I suppose I've had worse weeks--the time my mom was hospitalized after nearly being run over by her own car, and two days later my husband was admitted to the floor below after being diagnosed with congestive heart failure; the time my mom broke her neck and left the hospital for rehab five minutes after my father was admitted for a nasty intestinal infection. Those were bad times, to be sure. But this past week has run me ragged and brought to a head a major stress in my marriage.
About three weeks ago my mom was admitted after complaining of chest pain and shortness of breath. I was visiting my sister about three hours away, so my husband, L., stayed nearly all night with her in the ER and was sitting with her when I arrived the next day around noon. She has atrial fibrillation and congestive heart failure, with a heart rate of 140 beats per minute and an ejection fraction (the percentage of blood the heart pumps out with each squeeze, which is normally 60) of 15. When L. first was diagnosed, his fraction was 20%, and they were talking transplant. (Medication has greatly improved his condition.) For nine days they worked to get her medication straight, and then sent her home two Thursdays ago, back to the memory unit at the assisted living facility. She was doing well.
The facility where my parents live has a policy to send residents to the hospital if they fall, even if they say they are fine. On Tuesday my dad fell. He was in no pain, so after checking him out, the ER staff sent him home about the time I arrived. On Thursday my mom fell. She was not hurt either, but her heart was racing; she stayed about four hours while they gave her something to slow her heart, and then she was sent home.
On Saturday Mom returned to the ER with a heart rate back up to 137 and shortness of breath. She had run out into the hallway calling for help with her lips and around her mouth a really scary blue. (Long story short--the hospitalist sent her home with a different cardiac drug than the cardiologist had used in the hospital and prescribed for her to take at home. I am furious, but we are getting things straight now.) After about five hours they moved her to a room, and I got home at 9:30. I was so tired and was so enjoying my glass of shiraz, Wal-Mart supreme pizza, and that son-of-The-Fly gross-out movie when at 10:30 the phone rang. My father had fallen, was again saying he was not hurt, and was headed to the ER. I just cried.
God bless those ER folks. I called and was able to get the word on my father through a few phone calls back and forth. Because he had hit his head (how 'bout that alliteration?), he was given a CT scan and, when it came back normal, was sent home at 2 a.m. I did not have to go in.
Here's the part I don't understand, and I'm honestly think I'm trying to but I just don't get it. My husband tells me all the time that I don't pay attention to him, that everyone always comes before him in my life. He has his own business and the past two years have been extremely slow, so he's home alone most of the time, and I know he's lonely. I have tried to get him to volunteer at the hospital or a museum or somewhere, but he thinks his one hour a week teaching an adult to read (noble, yes) when the guy can make it is enough. I tell him he needs to get busy doing something, and I try to do nice things for him like scratching his legs or his head because I know he loves that. Still, I'm not paying attention to him. When they called about my dad on Saturday, he actually complained that I had not spend any time with him that day, though we had been together up until about 4 p.m. I know he is frustrated but I don't know how to pay attention to him and he won't tell me either.
Actually, HERE's the part I don't understand: L. tells me that when I decided to keep my parents here instead of send them up to a place near my sister, I was basically choosing my parents over him. His therapist says that's true and he just has to deal with it. This past year especially has been difficult at best--between my job (which I really slacked off on to the detriment of my students) and my parents, I am uber-busy, but I'm home every night and I try to be pleasant. Is it so wrong to take a nap or a bath or a poetry workshop? He says I don't understand how all this stuff with my parents has affected HIS life, that it's always all about me. I've tried to consider this point of view, but I can't get a handle on it. To my way of thinking, it's an honor to be able to serve my parents in this way. They were the best parents I have ever heard of. I'm not asking L. to do much, just to be considerate of the demands on me. In fact, if our positions were reversed, (and I am being honest with myself about this) I would be bending over backwards to help him and his family because THAT'S JUST WHAT YOU DO.
Am I being selfish and all about my own concerns? Can someone help me understand where he is coming from?