Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Back from Tomball (Whew...)

I recently spent spent 6 days and 5 nights in my home town, Tomball. Yes, I counted the days & nights, not because the trip dragged but because I was impressed by myself, this being the longest period of time I have spent there since going away to college in 1980. (See TOMBALL HELPERS list below for some of my coping methods - since I wasn't drinking alcohol I figured I could use the alcohol calories on fast food instead, with the result that I got even more bloated than I do from drinking.)

TOMBALL HELPERS (relocated from sidebar)

Daily dose of FRENCH FRIES (yes, I did start to feel like Morgan Spurlock in the movie Super Size Me, puffy & bloated)...sneaking out once or twice a day to eat McD's or Burger King instead of my dad's leftovers.

POWER BRACELETS...wearing several every day and playing with them on my wrist, feeling the coolness & weight of the crystals...I haven't memorized the different color meanings but all are positive - clarity, calm, wisdom, protection, etc. (The red bracelet pictured is a Carnelian Crystal Power Bracelet - it represents new life, stimulates change, helps promote sociability and warmth to others.)

XANAX...not every night, just some nights...combined with a dense but interesting book about the Human Genome Project - guaranteed sleep.

Gallons of DR PEPPER, secret stash of salty snack mix and oatmeal/chocolate chip COOKIES...I need something chewy & sweet to eat when I take my morning meds...one of the many medicinal uses for cookies.

Having my own PILLOW and PILLOWCASE - 100% cotton sateen - gold color, because I am The Queen.

Multiple trips to TARGET - errands for Uncle Harvey, impulse purchases for me (Mary Jane shoes, more colors of knit shirts).


There was a lot going on during this trip...doing what I could to help Uncle Harvey, who recently had a hip replacement, helping my dad with computer stuff, and spending time with my brother's family who were visiting from Michigan. I also got reacquainted with my sister, who has been less involved with family during the past year or so due to personal problems, and I tried to squeeze in a few hours of office work to avoid taking too many vacation days. My boss cautioned me not to be a martyr about working from Tomball, but I told her I wanted to try to work while there, as practice for future trips when my dad or uncle might need me...and I guess, although I didn't say this, to try to get some element of my work persona back if I needed that strength and confidence.

Obviously I was being utilized on a lot of levels, with many roles and many interpersonal situations. Craig was in Tomball for the first 3 days but then had to drive back to Dallas in order to leave for Chicago on business. It was great to have him with me, and of course he enjoys seeing my brother's family and my dad, but while he was there I was (however feebly) functioning as a wife on top of sister, daughter, aunt, niece, patient advocate, errand runner, computer programmer/Internet researcher, and court jester/standup comic/party hostess (trying to get my introverted family to loosen up a bit with each other).

And I'm not sure what my mode was with my 5 stepsisters, who with their 5 husbands and 11 kids (and one kid's brave boyfriend) were all gathered in Tomball for Easter. There were so many people at my stepsister Pam's house that my younger nephew, who doesn't see them often enough to even know who's in whose nuclear family, got overwhelmed and couldn't eat his lunch. My concern for him gave me a focus outside myself in a way that helped me feel, personally, rather social. Although this was the first time in many years that all of us were together at once, we forgot to take group photos. Maybe on my part that was a Freudian slip...I'm not sure what I would want to do with such a photo if I had it.

Uncle Harvey's situation is complicated because he has had several setbacks in the hospital and we're not sure when he will be released or what level of care he will need. What he wants is to go back to his own house, where he imagines he will have his privacy and independence, but no one but Harvey is convinced that's a realistic option. With no kids or wife to boss him around there is no clear Leader in his family - there are relatives and long-time friends who care a lot about Harvey but aren't available to be with him every day...and Harvey doesn't consider that any of us have any authority over him. Harvey's career and personality are that of a highly creative, affable but very independent person. Not to say that physical problems are easy for anyone to handle, but I think the institutional atmosphere of a hospital grates more on solitary-living Harvey than it would on other types of personalities. During the past weeks I have had many conversations with Harvey's part-time secretary and long-time friend (who lives in New York but makes regular work trips to Tomball, and who bears the brunt of most everything to do with Harvey), trying to help with ideas and general moral support.

I told my friend Susan, who has been making frequent out-of-state visits to her ailing father, that I felt like Super Woman while in Tomball but crashed - felt totally drained and disoriented - as soon as the trip was over. Somehow the sense of calm, positivity, and cheery self-talk and affirmations faded away when I got back to my office and my home. (And when I say home here, do I need to qualify, my adult home? Could home also mean Tomball, although I don't identify that way any more...or do I...) Susan offered the mixed metaphor that it felt to her, while helping her dad, that she was bushwhacking through thick brush and had no way to get clear while "on site." She could only see the whole picture and a possible path when she got away, but while away she had only phone access to her dad, other family, and medical professionals so felt less effective than when in-person. I tried (tried) to have realistic expectations of myself while I was in Tomball, but in net I didn't accomplish much for Uncle Harvey...and I didn't feel I spent enough time with my dad, or with my brother's family.

On top of every other type of angst, in the past year I have gotten to a psychological place where I'm a bit more in tune with my feelings of loss and love toward my deceased mother and oldest brother. I missed them while in Tomball last week...they were a huge part (and some of the best parts) of my childhood Tomball, and I really wish they could still be part of my Tomball experience.

God forbid I ever take anything at face value, even/especially, something pleasurable, and I wonder if my recent escalated purchases of soft cotton clothing and kid-type shoes (Mary Janes, colored Converses) are not just a middle-age giving in to sloppiness...but maybe the choices also represent a longing for childhood? But if I'm going to stretch the idea that far, I would also have to think that Craig's recent purchase of an old-style coffee percolator was part of a craving for his childhood summers spent with Grandma. I ran the Grandma theory by Craig, and his reaction was, huh?, he just thought the percolator would make better coffee. I said, no, all the recent styles of coffee makers, the ones that drip instead of percolate, were invented to make better coffee...but that was just my guess, I don't even drink coffee myself. I could do Internet research on this but I kind of like having the question open...maybe modern coffee makers were invented for speed and convenience, and the Grandma way was best for coffee after all. Craig likes how the percolator sounds and looks, and he likes the way its coffee tastes - he's happy with the percolator. (Yet another example of why my subconscious sought out Craig...he's such a great balance for my eternally questioning nature.)


No comments: