It is not a game I recommend. It is not a game I like to play. Sometimes you just get sucked in, as the noise of the day fades away, and your thoughts start to wander around freely, the first sneaky questions slink in.
What if I had been better at managing my own stress? Would I have noticed any signs or symptoms that something was amiss any sooner? Forget the fact that I was still only six months into my latest job and the first inklings about a world wide pandemic were being revealed. What did I miss? What if I had asked better questions? Would we have ended up with different answers and better outcomes?
In the first few weeks after he died these thoughts ran amuck, tearing through my mind, ripping my heart to shreds. What if we could have got an in person doctor appointment? What if we had not gone in for this CT scan here but had gone for a CT scan at this other hospital instead?
He seemed to be off his feed, so to speak. I knew he needed more fluids so I made ice cubes, and made ice cream floats, I bought grapes and oranges, and other fluid rich foods. I should have done more. What if we could have gotten a virtual appointment, those were so hard to come by too.
What if, when we finally knew we had to call an ambulance, that whatever this was, it was beyond us all, what if we would have chosen a different hospital as our destination?
And then begin the months of what ifs, each choice gets rerun in my mind. What if we had refused surgery? What if he had never had acute toxic metabolic encephalopathy while in the ICU after surgery? What if he got sent to this rehab facility instead? What if there had not been a massive infection in the surgical site?
It is such an exhausting game to play. It is hard not to participate when my brain starts a new round. It sucks you in. It becomes harder and harder to not play the endless loop of what ifs. Nothing can be gained, but yet, you still feel maybe you can sort it all out and somehow reach a different or better conclusion. It is not true. It changes nothing. It just eats your soul.
The first thing to bring me relief was to submerge myself in holiday baking shows. It was relaxing to watch people engage in technical skills I wish I possessed, to see their creativity, to watch their stress as they competed, and forget my own. It allowed me to shut off my brain, to reroute the nasty nagging game of what ifs, and start to deal with the way it now is.
One of the things I loved to do for my dad was cook him meals and bake cookies and desserts. I decided to start a new baking journey for 2021--expand my repertoire of cookies--and bake at least one new to me cookie or dessert every month. A natural expansion of that goal--was wanting to share these cookies with others, so I have been sharing the results of my baking journey with friends and family that have also lost loved ones recently.
I pair my new baked offerings with tried and true recipes as well. My Memorial Day plates had four different types of cookies-key lime sugar cookies and coconut macaroons-which were new to me, and the tried and true sugar cookies and chocolate frosted chocolate cookies.
It is a small gesture that honors my father as I navigate through how it is now and keeps the what ifs at bay, allowing me to find comfort in this day.