We are home after a very long intensive week in Pittsburgh. We found a nursing center for Doug's mother where she will be tended to and safe. It is a very nice place where the residents are treated with care and dignity. Doug's father--who was so sleep deprived that he was acting desperate at times--has guilt from moving her to a nursing center, but he is finally getting some sleep. They have been married for 65 years. That is a long long time to be with someone and he is realizing slowly how lonely he feels, even after only a few days.
Doug's mother has now been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. She knows people but loses space and time. She is often searching for her Mother or some pet they had many years ago. She gets agitated when she can't do something and can get mildly violent (yells and throws things) if she gets too agitated. Our task this past week was to help Doug's dad find a living place, to allow him to have some rest, and to just spend time with both of them.
Doug's brothers and sister were at odds with us. We learned that their father was not also losing it, but that he just had no had sleep for weeks. They felt he needed to also be moved into a home. But I found him to be sharp and remarkably aware of things. He's slow in talking but not slow in thinking. One sister-in-law harshly said Doug and I were enabling him by listening to him and reassuring him that we understood; she and his brother felt we should instead be telling him what and how to do things. But we spent most of our time just listening to him.
I have come to understand that listening is the key to all communication. We teach people how to speak and interact--that is my job--but we really don't teach people how to listen. Truly listening is such a pleasure. And it is exhausting. Doug's father wanted to know why I "get it" when his own children didn't. They stopped listening.
Also, I told him, I am not his kid. That is an important piece. He feels that because they are his children, they should trust him and listen and understand. Of course they should. But I have the advantage of not being his kid. I don't have to get through my own stuff to listen to him. I don'thave to fight my image and perception of him as my father, as his kid. I don't have to deal with my concern that he isn't who he was when I was 10. I don't have to deal with losing him as my father and dealing with my own mortality. He didn't understand that until I happened to call my own mother. My mother and I are good friends. But I found myself getting irritated while she talked because she wasn't getting things right...she was confused and I wanted to make sure she understood better. And then I smiled to myself and sat back with the phone and breathed. It didn't matter these little details. We could push each others' buttons because I was her kid and she was my mother. So I sat back and listened to her as well.
We got home late Tuesday night and were back at work early Wednesday. Exhausted--both emotionally and physically. I had a tense meeting with the PE department over dance studio space that should have been postponed for a day. I got on the scales yesterday morning and simply said, "Hmmm I have some work to do." And I will do that work. But not today. Not without a bit more rest.
And the beat goes on. Peace~~