A Moving Deliberation...

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Posted on by Emily Gillespie Clement

A daughter—the one who tends to be around the most regularly—is giving some serious thought to flying the coop. Though she’s voiced a bit of the inner battle with herself (be a grown-up? put it off? pay rent? not pay rent?,) she is also concerned about “abandoning” me to a house which, for most of the year, will be filled with just myself, Jeff, and a few troublesome pets.

I am touched by this concern. In fact, I am always appreciative of the degree to which our four offspring are sensitive to the limitations and needs of their dad, and aware that for me, caregiving is not always a picnic.

Meanwhile, I continue to find myself drawn to online real estate listings. Franklymls.com is my favorite site of the moment. There I can search by price range, zip code, condo vs. townhouse, etc, and imagine that maybe a move to something lower-maintenance, maybe something downtown, would be just the thing to crack the shell of paralysis which zaps the emotions and initiative of caregivers who’ve been at the job a little too long.

"Sometimes I think my house is the Flying Dutchman, and abandoning ship will somehow help."

Ever seen the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy? It’s like this—join the crew of the Flying Dutchman and eventually you’ll find whatever vim and verve you might have had being absorbed as you slowly morph into the very bulkheads of the galleon itself. You disappear, in other words, into the ship.

Sometimes I think my house is the Flying Dutchman, and abandoning ship will somehow help. This is probably an unfair grievance to lay on an innocent house. I will, by dint of my own sense of love and obligation, still have the job of being Jeff’s caregiver whether I live in my present hand-crafted home, or an alternative model where the HOA or condo association is responsible for exterior maintenance. So it may take some thoughtful analysis to discern whether I REALLY want to move, or whether I’m just looking for an imaginary escape hatch.

And that’s my problem to wrestle with. Whether my daughter wishes to move out of the family homestead or not is her problem to wrestle with. I have sought to reassure her, with honest intent, that—while I like her company and welcome her presence—if I am bored (I am,) burned out (check,) or slightly desperate (yes, that too,) there is neither anything she should do or can do to rescue me. I have to rescue myself.

"When the oxygen masks drop from the ceiling, secure your own first before you assist others. Because of course, if you drop you are of no use to anyone else who may be depending on you."

I blog from the perspective of a caregiving spouse. I mean in no way to draw attention away from the needs of our Alzheimer’s-affected loved ones, who need and deserve every act of caring and consideration we can extend them. But I am reminded frequently in life of that basic tenet of safety that anyone who’s ever flown on a commercial airline will be familiar with: When the oxygen masks drop from the ceiling, secure your own first before you assist others. Because of course, if you drop you are of no use to anyone else who may be depending on you.

I’m not really sure whether the Flying Dutchman comes with drop-down oxygen masks. Probably not, but I’m already resolved, as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, that I will have to do something very soon to restore my emotional and intellectual circulation.

I have thoughts about what that will be. I also think my daughter should, if she’s ready, give her wings a tryout. I am absolutely in favor of living life. I am not sure what I think about the Flying D...er...my house. But some preliminary steps I have planned for Fall will at least give me the clarity of mind to think about it.

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