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Monday, February 24, 2014

On Being a Terrified Caregiver

So my mom is going in for knee replacement surgery a week from today. She chose to do it now, while I am ‘home for the winter’ so that I could care for her while she is recovering. She asked if I was willing, and I said ‘sure thing’.

Now, people who know me are probably scratching their heads right now. On one hand, why wouldn’t I agree to help? Out of her seven kids, I’m an obvious choice since I work from home and ‘home’ can be wherever I have an internet connection. But on the other hand, I am the kind of person who says “How can I support you without actually having to, you know, be there, near you?”

In general, I don’t do caregiving.

It’s not a lack of compassion. It is...well. It's a kind of terror. My first instinct is to run away. Pain makes me uncomfortable. Other people’s pain, that is. I have a fairly high pain threshold myself, as long as I’m allowed to whine about it. But other people’s pain?

When Mom was in hospital after her colon cancer surgery, I visited before her pain was really under control. I thought I was going to throw up, I was so upset. I wanted to drag a nurse into her room to give her drugs immediately. And I wanted drugs of my own to calm me down.

As her knee surgery approaches, I have moments of wondering what on earth I was thinking.

Now, I know she will have ~3 days in hospital before she comes home, and nurses and therapists coming to the house to change dressings and that sort of thing. So really all I will be doing is running errands and being her go-fer. Walking the dog. Being there in case she needs help. Being a companion. Actually being there really will be fine.

It is the anticipation that makes me wonder, and worry, and question the decision that led to me being ‘the one.’ That is a lack of confidence. I worry I will say or do the wrong thing, something to make matters worse. That I won't be in the right place to stop a fall. That I won't notice a serious problem....

I guess the bottom line is that I don’t want to let Mom down. She has always been rock solid, and to have her wellbeing in any way dependent on me is rather frightening.

But it will be fine. A fine, stretchy experience for me. Really.

Monday, February 17, 2014

On Suddenly Being a Stepmom

So I met my husband 10 years ago this month. We got married just over a year later, and have gone about living our lives in a very simple way.

We work, we live, we run a business together. Well, okay, maybe it isn't always simple. But we knew right away that we weren't going to have kids together.

While I knew he had 3 sons from an earlier marriage, it was a difficult divorce and their stepfather had adopted the boys and their mother made it impossible for my hubby to see them. So even though it was very hard on him, when I met him he hadn't seen his kids in years.

Even though he is not big on social media, he started a facebook profile on the off chance that his boys might want to contact him. And last year, they finally did.

It was so wonderful to see him reconnect with them, all grown men living their own lives. The oldest just turned 27, while the middle son is 25, and the youngest is 23.

And I am a stepmom, at least in the literal sense. I don't feel like a mom. I don't have some desire to mother them or meddle in their lives. They are great kids, and I enjoy spending time with them.

Now Jeremy, the oldest, is moving 1100 miles away to Wyoming for a job, and his dad wanted to give him a pistol and a hunting rifle as a congratulatory gift. Today we took the pistol to a gun range and shot up a few boxes of ammo, and then I took him shopping for some road-food. And I got just a small taste of what it might be like to have a son of my own.

No, I'm not feeling wistful and my biological clock isn't trying to shake off cobwebs so it can start ticking. I do not want kids of my own. But today, when I wrote it out in a letter that I was gifting these firearms to my stepson, (to make sure no one thinks he stole them) it was weird to me. I think it was weird for him, too.

I mean, I was married to my husband for 8 years without ever even having met his boys, and now I am a stepmom. With two of them getting married this year, there's a very real possibility I could be a step-grandmother in the near future. Holy shit. Just writing that out is freaky.

I just don't know how I feel about it. I'm not worried about anything, just kind of amazed at how things can change in the blink of an eye. In a way, it's like the old joke: if I had known how much fun grandchildren were, I would have had them first. That's me, or surely will be in a year or three. Now I'm starting to feel like a genius.

Has anyone else out there been in a similar situation? Not asking for advice - just want to hear your story if you have one.