A Healthy Stepmother . . . Reshuffles and Advocates

It seems impossible that it was two months since I last wrote a blog post. But there it is, the last post on March 11 and today is May 8.

My father had a stroke in late February and life has been a whirlwind since then. First, there was getting him admitted to a rehabilitation facility close to my home. Then, worrying aloud about his mental status long enough that the medical team took a closer look and decided he’d had another stroke, albeit a small one.

We took a long-planned Spring Break vacation and when we returned, I cried to see him take steps with his walker. Now, he’s regularly walking more than 150 feet in physical therapy. He has made fantastic changes in so many ways.

Then, the dreaded hunt for a place for my father to live brought me to my knees. The places we saw just weren’t a match and one day I was so frustrated, I cried aloud, “If it gets worse, I’ll just bring him home.” I wasn’t serious in the moment, but there was something very appealing about it. At home, I’d be able to rule out about 10 things that could possibly be contributing to his trouble sleeping through the night.

Long story short, we’re bringing him home. At least long enough to get him stabilized and build back his morale. He’s depressed and shutting down or acting like he doesn’t want to talk to anyone. I’m spending as much time as I can with him and it’s all wearing thin. It will be easier to have him here than to spend every night worrying that he might fall again in the night because he’s trying to escape a wet bed.

After endless conversations with the staff and apparently upsetting the night shift because I asked to visit with them in the wee hours of the morning to get a better sense of what was going on. The staff decided I didn’t think they were doing a good job. Sigh . . . really?

My coping strategies have largely consisted of a mantra to feel what I feel in the moment and work it through and then move to the next thing. Thus, I have tolerated all the uncertainty fairly well but once a week I’ve had a good cry. Today, my tears flowed down my cheeks as I drove home blinking so I could drive safely. When the tears subsided, I realized this frustration felt so familiar.

It’s like being a stepmother.

The staff at the rehab facility have the power, I’m not a staff person. I’m not allowed to stay overnight because he shares a room and it’s not a hospital. The head nurse writes orders and the night shift does what they want and when they want to.

It’s honestly like being in the role of stepmother. I can see what would be best for my dad and my ideas are ignored because I’m not part of the system.

I’m not sure if this realization helps me or frustrates me more. I’ve learned a lot about letting go of expectations in the process of being a stepmother. Maybe that learning can help me as a daughter to my dad who is struggles and needs help.

Sadly, both my stepmother life and my dad’s future health feel somewhat like a complex game in which there are so many layers it takes years to learn how to play. My dad doesn’t have years to learn to play, so I’m not waiting around. I’ve definitely learned to let it be okay if others have an opinion about me during my time as a stepmother, so I can handle the scrutiny of nurses and medical professions.

After all, in this situation I’m the daughter. I look forward to bringing him home to rest, good food, exercise in beautiful surroundings, and a community waiting to cheer him on.

The countdown begins and I’m so glad to back to my stepmother blogging.

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9 thoughts on “A Healthy Stepmother . . . Reshuffles and Advocates

  1. Hi Kim (and everyone) What a remarkable past few months….I love how you weaved 2 seemingly parallel challenges together. Coincidentally, I’ve found the years of stepmothering have changed my views and perspective enough to shape my interactions with my family (of origin) in a way that seems better for most (some of the “calamity” non-involvement though seems to have hurt others, including my mother). Interesting to view from another perspective. Wish we could all go a for a beer together after the day ends today….

    • Shelley, I’ve had that same experience. When I mentioned that I’d learned that I couldn’t save everyone and so had decided to give up my great healer status in the family, my brother said, “Isn’t that kind of harsh.” Haha, I laugh thinking of it. I thought, and still do, “No, it seems healthy, it’s not my job to fix everything for everyone.” Thanks for the comment. I’m back to the stepmother business, but it seemed odd to not mention why I was gone. And, ultimately, everything is about everything else. My next post is about value, the value of a human.

    • Thank you, Jill. I’m glad I’m back too. Had the very greatest conversation with my dad after days of worrying. He has benefited from the visits my husband and I have made in the evening this week, I’m pretty certain he had lost his frame of reference to his life with hours and hours of low stimulation and no one around who knows him (except me). Anyway, I remain hopeful and eager to bring him home.

  2. Love the direct clarity of this post, Kim. It’s amazing how often the experience of being a stepmom resonates with other emotionally important challenges. There are many similar layers to look at. I think allowing ourselves to feel what we already feel is a daily practice. Thanks for being such a validating voice for all who are on that journey with you. Best of everything to you, your dad and the rest of your family.

  3. It is good to hear from you and to read one of your honest post. What a rough couple of months for you. No doubt once you have survived being a step-mother then you are stronger. I have learned being stronger does not equal feeling less pain or discomfort about situations out of your control but it does give you the inspiration to carry on with what you can accomplish. I think you are right on about scrutiny from anybody about your dad’s well-being will be easy compared to all the harshness of being a step-mother. My hope is moving him home with you will be a huge improvement for him and for you.

    • Hi Cool Aunt,
      Just wanted to get back to you and say YES, it’s all been a huge improvement for my dad. And, I’m learning and resolving so many family issues that go back in time to the beginning of this family….generations. I wonder why we resist this so much. By that I mean why we are so conditioned to think putting our parents into a home besides our own is the solution. There is a gold mine of personal growth and peace of mind to be sifted through, if only we want to allow in new information. Anyway, thanks again for your support!

  4. KIM! It just occurred to me to check in to your blog and now I have all these posts to catch up on! Of course, we have been in contact in another manner but it’s not the same. I am so happy to see you back here and I’m sure, as usual, will comment on most every post.

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