Last week I missed the deadline to post my Monday blog, then missed any other opportunity through the rest of the week. The reason? I’m power of attorney for my mother, who took a fall and had to be hospitalized. Hence the headline for this week’s post.

Being power of attorney for a relative is both something of a blessing and a curse. Of course, it’s an honor to be so trusted by your parent that he or she gives you the authority to manage their affairs; on the other hand, once you begin the process in real time, as I had to, you find yourself exchanging paperwork with every single entity along the line. They don’t send you what you need just because you say, “I have power of attorney.” You have to prove it.

So needless to say, this past week – actually, the past 12 days since I started on this adventure – have been trying to say the least. I think the experience can best be described as a blizzard of BS. And Mom is okay, but the fluidity of the situation demands a lot of flexibility. That means working on her affairs while managing my own.

The Curse of the Writer

Of course, one of the worst things about being a novelist and landing in a crisis situation is just how damned observant we are. I recall reading the late, great John Gardner on this subject. Gardner found himself in a situation where a woman was in a bad auto accident, and the steering column had punctured her abdomen. He observed the entire incident with horrible clarity, and felt guilty for thinking, “I must remember this.”

I had a similar experience the weekend after Valentine’s Day: going out the wrong exit on my way out of the hospital, having to run through the freezing cold to get to my car in sub-freezing temperatures, snow pelting my face. The icy cold feeling in my chest as I drove a rental car down streets no longer familiar to me in my hometown, not knowing what was going to happen next. The sheer horror at seeing my always-vital, chatty mother reduced to near silence and requiring help with all activities of daily living for the first couple days.

All of which led to my own I must remember this moments. Now that the crisis has passed, and it’s just the “blizzard of BS” paperwork, I’m much more relaxed. But that was some week. And I’ve gotten a good look at how being a novelist, just like being power of attorney, can be a blessing and a curse.

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