It actually wasn't a week - just four days - but my 50-something brother in law who has autism is preparing for us to take him home. At home, his mother is recovering from surgery Wednesday to remove a radioactive implant which doctors had inserted the week before.
We'll have at least another couple or three days of care giving ahead of us, as we relieve another family member who has been caring for her all week.
It's been an interesting (if not stressful) week for my spouse and me, and I'm sure it was interesting (and stressful) for my brother in law, too.
He said to another relative today that he was happier today than when he arrived. He's been up here before, but never without his mother. (We live some 150 miles from he and his mother.) In fact, he's never been anywhere overnight (as far as I know) without his mother.
Throughout his more than 50 years, his mother has been the one certainty in his life. And, sooner or later (let's hope later) she will no longer be a part of his life.
Brother in law has had to deal with a lot of uncertainty in the past few weeks, something that is very difficult for him. Heck, it would be difficult for anyone. His mother's aging and decreasing mobility as she reaches her mid 80's, her cutting back on the driving which takes him into the world, her falls, her cancer diagnosis, her trips down to New York City for evaluation and then treatment, and finally, the trip up here to stay with his oldest brother (my spouse) because there wasn't going to be anyone to stay with him during his mother's latest trip to New York City.
He's been asked to make a lot of adjustments.
He clings to routine, as so many with autism do. In happier days, he would want to know the exact time something would happen. We'd we walking in the door to visit my mother in law and he'd be asking what time we were leaving. He would love to accompany us on shopping trips but if we told him we'd be going to the grocer, the bank and the drug store but, upon leaving the drug store, also decided to go to the post office, he'd tremble with anxiety.
Now, in this era of illness he knows (to the minute) the time of each of his mother's appointments. He asked last night exactly when we will leave for home. He knows, to the hour, when the doctor's instructions will medically allow his mother to drive again.
There's just one problem. Life does not run on a schedule.
We don't get out of work exactly on time. The appointments change. She isn't taken on time for any of her procedures. The office giving her a PET scan didn't have contrast on hand and it took three hours for it to get there (he was waiting, at home, with anxiety). One outpatient surgery turned into a two day hospital stay. The day she resumes driving will depend on her recovery, not on a magic number listed in some post op instructions.
Uncertainty. None of us like uncertainty. But my brother in law clings to routine like a survivor of a marine disaster clings to a life raft.
And now, the high waves are coming faster and faster.
Will his life raft be swamped?
Or will he find a way to survive and thrive through the coming months?
I do not envy him.