My parents are in their late 80’s and last year my brother and I took over the management and care of two adjacent summer houses in New England. We are renting out the larger house for the first time ever this summer and worked for the last year to get the house de-junked, fixed up, spruced up and ready to rent.
After making an enormous investment of time and energy to get the house ready, I wanted to enjoy the fruits of my labor. I carved out a week in August with my partner and invited two of our friends to join us for a vacation. My parents are staying in the next house. My sister arrived two days after us to spend a week with my parents.
As I began the vacation, I wanted to feel a level of relaxation and even joy at being in our summer home. I had been so looking forward to this vacation. But when we arrived, my brain felt like it was on a schedule that I could not stop. For the first few days, I watched the clock, making sure we had enough time to go shopping for food, get to the beach, get back and make dinner, and so on. I kept thinking, “What is next on the schedule?”
A lot of things were going on for me. In part, I felt that I was the host and needed to make sure that all the gears of the vacation: meals, food shopping, beach, dinners were oiled well and managed properly. Also, now that I was actually living in the house, I found items we needed to buy for the kitchen and things that needed repair. On the side, I was trying to schedule phone calls with mediators to get my divorce moving forward. I was also transitioning from my work life which is over-scheduled and regimented. As the days have progressed I have become more relaxed, less tied to a schedule.
Part of my stress came from my parents being in the next house. While my partner and I had visited my parents before, we had never spent a week with them in the adjacent house. As someone who only began to come out in his mid-50’s, having my parents up close and personal to my gay life is a brand new experience.
On our second day, as my partner and I prepped food to grill, and minutes before our two friends arrived from the airport, my partner, who had gone to my parent’s house to borrow some tea, came running in to tell me my father had fallen and was all bloody. I found my father in his kitchen, on his cell phone, confused, trying to tell his friend what had happened. He appeared to have a gash on the crown of his head and a badly skinned elbow. He also appeared to be covered in mud, which I quickly realized was feces. I got him off the phone and led him to the bathroom. I stripped his clothes off and got him in the shower. I needed to clean the feces off him and determine how bad his wounds were. He was very confused and not quite sure where he was or what day it was. It was very concerning and stressful.
We later pieced together that he had walked out of the house to exercise, lost his balance, and fell back into a wooden post. He likely blacked out for a period of time because when I found him the blood and feces had started to dry. When he blacked out, I suspect that his bowels let go. He had no memory of what had happened.
As a former EMT, I felt comfortable in assessing my father’s wounds, determining if he needed to go to the emergency room, cleaning him up and bandaging him. But it was the mashup of having just showered, starting to cook dinner, preparing for my friends to arrive, and jumping in to care for my father, that was so stressful.
By the time my friends arrived fifteen minutes later I was half soaked from cleaning my father in the shower, sweating, and stressed. Once I got my father cleaned, dressed and bandaged; woke my mother from her nap; had my friend, who is a doctor, take a look at my father’s wounds; I went back to cooking dinner for my parents and friends. The dinner was prepared and the table set for six. My parents, who had planned to join us for dinner, at the last minute canceled. My father was exhausted from what had happened to him and he went to sleep for a few hours. My mother wanted to stay close to my father in case he needed her. We took my parents two plates of food and the four men relaxed over a wonderful meal and wine. It was a wild ride on the second day of our vacation.
Dinner the following day with my friends was much better. Again we cooked dinner on the grill. My sister, who had just arrived, and my parents joined us. It was a lovely dinner with great conversation. Four gay men, my parents, and sister – how nice is that! I had thought at dinner that this could be one of the rare moments where my parents got to see me in my new life as a gay man, happy, with my friends and partner.
On the fourth night of our vacation, my parents took all of us out to a great dinner. It was a fun, lively dinner with great conversation. I felt that my parent’s desire to take my partner and friends out to dinner, along with my sister, was both gracious and affirming of my new life as an out gay man.
Last night just the four men went out for a final dinner together. It was a lovely elegant dinner at a beachside restaurant. We got to watch the sunset after dinner. My friends left this morning to fly home. Today is the last day of my vacation with my partner. We sadly fly home tomorrow.
As the days have progressed my level of stress has eased significantly. I am much more relaxed. I am unwinding. Writing helps. Holding my boyfriend helps. Not working helps. The beautiful weather and time at the beach helps. In the end, life is good.