11.06.2014

Worrywart

My dad was always a worrier. About everything. Did we turn off the coffee pot? Did you unplug the iron? Did we lock the doors? Have you changed your oil? Do your tires have enough air? Did we pay all the bills? What if it snows when we need to travel? What if those sniffles turn into pneumonia? What if someone steals our credit card and ruins our credit and we end up penniless and lose all our worldly belongings? 

I could go on for days.

Even when Alzheimer's took his memories and aspects of his personality, his worrying tendencies seemed to remain. Put some socks on; you're going to catch a cold. The rest of us in the family have been conditioned to carry on his legacy. I worry and fret more than I should, about many things that are not in my control. The what-ifs and oh-nos float around in my head on a daily, if not hourly, basis.

Mom worries too, about things like the dings and scrapes in her Honda Accord and what to serve for Thanksgiving dinner and whether the neighbors are going to finish painting her house before the first snowfall.

One big worry came flooding in, almost literally, last week when she started a load of laundry and blue-tinged water from whatever dark colors she was washing backed up into her bathtub. And of course it happened when she had out-of-town guests visiting. She knew right away that it was something major. In fact, that something was a worry on Dad's mind for years. He and Mom had been told by plumbers years ago that eventually the underground sewer pipe connecting from the house to the city's infrastructure would need to be replaced. It was too small, too old, and much too entangled with a web of tree roots.

Each year, my folks would have someone come and clear out the pipe as much as they could. And
Dad would rant about the possibilities: How are they going to get in our fenced backyard to dig up and replace that pipe? What if they can't? What if the house becomes unlivable? What if we have to move? What if we don't have enough money? This was a conversation they revisited on a regular basis. Dad just could not fathom the logistics of what it would take to replace that pipe.

Dad passed away last January. Mom has had her own set of concerns for quite some time, as his sole caregiver for years as his health and mind declined and as a widow trying to find a new normal in the months since his death. One worry that had taken a back-burner position was that silly sewer line.

Until last week.

Mom then adopted Dad's angst as her own. She went into action, calling plumbers and repair crews. She imagined it could take weeks and couldn't fathom how her life and her yard might be turned upside down in the meantime. Can I take a shower? Can I do laundry? Can I flush the toilet? I'm going to have Thanksgiving company and they're bringing their dogs -- what if the fence is torn down and there's a giant gaping hole in the middle of the backyard? What if we can't use the water? We won't be able to cook or clean. What will we do?!?! Catastrophe and woe!

Fast forward to yesterday. The crew said they could start on the project yesterday morning. Mom was still envisioning weeks of work and turmoil and upheaval, emotional and structural. Imagine our surprise and delight when, by 5 p.m. the same day they started, the pipe had been replaced, the hole refilled, the fence reconstructed, the equipment driven away, and the check for several thousand dollars written. In one day.



All that worrying for years about that damn pipe, and it's all done in one brisk November day! Dad would have been astounded. I imagine him, if it were in the days before his illness, hanging around out back, "supervising" the work, chatting the workers' ears off and offering them a coffee break with a batch of his banana nut bread.

He would have been so tickled to have it taken care of and in such a swift manner. We're pretty relieved as well. That's one worry we can put to bed. We'll see what tomorrow brings.



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