me + Uncle Vanya + snowblowing, or: I knew this play was bugging me for a reason

I left London in January, 2020, feeling optimistic. Though I have never liked the end of Vanya.

***

It had been clear to me at the end of 2019, when I decided to go to London and we had a huge scuffle to find a way for me to leave, that HL was at the limit of his capacity to take care of dad. So there wasn’t going to be any kind of future in which he took care of a regular portion of dad’s care. He didn’t object to anything I did to arrange the situation, but the figuring it out and the resulting emotional labor was going to be all mine, as would the absorption of dad’s dissatisfaction with the situation (which was insane in the case of the London trip — I was crying off and on for two days).

London cleared my head. I had decided, in London, that we would finally clear the upstairs bedroom (where I’d been sleeping since the stroke, and which had started to accumulate all the stuff that I had to hide or shield from dad) and my downstairs bedroom both (where I was sleeping pre-stroke, and dad piled full of stuff after his stroke). The goal was to be able to have one of the senior helpers be able to stay overnight, and for me to have one weekend off per month. It would be hellaciously expensive but it would be the only way I could keep going.

Then a series of things happened. The pandemic severely limited our choice of senior helpers. The senior helper who I’d had most in mind to stay over on weekends lost her vehicle when her head gasket blew, and we found out something else about her that meant HL would never accept her as a full-time caregiver, even if only for three days. Two of dad’s three scheduled extended “times away” were canceled (the May fishing trip and deer camp). My workload increased drastically due to putting all my classes on line overnight, which on top of the stress angered dad even more because the students’ needs sometimes had to come before his. Pandemic-related unemployment in the fall, which in combination with the sale of the building in which my office was located and the closing of all the places where one can plausibly linger, meant that I spent huge amounts of time at home.

The geriatric consultant sketched the parameters of the problem pretty clearly this summer, but at the same time: pandemic.

The result was that the total “time off” I have had this year (time where I am completely away from dad for 24 hours and someone else is responsible for feeding, medicating and making sure he doesn’t do something dangerous) amounted to fourteen days. My income remains precarious. Dad could pay me what he’s paying the senior helpers, but then I would not even have the two daytimes off anymore that I now use for chores and errands. There are other factors I can’t talk about relating to dad’s situation. And of course we had that election this fall, which is turning into the election that never ends.

November / December were another long list of problems (this was one) with no relief. I fell apart repeatedly to both HL and the dementia coach and the geriatric consultant in the second week of December.

***

Today, I read this (didn’t have time to listen, although I will sooner or later:

The play I saw in January really obscured this reading, in that Vanya was generally much more comic than tragic. He exaggerated everything before, so his breakdown in the final third of the play also read as exaggerated. And then Chekhov essentially has a teenager tell us all that we should put our noses back to the grindstones because it will be worth it. Insanely dissatisfying ending.

I wonder how this play will seem after this year. Or in its new incarnation.

***

The real snow has held off for a surprisingly long time in 2020 — the only thing that did. By this time last year we’d already had twenty inches. We finally got a “gonna stick” snowfall yesterday — probably about three inches.

In principle, dad is not supposed to be plowing snow; that is now HL’s job. However, HL can’t always get over here on dad’s timetable which means dad will go out and plow even though he has agreed not to. I can blow snow if it’s not serious, but a real snowfall defeats the snowblower and I really don’t want to plow.  HL suggested that we finally hire someone to take care of the snow this year. I found someone — husband of the younger sister of a school friend of mine, who runs a “services” business that does jobs like this — and signed an agreement. But of course that is no guarantee of what dad will do. As he would have refused to agree to hire this job out, the dementia coach told me to just sign us up and ask pardon rather than permission.

So last night I had to tell him, as we went to bed, that when we got up today, the driveway would be plowed. Happily for him, the plower came around midnight so dad was already asleep and didn’t have the opportunity to go out and complain, but unhappily for me, dad had been stewing for an hour about it by the time I got up.

There’s a crushing quality to listening to his repeated remarks about how I’m pissing away his money.

There is also a weird irony to saying in one breath “I am not an invalid, I can plow my own driveway with the tractor!” and in the next, “Would you go out and get the newspaper? I don’t want to go out in the cold.”

It’s not that I mind getting the paper, and it’s not that cold out yet. As dad’s cause and effect thinking is essentially broken (and has been for a while), he doesn’t see either the immediate issue (how can you plow snow if you think 30 degrees Fahrenheit is too cold to be outside?) or the larger one (I have to be safe in the house, too). This whole “Serv lives here too and has rights” problem has been a key axis of the difficulties this fall.

***

The problem hasn’t changed, but my capacity to accept it without more help or at least (if not appreciation, then) daily autonomy has dropped drastically in the last six weeks. I think that if the crisis that may be coming now materializes, I will know what to do.

~ by Servetus on December 29, 2020.

50 Responses to “me + Uncle Vanya + snowblowing, or: I knew this play was bugging me for a reason”

  1. When I saw it in March there were many moments I didn’t laugh when the rest of the audience did. I understood the comedy but found the tragedy too overwhelming to laugh. Later my BFF who had not read Vanya before said to me: they made their choice to serve and are unhappy because the professor is not grateful. That’s why you are dissatisfied. True. I believe you should make a choice and deal with it. Not expecting something in return. That also means you are free to decide that you want to do something else at some point. At the end of the play I wanted to shout to them: you’re pissing your life away! Why? Are there no other options? But then. Perhaps some people live to serve. It takes away making decisions for themselves. I know people like that. And I know I could not be like that. I hate putting my life in someone else’s hands. Partly my youth and partly my character. I just never want to look back with regret. Question is. Will you?

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    • The point has really been all along what the right thing to do is (not “right for me,”), not whether I am appreciated. The crux of the matter is whether it’s possible to do what is right without going under doing it. And the issue with sacrifices in general is they are not appreciated. If they were appreciated, they wouldn’t be sacrifices.

      My situation is not quite the same as Vanya’s (although of course the play has a resonance, which is why I wrote this post). The problem for me is that unless I do exactly as dad prefers, and also anticipate what he prefers, even if what he prefers is dangerous to him or both of us (e.g., allowing the snow to pile up until we can’t get out, or letting him plow when he can’t stand the cold) I am subject to anger and verbal abuse. (I hope this was clear from the earlier post about eating, as well. I could write a similar post about the washing machine, which continues to be an issue after a year.)

      At the same time, it’s not a normal relationship in which I could object to how he treats me, expect him to react to that, and leave the situation if his response did not meet my needs. Nor can I expect him to appreciate the sacrifices being made for him (not only by me). His brain is not working correctly. Vanya has the hope that his behavior could change that of the Professor, once he explains the situation (although it does not); I don’t have that hope. Indeed, I go to coaching which is focused on how to change my life / our lives so that dad’s staying at home is possible. In response dad becomes yet angrier because his preferences cannot be accommodated while keeping him safe. I am not angry at dad because he is not grateful. I am increasingly depressed because despite how hard I work at it, it has not been possible to change the terms of the situation. Dad is the obstacle to change but he is not the cause of the problem in any way that involves moral responsibility. It’s different in the case of HL; while it would be logical to be angry at HL, he too is bound in a series of constraints of obligation that cannot be significantly altered. The issue all along has been that I am the only one who can be the moving part most of the time.

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  2. hugs

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Sending hugs and also support for the decisions you may have to make if/when the crisis comes.

    While my situation is different because there is an end in sight (I think), I believe I can empathize. I am faced with either letting my son fail (not an option as it is not the “right” thing) or (willingly) sacrificing my wants/needs and subjecting myself to continual stress. He tells me I care too much, which may be true, and yet it is what it is. He will get stuck on something I’ve said and then berate me about it — the other night it was while driving on a dark road while he blasted death metal on my car stereo, which is not a recipe for calmness. As with your situation, his brain works differently from mine. It is frustrating for both of us. He wants to be in control, and yet if I do not get involved, he will not succeed in finishing his course. End in sight (at least for this phase) — final extended deadline is Dec 31 at midnight.

    Too bad that the COVID situation has made everything worse for you and your dad. At least if things were to change a bit in that regard, you could maybe have more time to yourself to recharge. I have the feeling that we are in this crisis, though, for some time to come.

    Hang in there, and I hope that you are able to have a bit of respite soon.

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    • The whole “getting fixated” is an element we share and it is THE WORST. Either I try to prevent the fixation (which means I have to actively observe whatever the problem is and intervene immediately, i.e., I have to be there) or I somehow have to survive the fixation emotionally. I really am frustrated by the fact that fixation occurs so often on blatant non-issues, too, or things that we have been over so many times (the cable bill would be one of these for us).

      And the control issue is huge, too. I so here you on that. If I let dad be in control of the household appliances, he breaks them. Then he insists he can fix them (he can’t, anymore), then he insists my brother do it for us (he doesn’t have time), and then when I’m dealing with a broken appliance for two weeks and I either buy a new one or call a repairman, I’m the target of the chronic, at times abusive complaining that I’m wasting money. So my solution is that I block of access (either emotionally or by constant verbal reminders) to the appliances, which means I have to also be there all the time — and of course the fact that they are in constant discussion means they becoming the objection of fixation, too. If I don’t make a bid to control the situation, my life becomes out of control (and I am developing my own reactive trauma around this problem).

      I really hope that Dec 31 is the break you’re hoping for!

      It’s also definitely clear to me that COVID makes all this worse. If not for COVID, I would be out of the house (and my finances would be in better shape), Dad would be doing a few more things out of the house, and we could have more people in the house with him. I am hoping that an effective vaccine will be a caesura of sorts, but I agree that it’s not going to be an endpoint.

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  4. “Vanya was generally much more comic than tragic. He exaggerated everything before, so his breakdown in the final third of the play also read as exaggerated”. I AGREE.
    D’ailleurs, cette manière de surjouer de la part de TJ m’avait beaucoup dérangée, lors de mon premier visionnage de cette pièce. Mais les spectateurs lui ont fait une standing ovation.
    Lors du 3éme soir, les acteurs étaient plus impliqués émotionnellement et TJ moins exubérant. La charmante vieille dame anglaise, inconnue, assise à côté de moi, a voulu connaître mes impressions, en fin de spectacle. Nous étions bouleversées. Nous avions toutes deux partagé une soirée exceptionnelle. Je garderai cette dernière version en mémoire.

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    • I have to say that I didn’t pay as much attention to Vanya as I did to Yelena (my identification figure in this play) or Astrov. So I didn’t think so much about his role as a tragic figure. The play hit me hard, but not because of him (at the time).

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  5. Dementia so diff to deal with. Big hugs
    Please do what you think best and try not to over-think it? You are now the adult in the relationship with your Dad, and as main care-giver, your opinion also supersedes HL too. Think of your Dad as a demented teenager, or even a toddler as it progresses? He’s gonna whine and be irrational – be the adult and try to brush it off?
    Sorry about the job loss in Sept. I hope things improve on that front in due course.
    For G-d’s sake, spend your Dad’s money on his care – including snow ploughing as required. Life is too, too short, for you to be doing your best and still beating yourself up about it. 😪
    Wishing you a better 2021. ❤️

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    • Thanks for this advice. I realize you are new to the blog, so a few details: I am being counseled by a geriatric consultant and a dementia caregiver coach, and I go to support groups. Also, I didn’t lose my job; I wasn’t employed to teach in fall. It’s not as simple as “just brush it off” when I have to physically interpose myself between dad and something he’s determined to do. And in terms of money, I have the power to spend all the money I need to for his care. I just have to accept that I will be verbally abused for doing so, and this situation has been going on for several years now. I hope that makes the parameters a bit clearer to you.

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      • Dear Serverus
        Thanks for your replies. Am glad that you find your blog a helpful vent. You are in a tough situation and I sympathise with your reluctance re res care in the current times. I hope roll out of vaccine will mean this may be a viable option later in 2021, if only for respite care.

        Thanks for clarifying about your job. I did understand you hadn’t been fired (sorry if I didn’t make that clear). What I meant to say is that the loss (not hired) means one of your mental options for distracting you from your current stressful situation has sadly been eliminated.

        Am glad you have professional support. I wonder if you could reach out to your local church – explaining your fathers behaviour is to do with his progressive illness? Am very sad that they can’t see that themselves? Grief and anger are so close on the emotion scale too – perhaps part of why he burnt those bridges? But apologies if that happened a long time ago – yes am new to your blog.

        OK – I don’t want you to feel obliged to explain more. I just wanted to say I’m reading this and listening to you – which I hope contributes some small support to you?

        If I may change tack, on the UV topic, I most closely identify with Vanya (age, stage of life?) and Sonya. Vanya had been the jolly bedrock of the family but they say at the start of the play that he’s been falling in to his mid-life crisis. So I don’t think the 3rd act was a leap from the 1st act? I feel hopeful that I’ve recovered from my crisis with a bit more resilience than I had before, I hope?

        Wishing you, your family, and readers and commentators of your blog a peaceful and better New Year.?🤲🙏❤️

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        • Thanks for this mesage. I may not have said this clearly enough, so I in case there is a misunderstanding: PLEASE DO NOT GIVE ME ADVICE. I have advice running out my ears, and part of the problem is that I have spent years pursuing advice that founders on some issue or other that I can’t control. I spent a lot of time trying to create a rapprochement with the church people back in the fall of 2018. It wasn’t possible, and not because of them. There are factors that play a role that I’m not free to discuss on blog. And I don’t really think I should have to defend my choices to people who are not here.

          I find Sonya a really troubling character, but my perception was exacerbated in this case by the fact that I thought Aimee Lou Wood was not up to the level of the other performers. I don’t think Vanya was per se inconsistent in the performances I saw — I think he was consistent, but his consistency undermined my ability to take seriously the crisis in the third part.

          I hope you have a good new year.

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          • Best wishes to you for the New Year. So sorry to have misunderstood the comments section.

            I’ve not seen Aimee in anything else – Sex Education is on my tbw list – wonder how she’ll be in that? I found the cast complementary and liked her performance along with the others, with Richard and Toby stand outs.

            Very best wishes

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  6. Votre clarté d’analyse et vos qualités d’écriture nous permettent de comprendre entièrement les enjeux et dans quelle souricière vous êtes tous les deux prisonniers. Puisse cette situation se résoudre avec le minimum de dégâts, pour chacun d’entre vous.

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  7. Does your father have times when he is happy? He may well do but from your accounts he seems to spend a lot of his time in a rage about something or other. And you are quite understandably overwhelmed, exhausted and fairly near the end of your tether. You know the crisis to end this situation is approaching and I wonder why you are waiting for the situation to boil over before you change things? Wouldn’t it be better for your father to avert the crisis? I’m not suggesting he would be happier in residential care but it might be time to prioritise your needs. What are you proving and to whom by sticking it out until it becomes so unbearable you are risking both your lives?

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    • Here, in France, they are a lot of COVID at residential care structures… and less at home, for delicate elders…

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      • Yes – that’s a very good point. Here they are closed to visitors which is also hard especially for people living with dementia. But I still question the wisdom of putting ones own health in jeopardy ( mental and physical) when the ending seems inevitable.

        If Servetus broke down completely what would happen to Mr Servetus Senior then?

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        • einsichtig!

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        • The answer is that he would have to go to residential care, as he cannot live with my brother.

          The bigger question is: what would cause a total Serv breakdown? and what would it look like? I spent a whole hour on this in dementia counseling last week.

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      • Yes, that’s been a major consideration for us, too.

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    • You know, that’s such a great question. Until COVID I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what could make him happy.

      1. The things that he wants to do (drive, putter in his workshop) are actively dangerous and/or forbidden to him. I am the enforcer / jailer, and I am here about 155 hours a week. So he’s actively angry at me, because he sees me as the person who got his DL canceled, hid all the keys, and gave all the vehicles except the tractor away. AND I am always here. Subpoint to this is that HL and I decided we would have to accept some danger in the shop or he would just watch TV all day long (see three below). So the geriatric consultant and the personal care people are frustrated that we haven’t gotten rid of the whole shop and the tractor, because they are dangerous. I often feel like I’m in the middle — I have to restrict dad’s autonomy from dad, but I have to preserve it from the “experts.” The personal care people are always pointing out when he has a new bruise. And I feel like saying “do you really want me to put myself between him and the table saw?” I tried to recruit a few people (friends, the local retired shop teacher, one of his former tenants who operated a repairs shop before he retired, etc.) to aid him in the shop but it always lasted one session. “I don’t need help!”

      1a. Because he was so insistent that there were no problems with his driving, there were only two ways to get the license revoked. Either I could make a complaint to the state that would necessitate he be retested (all the experts advised against this, as it would make me the active target of his ire), or we could get him declared physically incapacitated (subject of this post: https://meandrichard.wordpress.com/2019/08/28/evaluated-pwevaluated/ ). This means essentially that there are a lot of things he can’t do without a companion (like going to the senior center, even if he were willing to do that), and that we can only hire a certain type of caregiver.

      1. For reasons unclear to me (the geriatric consultant says this is about his sense of disintegrating control; the dementia coach thinks it has to do with power issues), he is fixated on things that anyone who’s run a household could easily manage but which he complicates (household tasks and appliances) so significantly that they either take up a lot of time and thought (one example of this would be the kitchen knives problem, which I haven’t written about here). So the issue of basic housekeeping has ballooned in importance in ways that make me feel both responsible and powerless.
      2. He doesn’t enjoy reading anymore (due to vision issues that he contributed to by not following medical advice at the time) and his hearing is poor (he never followed the advice to wear the hearing aid to preserve his hearing, so it’s gradually becoming worse). He doesn’t have the attention span to follow a TV drama anymore, so he watches a lot of TV, mostly game shows and popular history (some of it real, some of it conspiracy theory) and news. I’m always a bit relieved when he’s watching TV because it has a sedating effect for a while, but eventually he gets bored with it and that triggers fixations / stewing / attacks on me.

      3. He can’t drink with his meds, and there is no alcohol in the house. (It comes in in small portions, like on Christmas, and then leaves immediately afterwards.) HL has told me that on the rare occasions when he has dad with him, dad pesters him to go to a bar basically every ten minutes.

      4. It would be nice if he could deal with some of the accumulated hoarding, but the problem is that he can’t distinguish hoarded objects of his that might be usefully discarded and other things we want to save. About a month ago, he put the parts of my Armitage collection that are not displayed but stored in boxes on the burn pile, because “I don’t know what this is, and it’s not mine.” He has destroyed some things we treasure (all of my mother’s cookbooks) and others have only escaped by a thread.

      5. What we really need is a big intervention, but there is literally no one who can help. Believe me — I’ve asked for favors big and small. I’d really like to do a PSA with the basic content of “don’t say ‘ask me for help anytime’ just to be polite.’ And dad burned his bridges bigtime with the people who would have been most likely to help — the church — about two years after mom died.

      So, no, I don’t often see him happy. He doesn’t take pleasure in small things (like food, for instance — that’s always been the case, it’s not new). He can’t do things he most wants to do (drive, drink, and the workshop is kind of a question mark because he’s lost most of his spatial reasoning and it doesn’t work for him the way he wants). I am the responsible party, from his perspective the reason he can’t do what he wants when he wants, and I am both his child and a woman (I didn’t discuss the gender aspects of this question but they are important, too — this is why me doing the yardwork is mostly off the table). If he can’t get exactly what he wants, he doesn’t want it at all. We could, for instance, drive out to the farm and spend the day, walking around and talking, remembering, etc., if dad would stay out of HL’s workshop. But he won’t, and then we get involved in a physical altercation where I have to protect HL’s arrangements from dad. The last time we tried it, dad threw away all of the family meat processing equipment because he didn’t recognize it and “we need to get rid of this junk.” His brain injury means he can’t be asked and won’t be told, so we just have to keep him out of situations where he could act in truly disruptive ways.

      At the bottom of it all is a fairly severe class / culture issue, which is that pleasure for its own sake is considered suspicious around here and he has an especially bad case of it. We can’t go out to the farm for pleasure — we have to go to do something. But when he tries to do something alone, he creates a problem, and he won’t accept help in doing it.

      This was apparent in the fall of 2019 and we tried (after a three week tussle over the washing machine) to get him to agree on his own to move in assisted living. The geriatric consultant took him to visit several. He refused. My power of attorney in combination with the physical incapacitation means I could force him to go, but we were advised to avoid that if we thought we had any other options.

      After things about it all fall, the conclusion that I had come to in January was that it was simply not going to be possible to find a solution for him that would make him happy. All we could do would be to keep him safe and keep him at home.

      And then: COVID.

      1. About 40% of COVID victims in this state have died in residential facilities.
    • One of the arguments for assisted living was that he would have had a lot more people to talk to on a daily basis. But one of the restrictions most of the facilities made in the face of the pandemic was to require residents to stay in their rooms.

    • So him going to live in a facility at this point would have been like sending him to “plague jail,” as HL put it.

      In terms of waiting for a crisis, all the experts (and other advice one can read generally) agrees with you: move before the crisis occurs. The big roadblock was dad — he refused absolutely. Even the idea that he could spend a week in residential living while I went to London was so unacceptable to him that he had me in tears for several days with his remarks. But there were a few arguments in favor of waiting. One was that we live in a small community and the social penalty for sending someone to live in residential care against his will, when he is still ambulatory and can toilet on his own, will be rough. (I observed how this went with his friend Ronnie a few years ago, and Ronnie couldn’t walk unassisted.) I would have to move and I would lose a few more of my friends (I’ve already lost several due to Trump.) For two more years, there is a strong financial argument in favor of him not entering residential care and that’s been on both my and HL’s mind, although given the change of administration who knows what will happen next (esp if the Dems win the Senate). The third is that both HL and I feel strongly that residential care facilities are a last resort. (As this response is getting long I won’t develop that feeling further here — but we watched out parents deal with their parents rather closely and are more or less united in the conclusions we drew from that process.) But / and that is changing. There is a really strong chance that an artificial crisis is headed our way. I can’t say more about that here (yet), but it has also been delayed due to the pandemic.

      And yes, it’s clear to me now that I am endangered.

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      • I read all your posts but often don’t comment because i don’t feel i have anything helpful to say. I see the posts as useful to process your feelings and to vent. I think the most useful responses probably come from those with lived experience but with this post i questioned my sitting on hands because it seems clear that you are living in a family violence situation, with your father as the perpetrator. So reading your final statement – ” It’s clear to me that i am endangered” – elicits mixed feelings. Good- that you are now confronting the risk but fear because i know this can be an explosion point. Thankfully you seem to have some support in the counsellor to help you tackle this one.

        The gender issue had occurred to me too. In many ways i don’t blame HL for backing out of the day to day burden to dealing with dad because it is so difficult* and because society allows a male to do that, but that leaves more of the burden on you. I understand that you see yourself as the only one with any flexibility but i could also argue the case for you not being the most appropriate caregiver. But that is not where were are at – just demonstrating that its about self perception. I wonder if dad would accept more of the limitations placed on him if they were imposed by a male and particularly a related male? If you were male i suspect no one in your community would bat an eyelid if you stayed in NY or wherever you had a prestigious job and didn’t come home when dad became unwell. You feel a weight of responsibility not only because of your upbringing (i recall you have have mentioned before that your mother would have expected this of you) but because your hometown community expects it of you. This is the same community that stands by and watches you drowning without stepping in – whilst offering glib ” let us know if we can help” statements which have no substance. Unfortunately more and more of your community are going to find themselves experiencing the same sort of dilemmas you are facing now but you are the trail blazer. But i appreciate that is of no use to you now.

        Whilst i don’t blame HL for not being able to deal with dad on a day -to -day basis i notice some inconsistencies in your narrative. You mentioned he doesn’t object to any decisions you make but you then said that he would object to your first choice of overnight carer because of something you have learned about them but he doesn’t seem to have come up with an alternative option. He also uses negative language like “plague jail”. I wonder if you have had/would feel able to have a conversation with him about him actively supporting you, rather than (it seems to me) being a passive objector.

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        • I agree that I am not the most appropriate caregiver (I could probably make the case better than you can!). I understand why HL is not more involved on a day to day basis and while to some extent it certainly relates to gender, on the whole I support his prioritizations (or I wouldn’t still be here). It is a fact that dad cannot live with them. It is a fact that HL cannot live here. And with regard to caregivers, because dad is so generally opposed to the whole thing, it’s not like the agency can send us anyone and they will be fine. After six months in which we had a different person every three appointments / ten days, I am grateful that we now have two people who dad actually not only will put up with, but also likes. On the whole I am not selecting from all the caregivers in the world, and I agree with the reason that HL would give for not leaving dad alone for several days with that caregiver. He wanted me to fire her, and in a different world with different parameters for finding personal care workers, I might have. In this world, I had to make the calculation with regard to balancing the risk of what he was worried about happening, and the likelihood that we would find a replacement. No caregiver is going to be perfect, but under current circumstances the likelihood of his worries materializing in the time frame that dad spends with her are low.

          I do often try to get HL either to stand with me in enforcing a rule or informing dad of a decision I’ve made. It works sometimes. A bigger problem is HL’s need to be liked. This has to do with the family roles that develop in families with alcohol addictions. If he can avoid a confrontation he will. I think it’s complicated by the fact that a lot of the advice we get encourages us to avoid confrontation. I can see why they give this advice; it just increases the stress on the caregiver(s) in the background.

          I also agree with his assessment of residential care in the state at present as “plague jail.” There have been high rates of death even at the facilities with the best ratings. Their first response to the dangers of contagion is to isolate residents in their rooms. It’s not prison, but it’s a disaster nonetheless. They are doing their best, but under current circumstances they don’t have many choices. The way we’ve sacrificed the elderly, who are the canaries in the coal mine, in this situation, is enraging, but that’s just one more parameter in the decision: assisted living facilities are one of the least safe places to be right now.

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          • “plague jail” so true: here even windows and doors were closed to prevent suicide.
            Last month, my sister-in-law’s parents caught the Covid in a not-so-good retirement home. Currently, the 3 sisters and their husbands are organizing their outing to a residential home.

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            • it’s so hard to know how to react. I just heard today that a health care worker in our state intentionally spoiled something like 500 doses of the Pfizer vaccine because she’s anti-vaccine (I mean, how does it even happen that you work in health care and don’t believe vaccines work?) and that in some states up to 40% of residential care employees will refuse vaccination.

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              • People like DT made a really bad job, so that now lot of person are believing in conspiracy theories.
                We are coming back to Middle Age, plague pandemy obscurantism black hours. Where with falsh truths, with hazy pseudo-scientific explanations, the common man is reassured.
                The current situation is destabilizing, the future uncertain. Scientists and politicians are fighting in the fog. Their decisions vary from country to country. Their actions or inactions can be criticized with good reason.
                Vaccines are no problem in totalitarian countries. Those vaccines are experimental. I will be a voluntary guinea pig, as a health professional.
                Wearing a mask is not a problem in Asia which experienced SARS in the 2000s. Africa has survived through Ebola-type epidemics, HIV here its people have acquired good reflexes.
                The balance of democracies is undermined from a health, political, economic point of view … Consequently Freedom of expression has its setbacks.
                Not to mention that the growing pauperization in our societies calls into question the truth spoken by educated people who hold knowledge and power.
                A philosopher Machiavelli or Hobbes said that from periods of troubles are born saving tyrants that the population accepts as providential rescuer. Here saving “speudo doctors” are legions.

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                • This isn’t much like the Middle Ages imo. In 1349 the vast majority of the population in Europe was not educated or even basically literate. Most people lived in rural areas and worked in agriculture; the average person did not travel more than 35 mi away from their home during their lifetime. And it’s not like the natural philosophers of the 14th century had much on offer, even to the educated. It’s one thing to believe nonsense if you never had the opportunity to know any better. It’s quite another to have been educated and to reject the education.

                  I agree that the new vaccines are not tested, but I don’t believe they are dangerous to the vast majority of the population, either. The main one on offer in the US wasn’t even developed in the US, so there’s no need to worry that it was rushed through for approval for political reasons.

                  I think you’re thinking of Hobbes, but our situation isn’t really comparable to what he was talking about. At least not yet.

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                  • Stricto sensu, I exaggerated but I wrote what I feel in front of people who find comfort with pseudo doctors who profess false truths.
                    In “Reason in history” according to Hegel, this rationality translates into coherent laws that man is intended to extract from reality to form knowledge. But now there is a rejection of this notion, from one part of the population whether they are educated or not.
                    They prefer to take refuge in non main stream theories because reality is beyond them, the understanding of life is too complex. They believed in the power of science but faced with its limit and complexity, they prefer to seek confidence in too many smoking, delusional theories.

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                    • I think Hegel has been more attractive to philosophers than historians, at least since 1945. But I think we could argue that there is a pattern of an “explosion of knowledge / rejection of expertise” relationship — the fifteenth century would be a good example, or perhaps the late nineteenth.

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        • re: HL supporting me: he does, he has. The issue is more that he can’t take on the role that I have. He has been pretty clear about this.

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        • oh, and yeah: I have plenty of professional advice. The blog is a record of my thoughts insofar as I feel free to recount them, so I am not looking for advice per se.

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      • My mom was in a care center for seven years, and thankfully she passed before covid. My brother and I were very happy with the care she received but agree that she never would have been able to handle life in a facility with covid restrictions. She had dementia and never could have comprehended being confined to her room, with no visits from family, for months on end.

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        • Yeah — it’s bad enough that dad’s stuck at home, with no incentive to continue using his hearing aid and ongoing contact restricted to me, the personal care people, and occasionally HL. Now imagine he was trapped in a single room which is pretty much how they have handled it in the places around here. I guess some people have been able to talk to family members through windows, but this isn’t Florida.

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    • sorry — some kind of autocorrect took over my manual numbering in that past, but I hope it makes sense anyway.

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  8. I see what you are going though with my aunt and uncle all to well. I am glad to say that they didn’t go to New Mexico this year. They are closed down way more than we are which I know my uncle don’t understand at all. They still are going all over the place. He is at the place where he don’t care if he dies or not and my aunt is so depressed that she don’t want to stay home. They did have Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve/Christmas at home alone this year and my aunt sounded ok with it. My cousin who is close has had a lot of COVID at his work and will not come down. I have yet to call my aunt to see how Christmas when. I know that my uncle was abusive when he was younger then stopped after his daughter was born but now after the stroke has become abusive again to my aunt. She told me it’s just easier to let him have his way. Not sure if he has tried to do anything dangerous or not. My continued thoughts and prayers are with you.

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    • This is so poignant and the whole thing with the abusiveness is that your aunt is basically right. It would be easier. Thanks for your support and I hope they are able to navigate the situation. Not going to NM was absolutely the right decision.

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  9. You really can’t go on doing this on your own. You are nearing a cross-roads and breaking point where something really needs to change before you go bonkers. I wish you wisdom and a resolution you can live with for 2021. (((Hugs)))

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I am glad that you managed to see UV in London. 24 hours away though is very hard, I hope next year will be better for you and that there will be a positive change in your situation. Coincidentally I was talking to a friend yesterday about the prospect of looking after my siblings in later life after having co-cared my mother for many years. My friend asked if I liked caring for people and I said that I didn’t, in fact I’m impatient, resent the reduction of my freedom and am intolerant of repetitive noises like coughs etc. My friend asked why I did it then, as if it was a preference. They are family, you just do it until it gets to a point when you just can’t any more- for both your sakes. Uncle Vanya, on the other hand, seems to be trapped in a situation that he is terrified will change.

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    • I’m with you. HL will likely not be my responsibility, but / and I definitely could not do this for a living. Something that I struggle with even when I am not experiencing a direct conflict is what I call “the tapes,” i.e., the things dad says repeatedly because he thinks they are funny or appropriate. I try to remind myself that he can’t help it, but I’ve just gotten to a place where the best I can do is not responding. (In general I resent this kind of speech — it’s not just him — like the obligatory “how are you / fine, how are you” exchange in American culture). But there are people on the planet whom this kind of thing does not bother at all, and boy has my respect for them grown in the last two years.

      And yeah. They’re family. I read an article recently on parent-child estrangements that fascinated me just because it’s hard to see anyone in my family going to that length. He’s our dad and we owe him our support for as long as we can manage it, no matter how we feel about it. On the whole, “feeling” is a term that doesn’t get a lot of play around here as a reason for doing something or not doing it. It’s taken HL a long time to see how this situation is affecting me because we were both raised with the notion that obligation is more important than emotion. “Love is a decision” and “a promise is a promise” are ideas that were preached to both of us with a lot of vigor. (In fact, the latter may be a contributing factor in my lack of enthusiasm about marriage, it has occurred to me more than once.)

      But also: great point about Vanya — indeed, he’s also stuck in his rut. To me this is part of the political commentary aspect of the play, i.e., everything in the play points out to the unsustainability of the lives the characters are living. But they can’t change themselves, either. In the end the hierarchy controls the decisionmaking to the extent that it really paralyzes the characters; I see aspects of that in my own situation, too.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. It astonishes me how anyone can bear repetitions, such as your ‘tapes’.

    It’s funny, I presumed “how are you / fine, how are you” was a particularly British thing. We certainly do it too , as in, “fine” = please don’t delve any further and “How are you?” = quickly divert attention away from me.

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    • No, it’s American, too (I thought it was peculiarly American). It’s something I appreciate about Germans: “Wie geht’s?” (how’s it going) is a question that’s only asked if the asker is interested in the answer. You don’t have to answer if asked, but if you ask it, you risk getting a real answer.

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  12. You really sit between a rock and a hard place 😦 but I am glad for the professional support you get and the fact that you’re still able to motive to come here and vent once in a while.
    {Hugs}

    Liked by 1 person

  13. […] the last week of 2020. I’m calm enough now about the tussle and yelling that resulted from the snowplowing discussion to post a picture of our front […]

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  14. […] I haven’t been worried as hell about what’s been going on in the political world or my personal life. Relief about Biden; joy about Harris. Relief that the last presidency is over without any more […]

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