Separation Anxiety

I am, in fact, sitting in Atlanta Bread. I didn’t think this would end up being the case when my sister-in-law asked where I would spend my away-from-home writing time on days when I leave Jeff home with a professional caregiver. “Atlanta Bread?” she had asked. “Your mom’s house?” Neither of the above, I thought. I don’t even like Atlanta Bread very much. But, a few minutes ago, I discovered that the relatively new and formerly cavernously underpopulated Starbucks nearby, has (thanks to habits possibly formed during Hurricane Irene,) acquired an enthusiastic following, with cars spilling into the parking lot of the liquor store across the street. And as our locally owned coffee shop has approximately four and a half seats…for today, Atlanta Bread it is.

One squarish bowl of tomato soup and a modest salad are plenty when you’ve got the major life adjustment queasies. Leaving your Alzheimer-stricken spouse with a caregiver for the very first time is one of those things like dropping your toddler off for his first day-care, or leaving your new college freshman in her dorm on day one. You know it’s weird. You know you need to do it. But the accompanying emotions are so murky and conflicted that you have to give yourself two things: a good talking-to and a little slack. But first you have to sit in the parking lot in your car for a few minutes so it won’t be obvious you’re a teary-eyed mess and a half.

Jeff is home with Kimberly the aide. She managed to get him through shower time while I pumped the basement of the overflow from whatever tropical storm is hurling its remnants at us–Katia, I think. He’s a bit bemused and quizzical about these shenanigans. He does not, of course (in his

estimate,) have need for any sort of assistance but has, to the degree he’s able to retain anything, agreed that if it’s against the “rules” to leave him alone, I may do what I must.

And I think I must. That’s the key. At least for today, I need to keep reminding myself of this. Because while I made the initial calls, and met with the agency’s area coordinator with a certain amount of resolve, almost everything about today–Day 1–has filled my belly with a crawling uncertainty and an impulse to say “Nope! Nevermind! I’ve got it. I’m perfectly able to hang out with Jeff 24/7 for as long as is necessary.”

I don’t think it’s Kimberly who’s causing me to feel so unsettled. She seems of stout character and willing disposition. Rides a motorcycle, she says, when it’s not Mid-Atlantic monsoon season and she’s borrowing her mother’s truck. Has a couple kids, roughly grown like mine. Jeff gets along with anyone. I’m afraid it will tire him and drive him a tad crazy to have someone checking on him a bit too much, so I have to hope that any present and future caregivers will get a good feel for his needs and know when to step in and when to give space.

But I was worried. It was a little hard for me to walk out the door. I said, probably at least a couple of unnecessary times, that I’d be back soon and he and I would have plenty of time to hang out tomorrow. But I suppose I should take it as a good sign that Freddi the dog was absolutely cool with Kimberly once she’d come inside, and the cats barely gave her an askance look. They are telling me it’s ok. I am trying to tell me it’s ok.

Atlanta Bread was just temporarily ok, and I’ve subsequently re-situated myself in the library, which is incontrovertibly ok. Plus there is this:

After today’s swirl of emotional eddies, I am–in all truth–looking forward to spending tomorrow and the weekend with Jeff. Perhaps, as I get accustomed to this, it will not be queasiness, but a state of refreshment that will enable me to greet the ensuing days of caregiving with relief and a smile.