To give vent now and then to his feelings, whether of pleasure or discontent, is a great ease to a man’s heart. ~Francesco Guicciardini
Last Tuesday as I sat around the dinner table with my husband and boys, I couldn’t help but smile, I had had a productive day. I finished my writing early in the morning and then finally completed the rest of the document scanning and shredding project I had been putting off. I made it on time to my older son’s ARFID appointment at Stanford and we got home early enough for me to make my younger son’s favorite dinner. It was so nice to sit around the table, eating dinner as a family without feeling rushed, and enjoying hearing about their day at school.
The following day, I had an equally productive day: a Zoom call with a vlogger followed by a solid three hours of uninterrupted time to focus on writing, handling our household bookkeeping, and scheduling dental and doctor appointments. I wore the look of accomplishment and success of my productivity on my face as I sat down to another meal I cooked for my family.
Thursday was more productive than the previous two days: I had a meeting in the morning with a colleague, followed by another stretch of a good three hours of uninterrupted time at home. I was able to complete the remainder of the tasks I had written down and circled with my blue Flair pen on my Brain Dump list. Once again, I felt energized as I served dinner to my family.
As my husband and I relaxed on the sofa after dinner, I couldn’t get over how much I had accomplished over the past three days and how great I felt.
“I can’t remember the last time I’ve been this productive,” I said to him.
He glanced at me, a questioning look on his face.
The words “I think I’ve been so productive because my Dad has been out of town” came tumbling out of my mouth.
I sat there for a second. What did I just say?
“I love my Dad, but with him away on his fishing trip to Cuba, it’s been nice having a break from daily visits to the house and all the phone calls,” I explained to my husband.
“How many times a day do you talk to your Dad?” my husband asked
“I don’t know, it varies. Sometimes once, but usually two or three,” I told him.
I had never thought about it but each time I talk to my Dad, the conversation would be a minimum of ten minutes as usually resulted in some kind of action on my part: canceling his credit card after he lost it for the third time or I’d have to run down to the house to re-program his TV. Each call meant something would, invariably, land on my To Do list.
On a regular basis, I get phone calls “Karen, I got a letter/bill I don’t understand” or “Karen, the bank said I owe them money – will you come down and look at this letter?” My Dad leads me to believe it’s urgent and wants me to come down and take care of it right away. I hang up the phone and drive the mile to his house. Usually, it is a bill that has already been paid or junk mail; the “issue” is resolved in a few minutes. I never resolve the issue and run out, instead, I stay with my Dad and hang out to talk with him.
I sucked in my breath: my week had been productive because my Dad had been away on a 10-day fishing trip to Cuba with his friends.
I felt horrible for having those thoughts.
My week was productive because I had not been running back and forth from our house to his house or taking care of things for him at the drop of a hat but that was only part of it. The truth was, I was able to take a break from the difficult, emotional part: Seeing him slow down. Witnessing the change in his ability to remember things. Knowing that he is lonely without my Mom. All reminders that as each day passes, he depends on me more.
I can see how much the impact of my Mom’s passing and my Dad’s aging has affected me over the last few years. I have been so focused on tending to my Dad that I hadn’t allowed myself a break. There was no reason for me to feel bad.
My Dad arrived home from Cuba last night and I’ve already talked to him twice today.
Personal productivity will take a back seat; I am recharged, ready to get back to caring for my Dad, and grateful to have the same positive impact on his life as he’s had on mine.