Dad’s been at the rehab center for five days, and I’m feeling like both a middle-aged empty-nester and a teenager turned loose on the house when the parental units have gone out of town. I find myself at loose ends, without either the constant TV chatter or regular meal-and-toe-wound schedule to force me into concentration and organize my day. And, oddly, the trouble I had sleeping the last couple weeks before Dad’s hospitalization has continued – I figured that once he was on someone else’s watch, I’d be able to relax. Annoyingly, though, I’m still waking up at 4 or 4:30 a.m., now to only the simple humming of the dehumidifier, and then tossing and turning until 7.
The one regular anchor to my schedule now is my daily visit to Dad. It’s easy to see, during those trips, the contrast between his current state and attitude and that of his previous rehab stay five months ago. Back in August, he was raring to go – talking about release dates the day after his transfer from the hospital. Yesterday, exactly a week before his 88th birthday, he already was resigned to the notion that his celebratory dinner would be eaten off a foodservice tray. During today’s noontime visit, he was finishing up lunch while still lying in bed. The enthusiasm his voice carried in his previous stay has been replaced by something more like resignation or, possibly, depression – I can’t say that for certain, though, because I’ve never, in my life, heard him depressed, so I have no point of comparison to make a definitive judgment.
Back at home, I’m sussing out my own unfamiliar emotions. That constant TV chatter was driving me nuts just a week ago. How I loved it when Dad would switch from the hyper-kinetic ESPN and CNN hosts to the calmly spoken observations of the golf or tennis channel (I’ve decided that golf and tennis color commentary is like the light-jazz of sports talk). Now, though, it seems my internal conversations have taken the place of all those droning talking heads, making it almost as hard to concentrate as it was before his hospitalization.
There’s no telling right now how long Dad will remain in rehab. August’s stay lasted a little more than two weeks. This was followed by six weeks or so of visiting nurse services, before he rejoined the herd of octogenarians plying Cape Cod roads in their late-model Mercuries – and, so, became ineligible for the home-based care. Now I’m beginning to wonder if home care will become a more permanent part of my life with father – or whether we might even have to begin exploring other living arrangements. If he doesn’t get up and moving soon, the use-it-or-lose-it factor so important to elder mobility could well kick in, and I don’t see how I make a bed-bound Dad work in the little house that’s home to both my business and my life.
In the meantime, I’m moving some things back to where they were before he arrived, and attempting to re-acclimate my body to a less-than-subtropical thermostat setting. My dinner hour is shifting later, and, if I make it to the gym, I’m not so worried about rushing home in time to get a meal on the table by 7:15 p.m. In short, I’m trying shape my life into something that might resemble what it would look like if the kid who is my father has left the nest for good. This may well only be a trial run, but I’m feeling like the practice may help make it easier once my nest really is empty once again.