That little pat on the back that I was giving myself was premature. Way premature.
I had gone to the gym this morning to work out. I love working out. Love it, love it, love it. I wish I could get there every day.
For me, exercise is such a key part of my well-being. I feel more optimistic after I exercise. Big ideas come to me while I exercise. My body craves healthy food on the days I exercise. It’s an all-around win-win-win.
So this morning I exercised.
In the course of elevating my heart rate, oscillating ropes, swinging the kettlebell, and dripping with sweat, I started thinking about caregiving and how far I’ve come on this journey. I used to get so frustrated with my mother — but she had a bitter sharpness that my father doesn’t have. She would harp at me, insisting on something that wasn’t, or lash out at one of my children for something they didn’t do. She could be a challenge.
My father, on the other hand, laughs at the darnedest things. He’s happy and content. He works on his puzzles, reads his books, and listens to his music. People stop to visit him. He gets a bowl of vanilla ice cream every day. He watches the Red Sox play nearly every night. It’s a good life, I think.
So I was working out and thinking about all this. I was thinking, I’ve got a good handle on this caregiving thing. I think I’m doing all right.
I patted myself on the back and began mentally writing a blog post of encouragement for other caregivers. I wanted to tell them that they’ll have good days, maybe even a bunch of them in a row.
When I got to the house, Dad was coming out the door with the dandelion-stabbing tool (surely, there’s a better name for it) because he wanted to start getting after the dandelions. I asked him to stay on level ground and checked to make sure he was wearing his LifeLine in case he fell.
As I headed inside, almost as an after-thought, he said, “It was the strangest thing, but I found all this money today. I left it on the table for you.”
“Where did you find it?” I asked.
“Here and there,” he said, waving vaguely with hands to indicate that it was in a variety of places like the dandelions in the yard.
Puzzled, I went to investigate.
My wallet was sitting out on the kitchen table. I looked inside and it was mostly empty. My heart sank.
I found all that money he had been talking about, stuffed like a bookmark into a book. It was a twenty and three fives — $35 that had been in my wallet.
I looked in the garbage and found gift cards, receipts, coupons, a note from Mary, and other papers that only an hour before had been in my wallet.
I grabbed the crumpled papers and marched out to my father who was still standing on the deck holding the dandelion-stabber and looking at the dandelions.
“Did you find the money?” he asked innocently.
I exploded. “That was the money in my wallet,” I said. “And these –” I held out the papers I had pulled from the garbage — “these are mine.”
“They aren’t anything important,” he said.
“Not to you, but to me they are,” I said, far more loudly than I should.
And the argument went on far longer than it should have.
I knew in my head that he couldn’t understand, but I was frustrated.
Gone were back-pats. Gone were my words of encouragement. Gone was any goodwill left over from my workout.
I went in the house and fixed my green smoothie. From inside the house, I watched as he sat in the grass and stabbed at dandelions. I stabbed at writing words of encouragement and this is what came out.
Fellow caregivers, some days are like that.
But it’s still all so good.
The sun is shining.
The dandelions are smiling (unaware of their fate).
The smoothie was delicious.
And I have $35 safe in my wallet — upstairs now.