Wednesday night is my night off. What from you might ask? From giving Grandpa his dinner in the kitchen. My husband, Robert, goes to Bible study on Wednesday nights – one of two weekly breaks from the 24/7 “Grandpa grind,” the other Sunday morning. Our daughters also help out in the church nursery, so that leaves me all alone with Grandpa. Oh, joy!
Now, I want you to understand something, I love Grandpa, but I’m not very talkative when I’m tired, which is usually what I’m feeling in the evening knowing that I have to make dinner for someone who will probably turn up his nose at what I’ve made. It’s a little disconcerting with the price of food (not to mention my time and energy) how Grandpa can pick at a plate he would easily finish if he had been eating with the whole family.
Needless to say, it wears me out to play food games, so that’s why I came up with a great idea a while ago! On Wednesday nights, Grandpa eats in his room while he watches TV. I started this arrangement last fall when Robert’s new Bible study classes started up again.
But guess what? Grandpa does not like this arrangement–at all (you’re not surprised are you)!
Well, I wasn’t surprised either when I peeked down the hallway tonight and saw him looking at his watch. It was only 5:30 PM. Dinner is served at 7:00. PM. As he wheeled back and forth in front of his bedroom door, killing time, I thought to myself, He’s going to bellyache about having to eat in his room all by himself. I just know it!
Go ahead . . . call it self-fulfilled prophecy, caregiver’s intuition or a chapter on caregiver burnout from “Caregiving for Idiots,” but I knew he was going to gripe tonight even though a piece of paper with Philippians 2:14 is taped to his bedroom wall: “Do all things without complaining. . .”
Sure enough, when I brought his food down to him and pulled his nice little round table over in front of the TV, and placed a hot plate of spaghetti in front of him, smothered with Parmesan cheese (he loves spaghetti, he loves Parmesan cheese), he turned up his nose and jumped a bit in his wheelchair. Then he put on his best “feelin’ sorry for myself face” and wailed, “I’ve got to get out of here!”
“It’s Wednesday night, Dad,” I said emphatically. “Wednesday nights you eat in your room. This is something you can do for me!” I said, my voice rising slightly. . .
“Why are we fighting?” he said all agitated as if he didn’t know.
“You started it! ” I shot back. Then I added, “Listen, Dad, you live like a king! You only have to do this once a week. You have such a beautiful room. I wish I could just sit in my room and watch TV and have my dinner brought to me. You need to look at what you have, instead of what you don’t have. You’re so blessed!”
Grandpa looks down. He has a way of avoiding my eyes when he’s getting lectured, and he knows I’m right!
Anyone in my position would need a little time off once a week – “off” being the operative word.
So far tonight I’ve:
- Fetched an envelope for Grandpa.
- Managed to give an elusive answer when he asked if Robert took the girls to violin lessons. “Why do you want to know?” I asked him, knowing full well he was concerned that it was Wednesday night and he was going to have to eat in his room alone!
- Explained to him “again” why he has to eat in his room on Wednesday night.
- Brought him dessert after he ate only half of his spaghetti, which he divided neatly down the middle, exactly in half. “I can’t finish all of this,” he yelled sitting in the doorway of his room holding the plate on his lap.
- I yelled “Yes!” down the hallway when he asked me if I had made the dessert. Sometimes when we yell “yes!” he thinks we’ve said “no.”
“No?” he yells back. Then we have to yell, “Yes!” again to which he yells “No?” And back and forth we go, yelling up and down the hallway (but it sure beats getting up and walking down the hall to answer one “yes and no” question.
- Put him on the commode for a bowel movement which was a false alarm! (of course).
- Put his night time diaper on so Robert wouldn’t have to do it when he came home.
- Carried all of his dishes back to the kitchen.
- Started writing this blog so I wouldn’t forget all the details because after all, “Truth is stranger than fiction!”
Caregivers have to make time for themselves even if it is a bit hard on their loved ones. One night off a week is not too much to ask from someone who is capable of entertaining himself. He has cable and barely takes advantage of it.
Elderly parents have a way of wrapping you around their little finger and making it seem as if their world begins and ends with you–their adult children. Sometimes you feel used. The lyrics of an old song so apply:
“All of me
Why not take all of me
Can’t you see
I’m no good without you . . .”
Grandpa really has “no idea” what it takes to care for him, day in and day out. So once in a while, my husband and I have to apply tough love in order to maintain our sanity.
Well enough about my Grandpa journey for tonight. I really wanted to relax a little, but I got carried away writing, and now it’s 10:30 PM. So much for my night off.
The truth is, I’m never really off . . . but I’m used to it!
Gerald Hale said on Facebook: It is worth the pain and suffering you and Robert go through in caring for Grandpa. By being his care givers, you all know how well he is being cared for. Should he be in a nursing home all of you would probably be miserable. May you all be evermore blessed and may Grandpa feel the love you all have for him as you do what God says do……..caring for your elderly dad.
Thank you, Gerald.