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Are You Sick to Death of Men?
What's a Poor Nurturing Girl to Do?
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a hub entitled "How to Comfort a Man." Back then I still had a sense of humor. Today, I don't feel so maganimous. Today I feel like screaming. Today I feel like lining up every male in my life and telling them not to say anything or move a muscle for 48 hours. I want to leave them in each other's care while I go and get as many spa treatments as is physically possible in a 48-hour period. With no cell phone. No possibility of being interrupted for any reason. That is what I would love to do.
But it is not what I will do. Instead, I will write my frustrations here. I will expose myself and ask perfect strangers (and a few imperfect ones as well) for advice, suggestions, or even just words of empathy. I will write my truth in the hope that it just might resonate with another woman (or man) somewhere on earth. Somehow, I know I can't possibly be the only person with a life like this.
Intro to the Men in MM's Life
First you must meet the cast of characters. They are:
1. Hubby. We have been married going on 5 years. Remarriage for both of us. No kids on his side, just family living in the same city. The most important thing you need to know about him is he is an A Type. Former football player. Loves me in a sheepdoggish overly protective way.
2. Sonny. My 16.5-year-old son. Has no recollection of his parents being married as we split when he was 4. Has been scarred by his dad and me fighting bitterly. Smart kid. Dumb choices. Doing much better now than a year ago. Fingers x'd on that. He and I have a good relationship (he's a mini-me) but he and his stepdad -- not so much.
3. Dad. Sweet, dear man. Lost my mom going on 4 years ago. Still mentally with it at 85. Independently living in a nice seniors residence. Seems to end up in the hospital like clockwork every 3 months. Each time, my siblings and I jump to attention thinking "this is it." Maybe it's his army training during WWII, but Dad sure can dodge bullets!
4. FIL (Father-in-Law). Another dear, sweet man, with whom I am very close. That is, as close as you can be with someone with Alzheimer's. He also has lymphoma. Except for slowing down due to the pain from lymphoma, FIL is strong as an ox, but cuckoo as a jaybird. It's hard not to get mad at some of his comments and behaviors. But we all try, because we know it's not him, it's his disease.
5. The Ex. This would be the father of my son. Who has fought me tooth and nail on everything to do with parenting pretty much since Sonny popped out (you'd almost think he's the one who gave birth, but I've got the stretch marks to prove my involvement). Ex has a history of quite severe and chronic illnesses as long as your arm. I have poured that man into ambulances more times than I can count.
Calgon ... Take Me Away
Welcome to my Male-strom
Now I'm not saying keeping all these males happy is solely my responsibility. I do feel obligated to each of them at times. Some, obviously, more than others, and some more often than others. But do the math. There are 5 of them and only 1 of me. I may be Mighty, but I'm still only me.
In recent years my son has required extra attention. His early teen years were more turbulent that most. But he seems to be on an even keel these days. As mentioned in another hub entitled "How to Have THE Talk .. or Any Talk with your Teen," he and I have started a weekly ritual of driving 1.5 hours down to see my Dad, his grandpa.
You see, Grandpa's most recent hospital stay left him in a wheelchair. This is a big downward step in his mobility -- and in his self-confidence. He is so afraid of falling again that he refuses to use his walker. He just scoots around his apartment in his chair. We have all stepped up our visitations.
My FIL is a regular part of our lives, too. Last February we moved him and my MIL (that's mother-in-law in case you weren't sure) into a house around the corner from us. This allows us to keep an eye (and ear) on them. It's getting more and more difficult to take them out to restaurants, but FIL is comfortable here, so we have them over often.
FIL's second round of chemo didn't do anything (as the oncologist warned us was likely). Now he's undergoing radiation. My Hubby is on the front lines. He comes home each afternoon totally wiped out and drained. It's both physically and emotionally challenging to get an Alzheimer's patient to cooperate.
So after I get my daily report of how it went, I set about nurturing Hubby. But really, what can I say? We both know his dad is dying. He's 87. He's got a massive lump of cancer in his gut. An insidious demon is stealing his memory and making him act like a 4-year-old. Someone took my FIL and we want him back. But we know that's impossible.
Bend and Snap
My Hubby and I have been feeling under a bit of pressure. We know our life is surreal. Having 2 ill fathers at once is stretching the limits of our patience -- including our patience with each other.
I worry constantly about the toll on Hubby's health. He's got the lion's share with his dad. And he also helps out his Mom (so she can live "ndependently"). And of course he supports me with my dad, too. The only two he doesn't support in the slightest are The Ex and Sonny. But that is a story for another hub.
And so we get to the events of today. It began like any other normal Sunday. By that I mean we got up, had coffee, and got in the car to go visit my father 1.5 hours away. So far so good.
About 30 minutes into the trip I got a phone call from Sonny. A phone call, not his usual text. Hmm. What could he want at 11am on a Sunday?
With that one phone call, my testosterone-dominated world snapped literally in two. On one side was my Hubby and Dad. On the other, The Ex and Sonny. There would be, could be, no pleasing everyone. Each of them might deserve a piece of me today. Only two would get it.
The Man With Nine Lives
I could hear Ex gasping for air in the background. The paramedics informed me they couldn't leave Sonny alone. How quickly could I be there?
Hubby and I turned around and headed for Ex's house. From there, I sent Hubby home with the promise of checking in as soon as I knew something. But not before he made a judgmental remark about Sonny and how things would be if Sonny had to come and stay overnight with us. (I should mention that he and Sonny parted last summer on extremely bad terms; Sonny has been living with his dad ever since.)
Arriving at the emergency room I learned the extent of this latest medical crisis. I'd already heared that our son had had witnessed it all, doggedly calling 911 three times before he got them to respond.
A jovial ER nurse named Fred informed me that Ex came very, very close to being an angel this morning! I'm not sure Sonny heard that remark. At least I hope he didn't. He's seen more than his share of medical drama with his dad, too.
Understandably, Sonny did not want to stick around the hospital. Just long enough to see his father -- once again -- hooked up to IVs with a breathing apparatus. On the Richter Scale of scary for him, I'd guess this was about an 8 --10 being the time his dad got Life-Flighted out of Ukiah during a soccer tournment for emergency gallbladder surgery.
I have no idea how long Exhad been feeling ill, but was told today's crisis didn't come on suddenly. How my Ex cares for his own health is his business. That is, until he ends up in the hospital. And it becomes (reluctantly) mine.
Bad Blood and Other Sepsis
I should also mention there is really, really bad blood between Hubby and Ex. Hubby was not thrilled that I spent my Sunday afternoon out at the hospital. He feels strongly that Ex should have seen this coming and had a plan in place. A plan that did not involve me in any way.
He's very clear that it's ok for me to care for Sonny under such circumstances, but not Ex. That Ex's next-of-kin (who happen to live in New York) should be notified and be in charge, not me. He is only looking out for my best interests and doesn't want Ex to turn on me when he's feeling better. I admit, he does have a historically valid point there.
As for me, I have trouble dissociating one from the other. Today, (I felt and still do), my job was to comfort my son and assuage his legitimate fears. In order to be able to do that, I needed to find out Ex's condition and prognosis. Is your Dad going to be in the hospital overnight? Or more like three weeks like the last time he was hospitalized? Is he really going to be ok, or will this latest hospitalization leave him even more debilitated???
Crises Make the Heart Grow Fonder
I am not looking for any medals or even a thank you. I'm simply fulfilling what I perceive to be my duty as a mother. In the process, I guess I'm also trying to be compassionate and Christian in dealing with the father of my son. A father who came very close (once again) to death today.
As I went about my business on behalf of two of the males in my life today. I recognize that two others got left out (FIL was on an outing with my sister-in-law so he was taken care of). I disappointed my Dad, who didn't get to see me. But he's cool with it and knows I'll be down another day soon. I apparently also disappointed Hubby. When I got home he lit into me about all the things HE will not TOLERATE and things EX should do DIFFERENTLY and SONNY needs to start DOING, TOO.
Yikes! Where did all that anger come from? After all (I rationalized to myself), he got a reprieve! Instead of driving to visit my dad, he got to stay home and watch football all day.
I know better than to expect him to understand. He and his ex-wife have not spoken since their divorce. He is not a father. And he's very hurt that his stepson has turned against him. And he's been there through some nasty, nasty exchanges with my Ex as well. His concern that Ex will eventually spurn my help (just as soon as he's feeling less toxic and weak) is not unfounded. But it won't keep me from offering it. Again.
In the end, I know exactly why he's so prickly. This latest medical crisis is just another reminder of how little control he -- and each of us -- really has. He's stretched to the limit dealing with his own dad. And he needs every spare ounce of comfort I've got. It's not that he's overly greedy or needy. It's just that he wants -- and expects -- to be first on my list, instead of third.
Is that fair or rational? It doesn't feel that way at the moment.
Maybe I'll feel differently after I've had a massage and a facial. Or at least a good night's sleep --- and a newly published hub.