Sunday, January 15, 2017

What's Next Part 5

Thank you all for your kind comments on this series of unfortunate events; it means so much.  I haven't had time to reply individually as things here are topsy-turvier than ever.  One day at a time, one minute at a time and most of all, don't forget to breathe.

The struggles with our elders continues, though things have slowed down a little bit.  I can't believe it's Sunday already, however.  One thing is for certain, there's never a dull moment.

On Monday I had to go along with my FIL for his doctor appointment at 12:30PM.  First I had to get the washing done for Mom and us.  I've been putting the task off far too long with all of this hospital/doctor visiting.  I thought I'd be able to finish the job but things went screwy right off the bat.  The faucet I use to fill my Maytag wringer with failed and I could not close the valve.  With water running everywhere, I managed to locate the main water line from the well and shut the entire house down until Carl could come home and fix the problem.  I was about halfway done with the laundry when it was time to leave for Mom's house and her meds, so I pulled the plug on the Maytag and vowed to hang the wet laundry later.

I visited with Mom for a very short time; her foot wasn't feeling much better and her ears are plugged up.  The GP looked at her ears last Friday when we went in for her x-rays and said she's got a wax problem.  We were told to get some over the counter ear drops and put them in twice a day for two weeks and then return for ear flushing.  So far it's been a week and all it's done is make Mom more miserable than ever since the ear drops rob her of whatever hearing she has left.  She is being cooperative, but it seems so cruel; now while she paints, she cannot hear her TV at all.  Ugh.  I hope this works for her, one more week of torture.

I had to hustle to meet my sister-in-law and brother-in-law who came the twenty miles to my in-law's house and while BIL waited with MIL, SIL and I took FIL to the doctor.  (I'm sorry for all the acronyms, but I'm short on time here.)

We'd never met this doctor before, a new general practitioner to the clinic since the abrupt absence of the doctor who had originally been tending MIL's cellulitis.  None of the staff will say what happened to the original GP; I'm sad she's gone because she had a good idea of what we were up against with MIL's dementia.

Anyway, the new GP was ok, but not very helpful since all he did was the usual doctory stuff and said FIL looks pretty good for someone who was in the hospital for five days.  His cough was still rough though.  The main reason we were supposed to see this doctor was to find out the results of the bone marrow biopsy.

"Oh, well, let's see," and he turned to his computer and stared at it intently as the three of us waited.  The exam room was very small and there were only three chairs so I was seated on FIL's walker.  Try as I might I couldn't read the screen the doctor was perusing.  I could see he was looking at various test results, but he seemed confused.

"The test results have a lot of big words listed here that I'm not familiar with as I am not an oncologist or would say your best bet would be to make an appointment with the oncologist to hear what these results are."

A lot of big words that he doesn't know the meaning of?  Huh.  

I said, "There must have been some reason for the hospital to run a bone marrow biopsy?  Do you have any idea what the reason could have been?"

"No....well.....I suppose they could have seen something they didn't like when they drew labs," the doctor said.  "It could be multiple myeloma or leukemia, or it could be nothing, but again, I'm not an oncologist.  If you want I can have one of the nurses make an appointment with the ordering physician so you can have your questions answered."  

Okey dokey.  The appointment is set up for next week Wednesday. My SIL and I both felt this appointment was a waste of time.   By the time we arrived back home at my FIL's, the physical therapist was at his house for his first therapy session.  I watched the proceedings with great interest, and for all intents and purposes, FIL did fairly with all the balance and walking the PT put him through.

After the PT left, SIL and I asked some more hard questions about POA matters and FIL was able to help steer us in the right direction, thankfully.   I finally arrived back home at 3PM and returned to my soggy laundry, already in progress.

Overnight Monday into Tuesday we had a very wet, heavy snowfall.  My plan was to do the snow plowing for my FIL as he is not to go outside until his pneumonia has cleared up.  I was hoping I could get my snow plowing done at Mom's after medication time, but just as I was leaving the house at 9AM, the visiting nurse called to see if she could come early to see my FIL, as in a half hour or so?  

Oh boy, would she be able to get in the long driveway over at the in-law's?  I told her I'd meet her over there and suited up for plowing snow.  Luckily it wasn't very cold out, in fact by the time I arrived at my FIL's, it was drizzling.  And I was greatly puzzled by the fact his driveway had a small trail cleared, huh, I wonder if one of the granddaughters had been here before me?  

My question was soon answered when I heard the lawnmower/snowblower combo running around the corner of FIL's shed.  I followed the engine noise and found my FIL stuck in the wet snow, trying to push himself out.  He was soaking wet which is no good for someone recovering from pneumonia. 

When he spotted me standing there gawking at him, he looked very surprised, but was even more surprised when I told him the visiting nurse would be arriving in less than fifteen minutes.  

"You know you promised not to go outside, right?" I hollered over the racing lawn mower engine, but I also knew it wouldn't work, he'll never give up his independence if he can help it.  In a way, you have to admire his gumption, but just like my mom falling on the driveway, if they'd only listen when I nag.  Sadly, they do not.  (And I don't think it's because they can't hear me, either.) 

"I was going to call you and tell you not to come," FIL yelled over the lawn mower.  "I've got this under control."

"I can see that," I said, shaking my head, "How were you going to get the lawn mower out if I didn't show up?" 

He frowned at me, but there was a hint of a smile.  With FIL driving the lawn mower and me pushing, we managed to get it unstuck and he drove off for the house to get ready for his appointment. 

With him safely in the house, I set about getting FIL's tractor out to plow the driveway.  There was just enough room for the visiting nurse who arrived before I started the tractor, so at least she kept him busy in the house.

I haven't driven my FIL's tractor in over a decade and it took some getting used to.  The first thing I did wrong was a doozy; I didn't realize his garage door doesn't go up high enough to clear the cab on his tractor.  I was carefully creeping out of the garage when BAM! the cab hit the door.  Oh, great, now look what I've done.  Luckily I stopped immediately, and judging by the way the door looks, FIL has done the same thing numerous times.  I just added my dent to the damage already done.  I climbed up on the tractor tire and pushed with all my might to raise the door high enough which made my unhappy back just a little bit unhappier.

FIL has a cab on his tractor which is nice, but by now the drizzle was mixing with snow and sticking to the windshield.  There is a windshield wiper but it doesn't work so I was leaning out of the side of the cab trying to see where I was going.  His tractor has a bucket for pushing snow which is something I'm not familiar with either.   Since I couldn't see in front of me, I wasn't sure how much snow I was getting in the bucket.  At times I had a respectable amount and at other times I was barely grazing the surface.  

Once I got the hang of the tractor and the bucket's joystick operation, I was feeling more confident and set out to get this job done.  Unfortunately, my bravado was short-lived; when I went to dump the next load of snow, I thought I'd deposit it farther off the driveway and drove onto the lawn.  Big mistake.  FIL's tractor has turf tires with no lugs and when I tried to back up after tipping the bucket, I was stuck.  The tires spun helplessly and the lawn mower deck settled into place in the hard crust.  Oh, no.

I went to my car, fetched my shovel and started to dig, hoping to free up the wheels, but when I saw how deeply embedded the lawn mower deck was in the icy snow, I knew I'd have to get help.  I thought about trying to pull the tractor out with my car, but I'd need two people.  

Thank goodness for cellphones.  I dialed my farm renter/neighbor first, but realized it was barn chore time for him and when he didn't answer, I dialed my friend Gloria's number.  She and her husband Warren live about two miles from my FIL and are also farmers.  (You may recall, Gloria is the leader of the exercise class I used to go to before my life became so complicated. This is the second time in two weeks I've asked them for help.  I'm going to have to think of something special as a thank you.)

"Hello," Gloria answered.  "What can I do for you?"  

I sheepishly explained my problem and Gloria said, "Warren is plowing snow here, too.   I'll tell him to come over and pull you out.  We've got a funeral to attend this morning, but he'll be right there."

Though I felt worse than ever about putting them out, I was very happy to hear help was on the way.  Luckily, FIL had a light chain hanging on the back of his tractor, so I hooked the chain to my tractor and laid the chain out in anticipation of Warren's arrival ten minutes later.  All it took was a tug from his tractor and mine was free.  I felt so stupid; good grief, after all of these years driving tractors I should have known better.  

Warren leaned out of his cab, "Where do you want me to push the snow?"  

I pointed to an open area on the lawn and got back on FIL's tractor as I was now in the way of the much larger backhoe (and the operator who knew what he was doing.)  As long as Warren was handling FIL's driveway, I headed off to Carl's late brother's driveway to start plowing next door.  The two houses are about an eighth of a mile apart, but my in-law's live on a busy highway, so the short trip was fraught with anxiety; if I were to get too far over to the shoulder of the road, I'd probably get stuck again with the turf tires, so I had to stay slightly in the lane of traffic.  A semi went roaring by and my heart was in my throat.  

When I arrived at BIL's house, the snow plow had deposited a tall bank of wet, heavy slush at the entrance to the driveway.  I knew I couldn't drive through it, so I had no choice but to stop on the highway, put the bucket down and try to shove the snow into the yard.  Luckily I had enough distance off the highway before the tractor was unable to push the snow any farther in.  Once again, the tires were spinning and my heart was sinking, oh, boy, now I'm getting stuck over here, too?  I was able to back up a little and tip the bucket, phew, free at last.  In a few minutes, Warren arrived with his backhoe and asked me if I needed any more help.  I thanked him profusely and he was on his way back home.

After about a half hour, I'd finished late BIL's driveway and switched the engine off.  I placed a call to Carl's sister and brother-in-law, outlining the day's events so far.  They were stunned to hear about FIL's disobedience, but we all decided there's not much we can do about any of this.  We'll just have to do our best to keep one step ahead of them.

The rain changed back to snow and I decided to get the tractor back to my FIL's before visibility on the highway got any worse.  FIL insists on plowing both driveways, but his back is stiff and he cannot turn around to look behind him.  The highway is very treacherous; I'm afraid he'll be hit in transit as traffic doesn't slow down much for slow-moving vehicles.  I was supremely grateful to be back in the driveway myself.  

The nurse had already come and gone and FIL was already back outside again.  (At least he had dry clothes on.)  He motioned for me to get off his tractor and said, "Why was Warren here plowing snow?"

I explained myself and he was still mystified, but took me at my word.  

"I'm going to put the tractor away now," he said and ever so slowly climbed up on top of the lawn mower deck and onto the two steps into the cab.  The garage is chock full of stuff; Carl and his father are definitely related, but amazingly FIL was able to maneuver the tractor back into its stall with two inches to spare on either side.  Watching him get off the tractor was another hair-raising experience; just like my late father, I'm fearing a fall will be next.  But again, what can I do?

Once he was safely back on the ground, I was hoping he'd go back in the house, but no such luck, he was going to do a little snowblowing with the lawn mower.  By now it was 11 AM and I still hadn't been to my mother's for her medication yet.  I had no choice, it was time to go.

I drove the mile around the block past our driveway which had been also been plowed shut by the snowplow.  I had Mom's meds with me, so I drove the quarter mile to her house and parked on the side of the road.  Mom took her pills, hopped up on the scale, sat for her blood pressure reading, and allowed me to instill more ear drops.  I was glad of the oil furnace for once; it felt great to be warm again.  

I didn't spend as much time with Mom as I wanted but it was getting late and I still had our two driveways to plow.  The snow had now changed back to a steady drizzle as I plodded down the driveway to the tractor shed.  I fought to open the sliding shed doors which were frozen down to the ground and managed to get them open just enough to back the tractor out.  (I didn't want a repeat of my earlier performance.) 

I went to the side of the tractor, pulled the oil dipstick, was satisfied with the level and stepped up onto the tractor seat.  Pushing down the choke lever, once the key was turned, the tractor sputtered to life.  I sat and waited for the engine to warm up, adjusting the choke ever so slightly until it leveled off.  Opening the throttle to almost wide-open PTO range, I engaged the snowblower and backed out into my mother's yard, throwing wet snow up into the air.  

What a difference being familiar with equipment makes, I was completely at ease now.  Well, except for the water running down my neck; that I could have done without.  As I worked on Mom's driveway, the drizzle turned to rain.  My tractor doesn't have a cab, so in no time I was soaking wet.  But in for a penny, in for a pound; when I finished Mom's driveway, I drove the tractor back down to our house and cleared our driveway, too.  

I finally put the tractor away at 1PM and soggily squished my way back into Mom's to check on her one more time.  She looked at me in astonishment and admonished me to go home and change my clothes.  I put a plastic bag down on the car seat and went home to a nice hot shower.  

What a day.  

 Winter is flying by faster than ever this year...I'm not sure if we'll be able to even start any more stained glass projects.  I have a Clematis lamp pattern almost ready for laying out but my heart isn't in it at the moment.  My IV treatments for Lyme disease have begun again, so every Thursday for the next seven weeks we have to drive forty-something miles to the doctor's office for me.  I'm hoping I'll be feeling better soon.  

I don't have any delusions about elder care, however.  I know things aren't going to improve as time goes on, every day we all lose a little more ground, sadly.  Do you ever notice how fast babies and young children grow up?  When I haven't seen our granddaughter, Audrey, for even a few weeks, the changes are stunning; how much she's grown, how her personality is evolving.  

Sadly, we are all aging at the same rate, though I know I deny it.  When I look in the mirror lately, I'm stunned by the new wrinkles, age spots, and general exhaustion looking back at me.  When I was a new mother, I used to think the sleepless nights and worry would do me in, but as every day passed, things got a little bit better. 

With elder care, you can count on every day becoming a little bit worse.  I realize that sounds pessimistic, but it's the truth.  Just as little Audrey is gaining ground in strength and independence, our elders are losing ground.  At almost 59, I'm on the cusp of the downhill slide and find myself frantically looking for something to hang on to.  Writing is my pressure relief valve.  Oh, and whining to my dear friends, too.  

I started this post with a thank you and I'm ending it the same way.  My sincere thanks to all of my friends, near and far.   

 One Day at a Time


FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Blessings on you dear Karen ~ All that you write about wears me out. Snow plowing, goodness me.

Your FIL sounds like a real character.

Take care of yourself so that you can care for the others.

Love, hugs & prayers ~ FlowerLady

Karen said...

Dear Rainey, thank you for the encouragement, it means so much! Yes, my FIL is a real character. I imagine Carl and I will be characters too, if we are blessed to live as long. Age has a way of sneaking up on a person.

Beth @ PlantPostings said...

Oh gosh, Karen, you are going through so much. I'm so sorry! Your description of elder care being the opposite of child care had me tearing up. I hope your mom finds some relief with the ear drops. Hang in there.

outlawgardener said...

You've got a lot on your plate right now. Can't imagine when you'd even find time for something as involved and time consuming as making a lamp. As always, you're in my thoughts and prayers. We're very close in age and I know what you mean about frequently seeing exciting new developments in the mirror. I don't feel old but when I gaze into the looking glass, I'm surprised to see my father looking back at me.