Thursday, February 12, 2009

Role Reversal

Over the last few weeks, the Grumps and I have taken on a bit of a role reversal from last year. During the summer and fall, I was completely overwhelmed with the responsibility of managing my Dad's care. I had the support of my sisters, and fortunately we all seemed to agree on almost every decision that was tossed our way. And we were able to reasonably discuss those handful of things that we weren't on exactly the same page about, reaching a compromise that we all could be genuinely satisfied with.

I'm learning just how fortunate I am that we were all able to work together in this way, and that we're even more fortunate to be able to continue to build a sister relationship in the aftermath of losing Dad.

Sadly, it has become painfully obvious over the last few weeks that not all families work this way.

Grumpy's mom is ill - has been for a long loooooooooooooooooooong time. I'm not going to go into too many details here, at least not the specifics, as they aren't my details to share. Just believe me when I say that she's ill.

She's been hospitalized for almost 3 weeks now. In that time, she's had 2 separate extended ICU stays, a dialysis treatment, a surgery, 24 hours on a ventilator, countless medications, and we almost lost her more than once. She's on the long, slow road to recovery now, and we're realistically hoping that she'll be able to go home within the next week or 2.

On the flip side of her almost miraculous recovery (especially this week), is the damage that's been done to the immediate family. Lies have been told, wishes ignored, fights started, secrets kept and betrayed... All levels of human interpersonal ugliness have been explored and exploited. And here I sit, just to the outside of the immediate inside (does that makes sense? let me try this: I'm more involved on a daily basis than Grumpy's siblings because of proximity, but obviously I'm not her daughter, so I try not to take on too much responsibility, or step over the bounds of my "appropriate" role.), wondering what I can do to help, who I should support, and how to do it.

Obviously, my first responsibility is to Grumps. I'm the one that needs to keep things running on our homefront, so that he has a safe place to be without adding additional stress (he was FABULOUS with this for me during the Dad saga). I need to be his place to unload, get angry, be scared, whatever. That part I'm certain of.

But after Grumpy, who should be my priority? I work for his Dad, his Mom is ill and needs all the support she can get, his siblings aren't here in town and feel a bit out of the loop, when his niece or nephew are in town they sometimes need time away from the stress of Grandma being in the hospital. And to be honest, sometimes "choosing sides" isn't an option. Sometimes I'm so disgusted by someone's behavior that I can't stand to hear them, let alone be supportive. Sometimes someone is being so needy and dependent about the circumstances that I want to shake them to remind them that we're ALL going through this.

Sometimes I want to sit in a corner and cry, because Grumpy's Mom is going to come home, and my Dad didn't. And maybe that's what my problem is in all of this.

Maybe it's not my responsibility to be mediator, to take sides, to try to support everyone. Maybe it's ok to just be Grumpy's wife, and to do my best to make sure that HIS needs are met.

Is that ok?


Dreamer4agift said...

That is ABSOLUTELY okay! I'm sure that more than anything, Grumps appreciates you being there for him and whatever he needs--including keeping the house as a safe haven.

I'm sorry things are so rough right now for your family...things just should be this hard and for this long, ya know? Of course you do.

((hugs)) Keep being you, you're a very strong woman.

chicklet said...

Ugh, I don't know what to say. It's hard not to have anger over how to prioritize, how he gets things you don't, how it's just never easy. Frick.

Tigger said...

That is 100% ok. Take care of Grumps, let everyone else take care of themselves. I know, it's hard - I'm a mediator by nature, and I'm forever getting involved in things I'd be better off staying out of.

How about this for a compromise? Take care of Grumps. If the nephews need a space, give it to them if they can. If someone needs to vent and it's someone you can stand, let them. You don't have to support them or fix them, just give them a space. As long as it doesn't affect Grumps or your ability to take care of him or your sanity. As Dh used to tell me, I'm no good to anyone if I'm not sane too.

Anonymous said...

Yes babe, that's okay. This is an impossible situation. Just being Grumpy's wife, siding with him and being his safe space is more than enough. You can't be Supergirl here.

I'm sending you lots of empathetic hugs and I will be praying for you and for this whole situation. This is a huge deal so soon after your dad's death. I'm here if you need to vent.


Beautiful Mess said...

I think there is NOTHING wrong with being Grump's wife. He needs your support and you're there to give it to him. I hope his mom gets out of the hospital soon. Thinking of you, HUGS.

Kaci said...

Of course it is OK! I know it's hard not to try to be all things, but sometimes you gotta just take one thing at a time. Grumpy takes priority. Well you & Grumpy...take care of yourself too.

Emily (Apron Strings) said...

Aw ... sweetie. You're doing the best you possibly can for now. And I think you hit it on the head saying that Grumpy needs to be YOUR priority. Take care of him. Be there for your in-laws. There's no need to place yourself in the middle, and your in-laws can't "force" you to be in the middle.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. Take it with a grain of salt.

But while I'm here, just wanted to say that I tagged you on my blog. Come visit!

And HUGS ... things will get better. It just sucks that this whole experience is bringing back painful memories for you, too.

nancy said...

I think it's definitely okay.

~hugs~ to you Beth.

(oh - and thanks a lot for the youtube vid of the 8 yr old nurser. I still have nightmares.)

Jeri Dansky said...

Please be gentle with yourself. You can't possibly be all things to all people. And my goodness, you're still dealing with your own grief. (When my mom died, a wise woman alerted me to expect my energy level to be down for maybe the next two years!)

In case it would help at all, I'd like to point you to a wonderful woman named Janice who helps people work out eldercare situations of all sorts, often involving families with conflicting wishes, and often by phone. She even offers a free half-hour consultation. Here's her web site. AND she also has a grief recovery program! I've consulted with her myself, so I know how good she is.

Bea said...

Glad you're feeling better on zoloft.

So sorry about the situation with G's mum. I think it's probably ok to sit back. Hard to be sure what your relationship is from this distance, but ugh. It sure sounds like others need to sort themselves out. You do have a big job with just G.