The last few weeks have been and I’m sure the next few will be a time of more reflection than usual. It’s the time of year when, 2 years ago Mike was first diagnosed and then last year he became really, really sick. It feels like a different life. It was a different life, I guess.
This post came up on my FB memories today. That day last year was, at the time, the pinnacle of stress of trying to balance Mike’s needs in his rapidly deteriorating state with trying to keep as much of a sense of normality as possible for the boys. Obviously, that became a lot harder over the next few weeks, but today was the day we had the “If you need me and the boys need me at the same time, I’m going to have to put them first” conversation. I had gone to work to meet some French friends to help me try to call and get in-home care set-up for Mike (it actually took more than 2 weeks to get this sorted out). I spoke with Mike and he was fine so I went to the gym. When I came out, I had a missed call and a voice-mail that he’d fallen down the stairs at home and needed my help. When I got home, he had managed to get himself back upstairs to bed but he was in really bad shape. I spent an hour or so back and forth on the phone with his oncologist (we decided to try and persuade him he needed to go to hospital), with the French in-home care folks (who go home at 2pm on a Friday) all whilst trying to get our absolutely trashed house cleaned up because his family were arriving to see him at the weekend. It was fucking chaos.
He agreed to go to hospital and I managed to get him in the car by myself and his wonderful oncologist met us on the steps of the hospital. He told me which ward they were going to admit him into and said we could go up there now. I had to tell him that I couldn’t because I had to go to the boys’ end-of-year school party with them. He was very understanding and promised to call me as soon as Mike was settled. The feeling of standing on the hospital steps in the rain watching him lean on his doctor and shuffle away will stay with me forever.
I raced home. Picked-up the puppy. Legged it to the school. And the entire school gathered under a tent as absolutely torrential rain poured down. The kids were asking for money for treats and I realised I had no money on me. The party had beer & wine #vivelafrance but again … I was penniless. I remember standing there, trying to stop Louis going nuts with all the excitement, wondering if Mike was going to make it through the night, thinking that later I would have to tell the boys that their Dad was going to die, listening to the rain lashing down in a complete state of shock. And then another expat Mom found me. And she bought cake for the kids. And beer for me. And the rain stopped. And the kids ran around with their friends and did their dances. And they were happy. And in some ways so was I. It was the epitome of the dual-life I was living. Trying to create a sanctuary of happiness for the boys and trying to take care of Mike. We went home later and a friend and his girlfriend came over with pizza and played with the boys and Louis. My house was absolutely trashed. The entire floor covered in remnants of cardboard boxes that Louis had terrorized, no room on the dining table to even put the pizza boxes down. The doctor called to say that Mike was stable, but I would need to come first thing in the morning to talk (the talk ended up being that his heart could stop at any moment and we signed “no ICU” and “DNR” papers)’ he had been accidentally over-dosing himself with painkillers, I hadn’t realised that was something I needed to keep track of for him.
The thoughts I’m trying to have today are that, stressed as I have been for the past few weeks with so much to do at home and at work and making not nearly enough progress with anything, things could be worse. On the other hand, there were far less expectations on me a year ago. Simple survival and getting Mike and the kids through each day to the best of my ability was all I could ask of myself. Even that was a lot. Today, expectations are a lot higher. I want to be productive at work. I want my house to be a nicer place for us to live in. I want the kids to be happy and participate in their sports and music activities and I want to have time together with them to just enjoy ourselves. I want sleep. I want time for myself. And I’m probably doing a worse job against my expectations today than I was a year ago. And I’ve tried just doing a better job, and I’m doing the best that I can. So, I need to find a way to lower my own and others’ expectations of me. At least for a little while longer. It’s taking longer than I thought to find my feet properly. I think that’s probably OK. I think I need to find a way to tell folk, especially those at work, that this is the case now that I finally realise it. If I can take the pressure off myself a little, things will probably go a little better. I’m not sure my pride is going to let me have that conversation at work though …