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The Nearest Doorknob
By Jane Hoppe


(Page 2 of 2)

Last but not least, I fish the hospital’s Visitor Guide from my tote bag. Wait, two Visitor Guides, one leftover from Mom’s hospital stay last month for a different issue. (Sigh.) These definitely go in the wastebasket; with all the eldercare health scares of recent years, I’ve memorized that hospital’s map and cafeteria hours.

After an intense event such as hospitalization, the processes of re-entry into normal life and assimilation of new information and new circumstances remind me of corporate experiences like coming back from a marketing conference with 3-inch 3-ring binders heavy with workshop notes or like leaving a management meeting with new directives. You have to figure out changes, new routines, new approaches, and often you don’t have energy left for such thought. For me, eldercare has been like a side job whose hours increase as my parents hobble toward their mid-90s. Those of you whose parents live with you have a full-time job (perhaps in addition to a paying full-time job). Whether part- or full-time, the job entails figuring out what to do with the stuff hanging on the nearest doorknob.

I haven’t even talked about emotional stresses hanging on my heart’s doorknob after last Wednesday and Thursday. Just a few examples...

  • Seeing my mother’s cheek muscles pulse and eyes tear when her internist told her he wouldn’t clear her for the knee replacement she had so hoped for

  • And Thursday morning before the angiogram, seeing her clutch her forehead due to severe pain caused by a medication

  • Hearing my normally unbelievably courageous mother wonder aloud why she couldn’t just fall asleep and not wake up

  • Sobbing with my mother Wednesday night over Alzheimer’s robbing her of having her husband at her side in her times of need over the past nine years; instead her needs have had to take a backseat so she could be at his side for all his dementia-induced crises  

  • Choking on the thought that perhaps the most loving thing to say to Dad now might be, “We’ll take care of Mom,” and to Mom, “We’ll take care of Dad” to free them from holding on. Yet their very holding on is such a transcendent testimony to love. Are we even ready to take full responsibility for one of them without the other? Only by God’s grace will we be ready for the inevitable.

Amid disappointment, helplessness, and grief last week were also moments of joy and laughter. My one local sister’s presence Thursday was an absolute godsend. Strong emotions linger, but without my sister to share the load and encouragement and the prayers of friends, my doorknobs would still be burdened with last week’s detritus.

Jane Hoppe is a seasoned freelance writer and editor who has also authored one work of women’s fiction, Beyond Betrayal. She is blessed to be able to come alongside both her elderly parents in this season of long good-byes. Hoppe’s mother, 93, lives in a retirement community, and her father, 92, lives in an Alzheimer’s wing of the nursing home on the same campus.



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