Als ich wisse das Morgen der Erde enden wuerde, immernoch wurd ich mein Apfelbaum pflanzen.

Even if I knew the world would perish tomorrow, I would still plant my apple tree. - Martin Luther

"Factory work's easier on the back, and I don't mind it, understand, but a man becomes what he does. Got to watch that. That's why I keep at farmin' although the crops haven't ever throve. It's the doin' that's important." Madison Wheeler in Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon

Monday, January 26, 2015

How in the Hell Do They Manage?

I've spent the past three days being a single parent.  The Woodsman has been in the hospital with appendicitis since Friday, and had been minimally functional the entire week before he was admitted to the ER.  He's going to make a full recovery and we've all managed.  The kids are great at pitching in (thank goodness they are reliable, independent and mostly self-entertaining at this point), and we have a fantastic support network. But this is really the first time I've been on my own at home for an extended period of time.

The first night was filled with anxiety and uncertainty.  The weather was terrible and the roads were dangerous.  I had been instructed by many people that loved me, including my spouse, to remain at home with the kids.  There was nothing I could do if I went to the hospital, and I risked putting the rest of us in danger.  I called the people who keep me centered, and they told me what I needed to hear - stay home, and call us later if you need us.  I prayed, reached out for support, and eventually sunk into an uneasy sleep.  In between all of that I took care of the animals, kept the fire going, got the kids ready for bed, made plans for where they could go if I needed to leave suddenly, and updated relatives on The Woodsman's prognosis.

The next day I kept the phone line open waiting for news, and alternated between understanding that staying put was still the wisest decision, and wanting to forget reason and opperate on emotion instead.  I don't do well sitting and waiting.  Luckily, because I've been working a lot on the weekend there was a long list of  projects to tackle.  I spent the day practicing cooking and decluttering therapy and doing the jobs he usually does (filling the woodbox, dealing with the dogs, etc.). By this point I had a phone number and could call periodically to see if there was any news.  There wasn't.  Finally, late in the afternoon there was a decision.   He would not be having surgery, but he would also not be coming home any time soon.  So I picked up my mother-in-law, dropped off the kids at a friend's house and headed for a short visit.

When I eventually got home with the kids it was late and the list of tasks to be accomplished before sleep was long.  Despite the late night, we got ourselves to church on time, and then left early so we could make it to the hospital before visiting hours were over.

I don't know what hospitals are like at the moment in your area, but getting into our local hospital required an unbelievable amount of red tape and questioning.  Visiting hours are severely restricted.  Patients may only have two visitors at a time.  Visitors must sign in and sign out.  They must wear badges.  They must keep their badge visible so the security guard can view it.  They must be over 18.
Did you catch that last one?  They must be over 18.  Well, somehow I missed that on my visit the night before.  We got to the hospital with one hour of visiting time remaining, and proceeded through the line to receive our visitor's badge.  When the receptionist told me that the kids couldn't go up to visit their Dad I almost lost it.

Up until this point I'd managed to remain calm and focused on the outside while being a swirl of emotions inside.  The kids did not need my emotions to cause them any more stress.  Did they not get it?  We hadn't come for ourselves.  We'd come for him.  Did they not know that the only thing he wanted from home was his children?  Were they not parents?  Did they not have hearts?

Despite my best efforts I teared up, and had trouble speaking.  I was told the policy was clearly posted around the hospital and that they could not allow anyone under 18 to be admitted due to the risk of flu transmission.  It didn't matter that our family had already suffered through the flu (both Type A and B visited our house the week before Christmas) and that we were not contagious, nor could we be infected.  They had their policies.

Thankfully, the volunteers working the front desk did have compassion, and they set to working on getting permission to make an exception for us.  After fifteen minutes of waiting in line, and trying to be patient, they were finally given the go ahead to send us upstairs.

The visit went well, and it certainly brightened his spirits.  But then, too soon, it was time to go.  Groceries needed purchased, animals needed fed, lunch needed to be found, dinner needed made, preparations needed to be made for Monday.  My husband was healing, but for the moment I was still on my own.

Again, the same routine of chores and updating folks and sending to bed.  Once the house was quiet it hit me.  Not only was there the extra stress of double the work, and double the parenting, but it was pretty damn lonely here.  It was so quiet - too quiet, and I'm a person who craves quiet.  I feed off of silence.  I have wonderful friends.  I have a fantastic family.  I'm well loved and well supported.
It didn't matter.  I missed the conversation, but mostly I just missed his presence.  Mostly in the evenings we're both off doing our own thing, but he's here.  He's here to say goodnight to and even when we sleep apart (the snoring I did not miss) I know he's nearby.  I hear the grate squeak on the fire, and I know he's keeping us warm.  I hear the lock turn in the door and I know he's keeping us safe.  He is a solid, comforting, dependable presence, and I can't imagine life without him.

I started to think about my friends who are on their own.  Some have lost their spouses to death.  Some through divorce.  Some are on their own frequently because their partners work long hours or travel frequently.  How do they do it?  How do they manage the day to day needs of their families and households?  And then, when they've taken care of all of the practicalities, how do they manage the silence?  How do they deal with the thousand little reminders that the life they started as two has been divided?

I know they manage.  I know they're OK, and I know they have support networks too.  I know they're strong and they do what they need to do.  I know that get through each day and each moment at a time.  I knew it before, but the past few days have given me a taste of their lives.  I can imagine how tough even the little moments must be, and I understand why our kids at school who have lost a parent, or who are in single parent homes often struggle.  

My stint with single parenthood is almost over.  God Bless those of you who are on that train for the rest of your lives.  Call me will you?  I'd like to help fill your silence.

1 comment:

  1. I feel like I could have written this post if my hunky farmer husband was sick. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.