Just about every other Saturday, I visit my parents. They live on Cape Cod, a two-hour drive from our house. I've been in this routine for a year, since shortly after my father got in a car accident that landed him in the hospital and rehab for four months. (The accident wasn't too bad, but the pneumonia and C-diff he caught in the hospital were a completely different story.) My visits started as a chance to see my dad, help my mom with the bills and balancing the check book, followed by dinner with my mom.
Now, my dad is back to handling all the finances, but I help out with the checkbook balancing (sort of ironic, since I haven't balanced ours ever since online banking became available), tax prep and as a sounding board on other financial stuff. Mostly, though, the trip is a chance to visit with them.
Despite the fact that the trip kills most of a precious weekend day, I really enjoy it. I like having the chance to help them out, even modestly, since they have done so much and been so supportive of me over the years (well, we had a pretty rocky relationship in my teens and the first half of my 20s, but really great since then). But there are other positive outcomes to this that have nothing to do with my parents.
For me, it gives me time alone, which I rarely have. And a bit of a break from caregiving. Driving down, I usually play my iPod (you can play it through the car stereo in our Honda Element). Skip's taste in music doesn't overlap with mine all that much, so I can listen to anything I want, at high volume, and completely get lost in it. I know it's said that smells are the best trigger of memories, but for me there's nothing like an old song to bring them back. Two hours of music in the car is like a trip down memory lane ... both happy and melancholy. The music also tends to trigger introspection, something I'm not normally prone to, so it's a good opportunity to actually think some things through.
For Skip, she spends most of the day with her aide, MW. If the weather is nice, like yesterday, they'll sit out on the patio and smoke cigars (Skip got into cigars during our last Las Vegas trip.) Then, they'll have dinner of something I'd prefer not to eat. Yesterday, it was Italian sausage and peppers on the grill. I know Skip feels safest when she's with me, but MW is a good stand-in. MW takes great care of Skip, and spoils her a bit in the bargain (well, we all spoil Skip; her personality is such that it's very easy to spoil her!).
I leave home in the early afternoon and return about 10pm. The dogs greet me at the door, Sally is especially delighted to see me, hopping and dancing on her back legs. Everyone is settled in the living room ... apparently toggling between Red Sox and Bruins games. The kitchen is all cleaned up, the dishwasher has been run and dishes put away. Oh, and the laundry in the dryer has been folded and the sheets changed! Apparently, I've been a bit spoiled too!