What I Did on My Summer Vacation

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

I know this may be a controversial statement, but I don’t particularly love to travel. My idea of the perfect vacation is pretty simple; what I crave most is the time and space to be in my own rhythm. I want to wake up and suddenly decide to make scones for breakfast and then, actually do it. I want to spend time crafting and pretending that I know how to paint with watercolors. I want to decide at 3:00 in the afternoon to go to my local farm stand to buy flowers and vegetables to grill for dinner. Vacation for me is having the time and space to explore my own beat.

A month or so before my vacation this past June, I found out that my mother would need to have gallbladder surgery. My mother is 80 and so finding out that she would need any procedure wasn’t great news but by all accounts, it was a simple operation. I would go and stay with her, she would have the surgery and recover in a few days, we would spend some time together and then I would go home to spend some time in my own rhythm. It didn’t happen that way.

My mother went in for her gallbladder surgery and I was able to bring her home the same day. Two days later, I was calling 911 to have her taken back to the hospital where they discovered that she had a bowel obstruction, a complication caused by the first surgery. Within a few hours, she was rushed back into surgery for the second time in 72 hours. We were told that the recovery from this surgery would be significantly more difficult. And it was. The week I was planning to spend with my mom turned into three. Suddenly, I was inside of a whole new, very unexpected rhythm. I felt untethered; I was functioning, doing all the things that needed to be done but never feeling as if I was able to catch up to the relentless beat of it all.

A month or so from now, another rhythm is coming. My mother is going in for heart surgery. We are told that it could be a simple procedure but there is also the very real chance that it could be life altering. She is struggling to handle it all, as am I. I find myself selfishly longing for a few days of scones and flowers and painting; to be inside of a rhythm that doesn’t feel so stressful and scary and relentless. I don’t want to travel to any distant land, I just want to make the trip back to myself, even for just a few days.

For many of us, it is inevitable that we will be called upon to be caretakers for those we love. We will be thrust into a rhythm that feels far too unfamiliar and far too fast. I wish that I had a perfect, tidy thought to share that would make it all make sense, I don’t. Right now, the best that I can do is to lean into what is coming, try to see the lessons, and hope that I can find the beat.

With Hope,


  1. Gail Thompson

    I feel your pain and confusion. There may be some anger and grief too. When I have found myself as caregiver all sorts of feelings swirl around, some not making me feel proud or capable. Try to take it one step at a time. Talk to the hospital social worker, use the support groups for caregivers through the hospital. Most of all, find some small part of each day and claim it as your own. (My time has been Mall walking early in the morning while my patient slept.)
    Sorry, I didn’t intend to be advising you. You need to feel your own way, not mine. May your Mom come through this well. May you do the same.

  2. Betty Myers

    Thank you for sharing, Kelli. Sending you and your mom warm wishes. Also, sending hopes that you will find a few minutes to enjoy scones, even if you have to get them (or have someone get them for you) at a bakery or Wegmans. As you noted, these procedures for loved ones take their toll on the caregiver. I hope the next procedure goes smoothly.

  3. Alex Cauthen-Zach

    Kelli, hugs and best wishes. Thank you for sharing such an eloquent and profound struggle going on in your life. May all go well!

  4. Norman D Hazzard

    Thank you, Kelli, for your candor in sharing such a personal story. We are all surrounded by caregivers, I believe–welcome to their ranks! So, you are not alone; and you have already done an important first step: you have shared your story with people you know and trust. I am confident that you will find within yourself whatever resources you will need, because you love your mother and will do whatever you can to assist her recovery.

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