Sunday, February 7, 2010


Koda Kumi: Multi-tasking
Originally uploaded by

Today has been a day of multi-tasking. I suppose most of my days are filled with multi-tasking, but I usually expect that on a work day, not the weekend. I got to sleep in this morning, which was good since I was up until 3am last night. It was another one of those nights where sleep just does not interest me. It's not like I was doing anything worth staying up for, just staring at this computer.

I got up this morning, and immediately heard my boys being very loud. I wasn't sure if they were arguing, or playing. It turned out to the former of course. When I got to the kitchen it was a complete mess. It's funny, as while I was sleeping I was dreaming about making scrambled eggs for my son Remy. In my dream I kept trying to make them in new ways, and burning them each time. I remember thinking to myself, "why don't you just make them the way you usually do?" Anyway, when I got to the kitchen this morning I realized why I was dreaming this. My son had cooked scrambled eggs himself. There were a couple of big frying pans, with egg all over them. There were broken egg shells all over the counter tops, several plates that he had eaten off of, and sticky stuff everywhere. Looking across the room I could tell that Remy had not taken his ADHD medication, as he was flying around the room.

My daughter had obviously gotten out of bed a moment before me. I could hear her in the next room, yelling at her brothers, "who made the mess in the kitchen?" I helped Remy clean the kitchen, then tried to gather the troops for a family game plan. The older two wanted to get out of the house, yet Remy had lots of homework to get done. We decided that once Remy finished his work, we would go to a movie. This took patience on every one's part, as Remy's medication needed to take effect before we could make any progress. He's really quite a different animal with or without the medication. It's just how he is wired.

A little more house cleaning, showers, lunch, lots of arguing about what movie to see, and off to the theatre. After returning home it was time for cooking dinner and helping Remy with a school project. Foam board, cutting blade, hinges, and hot stick-glue. The design, an earthquake safe building.

What's my point here, where am I going with all this? I'm not quite sure. What I do know is that today my mind was sufficiently occupied. Having a day of multi-tasking allows me to get things done, and not fall too deep into despair. By the time Remy and I sat down for dinner, the other two had already eaten and had moved on. Remy asked me to sit near him while we ate. He looked across the table and said, "so, Dad, what's on your mind?" We both knew clearly what was on my mind, as he tends to be the more tuned in of the three. I responded with some kind of funny remark, as I didn't want to go there during dinner. Remy played along, but he knows that Michael occupies my thoughts all day, especially as night draws near.

The kids all seem to understand. If Dad suddenly gets quiet, or retreats to his room, he is having some Michael time. They usually check to see if I'm okay. My Michael time is either in reflection, or in tears. I've noticed that I am recently trying to keep my tears more private. I'm not sure what this means. Maybe it simply means that I have more control these days. I don't feel like I am a slave to my grief right now. As long as I recognize it each day, I can choose how and when I experience it. Having my evening rituals, such as the lighting of candles, or writing these posts, allows me to frame my emotions within comfortable boundaries.

Oh how I wish this wasn't my reality. It's such a tough reality. Last week another husband from my prior caregivers group died from his brain tumor. Today I learned that the adult son of another caregiver has entered the hospice stage. I know that death is part of life. I just never expected it to be such a major part of my life.

Time to get busy again. I don't want to feel those feelings right now. I'll save them for later tonight when I can fully indulge the pain. Let's see, there must be some laundry to do, bills to pay, kitchen to clean, school week to plan for...and off I go.


  1. Dan, I truly and sincerely wish there was a way that I could make you understand how very much I can "feel" you, and "hear" you across the geographical distance between us. Make you believe that you are well-understood, loud and clear, and that the good news is this: You're very normal.

    I hope that doesn't disappoint you, as some of us want these things to be abnormal, in the hopes we can "snap" ourselves back into normality.

    I think that what you're describing is deeper than the grief we all feel, but in our case as "Care-Givers" past or present, who still associate with other care-givers and their patients causes us to develop a build-up of sorts. It is commonly called grief "saturation".

    This term applies to those of us who, like sponges, soak up and become overfilled with not just our own grief, but death-and-dying issues in general, plus trying to take command, or "own" the feelings of too many others in our midst, all at once, such as those from the care-giver group and their charges getting sicker, becoming hospitalized as so forth.

    I first learned about this phenomenon back in the mid 1980s, in the midst of the so-called "second wave" of AIDS, when another more than dozen friends and acquaintances were sick, or had died.

    I sought therapy, but couldn't find anyone who could convince me they understood my pain, but one therapist told me I reminded him of a PTSD patient he once had. "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder", and that his patient had been a Vietnam veteran, who was "saturated" with the memories of the carnage of battle, but also was surrounded by his mutually surviving soldier buddies who were now his friends, saw more of the same each day when he went for his treatment(s) at--where else--the Veterans Administration Hospital, where even more surviving soldiers were always coming and going. Do you see the picture here? Saturation simply means we're full-up, and have a steady-diet of grief or other stresses.
    Health professionals deal with similar feelings, and most have mandatory therapy to vent the build-up of such feelings. It is my hope that pointing this out can allow you to just give yourself a break.
    Let the world try spinning on its own for one day without you holding it up for everyone else. Dan needs to focus on Dan, and just Dan for awhile.

    I really hope this "reaches" you. There's much more I would like to say to you, but I too am saturated, it's 3:30am my time, but I just wanted you to get this as soon as possible. You are heard, and known, and felt. Relax.
    Love, Bill

  2. i understand Bill's reference to PTSD and the saturation point. it's a good reference. i, too, hope you can find time for yourself. we all need a break from the troubles and sorrows we face. if you have the luxury of taking one, you should. luxuries like that are a blessing i'm sure.