In which I suck and Richard Armitage unknowingly saves the day

Today at 5 p.m., I thought my brain was melting and oozing out through my ears. This is the post in which I reveal just exactly how selfish and resentful I am.

Yesterday, my mother ate and drank very little all day despite jokes, coaxing, and outright begging. We’re talking half of one Edy’s lime fruit bar.

Last night something happened to the drains in the house. I’m not saying what caused it, because I don’t know, except that if it involved someone depositing a surgical dressing in a toilet, a malfeasance of which I was accused, I maintain for the record that *I* wasn’t the one who did it. But I was half of the team that cleaned it up — 3 hours of shopvaccing after 9 p.m. to dry up the basement.

So I should be happy that today was “normal,” except that the nieces were here, and my father, who did find a plumber friend of his to come over and unclog the drains, disappeared. And it was too hot for most of the afternoon for the nieces to play outside for more than a half hour or so, and just not possible simultaneously to manage the needs of two active and demanding little girls and one very inactive, except for the required walking, post-operative woman. My mother has to sleep in the living room right now because she can’t get into and out of her bed. All of the inside entertainment options for little girls are in the living room. Mom needs rest. Little girls need stuff to do.

I love my nieces, but I know, today, why I never had children. The sheer repetitiveness of the whole thing. The never stopping.

The highlight of their day was probably the trip to W**-m*** to buy a so-called “j-hook” for crocheting. $1.34 for this amazing delight. My dad didn’t pack up the ones we took to the hospital, and they are lost or I don’t know where they are. (I can’t find her hearing aid case, either. The sheer number of uncontrollable details that are flooding into my life has me dumbfounded.) We also stopped at Walgreens to get some surgical dressings as we were fresh out.

I might have, through ongoing cajoling, gotten my mother to eat 600 calories today. Maybe. I messed up with the jello cups I bought and so the first one she ate was no-calorie. *Headdesk*. It’s not like there’s any space in her stomach at the moment — she has no appetite, and near constant nausea. Supper was better. I got her to eat two big spoonsful of orange jello with actual calories in it and three small spoonsful of very mushy rice cooked in broth. I’m not sure when she had protein the last time, though. But at least she didn’t look at the chicken soup the rest of us were eating and visibly suppress a violent gag reflex, like she did last night.

(If you’re asking yourself, who eats chicken soup in the middle of July, the answer is: we do.)

She also showered. That was big. It could have been the highlight of her day.

Also the phone went on the fritz for basically the entire day. (Did I mention that dad chose yesterday to decide, spontaneously, to switch media providers? He went to the store to fill a few prescriptions and he came home with a Direct TV contract.) After the nieces went home I spent 45 minutes on my cell phone with customer service trying to figure out what was wrong. We figured it out, but not without me diving into one very dusty corner of the office and getting very intimate with a phone jack that was probably installed in 1982. One more thing that needs to be cleaned. This house is just full of projects that I’m starting to be concerned no one will ever do.

And once the phone was working again it rang off the hook. And running to get it, I tripped over my father’s work boots which for some inexplicable reason he took off in the middle of the kitchen floor and I fell. And I cursed like crazy. And yelled, I quit. And my mom said, whew, it’s lucky the nieces went home. What kind of example would that be to them?

The kind of example I am. Ambivalent. Clumsy. One you should not emulate.

I guess I know she’s starting to feel better if she’s parenting me again. Now if she would just eat something.

And my father. Seriously. I am going to have to figure out how to have a talk with him about how he needs to spend more time with my mom right now, not because of my needs, but because of mom’s. At least three times today she said, “where’s [my dad’s name]?”

It is what it is, it has to be what it has to be, I’ll do what I have to do, I keep saying to myself.

But there’s another chorus playing the background. If I were a blasphemer, I would say _____ [fellow blasphemers, fill in the blank].

I don’t mean to sound like Job. Really, taken altogether, these problems aren’t that bad and could be worse (and I thought more than once today how thankful I am that when mom needs cold water I can go to the refrigerator door, instead of outside to pump water. How impossible all this would be without household appliances! After fifteen minutes I understand perfectly why people used to have live-in domestic servants). I guess the reason I’m writing this down is the thing that I realized:

I thought, this afternoon at five: I will never, ever, be allowed to be alone again. It’s just never going to happen. I will never have another thought except as concerns an object someone can’t find or a technology that needs to be fixed or a mess that has to be cleaned up.

I thought when this all started that I could give up anything but I can’t give up the writing. I feared most that it would be the pain that shut me down as a writer. That at some point the suffering would become bad enough that I would have to build a wall to protect myself from my feelings, and that would kill the writing. I suppose that could still happen, but I have been able to write through the pain, consistently. If today is any indication, the real danger is not going to be pain, it’s going to be tedium. I feel my rationality slipping away as I respond to queries and try to remember the sequence of things that makes mom most comfortable. The changing the dressing sequence (lie down on reclining chair, recline, slip down panties, lift up top, detach surgical binder, remove gauze and dressings, examine visually, remove, replace, rebind, recloth); the going to bed sequence (stand up, walk around, bathroom, change panties, deposit debris, reclining chair, check dressing, remove hearing aid, give meds, restock stuff on bedside table, say prayers, adjust lights, scare dad away from living room tv).

But I know the solution to this problem and it’s the same answer that appeared all those months ago. Open yourself to the sensation that Armitage and his performances provoke; let your senses take over your feelings.

After putting everyone to bed tonight I came downstairs and I thought, I know what I want to write next, but I’ll just look at some pictures and then go to bed. I don’t have any room in my spirit for anything else.

First, I saw the new pics of Armitage from the panorama (or whatever it’s called). Especially this one moved me:

I think because his somber quality sort of matched my exhausted mood.

But it was the POD for July 9th at that saved the writing day, because even though I’m not writing about the picture, it reinvigorated my senses enough that I could write (even if it’s just the sludge I have deposited above).

Here’s the POD, of Mr. Armitage as Alex Track:

And these are the beautiful details I saw:

… unruly, boyish hair …

… eyebrow, laughlines, calm eyes …

… lips, placed together so delicately, barely indicated left side smirk …

… strong fingers, amazing MCP.

And seeing this, somehow, let my emotions cut through the tedium and burst through again. Even if it was just to write about the tedium. I got to write. If I can keep writing, I will be okay. And I will get to write what I want to write about Armitage soon. It’s there, just waiting for me.

Thanks, Mr. Armitage, as always, for making so much possible. Even for buffering the tedium that’s necessary to my family’s life just now.

You are the light at the end of my tunnel.

~ by Servetus on July 10, 2012.

54 Responses to “In which I suck and Richard Armitage unknowingly saves the day”

  1. I have been wanting to comment, given what you’re going through, but everything I came up with just seemed so inadequate. Others here are so much more eloquent, and what’s been said has moved me incredibly.
    You are not selfish, you are human, and doing the best you can. Under the circumstances, I think I would be feeling resentful too. There is so much out of one’s control in this situation, and having people who are seemingly impervious to what is needed makes it more difficult than it should be. Be kind to yourself, and as someone suggested in the previous post, just take it an hour at a time, step by step.
    I’m glad that the pictures of Richard helped you. The details you have mentioned are simply divine.
    Thinking of you and wishing your mother all the best for her recovery.


  2. Dear Servetus.
    Thanks for another moving and well written blog.
    I wish you the strength to carry on and deal with all you’ll go through and the courage to be selfish once a day and do something for yourself.
    Take care!!!


    • Thanks — I guess right now it’s late night Armitaging. The future looks a bit bleak.


      • Same here, but I try to convince myself that better times are coming, although I am not really good at that 😉


        • I wonder all the time what the benefit is to optimism vs realism. Don’t know.


          • I think real optimists handle bad situations by creating positive thoughts and thereby don’t get so much worry lines.
            But I as a realist hate it when things are bad and some ‘sunny fellow’ keep telling me that everything will be allright *sigh*


            • Me too. Especially when what I’m told is going to happen is totally out of the realm of rational possibility.


  3. Don’t ever think you suck because it gets too much. You and your mother are very brave. I’m not one for big words or prayers but I’m reading your posts and thinking of you and your family and hope she fully recovers.


    • Thanks, Jane — I feel your quiet support.

      I guess I think sometimes if I hadn’t gone down the academic road I’d be a better “housekeeper” and caretaker and so better at managing all this stuff, but that’s possibly not true.


      • Many of us that are about your age or older and have elderly parents are in the same situation or have been or know we will be sooner or later. I got a taste of it a few months ago and felt what many of you felt, that I have to be strong because there is no-one else to be strong and that my own needs don’t matter any more. I am very much aware that my own mother’s situation could be so much worse and am very grateful for it, but live in constant fear that something happens to her.


        • It seems to be a rite of passage for women to be the caregivers. Whether it’s children, grandchldren or elderly parents. Something else we have in common.


          • that’s an intriguing way to think about it.


          • That’s a very insightful observation, sloan. ‘Caregiving’ is often framed as ‘mandatory’ action, as is the case when we are called to care for our parents, children, nieces, etc.

            But I like to think our interactions here as commenters and readers are yet another form of voluntary ‘caregiving’. It’s one of the reasons I find this place so special. 😉


            • Yes it is a special community with extradinary people who provide a platform for all of us to express our admiration for RA as well as lots of other good intentions.


  4. All I see is that you do not suck. You are doing the best you can and you have my admiration. I’m sure that writing isn’t a waste of time. Take care.


  5. Dear Serv,
    You are such a gift to your family. I hope that things will even out for you and that you won’t have so many burdens on you all the time. Other people need to pull their weight as caregivers. But I know that is easier said than done.
    But I’m glad that you have you writing and your Richard for your respite now and again. So I’m sending:
    1) healing thoughts and prayers your Mom’s way;
    2) nudging thoughts to be more helpful to whomever you deem needs to hear that; and
    3) censored thoughts to you from any number of your favorite Armitage characters (they’ve missed their morning delights with you and they are queuing up at the ready).
    Cheers! Love! and Hugs! Grati ;->


    • I’m sorry about Sophie, Grati — thanks for taking the time to write when I know you are suffering, too.

      And thanks for the thought of the chaRActers missing their morning [censored]. That brought a huge smile to my face 🙂


  6. You are caring for your mother – in essence you are loving her. I can’t think of any higher motive or activity than that: loving. In fact, I think that’s what we’re in this experience for – to learn and to love. What else is there? In my estimation you’re doing a great work. And how lovely it is you have this group of Armitage friends to tell you that they care and that yes, they have been to ‘I don’t know if I can take it anymore’ and that you’re only human in working it out the best you can day by day. Although it may not be any fun, you are gaining spiritual muscle in practicing your patience, diligence, perserverence, and compassion to their utmost. In your little corner of the world, you’re holding to the standards which elevate the human race. All good to you as you keep on keeping on.


    • I was thinking afterwards that it was one of those very “Jewish” moments where virtue has to be its own reward (I put Jewish in scare quotes because it’s not unique to Judaism).

      It’s been amazing to me how many people go through this — I guess we all hide things away in our real atmospheres and let our hair down here — but it’s wonderful to know that people understand this situation and sympathize. When I woke up this morning to all these wonderful replies, I got tears in my eyes.


  7. Part of my job involves speaking to carers. I always talk about self care – using the analogy that the safety announcement on a plane tells us to fit our own oxygen masks before helping others for a good reason and if we don’t care for ourselves, we burn out and can’t help others. Most carers nod sagely and then carry on as they were – running themselves into the ground. They think that needing things for themselves is selfish. It absolutely is not; it is self preservation.

    So glad you have it on your list to speak to SIL about the babysitting – because the likelihood is that unless you let her know that you are already overwhelmed she will assume that you are thrilled to be doing it. In my experience, people rarely appreciate how hard it is for the carer.

    You take care Servetus. The last thing you are being is selfish.


    • Thanks, Bollyknickers — your professional perspective really helps.

      To defend SIL: my brother is a volunteer fireman and he was supposed to be home but he got called away to a marsh fire and he couldn’t stay home. My parents are usually her last ditch babysitters; she just hasn’t had the chance to recruit new ones. There’s other stuff going on, too, but it wasn’t totallly her fault.


  8. Having been there for a number of years I know how difficult it is. We are all not saints, and we do the best we can. Feeling exhausted and inadequate are all part of being human. Now that I am alone I sometimes miss those days believe it or not. You are loved and appreciated, even if you don’t feel you are at the moment.

    Richard Armitage is a miracle worker, that has been my experience as well.

    Hoping and praying for your mother to feel herself soon, and for patience and rest for you. Take care.


    • I wonder that, sometimes, when my mother says something particularly funny or insightful — will I look back at this nostalgically? We are all really, really close.

      Thanks for your good wishes.


  9. I can’t say so eloquently as the others how much you need to take care of yourself. You’re doing something that’s harder than everything else — harder, too, because you’re the one in the middle of the house that usually just holds your parents, and your dad is clearly at a loss. I’m sure he’s very well aware of his inadequacies here even if his behavior just makes it necessary to take care of his messes, too.

    There’s a woman here whose mother was just diagnosed, so I turned her on (quietly) to your blog, and she came in the next day and couldn’t thank me enough for it — she said it was crazily cathartic to see someone else doing this. And being okay. The writing, the writing, the writing….


  10. First, you are a freaking great writer. I was right there with you simply by the power of your words. You have strung detailed prose, a wide range of emotion and story/experience/plot together in such a way that I was invested from the first sentence. I have “paid” for books with less substance than this. I am the last person to utter the word should to anyone, but you should really keep writing.

    To me, your day was filled with emotion and it did not kill your writing. It gave it life. Your life and your family’s life on this given day. As an outsider reading I fell in love with your family because I know them, well I know people like them. I know you. I think I may be you on any given day. Your day was so relatable on some many levels and this is not to minimize the difficulty of it but rather to simply say that so many people can connect to your experience.


    • Wow, what a kind comment. You are welcome to be me on any day you like. Can I be you? 🙂

      I think so often that this is boring just because it’s so predictable, all of it. How human lives develop and change, how people deal with those changes, with threats to their existence. I’m grateful if it means something to readers.


  11. Reading this post took me straight back to a time when was caring for family members while I was seriously unwell myself (my mother was immobile & my brother was in hospital with a life threatening illness). I was pushed so far beyond my limits with the relentless stress and responsibility that my mind actually partially split from reality for a while with strange thoughts and hallucinations. Such is the desire to be the good, dutiful daughter that I soldiered on even though my mind was in a state of semi-psychosis. That sense of obligation was almost my undoing. To this day my family don’t know how ill I was during that time.

    I’m sorry your mom and family must go through this journey. I hope she has the best possible recovery from surgery.

    Things could be worse, yes, and yes there is much to be thankful for, but that doesn’t mean you’re not entitled to feel as you do. You don’t suck, Servetus! If my experience is anything to go by – do set boundaries, do have those talks with those who need to lift their game, do ask for help, savor those moments of rest and solitude – no matter how fleeting, and yes yes yes keep writing. these things aren’t selfish, they’re necessary. xox


    • It’s amazing what one can accomplish by sheer force of will. I, like you, wonder about the price. But I guess we’ll see, when the bill comes, at the end of the story.


  12. I’m so glad you’ve been able to keep writing. Even if all you do is recount the stresses and frustrations of your day, it must be helpful to have an outlet. I don’t see a selfish person in what you have written above. Rather, a person who has the weight of the world on her shoulders at the moment. As others have said, take care of yourself too. Many prayers to you and your mother.


  13. So sorry you and your mom are dealing with this. It sucks, totally and completely.

    RE the food issue, I had my own surgery a few weeks ago and felt just like what you’re describing about your mom and food (no appetite at all, nauseous, vomiting, along with other assorted fun effects) and really, the only thing that made it better was getting to the point where I was able to live ok with Tylenol instead of the post-surgical narcotics. If she’s not strong enough to just go with less food until that point and/or working out a shift in the dosing isn’t an option, you may want to call the surgeon and ask about switching her to a different type of narcotic which may have fewer side effects for her.

    Wishing you and her well and speedy healing.


    • Lina — hope the surgery was successful and I am glad to hear that you’re past the worst. My mom stopped the narcotics after the second day in the hospital — they were making her itch all over, and Benadryl wasn’t touching that. Everytime I took off her gown, she asked me to scratch her all over. Luckily, she wasn’t in much pain (and isn’t now). We were at the doc this afternoon and after a physical examination, they decided to give her a low dose of an anti-emetic. The effect was so fast I almost can’t describe it. She was like a different person within about 90 minutes of taking it.

      I hope your recovery continues, and your appetite is back or if not returns post haste.


  14. RA is the light at the end of the tunnel for a lot of folks IMHO. I relate to a lot of what you’ve written — being stressed by too much to do…yelling/cursing….feeling guilty that you can’t do it all in addition to doing it all in a calm, cool, collected way. I think one reason why we go through certain trials and tribulations is so we can relate to others who experience similar situations. I don’t want to be preachy, but what you’re dealing with is already helping others because you’re able to write about it and share it with people through this blog.
    One thing you mentioned that really resonates with me is the realization that you will never be alone again. I’ve said that many times now that I find myself in my present situation…I miss my alone time. Things could be worse so I try to remember to count my blessings — which seems like such a cliché, but it helps keep things in perspective.
    I hope your Mom is feeling better soon.


    • yeah, I think that too. My parents are health insured, and very comfortably, for instance. We’re not in the least worried about how we will pay for this. I can be around for mom right now. And so on.

      But the “no time alone” thing is a serious problem. I’m hoping that changes a bit now. If she can eat one more day the way she did today she should be able to at least stand on her own. It’s a bit wearing on us both, constantly being in the same room. Not to mention on my dad.


  15. As the others have already said. You’re doing everything you can for your family and especially for your mother. Bollyknickers is absolutely right – in order to being able to care for others you have to care for yourself … So: look after yourself. Take care and never hesitate to share your feelings with us if you feel that might help… xxx


  16. //What kind of example would that be to them?

    The kind of example I am. Ambivalent. Clumsy. One you should not emulate//

    Imperfect. Human. Good.
    They should be proud to emulate that.

    And hey: Profanity beats Insanity! 🙂

    Take care.


  17. Keep writing keep writing keep writing keep writing keep writing keep writing keep writing keep writing keep writing keep writing keep writing keep writing ….

    And one more thing

    Keep writing!!!!


  18. My dear
    Such lovely supportive things have already been said by the other commenters, that I thought I could say something about the first Richard picture. Wow, he is going to be so fantastic in this movie. I had long thought that the costume is so intricate, so complex and really beautiful. It is such a powerful costume that only someone of his gravitas could pull it off. The same with the sword. And you can really see his face, his lovely face. I’m going to have to scroll up now to take another look.


    • Hey — that’s an RA fan. Priorities in order. It’s a gorgeous picture. Deserves analysis! 🙂


  19. Memo to Servetus: YOU DO NOT SUCK! The whole process is so overwhelming, I know it’s easy to go there. But please remember how valuable, how worthwhile you are. Take care of yourself. With prayers for strength and well-being– Let RA comfort you.


  20. Servetus, this post made me cry last night, it brought back some memories of the time I was looking after my mum when she was so desperately ill… I can only repeat what the others have said: You do not suck! You’re doing your best! Of course you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s all very draining emotionally, physically, mentally. I’m glad too that you have a creative outlet in your writing. I’m sure it’s therapeutic. Also, I think cursing is good to a certain extent as it helps to release the nervous tension. I went through a period with my mum when she had no appetite at all- the doctor prescribed a nutritional drink for her, which contained vitamins and minerals. She managed to consume about one bottle a day of that (taste was nothing to write home about- very non. Don’t know whether your mum’s doctor recommended something like that for her? I really hope you’ll get some “alone time” soon! I’ll keep your mum and you in my thoughts. P.S.: what does MCP stand for (last pic)?


    • I meant to put “very nondescript” in my first comment, not “very non”..Sorry.


    • I’m wondering if high energy drinks are an option for her? They contain everything a person that can’t eat needs and come in milkshake-like flavours. Maybe your doctor or chemist can recommend something?


    • we’ve been trying one the last day — now that the nausea is being combatted. Seems good.


  21. Btw, I love the was he says “Hungary” in the clip (I’m Hungarian)…. Makes my heart melt. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: