressed the exact same feeling a couple days ago, when we were in the midst of a blood-pressure meltdown. The doctor had quadrupled his metoprolol prescription to deal with blood pressure that had been creeping steadily higher. For a few days, the medication increase really seemed to be working, and his blood pressure fell substantially during the daily readings. Then it started climbing up again, reaching 185/80 on Saturday. “How did this happen?” Dad asked. “I feel like I’m the same guy I was when I was 20 – I can’t do some of the things I did then, but I feel the same. What’s going on?” He ended this monologue by pointing his finger at a mechanical culprit – “I think that blood-pressure machine is screwed up.”
I began paying significantly stricter attention to sodium the next day, which may be at least part of the reason why his blood pressure fell significantly, to 151/60, the day after – which was yesterday. This is the same day we had to go over to the registry of motor vehicles, so Dad could take his driving-competency test. He had to use my car, because the registry requires the exam vehicle have an emergency brake accessible to the examiner. I sat in the back seat, directly behind Dad, as the examiner directed him through the quiet residential neighborhood located behind the busy strip mall in which the office is located. Dad passed.
While I’ll be able to enjoy some respite, again, when Dad takes himself out driving or to lunch, the test results did little to assuage my concerns about him driving. I don’t think we passed more than two cars during the whole exam, as we wandered the little two-lane streets, where the speed limit was never higher than 30. We didn’t even go near Rte. 28, the bustling four-lane thoroughfare in front of the strip mall, which also serves as the major traffic artery for the south side of the Cape. And, of course, there was no medical or occupational assessment of Dad’s health or motor skills, beyond a simple eye test. All the test showed was that Dad could stay to the right of the dividing line without running up over the curb.
So, I think my dream was a subconscious expression of empathy, an exercise in looking through the eyes of an 87-year-old who can’t quite figure out how he got to be so old and frail. I’ve got to say, it was a pretty scary dream.