Since September, 2012, I have been writing a series of articles entitled, “A Forever Decision” based on my experience of losing my beloved dog Camilla. In October, I found that my Uncle Steve has terminal cancer. Uncle Steve is my favorite uncle and is one of the most important people in my life. I continued writing about coping with the grief of his impending loss, as well as day to day challenges involved in caring for him. The articles grew into a larger work of art. I hope that my writing will help others who visit the Open to Hope website to grow stronger in the face of difficult situations.

January 10, 2013

After it happened and all the dust had settled, I thought, “This is it.”

I thought that we had reached the point of no return with my uncle, the point at which I would have to take over all his affairs, and change all the rules. But I found out that I was wrong. Luckily, I listened to other people and learned from them how to respond this event and how to make decisions regarding it.

Here’s what happened – my uncle fell and hit his head. Sally found him lying in a five inch wide pool of blood. She had gone out to a doctor’s appointment and he must have panicked when it got dark. Maybe he misjudged the passing of time. He thought she had gotten into a car accident and felt he had to go and open the front door. So he walked over there, lost his balance and fell.

Then he couldn’t get up, so he waited. She found the front door open and also panicked. They took him to the hospital in an ambulance and the doctor stitched him up. He had an MRI and there was no damage to his brain. And he didn’t break any bones.

Well, thank God he didn’t get hurt.

But it was the dreaded call that I got – that an older person had fallen. It seemed to be the point at which a serious intervention needed to be made.

Well, as I digested the news and called my father and brother to let them know, I thought, “This is it. I’m going to have to go over there and take over. Maybe he’s losing his cognition. What if he does this again? We’re going to have to make sure that someone is with him at all times. We’ll have to change the rules.”

But as I talked over these needs I felt with my mother and father, it became clear that they were not the actions that are needed at this time. Both of them, being older and more experienced, took the news more calmly than I did. I guess they knew that sometimes older people fall, and that it’s not the end of the world. So as I discussed my fears with them, they didn’t think it was as serious as I was taking it. As long as he stays in bed when he’s alone – like he has always done before, and doesn’t try to walk by himself.

So the next day, I talked to Sally for a long time while Uncle Steve napped. I offered my sympathy for her traumatic experience and told her that I am here in case she ever needs to talk, or if she needs help regarding a decision regarding his care.

I also told her I felt that he needs to have someone with him for 24 hours a day, especially when she goes out to feed her animals that she keeps on a farm, which she does every day. She reminded me how many times caregivers steal from their elderly clients, and said that at this point, she doesn’t even know if the hospice nurses will come every day to take care of them. After some discussion – given that he has agreed to stay in bed when he is alone – we decided that there is no need to put new rules into place.

I find during this process that I’m learning from other people’s experience in a way that I’m not used to. As a professional freelance dramaturg and a single person, I’ve been making all of my decisions practically on my own for the last 30 years. But I know that Uncle Steve’s welfare is a family concern and I talk to the others about it, especially my father, who is his brother. And Sally, who is his caregiver. While I’m the point person in the family for matters relating to him, I’m not alone.

And when I sit alone at home thinking of all the dreadful things that could go wrong, I do have the support of other family members to bring me back down to earth. It’s a very strange feeling – to feel supported, and that I have a bank of wisdom and experience to draw from.

So, “This was not it.” We’ll just move forward, and see what happens from here. I don’t have to make snap decisions or change my whole life just because of one event. Or, to be more precise – the event which requires a major change in my life has not happened yet. I have time. I can think about solutions. I’m not under as much pressure as I feel that I am.

Copyright 2013 by Anne Hamilton

Anne Hamilton

Anne Hamilton is an NYC-based freelance dramaturg and the Founder of Hamilton Dramaturgy, an international consultancy. She created Hamilton Dramaturgy’s TheatreNow!, where she hosts and produces an oral history podcast series of important theatre women working in America. Anne has dramaturged for Andrei Serban, Michael Mayer, Lynn Nottage, NYMF, Niegel Smith, Classic Stage Company, and the Great Plains Theatre Festival, among others. She is also an award-winning playwright. Her chapter, “Freelance Dramaturgs in the 21st Century: Journalists, Advocates, and Collaborators” appears in The Routledge Companion to Dramaturgy. She was a Bogliasco Foundation Fellow, won the Dean’s Prize for Dramaturgy at Columbia University School of the Arts, and holds dual citizenship in Italy and the United States. Anne lost her best friend Curtis in a head-on car accident in 1979, two weeks after his high school graduation. Her emotional life became frozen and she has spent the last thirty-two years exploring all areas of self-expression, particularly through stage plays, poetry, theatre, art, and music. She is currently developing her own chamber-play-with-dance entitled ANOTHER WHITE SHIRT, about the way that grief moves through the body.

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