Sunday night – the night of the Big Game. I like football, I just don’t usually get a lot of time to watch it. I try to watch the Super Bowl, or at least part of it, but mostly for the half-time show and the commercials. This year is no different, although we were a little late turning on the game tonight. AJ informed us earlier today that we must have Papa Johns for dinner, and he wanted to know what appetizers I was going to make for everyone. Pretty funny coming from a kid who does not eat most appetizers.
I keep saying I am not going to reflect back on every day, and compare it to last year. But I am finding that it is hard not to do, especially on days that I recall so well.
I remember the Super Bowl last year because I thought there might be a bunch of people at the hospital that night. I worried that Frank would be too tired, and I knew I was too tired. I had already been there and back home once that day, and as I prepared to go – with a bunch of food and appetizers made by my Mom – I remembered thinking how much I hate the drive. But I did it, climbed into the minivan and drove back, in the dark, those 27 long miles to the hospital.
When I got there, it was fairly quiet. I do not exactly remember who was there first, but I know our very good friend Jason was there. As always, he was funny and kept Frank grinning and talking through the first quarter or so of the game. We ate our snacks, hung out, and had a relaxing time watching a bit of the game. A few other friends stopped by as well, and we all had a nice time hanging out. Frank flagged early, as he did in those days so soon after the accident, and we left before the game was even half over.
Tonight, the game is on, kids are running around taking baths, doing homework, looking at facebook and eating snacks after dinner. Frank and Tommy are playing a board game to wind down for bed time, and I am sitting on the couch, watching Beyonce in the half time show.
The reflection back to a year ago is hard to describe. I vividly remember sitting in Frank’s room, eating and laughing, but I also remember the overwhelming exhaustion, and how I dreaded having to drive home again, in the dark and cold. I knew that I had to get home – the kids needed to see me in the morning to know that I was okay – but I remember thinking that I would have given anything to have been able to just lie down, and go to sleep.
For a really long time.
I think that is what I remember the most – the fatigue that never seemed to end. Never was filled. Never could be shaken off.
I know so much more now than I did then about caregiver fatigue, emotional exhaustion, and just plain grieving. I would not wish the painful worrying and brain draining fear on anyone. It is so powerful, and we are powerless at times to not let it take over. We have to live in those moments, and experience them, or we can never bring ourselves back to the living again. It took a really long time for me to recover from the exhaustion. And truly, I guess I am not sure that it is truly over even now.
I will say that the energy level that I have on most days is similar to Frank’s – he still needs to monitor his activity level, and ensure that he has a few days a week that he rests in the afternoon. Cumulative busy days cause him to lose focus, and he knows he needs to keep himself focused. It is not just the brain fatigue, but he works out so many days a week, and the body, although willing, also needs a break. My energy has greatly improved as Frank has healed. But I find that if I add in too many things to my day, I am done by 7 pm. It sounds crazy, but so many days I am exhausted so early, and I know it is not physical exhaustion, because that would mean that I was actually having a relationship with my treadmill again.
But we broke up a few months ago, and I am still not talking to her.
The exhaustion comes from the continued worry and caregiver overload. But this overload I put on myself, and the residuals that exist from being that primary person in the family for so long. It has been very hard to let go – to let some things fail, not go just right, and to not fix them when that happens. I was told that it was good to step back a bit from work, but if I did, to make sure that I did not walk right back into Frank’s world and take everything back over. That I am not his mother.
And that statement my friends, is the one that hit home the most.
As I look back on it, I decided that it hit me because it was true. I was gearing myself back up to take a break from work, and try to regroup, byo also dive into his world and taking things back over.
There is no reason to do that. He can make his own appointments, his own calls, get his own stuff dealth with. Sure I can help with medical paperwork (not many of us want the guys filling that out, we would just have to fix it again anyway) but I do not need to take it all back.
That has been the hardest part for me – not taking it all back. He doesn’t need it, and I shouldn’t want to do it. But it has been hard to not just “do” for him.
He needs and can do for himself. None of us are perfect, God knows that I am not, and he needs to make mistakes like everyone else.
So I let him. I don’t “do” all the time. I sit, and do my own thing.
But I have to work at not “doing.” This week, I am going to not “do” things for Frank and try to get back to doing more things for me. Like Yoga – I miss Yoga.
And maybe, just maybe, I might call my treadmill, and see what she is doing this week.