I am on a business trip and my father is 3,000 miles away in a nursing home. I cancelled my last three work trips because my father was rushed to the emergency room the night before each one of them.
These last three months have been rough – much rougher for my father. His dementia has progressed significantly and he’s bounced around from hospitals to rehabs and I’ve had to move him out of assisted living and into a nursing home.
My boss has tried to be understanding. “Liz can’t travel right now because she has no help with her father,” she’ll say. But the truth is actually that Liz doesn’t want to travel because she wants to be there for and with her father. He no longer knows me; he no longer remembers if I go and see him – which I do almost every day – but I know him. And I want to be with him now while he is most vulnerable.
But alas, a girl needs to eat and groceries aren’t free. So here I am across the country for the company’s quarterly staff development and forced fun day. Getting here wasn’t easy although the logistics were smooth. My father is in a great facility and I am confident he is well cared for. All I had to do was put the word out to some relatives that I was traveling and a few of them offered to visit while I was away. But emotionally…emotionally I was brought back to that first business trip I took after my first child was born. My mother-in-law was insulted by how much hesitation I showed when I dropped my son off with her and how detailed my instructions were. “After all, I raised four kids didn’t I?” she said to me.
“You did,” I responded, “But did you ever get on a plane and leave them, putting six hours and 3,000 miles between you? Do you know how that feels?”
That’s how I felt at the airport yesterday leaving my father. But I boarded the flight and there were no trips to the ER, no emergency calls…until today. Today, during our management team meeting I saw my phone light up. It was the nursing home calling. I jumped up and answered as I walked out of the conference room. It was one of the nurses. “Hi Liz. I’m not sure what time you’re coming by today…”
“I’m in California! What’s wrong?!”
“Nothing is wrong. Your father has a rather large blister on his right heel. I just wanted you to know we are aware of it and treating it.”
I walked back into the management team meeting. One of my colleagues was discussing a business challenge she is facing. I burst out laughing; I couldn’t help myself. They all stopped and looked at me. “My Dad has a blister!”
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