Friday, March 18, 2016

Hedging My Bets

The other day I came home after my early spin class to find my dad was sitting at the table reading the paper unaware the teapot was burning to the stove.  
He can't smell anymore, so he couldn't smell the acrid smell of the burning enamel.  He can't hear without his hearing aids, so he most likely put the pot back on the burner and never heard it continue to whistle.  He obviously can't remember to shut things off.  

Don't get me wrong-I have put the kettle on and walked away more than once, which is why we had a whistling kettle. But I can still hear and smell.  The danger for dad is great if no one is around.  Without your senses and with an impaired memory, accidents happen.  It's one of the reasons we brought him to live with us.  

Stuff like this used to really shake me up.  Now I just send up a prayer of thanks for every one's safety and try to minimize future risk.  In the past I would have felt this was confirmation that he could never (EVER) be left alone.  Now I realize there are times, such as when he is sleeping, that I can hedge my bets and run an errand.  I never leave for more than 30 minutes to an hour and I haven't had anything happen-until this.  It's not the first time he's left the kettle going, but I was here and got to it in time. He doesn't try to cook anymore, but I still let him do small tasks and one of them is his own breakfast.  He uses the toaster and makes coffee in a French press every morning. I know it's important to let him do things for himself because there is so much he can't-or I don't want him doing-that I won't take this task away when stuff  like this happens. (I just bought an electric kettle that has auto shut off-problem solved) 

I used to try to control every aspect of his care.  I realize now that that kind of hyper vigilance was unrealistic to maintain.  It almost drove me nuts!  But I felt such a huge responsibility to make sure I did everything right and that he was safe.  And to be honest, I didn't realize how hard it would be to control so many details and situations!  Things change and there have been new needs to be addressed and old ones that went away.  I'm learning to live in the moment and while you need to think proactively to address issues that can happen, you also can't make yourself crazy trying to take away any risk.  (Life is risky!) It's not only unrealistic, it's impossible.  While I knew that, it's a new experience and there was a huge learning curve. 

Don't get me wrong, I still feel a huge responsibility.  I just understand now that I can't do it all and I certainly can't do it all perfectly.  It's gotten easier too.  He's less combative and can't walk well, so he's not likely to wander off and get lost on a "walk" like he used to. So I guess there's that, lol. There are other worries, like he would forget to eat if I didn't prompt him, or he would eat six cookies after dinner, thinking he had only had one.  But for the most part, we have most things addressed and most risks minimized.  

This journey has taught me much about myself.  As I said, I'm learning that control is largely an illusion.  It makes us feel better to think we can steer our course.  To a degree we can.  But there are so many variables that are beyond our control.  What we can control is how we react to what life hands us and try and learn from it. 

As this related to my art (since this is my art blog) I realize I can't control my lack of art production.  Sure, I could produce more art, but right now other things-like my health and my dads care-are more important. I was very upset to completely give up teaching again because when I gave it up to care for mom it was hard to get back into the places I used to teach.  But I did eventually.  I was afraid, and sometimes still am, that I am losing my skills.  And I might be-use it or lose it, right?  But I would make myself crazy trying to keep up and miss the peace of just being with my dad.  There is a trade off, but again, I'm taking a risk and hedging my bets that my art will survive.

This little post was more for me than anyone else.  A reminder that I've never been able to do it all, even when I was younger and had a lot more energy.  To remember to pick and chose the best things among so many other good choices. And I hope I'm learning to not sweat the small stuff as they say. Oh, and to buy cheap tea kettles!!  


  1. Well written Michelle. I've learned a lot just reading that. No you can't do everything and nobody expects that, but you have been amazing at all you have done. I hope that you can be proud of yourself for that.

    I too cared for my Father at the end of his life. Although it was only a year, not several. I am so proud and grateful to have had that experience. Even 30 years later I feel that it was truly my best achievement in life.

    Your art is a god given talent, and you will never loose that.

    1. thank you my friend! I see you understand--I will have no regrets when all is said and done. Thank you for your encouragement.

  2. I agree with Ray. I don't believe we ever lose our skills. They may go dormant for a season, and even get a little rusty, but they're still there, waiting for us.

    I love the sketch of your dad. You really captured the bluish translucency of aging skin. My mom's looks just like that. May I ask what colors you used?

    1. Susan, I'm sure it's true, like riding a bike! As for my colors, I used cerulean blue and a combination skin tone of raw sienna and cobalt violet light hue. It's actually a little washed out because I went in too dark at first! Hope that helps.

  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! After looking after my mother-in-law for six and a half years, I could relate and truly appreciate your thoughts. Thank you for sharing.

    1. thank you for reading! Bless you for doing that for six and a half years! It has its frustrations but so many rewards--