Did you hear the one about…an unfinished joke

It’s been a few weeks. Shit happens and I’m in search of a punchline or at least a way to laugh off setbacks. First, someone on staff at V’s school got COVID and school was shut down for the week. Then we found out that someone at his Tuesday respite program is symptomatic – fortunately, although it hardly seemed so at the time, V had been up since 1 am that day and was in such a horrid state that we didn’t think it was right to send him in last week, so we were spared what would have been another setback. I feel badly for those who are getting sick and hope they got well soon yet admit that my first thought with both of these is “Shit no!”

On top of that there’s “Shit yes!” Ruby has been incontinent, at least losing control of her bowels. She’s been coming in from the back yard and pooping in the house. I’m not sure if this is common in elderly dogs but we’ll be sure to ask at her upcoming check up for various things ailing her. And then there are mice in the basement who scurry about, oblivious to the humane traps set for them.

I’ve been trying to access my sense of humor – there has to be a good joke in here somewhere, one of those old Jewish ones I grew up appreciating:
Geetl is down on her knees picking up droppings and she looks up and says, “Really? 2020 isn’t bad enough already?” And God laughs and says… but I can’t think of a clever response, something wise yet amusing, a way to laugh at it all. I’m usually good at that but my wit eludes me. And who wants to hear my tsuris (troubles)? So I don’t post anything here.

I still keep a gratitude list, and add a few new items like percolated coffee to start the day and some calming tea to end it. And socially distant (of course, what other kind is there?) visits with both my siblings, which have been lovely and may not happen again for some months.

We meet up, eat separately yet together, go for a walk, have that wonderful in-person experience so rare in this zoom-concentric time. I am grateful for a loving family.

And then more setbacks. We tried a new medication for V to help with his restlessness, being warned that it might have the opposite impact, which naturally it did so we had to stop after a harrowing meltdown I’d rather not describe. The end result being back where we started, with the addition of disappointment, which is a common feeling for those in our shoes. Trying treatments – medical, therapeutic, natural alternatives – that don’t work, or that make things worse. It is hard to change someone’s innate wiring as we have learned, and yet we keep trying. For V, its the confluence of OCD, anxiety and impulsivity which leads to his not being able to stop himself from acting a certain way, the restlessness that has him wandering – at times racing – from one space or activity to another. I will not survive the winter if he keeps this active. And yet, I know I will survive, it just will be that much harder.

There is much to being a caregiver that is isolating, both the nature of the tasks involved and in not wanting to share some of the details. I also feel protective of V in that I don’t want to only emphasize the hard parts, and yet when I keep it to myself I’m not being fully honest and so much remains hidden, and that is much of what loneliness is about and how it is different from being solitary, which is a much more bearable state.

There are people mildly affected by COVID and those where it’s having a major impact. Most people I know are fortunately in the former category. It’s filled with inconvenience and precautions but not major upheaval. And then there are those with some combination of serious difficulties: facing unemployment, lacking services they need, food and housing insecure, severely isolated. To be in this latter category is to be challenged on a daily basis.

We have a roof over our heads and enough to eat and there’s a lot to be said for that. I sit on my front porch listening to the rain outside, safe and protected, writing these words, grateful for Thursday and Friday this week. (No school again next week…)

I try to have a good attitude and appreciation. I try to come up with an ending to the joke, a way to laugh at my life but I’m still stuck. Instead I recall a favorite I’ve told before, a story I like all the more as we’re living through a time where humility is in short supply:

Moishe is a hardworking, humble man who raises his big family in a tiny house. When he dies, God wants to reward him. “You’ve always worked so hard, taken care of your family, been an asset to your community. You’ve lived simply with no complaints, I’d like to grant you anything you want.” Moishe shakes his head, “No, there’s nothing I need, it’s fine.” “I’m God, Moishe, omnipotent and all that – you can have anything you want, surely there’s something… ” Moishe pauses and reflects. “Well, how about every morning I get a nice hot cup of coffee and a bagel with a shmear?”

May we all be so easily content.

4 thoughts on “Did you hear the one about…an unfinished joke

  1. Such a hard time. My heart goes out to you. I admire your fortitude in keeping a gratitude journal. Hard to remember to be grateful when you’re exhausted. Sending you love.


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