Category Archives: fatigue

Mom’s new watch

Maybe it’s having come back from five months in New York, a time that gave me an extended break from caring for my mother, that has her so much on my mind.

I’d been back for a short visit in late March, and taken her for a checkup with her neurologist–about an hour drive each way to Indianapolis and back from the facility in Lafayette.  When I got back to New York, one night I cried and cried.  Felt like I’d abandoned her.  Felt like a failure that I couldn’t fix things or make her happy.

When any of us (me, one of my kids, my ex-wife) visit, Mom talks almost obsessively about wanting to move in with, or near, one of us. “I want to be with the family.  I want to be with the Edbergs.”

Well, who wouldn’t rather live with family than in an assisted living facility?  (OK, I know most college-aged people are happy to be living in the assisted-living facilities that are college residences and dining halls, rather than with their parents. But at a certain point you’d rather live with family than alone.)

“We don’t live together, Mom,” I explain.  “Allison lives in once city, I live over an hour away, Pete is moving to China, and Kullan lives in New York.  When there are a bunch of us together, like today, it’s a special occasion.”

She doesn’t understand.  We try different things.  Deflect and change the subject.  Lie and say we’re looking at places.  Say her piano won’t fit in any of our houses (true).  What we don’t do is say is, “Mom, you have Alzheimer’s Disease and can’t take of yourself and you can’t live with us.”  If she had a broken leg, she’d understand.  Telling her her memory doesn’t work and she might wander off and we can’t afford to have someone be with her all day and any of us would go crazy ourselves living with her . . . I can’t do that, and she wouldn’t believe it anyway.

We went to dinner Saturday night, then to Wal-Mart to get her a few things.  The young women at the jewelery counter couldn’t get the back of Mom’s Timex off to change the battery, so we bought a new watch.  Six or seven minutes later, in the car, I asked her about the watch.  “It’s lovely,” she said.  “It’s seven-twoey,” she announced.  The little hand on the seven, the big hand on the two–what the rest of us would call 7:10 or ten after seven.

“How long have you had that watch?” I asked her.

I don’t like testing her, playing with her, but I was really curious.  She’d been so proud of the watch now in my pocket, to take to a jeweler to fix.  And then quite excited about this new one that she picked out.

“Oh,” she replied without having to think about it, “since I was about twelve.  I’ve had it my whole life!”

Inside, part of me wants to scream.  “MOM, WE JUST BOUGHT THAT FUCKING WATCH FIVE MINUTES AGO!”

Laugh? Cry? I just smiled and said, “Oh, I didn’t know that.”

It’s hard, but I’m used to it now, and pretty accepting.  Something inside me feels like it dies a little, when these things happen, but it doesn’t hurt so much I can’t be around it.

I love her.  I like being with her.

And then, “When do you think I can move near Allison?  I just need my clothes, my piano, and my music and I’m all ready to go!”

“Well, Mom, your piano won’t fit in Allison’s house.”

“Well, then just a little place near her.”

“Well, there aren’t any places for sale near Allison.  But we’ll keep looking.”

“I want to live with all the Edbergs!”

“I understand Mom, but we don’t live together. I live in another city. Not near Allison. Over an hour away.  And Pete’s moving to China. . . .”

And we go around in that circle every five minutes, sometimes more often.

I went to hear a late show at a bar that night, and stayed over at Allison and her boyfriend’s house.

The next morning, I wanted to go visit Mom again. But I just couldn’t take another session of dealing with her incessant pleas to move. So I went home.  And got nothing done.

I want to spend time with her, and I don’t.  I can only last so long, go only so often.  I go as often as I can take it.  Does something shut down in me when I don’t? Does something shut down in me when I do?

So I’m writing about it.  I’m seeing a therapist.  I’ll find a support group.

I used to look forward to being an adult.  To not having my parents controlling me.

Ha!  The joke is on me.


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Filed under and everything, Dealing with dementia, family life, fatigue

This could be worse–I could be preparing an orchestra audition

Emily Wright, in the midst of describing her preparing-for-an-audition practice routine, suggests “don’t ever get old, kids,” and I must say I agree.  This shingles-recovery fatigue thing is a bitch.  In the last few days I’ve felt at times what it must be like to be old.  Almost no energy, finding it hard to move, wanting someone to wait on me (if only there were someone), alone, bored, worried.  Sunday night I had dinner at my mother’s (which I cooked) and after dinner I sat at the head of the table, where my dad used to sit, my back hurting (oh, yeah, I threw it out on Sunday), feeling totally out of energy, not quite able to move, while other people cleared dishes and whatnot.  This is how life must have felt for Dad most of the time, I thought.  Monday and Tuesday and even this morning I felt like I might not ever recover, and my imagination went crazy.

Meanwhile, Emily is preparing (very thoroughly, it seems from her post) for an orchestra audition.  She has my total sympathy.  I hated preparing for orchestra auditions back before Mr. Greenhouse steered me into college teaching, and once I got a college job that was the end of my attempts to enter the full-time orchestra world, which didn’t feel like a good fit anyway.  (Among other things, I love to talk and having a long-term gig where they pay you to talk about playing the cello is pretty sweet.  And, for some strange reason, conductors don’t like members of the orchestra to talk a lot.)

The only time I ever developed any physical problems before middle age was preparing for orchestra auditions.  I’d think I’d be doing everything right, taking breaks, etc., but I’d get a burning sensation in one of my trapezius muscles. Learning difficult orchestra parts in a short time, with the attendant I-need-to-get-a-job-because-I’m-a-broke-grad-student tension, was a killer.  Meanwhile I was teaching other people how to play with minimal tension!  Ah, life’s ironies.

Finally today I’m feeling better.  I managed to walk the two blocks to the DePauw School of Music office–after which I needed to sit down.  Then I went on to the Post Office, to Jerry’s Foreign Auto to pay Jerry for changing the oil in Mom’s car, then a few more blocks to 3-D Tire, where they’d put a new tire on my son’s car.

I drove home, rested for an hour, and then played the cello for 45 minutes or so.  It felt good.

Emily tells us that after a break (involving a tennis ball, a heating pad, and a limited amount of cookies), she “then come[s] back and run[s] the whole set, at tempo, for the love of the thing. Why else do we do this, right?”

For the love of it, of course. That’s what I did today but didn’t do back in my orchestra audition-prep youth.   As is often the case, Ms. Wright is, once again, right.

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Filed under auditions, Emily Wright, fatigue, practice techniques

Tired of and impatient with being tired.

I’m lying in bed.  I’d rather be walking, or swimming, or working out, or practicing, or cooking.  But I’m lying in bed, worn out from spending three hours (just three!) up today, during which time I made brunch, answered some email, and put some clothes in the dryer.  Then I went back to bed.  This is frustrating.

Two weeks ago tomorrow, I was diagnosed with shingles (the nasty adult version of chicken pox), on my face, with some of the blisters on my eye lid.  My left eye was red, meaning I had conjunctivitis, and so I had to see an opthamologist ASAP in case the virus had attacked my eye (luckily, it hadn’t).  It was caught soon, and I was prescribed Valtrexx, and anti-viral medication, and that evidently lessened the severity of what could have been a much worse situation.  My skin is 90% or more cleared up.

But I’m more tired than I was.  No fair!  As a matter of fact, the tiredness seems to be getting worse even as my face gets better.

What gives?

Evidently postviral fatigue.  [Expletive deleted.]

The symptoms became acute when I was 800 miles from home, having driven 750 in one day.  I prepared and performed in a collaborative, multi-disciplinary performance, the rehearsal process for which filled with a lot of healthy, honest, but stressful creative tension.  After the concert, I drove 105 minutes to where my daughter was staying and the next day drove her two hours into Manhattan to move into her NYU dorm.  A day of rest, then two days driving back to Indiana.  The day after I got back, I drove my mother to Carmel (IN) for a neurologist appointment, and the next two days an hour to Bloomington to sit on lessons given by Janos Starker at IU.  Tremendously stimulating!

Evidently I pushed myself too hard.  I’ve just gotten more tired over the weekend.

The Internet is great–I’ve found out so much about shingles, and fatigue.  Feel less alone.  And a bit dismayed that this may take longer to get over than I’d assumed.  That at only 52 I probably was susceptible to shingles because my immune system was worn out to begin with.  Now my body is insisting I relax–when I want to be super busy.  There’s some wonderful lesson about non-attachment here somewhere.

Well, back to the doctors.  And to find a holistic healer, which is what I sense I need just as much.


Filed under fatigue, health, shingles