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the liberty of a soldier let out on leave

Did you hear the giant sucking sound? That was yet another of my days being sucked down the care-giving drain. My “eeeyuck” that came along with it was me getting up close and personal with Grandpa’s penis as the urology department ran tests to try and figure out why Grandpa can’t pee. I am slowly getting de-sensitized to his shriveled member. Even Grandpa doesn’t seem to mind my full viewings anymore. Such desensitization is just one more step down a path where the unimaginable becomes commonplace – like in war where dead bodies are no longer remarkable. Not that his penis is like dead bodies.

But dealing with his dementia can still feel like a war of sorts. Today it feels like a war on Husband’s and my life versus his. When I took him to the geriatrician last week, she said that Grandpa’s ears were full of wax and that he needed to go see an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist. Incredulous, I asked the doctor why she couldn’t clean out the wax in the office right then with some Q-tips. She demurred, saying his wax-clogged ears were way past the Q-tips state. I asked for alternatives. She gave me ear drops which Grandpa has resisted. So, to the ENT we will go to get the wax vacuumed out. I also need to take him back to the urologist at the end of the week…and on and on and on….

We have switched all of Grandpa’s care to the good hospital, but going to the good hospital is further away. The good hospital is good for Grandpa, but less good for us as it takes much more of our time to get him there. Having Grandpa come over every day is good for Grandpa, but it cuts into my ability to get work and other non-caretaking tasks done. Where do you draw the line? Refuse the wax removal at the cost of his hearing?

So far, we haven’t drawn lines. The days when Grandpa doesn’t come over feel like the liberty of a soldier out on leave. But if two days go by without us seeing him, then he begins to take over more and more of my thoughts. Similarly, he becomes increasingly confused and agitated. As his memory holds only distant facts. Seeing us helps keep him connected in the present. Watching his joy and relief at our reunion reminds me each time how much we love him, even in his enfeebled state. He will wrench our hearts when he finally passes.

Also published on Medium.

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