This post is part of a series about my experience leaving my life behind to care for my grandparents for a week. You can read the first post here.
I woke this morning still tired. Exhausted really. (Funny, that’s how I woke up yesterday, too.) I woke up about every 35 minutes making sure I hadn't missed my alarm or a call from the hospital. I knew today would be a busy day as Grandpa started his next round of chemotherapy and Grandma had her own appointment with a doctor. Anticipation and nervousness never let me fully fall asleep.
As I made my way outside with my coffee to water all the plants, I vowed to make today a happy day. No matter what, today was to be a happy day. Regardless of any news delivered, any cranky moods, I would be happy. Even if I had to fake it, I would be happy.
I finished my watering and sat in my favorite spot. I wondered how my husband and children were faring, and wondered if they missed me as much as I missed them. As sadness crept in, I reminded myself of my happiness promise. I thought how thankful I was to have a beautiful place to enjoy my coffee in the quiet early morning.
When we arrived at the hospital that morning, it seemed grandpa had made his own happiness promise that morning. He ate his breakfast with a smile (knowing it would likely be the last meal he could really enjoy for the next couple of days) and pointed to the whiteboard on the wall. Next to “Name:” he had asked the nurses to write “Your Majesty”.
Later that day, my aunt joined us at Grandma’s doctor appointment. This is where my happiness promise would be challenged. The news wasn't good, and it wasn't expected. In a blink of an eye, we went from one patient to two, and my fake smile grew narrower as it quivered. I made a list of the new doctors we would need to acquire as well as the doctor’s recommended plan of treatment. But all of that was shaded with wonderment on how my grandmother had perfected her apparent happiness promise. She was seemingly unfazed by all of this.
Grandma and my aunt headed back across the parking lot to the hospital. I told them I would meet them there in a little while. I needed some time to recharge my batteries and regain my strength to fake a smile and hold back tears.
I sat on a large rock in the landscaping and wondered how many others had sat here doing the very same thing. The sun and heat felt good as they melted away all the worries. I allowed my mind to drift and think about my children and husband again, but not to miss them, to remember how lucky I am to have a family that is strong enough to shove me out of the house to do this for a week without flinching. I thought about my friends and a few events we had planned the next month. Before I knew it, 30 minutes had passed.
I picked myself up and walked back towards that hospital. The sun and little break had recharged me. I wondered how many caregivers would consider 30 minutes like that to be a luxury. There are caregivers who have given hour after hour, day after day, and year after year to their loved ones. Thirty minutes of alone time should not be a luxury to anyone. It is a requirement.
But here was no time to get all philosophical, the elevator doors had opened, and it was time to put that smile back on my face. And then I yawned. Who knew that smiling in the face of fear could be so exhausting?
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