Just another morning

[Thursday Aug. 11]   Today, Dad would have been 96 years old. I begged him to help me get through the day.

It’s been a week since the tree fell on our house, and six days since Tom got out of rehab. The days are too long, and not long enough.

I usually wake up at 3 and have to take a sleeping pill if I want to get any more sleep. This morning I got up at 5:30. At least I’d have time to get some things done before Tom wakes up.

I sort through and answer or deal with the emails, voice mails, postal mail, Facebook messages and text messages that have piled high and deep like a city landfill. How much I would love to be able to call Dad and wish him Happy Birthday.

But I have Tom, and he has me. Since his stroke, I am the communications manager: Tom’s boss and coworkers, Tom’s disability claim, Tom’s insurance case manager, Tom’s doctor appointments with specialists and therapists, Tom’s medical forms, Tom’s bills, Tom’s mail, Tom’s prescriptions…. 

Where is that notarized form to mail in for the handicapped license plates? We can’t park in the handicapped spaces until we get those. And it’s in the 90s every day, and I have to lift the wheelchair in and out of the car even before wheeling him across the asphalt to a ramp or walkway.

So many friends have emailed and messaged, wanting to help, share a laugh, or ask how Tom is doing. They have been wonderful but I rarely have time to answer or thank them. When I didn’t answer some of them stopped writing.

I got through about half of the replies that I needed to this morning and pray that the others will understand.

Oh shoot, I have to get something out of the freezer for dinner. What can I make that would be low-carb, no saturated fat or cholesterol, that still tastes good and doesn’t take an hour of prep to make? Because we need to go to the outdoor pool between – let me check the weather – 4 and 6 pm, when the percent chance of rain is lowest. Damn it. Fish? Are those beans still good? Do we have enough salad dressing?

I have GOT to update the list of potential houses to rent. Another workload on top of a blessing: Our insurance covers “loss of use” of this house, our primary residence and site of my home office. So we can afford to rent a house in our mountain community, a quiet green respite for Tom to recuperate and for me to carry on with some semblance of a life.

The calls with the insurance adjuster have been helpful and efficient. I called the local home rental agents, but they didn’t have much for long-term rentals – our community is a resort, and so the demand is mostly for weekenders and vacation rentals. 

I put the word out via email and Facebook. There are so many houses for sale that haven’t sold, or people who live in another state and only come here a couple times a year. Couldn’t we rent one of those?

I’ve gotten more than a dozen responses. So with each one there’s a series of back-and-forth to get photos and info on the size, location, rooms, accessibility for wheelchair and walker, utilities, and price. I created a document to keep track of these details, these collections of random information that I must somehow make sense of, filter, sort and prioritize so that we can look at them this weekend.

Oh hell, this weekend – we need to rent someplace for the weekend and we haven’t reserved it. Outrageous how much you have to pay even for a very basic place. What can I do? Maybe one of the house owners would rent to us for the weekend… start drafting emails.

The first phone call comes in shortly after 8 a.m. from one of the potential rental house owners. I ignore it.

Because I have email from Pakistan this morning that needs to be addressed immediately. The grants committee likes our two proposals, but they have questions. A lot of questions. Some of which were answered in the proposal. And all of which have to be answered by Tuesday. In three business days. 

Oh, and they also want a revised proposal that combines the two proposals. In three business days.

All of my team members who would normally help me out with this urgent task are preoccupied with funerals, travel, other work. 

Oh wait, Tom is up. Did he take his thyroid pill? Has it been half an hour? Then I can make his coffee. Better take his blood sugar reading now, too.

Why haven’t I heard back from those people who are supposed to pick up the textiles from the house? The carpets, clothes and shoes that have to be cleaned when the tree punched holes in the roof and the closet collapsed? Stephie seemed so efficient in our first call, but now she hasn’t responded to an email and two phone calls.

The front gate security calls. Southeast Restoration is there and needs to get in, but they’re not on my guest list for today. What? Can I talk to the driver? He says, “We do tarp today, on house. OK?”

There’s already a tarp on the house. What happened? “OK,” I say. I clear them with the guard and hope they’re legit.

I make Tom’s coffee and load up his breakfast round of pills. “What do you want for breakfast?” I ask him. Gee, maybe I should eat breakfast, too. Load the dishwasher while cooking eggs. Try not to burn the English muffins.

I really need a shower and my hair is dirty enough to grow potatoes in. 

No time for a shower, I have to answer messages from the owners of potential rentals. Which neighborhood is that street? What time can we see the house? How many steps are there to the front door?

We eat breakfast. I keep messaging my colleague in Pakistan but he’s still at the funeral of a friend. I clear the table and rush to my call with another teammate. We walk through the grant committee’s questions and I start to dole out the work in one-hour increments so that he can do some of it in his scant free time. 

I answer the grants email as diplomatically as I can manage. More emails, with colleague Michelle in Copenhagen. She’s squeezing this in between all her work there. If it weren’t for my teammates, I would have left this crazy business five years ago.

Tom says he is going to take a shower. He’s safe to do that independently now that we got a shower bench – I assembled it myself, so I feel fairly confident about its sturdiness. 

My sister Ann emails. Our cousin Steve turns 70 on August 15, which is Monday. She includes his address to mail him a card. I laugh out loud at the idea of having enough time to go out and buy a birthday card, address an envelope, find a stamp, and mail it. 

Then I think about how great it was to see all my Tyler cousins. Steve is Bette’s son, and he has mercilessly teased his siblings and cousins his entire life. He used to call me “Skunk” because I had a blonde streak in my hair. It hurt my feelings but I had to try not to show it, because it makes mean boys happy to see that they have upset you. 

At the reunion last month, though, Steve was really sweet. Most of the time. And he did this lovely ceremony for us to say goodbye to our two cousins who have died.

I go into Tom’s office, get a piece of printer paper, and make a card for Steve. The marker bleeds through and screws it up. I start over. I try to be funny but not mean. I find an envelope and a stamp, and print Steve’s address. 

Guess I should get dressed before I walk it out to the mailbox.

The phone rings. I answer. Robo call. “Up yours!” I scream.

I review the schedule for this afternoon with Tom: It’s his out-patient therapy assessment, we have to get there at 12:30 for registration. I have to figure out parking and we have to allow time for the wheelchair, finding the office, etc. So we need to eat lunch early and be ready to leave by noon. He’s on board with this schedule, and thank God he can dress and shave himself now.

The phone rings again. When I answer, my tone is ice. But it’s the textiles lady Stephie. “Oh, we’re all set, I’m so sorry I didn’t let you know!” 

I call Bruce, who’s managing the pack-out of the house. The damage from the tree falling is so severe that the entire contents of the house will be packed up and put into storage during the restoration. I have to be there for the first day of pack-out to manage it.

Leave Bruce a message. “Looks like we can go ahead with the pack-out starting Monday,” I tell him. 

Incoming call while I’m leaving the message. I listen to the voicemail later. It’s Barbara, the health insurance case manager. She hasn’t been able to reach Tom. Well, that’s because he doesn’t answer his personal phone. He gets too many calls from recruiters. Data scientists are really in demand. Maybe I can call her while he’s in physical therapy.

Another call while I’m listening to the message from Barbara. It’s another robo call but this is from the endocrinologist’s office, reminding me of Tom’s appointment tomorrow. I have to check to be sure I know where his office is and where to park.

Damn, I have to fill out those medical forms. Nine pages of them. And I still haven’t finished the ones for physical therapy – gotta do that NOW.

Bruce texts me. We’re on for Monday. “Great, see you then!” I reply.

Another call from the house insurance adjustor. This time it’s Cece. She handles the claims for house contents. I ask her about what to itemize here and walk through a few items with her and she tells me I can file the list online.

Great. Where, how? Put that on my to-do list for next week. Remember to take photos Monday during the pack-out.

Another call from a rental owner. Six emails and two Facebook messages have landed in the meantime. 

I’ve also had two exchanges with the grants officer in Pakistan, in between, and explained to Tom what’s going on with that, and listened to his advice. 

Bruce calls. “Did you get my text? Are we on for Monday?”

I guess my hair can be dirty another day. 

It’s time to make lunch.

Today’s penny is a 2007, the year that the iPhone was invented. Ninety percent of my morning tasks have been done using my phone.

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