Sisters at a distance

I got off the phone with my family a couple of hours ago. Lily is staying with my parents for the weekend. She was just getting over a seizure when I called – I guess she was taking a bath at the time, which I know from having seen this before involves my parents working really hard to get her out as quickly as possible, which is tough on all of them. As I talked at her, with her, and with my parents, she moved from being nonresponsive into being crabby before finally moving into something akin to mania (loud voice, very excited, tending towards pleasant tone of voice).

I was already upset because I hit a pretty nasty snag in my dissertation work this week; it was hard to talk about it with my parents, especially since I know they want to attend my defense, and the logistics are just not coming together. They sound…disappointed, and it’s hard to know whether that’s simply a reflection of my own emotion, or a true perception of their emotion. So now I feel incredibly frustrated: I’m facing my own challenges with work, trying to balance my own other needs with my family’s desires and needs (my parents will have to be sure Lily’s got staff for the time they’re visiting me), and all the while critically aware that there’s so much more going on with them that I can’t touch. (And because I can’t do anything about it, I shouldn’t worry – which is much harder for me than it should be.)

I alluded to some of this in my last entry; it can feel like there’s a huge cost to being away from my family. It manifests in the strained phone calls when something is wrong that I witness by audio alone. It manifests in phone calls that get cut short when something goes wrong. It really, really manifests when I visit, and I find that I no longer know the daily activity schedule or medicine dosage and timing. That makes the frustration when I’m away even worse, sometimes. It feels like I can’t keep up even when I’m trying. Sometimes I get really upset during my visits, especially if I’ve just tried to do something helpful, like empty the dishwasher – only to find that there’s a pan that needs to be put away, and I don’t know where it goes. That’s small an unimportant in the scheme of things, but it is such a strong reminder that I have separated myself from the rest of the family, and I’m not always comfortable with having made that choice.

I’m often scared that something will happen and I’ll need to fly back there and I won’t be able to take over because I don’t know the rhythms and patterns that make up their lives. The fact that my sister has staff now actually is a huge relief, because if nothing else, there’s an entire system of paperwork devoted to her daily life that I can draw upon if need be. (My last trip home was scheduled so that I’d have time to meet her staff and see her apartment.) It’s a small measure of comfort to know that my parents aren’t doing this alone anymore, but it still feels very strange to me to be both so intimately involved and so utterly excluded.

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