“Is James Seletyn or Rebecca Seletyn available today?”
((heavy sigh)) “No, I wish. My Mom passed January of 2010. My Dad has been placed in a nursing home and will never be able to pay the bill you are calling about. Please remove this telephone number from your register as only a caretaker for the house will be here and he is not able to answer any of your questions. I have turned in my Mom’s death certificate this week to the bank. It is on record now if you look.”
((infused sad politeness)) “Ok, I will get that note in here. Thank you. Are you their daughter?”
So begins my Saturday of cleaning out my Dad’s house, packing up the savable, shuffling around the discardables and answering the onslaught of debtor calls.
I clean, pack, throw away – all without knowing which things held relevant meaning to my Dad. This rock, sitting here on the desk, did it have meaning? The partial newspaper that is housed between two books, I read the pages but nothing clicks. I despise this, the dismantling of my Dad’s life at my own hands. I know it is a necessity but that realization does nothing to quell the unease for the task at hand. My inner teenager keeps reminding me that this shit sucks.
Earlier in the week, there was a caregivers meeting where I met with his “team” and then had a one-on-one with his doctor. They have all been such wonderful people. I am glad that we were able to get him into Overbrook. It is a difference like day vs. night in the quality of care he receives. I especially like Dr Simpson. I keep thinking it is like a “Tale of Two Doctors”. You see, while Dad was housed at Huntington Health and Rehab, he started a very unsettling trend of weeping. I say weeping, not crying, because he would tear up and suddenly be racked with sobs. It disturbed me in ways I cannot begin to describe. When I was unable to get a meeting with Dr McCormick (not an uncommon thing), I “bum rushed” him at the nurse’s station to ask him about Dad and if there was anything we could do. I noted that Dad kept weeping. His response, “Jesus wept.” ((stunned silence)). The complete lack of decorum displayed by that doctor was the driving force behind my finding Overbrook and getting Dad to a better facility. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. Dad is doing much better now. Will he return to his faculties and have complete coherency? No. But his quality of life has drastically improved since the move. That is where Dr Simpson comes in… His blood sugar is now regulated and within a normal range (sometimes it is low, but not too often). And in my one-on-one meeting, I had one question that plagued me. I explained how I likened what I was going through to Survivor’s Guilt. Here I am, healthy and ok, dismantling my Dad’s life and trying to sell off his home. And, all the while, I had am plagued with the worry that “what if” he “comes to” and is once again ok and hates me for leaving him in such a spot? Dr Simpson explained that although Dad might improve tremendously, he will more than likely never get to a place where he could live on his own.
By the time we were discussing this, we were walking down the hallway. He put his arm around me and said, “Michelle, I give you the day off from worrying. I learned two words early on in my career: concern and worry. Concern is ok because it makes you take care of things that are necessary. Worry, on the other hand, just keeps you up and night and is nonsense. So, I want you to quit worrying so much and start thinking more of yourself. You worry about everyone and not about yourself.” He gave me a squeeze and walked back to his desk and went about his routine. Although I know that Dad’s move to Overbrook was (more than) the right choice, it was that moment that completely sealed the deal.
And, even though I knew he was in very capable hands, at 3PM on Saturday, when Overbrook’s name popped up on my iPhone to announce the person trying to call – my heart picked up speed and a dull panic set in. It was Dad. I had hoped my uncle could have visited him on the day I could not be there but he was unable to.
“Chelle, where are you. I haven’t seen you in forever?”
“Dad, remember we talked about this yesterday. I am in Fayette County checking on your house, cleaning up a little, making sure Max is ok.”
“Oh, yeah yeah yeah. I was just missing you and didn’t know why you had not come today. Take your time. Take care of everything. I want to come home soon and you can make sure everything is ok there for me.”
My stomach sinks a little bit at this conversation. The house is not on the market (yet). So I am not a liar when I tell him that his home is still there, his dog is still there and Alex is looking out for both. I do not tell him how Medicaid insists on our selling his property. I do not tell him that I am dismantling his life. I try to remember the difference between worry and concern. And, like always, worry wins out.
Some things I learned while combing through my Dad’s artifacts: He once worked for a baker, making $1.10 per hour (I found out today that he was in the process line and put dough into pans). He owned a machine company that build a pizza cutter (which he and his partners never patented and therefore never received credit). And he collected memories, much like I do – in the forms of pictures, postcards, old greeting cards (both made by Hallmark and by us kids), newspaper headlines, etc. I have included a few of those treasures I unearthed while sorting through the basement.
I made a dent in the work on the house. There are just so many details to attend to and only one me. It will take a while, but I will make my way through it all…