Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Getting To a New Normal

With all of the changes going on with Carl's parents, I have dropped the ball on the work around the ol' Quarry Garden.  And to add to the chaos, Thanksgiving is only a few days away, oh dear.  You should see my house. (No, on second thought, no one should see my house, it's a total mess.)

Between running up to the hospital and now to the nursing home almost every day, checking on my mother's house on a daily basis and now the addition of Carl's parent's home and reaching out to customers who still have orders for ironwork that Carl's dad did, it's been hectic to say the least.   

On a positive note, my involvement in a study for treatment of chronic Lyme disease has begun again after a hiatus due to a shake up with the study's internal review board.  On a negative note, this means we have to drive an hour one way for the appointments once a week, which means Carl has to figure out how to make this fit in his schedule at work.   I scheduled my appointments for as late in the day as possible, but for Carl, it is a long day indeed.  He usually gets up at 4:30AM on appointment days so he can be to work early and make up some time; and then works through his lunch hour so he can come home earlier. 

Thank goodness Carl can drive me to the doctor's office because the traffic is intense on the freeway, especially at rush hour when my treatment is done and we're on our way home.  We take a county highway as far as we can, but eventually, we need to cross a lake, and the only bridge is the freeway.   I dread the thought of making this trip in the dark in possible snowstorms and icy conditions all winter long with people who somehow think they can still drive seventy miles an hour. 

One solution would be for me to drive myself in to the doctor during the day while Carl is at work.   I realize how needy this makes me sound.  Truth is, I am needy when it comes to driving in heavy traffic.  My eyesight isn't the best lately and I have issues with migraine auras that come on suddenly, causing me to lose parts of my vision with not much warning.  Lately, the auras have become much more numerous and though they pass after about a half hour, the resulting headache is no fun, either.  After my treatment, I often don't feel the best, either.  Carl doesn't mind going with me, as he puts it, "We're a team, and besides, it gets me out of work."  

(And yes, I do realize I am blessed.)

I know we're getting older, but even with our 'team approach to driving' it seems traffic is more and more crazy.  Yesterday we left home at 1:45PM for my 3PM appointment.  We had ample time, the weather was beautiful, almost 50 degrees, and the roads were dry.  We caught up to a string of traffic following a tractor going into a small town on the way, eventually finding ourselves directly behind a shiny black Porsche.  The tractor turned into a farm driveway, and our small traffic jam began to pick up speed, but not fast enough for the Porsche who began to ride the bumper of the car in front of us alarmingly close.  When the car signaled his intention to make a right-hand turn, the Porsche suddenly swerved out into oncoming traffic with a roar of the engine and hurtled at breakneck speed into oncoming traffic.  Luckily for everyone, the oncoming drivers were alert and managed to avoid a collision by swerving and slowing down, but for goodness' sake, really?  

We caught our breath and eventually caught up to the Porsche at the next stoplight who was now in the left lane, waiting to make a turn.  As we were going straight, I managed to get a good look at the driver.  I have to admit, I'd thought he (or she, as stupid drivers can be either gender) would be a young person with the arrogance of hot-blooded youth to blame.  But the driver was much grayer and older than me with a jaunty little driving cap perched on his head.  Old age is supposed to make us wiser; I guess he missed the memo.

My IV treatment went well and we were back on the freeway by 5PM, rolling along at 70+ miles an hour in the dark with all the other harried commuters.  It was so good to finally get to an off-ramp and back onto the much quieter county road again and luckily, avoided all of the deer who are on the move right now, too. 

 By 6PM we were back at the in-law's home, picking up their mail and newspaper, feeding the cats, checking on the answering machine, gathering the items they requested and finally, at 6:30PM arrived at the nursing home for our visit.  

We had a very short visit with Carl's parents and then headed for my mother's house to see if all was well there, finally arriving at home for supper at 7:30PM.  I tossed some leftovers in the microwave and we sat down to eat.  As soon as he was done eating, Carl leaned back in his chair and started to doze off at the kitchen table.  I kept pestering him to wake up and get ready for bed for once he's truly asleep, he's almost impossible to rouse.  

"It's only 8PM, I'm not going to bed now!" he said as he headed for the living room and his Lazy Boy.  I tried to head him off, but it was no use, he was asleep in an instant.  I left him there until I went to bed at midnight.  Carl's right, we do need to work out a better system.

As far as the outside work around here goes, Monday's weather was gorgeous. But wouldn't you know, instead of pulling out dead annuals and cutting back the perennials, I set to work beautifying my urns and planters for the winter season.  In a way, I felt a little guilty working on the project, but it does make me happy to see color all the way up until spring.  

 Never mind I haven't raked the leaves or picked up the shovels or the other junk in the yard, all that matters is the floral display.  (I'll make sure to tell my visitors that on Friday when we celebrate Thanksgiving here, "Hey, be careful where you step and just clear the junk off the chairs, but did you see the urns??")

I do basically the same display every single year, I guess I need some new inspiration, but after I spray paint the dried hydrangeas, they hold up very well in under the eaves of the garage.  We have ample greenery around here to fill in the rest of the spaces, so the only expense is the paint.

The driveway planters are a little different this year where they went from this Pink Bubblegum Supertunia lusciousness:

To this:  removal of the light shade planters and addition of Carl's stainless 'pussy willow' sculptures, my greenery and some fake poinsettias:

I sat in the driveway yesterday afternoon making bundles of greenery for each side of the upright stainless rods, finally wiring the whole shebang together with plastic-coated green wire.  I have to add some more ribbon to the cast iron bases (which have a hole through the middle to support the stainless sculptures) and hopefully all of this will stand up to the ferocious west winds to come this winter.

Not to be outdone, Ernie the Urn also had some changes for the seasons:

Not my best effort, but it will do.  The metal cardinal was a present to my mother from my father-in-law after my father passed away; the steel used to create the bird was from a piece of our old farm equipment.  The cardinal could use a touch of brighter red paint, but Mom had painted in the features of the bird, so I will leave it alone.  

Today's temperatures are not nearly as nice, only in the low 30's, and there's a raw west wind, so I'll have to find a more sheltered place to work.  With a little luck and a whole lot more ambition, we might still have the garden ready for winter.  

 No sense in pouting!

(What about the housecleaning, you may ask?  You may ask, I'll allow questions.)  

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Other Shoe(s) Dropped

As we all feared would happen with Carl's parents, another crisis occurred.  

Backing up the story and to recap; on October 31, Carl's mom had fallen at home and my FIL had called me to help.  We had all gone to the ER and voiced our concerns about their safety afterward, but she was sent home with a recommendation to simply stay hydrated. 
 At that visit, the ER did call a social worker to speak with us and she suggested we start making phone calls.  She listened to our worries with a slightly jaded, weary concern (they hear this stuff all the time) and eventually handed me a directory on aging and disability.  

My heart sank.  I was given one of those directories a year before by another social worker when my mom was ill, and to tell you the truth, it wasn't very helpful.  There are listings of all sorts of in-home caregivers, nursing homes, adult daycare facilities, but you are on your own with choosing what and who will work for you.  I had googled a few in-home care provider services last year and the reviews were downright scary.  For every good review, there were dozens more where the help stole from the elder, or didn't show up, or didn't perform the duties, or there was an endless rotation of new people coming and going.  Nothing about the reviews inspired me to think it would be a good fit for my mom at the time.  And, I was sure, nothing had changed from a year ago. 

We all attended MIL's follow-up visit with her doctor a few days later where once again, concerns about their safety were raised. The doctor was urging FIL to consider going into assisted living before anything terrible happened.  FIL was adamantly against his proposal.  He was able to care for both of them, he didn't need any help, and he could still drive.  The doctor did his best to stress the importance of doing something sooner than later, but it was all met with stony resistance.   At the end of the doctor's visit, we were all given a tour of the facility which didn't help; Carl's parents wanted to remain in their own home and could take care of themselves.  End of discussion.  We took them back to their house and then left for our respective homes, feeling depressed and worried. 
I was sad.  Of course, no one wants to leave the comfort of their home.  Though the assisted living place is very nice, I was trying to put myself in their shoes (or wheelchairs, that is) and wonder how I would adjust to the move myself.  The fact is, it would be the hardest transition of my life, hands down.  But if I had no other choice, what else could I do? I was able to care for my mother in her home and then, at the end, in ours, but Mom's condition wasn't as bad.  And there was no way one person could handle the needs of Carl's parents on their own.

The worst part of all of this is my FIL is nearly deaf.  The hearing aids he has are for the most part worthless and he never wanted to upgrade them.  As a consequence, the only way to talk to him is to basically, for lack of a better word, yell, which is very tiring.  

For one thing, I always feel I'm being disrespectful when I'm in his face (or rather, right up close to his good ear) hollering at the poor man.  He still has his wits about him, he knows what's going on, but he misses out on so much of the conversation around him.  And comically, often misunderstands what is said, resulting in nonsensical conversations.

"It's a nice day out, isn't it?" I'll say.

"No, there's no ice yet," he'll reply.

"Would you like to sit down?  Here's a chair for you," I'll say.

"No, I don't want a pear," he'll say.

So, after we were all told they could take care of themselves, we had no choice but to take them back home.   What could we do?  Carl's sister and her husband, the grandchildren, and everyone involved felt the same way; they are not safe home alone.  But we had to go with what Carl's dad decreed and pray nothing bad would happen. 

 We waited two days, and then Carl and I had gone over the Friday after the doctor appointment/nursing home tour to help his dad with some ironwork he had to finish for a client.  His dad wasn't very friendly at first; he was still upset with our meddling and insinuating he needed a nursing home, but eventually he simmered down.  Our son had done the welding over the course of the summer, but everything needed to be painted.  

FIL oversaw the entire process, telling us how to accomplish the task as he laboriously made his way across his gravel driveway with the help of two broomsticks as canes.  I had given my MIL a pair of outdoor walking poles which were adjustable and would have helped him more than the broomsticks, but sadly, he refused to use them.  

While Carl was busy with painting and I was idle, I asked FIL if there was anything he needed dug from the garden, such as bulbs, potatoes, etc.  After a comical interaction of guessing what I'd said (no, he didn't see any bugs in the garden) he brightened up and said, "Yes, I need to dig the sweet potatoes.  Do you want to help me?"

It is a testament to his amazing strength that he was determined to go with me to dig the potato crop.  I told him he could just point me in the direction and go to the house to rest, but he was not going to be deterred.  We slowly and painfully made our way to his garden where with the aid of a five gallon pail, he incrementally inched his way down to his knees and we commenced to digging sweet potatoes.  He has keen eyesight and could spot the tiniest fragment hidden in the wet soil.  After the sweet potatoes were dug, we moved on to the regular potatoes.  Carl joined us in mid-harvest and we finished up just before dark.  

FIL could barely get up, but refused assistance and eventually did end up on his feet again with the aid of the five gallon pail.  I handed him his broomsticks and we were on our way to his workshop.  His next request was for Carl to fix a saw that had stopped working.  It took Carl over an hour to figure out what was wrong with the tool, and after we hauled all the painted irons back into the garage for safekeeping, we headed home.  

I was looking out the window and sighed. "I don't know if we're doing the right thing.  He's getting weaker."

Carl said, "I know.  All we can do is hope.  He won't accept any more help."

That was on Friday night.  The weekend passed uneventfully, they were in contact with their daughter and granddaughter, no alarms were raised.  

Until Tuesday night.  

Carl had just left to go to his weekly slot-car racing engagement with Joel.  I was cooking beef stew meat in my pressure cooker on the stove and (once again) doing a walking video at the same time since I'd put off exercising in the morning.  The phone rang, and it was Carl's niece, "I just got here and both Grandma and Grandpa are on the floor!  There were no lights on in the house and I need help.  Can you come?"

After finding out they were still conscious, I said I would be right there. I immediately called Carl and Carl's sister and BIL and was scrambling to find jeans and a coat as I was wearing workout clothes.  Then I remembered I did not have a car here, since Carl took his car and the Oldsmobile was gone.  I'd have to walk up to Mom's a quarter-mile away to retrieve her Buick.   

After searching frantically for my purse (I rarely carry one and hate to do so) I finally located handbag and keys and headed out the door.  With Daylight Saving's Time in effect already, it was pitch black out with a brisk, damply cold west wind.  I called Ann as I was jog-walking on my way, and she joined me in my headlong dash in the dark, keeping me company while I weighed my options.

It seemed to take me forever to walk up there, but in reality, it was only five minutes or so.  I was still talking to Ann as I arrived at the garage, "Ok, ok, I've got the door open, ok, I'm getting in the car, and Oh NO! What?? I grabbed the wrong keys!"

Ann was on her lunch break and was just as devastated to hear this turn of events.  There was nothing for it but to head back the quarter-mile to our home, retrieve the right keys, and go back up the road to Mom's garage once more.  Ann was with me the whole time, so I made all these trips in less than a half hour.  Pretty impressive considering.

I arrived at the in-law's house and walked right in.  MIL was face-down on the ceramic tile bathroom floor.  The door was slightly ajar, and when I opened it to see how she was, I bumped her head.  

"What happened, are you in pain?" I asked.

"No, I'm ok. I'm just doing my exercises," she said.  "Sit-ups and push-ups, you know.  I'm ok, I'm ok."

I proceeded to the bedroom where my FIL was lying on his side with his granddaughter talking to him.  He knew me, but he couldn't get up.  They had both been down for over twenty-four hours.  A fall was the one thing we'd all worried about.  FIL's defense was always that he had his cellphone and if anything happened, he would be able to call for assistance.  Sadly, the phones were both in his bed, too far away for him to crawl to and too high off the floor even if he could have reached them.  

I wasted no time, marched to the kitchen, picked up the landline and dialed 911.  

"911, what is your emergency?"

I explained the situation calmly and was assured help was on the way.  I went back and checked on them both and informed them I called for an ambulance.  My FIL was upset, "You didn't do that!  I can get up!" but no matter.  Their granddaughter stayed by his side and I went outside to turn on porch lights.

  In a short time, a police officer arrived followed by first responders and then, an ambulance.   They assessed their conditions and determined because my MIL was showing worse signs of dementia and could not move that she was to be transported.  She kept insisting she had not fallen, but was merely exercising (after she'd gone snowmobiling that day.) The crew was understanding and assured her they could help her with her exercises in a more comfortable place. 

When the emergency crew assessed my FIL, however, they said since he was his own person, they couldn't transport him because he was refusing to go to the hospital.

I said, "I think he needs to go, don't you?  It's been over twenty-four hours."

"We cannot kidnap people.  If he doesn't want to go and is still competent, we have no choice," he said, brusquely.  

I was at my wit's end.

At that moment, the policeman came to our aid. "Well, if you can't take him in, can we at least see if he can get up while we're still here?"

All the while my FIL was protesting, "I can get up, I can get up!"

"Ok," the EMT said, "Here's your walker.  I want to see you get up now."

They gave him several minutes to try to stand, but it was pitifully obvious he could not.  The EMT made a phone call and a second ambulance was dispatched.  Finally we had them both on their way to the hospital.  

Carl and his sister and our BIL arrived just as they were all loaded up, so we all proceeded to the emergency room.  After examinations, they were both admitted to the hospital for a two day stay.  They were both extremely weak and dehydrated.  All of us stayed at the hospital until they were in their hospital rooms and then went our separate ways.  It was a relief to know they were safe at least.

The hospital made the decision to send them to our local nursing home for rehab, the same nursing home they'd toured less than a week before under protest.  FIL was upset at first and said he wanted to go home, but the case worker was able to convince him of the need to go to get his strength back.  

So, as of last week Thursday, they have been in the rehabilitation center.  This is a huge change and an immense adjustment; but after a rough start, my FIL is now seemingly at peace with the decision as he knows he's too weak to go home alone.  I wouldn't say he's thrilled to be there, but he understands and is doing his best to adapt.  Carl's mom is more confused, as is to be expected, which is sad.  

We've gone up to see them every day and bring him things from home that he's requested, his mail, the newspaper, personal belongings, we check on the house, feed his feral cats, and return phone calls on the answering machine, and are trying to finish up loose-ends with his business.  Needless to say, nothing has gotten done around our place at all.  And Thanksgiving is next week?  Oh, dear.

And to add to the chaos, we've both come down with bad colds.  I heard FIL coughing a few days ago, too.  Almost everyone we know is not feeling well.   By the time we get home from the nursing home at night, we're too beat to do much of anything.  

Carl says we need to get into a rhythm with this; and he's right.  We can do it somehow.  We need a system, and we'll figure it out, it's just right now everything is topsy-turvy.  
As far as I got cleaning up the garden.

I was walking down the hallway at the nursing home the first night we had them there and a complete stranger to me was coming the opposite way. 

Our eyes met, and she smiled at me with tears in her eyes.  

"You look like you could use a hug," she said.

I said, "Gosh, does it show?" and we embraced as if we'd been lifelong friends.

She whispered in my ear, "Isn't this THE hardest thing?"

"Yes.  Yes, it is," I said through my tears.  

"Just remember, you're doing what's best for them," she said, and with one last squeeze of my hand, she was gone.

Angels do walk among us.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Retiring the Old Gray Ghost

 Carl and I have been saving for retirement for decades now, and though it is hard to believe, retirement isn't that far off.  We will both be 60 in a few months; weren't we just 20 not that long ago?  Time flies when you're having fun.  And when you're not having much fun, too. 

We went in for a financial review awhile ago.   The advisor ran the numbers of our savings and our current spending habits and asked about our hopes, dreams and goals for old age.   Some of the questions that came up were, "How do you see yourself spending your retirement years?  Play golf?  Will you want to travel? Buy a new home? Vacation home?"

We said no to all of the above.  I played golf once, in 1975, in my junior year of high school.  It was ok, the scenery was nice, I liked the walking, but the game was not for me.  

Travel?  Um, no.  I've never been on an airplane.  Carl flew once as a young boy, on a small aircraft with his sister, Donna.  (All he really remembers about the experience was Donna being airsick.)

Neither of us have any inclination to leave the country; with my luck, they wouldn't let me back in.  

I'm the happiest on the farm. 

A new home?  What?!  Where??  And leave this humongous garden behind?  I don't think so.  (Ok, some day I will have to give up the botanical monstrosity, but until then, I'll keep planting dwarf conifers and hope for the best.)  We do want and NEED to remodel our current hut, though, so ok, yeah, home renovation is a retirement goal. 

The financial advisor's next question was, "How often do you buy a new car?  Would you say every year?  Every two to three years?  Every five to seven?  What is your average?"

Carl and I looked at each other and I busted out laughing.  Our 'average' car turnaround time since we've been married is closer to fifteen years or more.  In fact, Carl's current car, the 1989 Delta 88 Oldsmobile is one year older than our youngest son, David, who just turned 27.  

"Your car is 28 years old?  That's quite the longevity," the financial advisor marveled.  "But would you like to possibly drive a bit newer car in retirement?  How about I figure in a new car every five to seven years in your long-range plan?"

Wow.  A different car every five to seven years, huh.  That would be a change for us, indeed.  Mind-boggling, actually.  We've lived as frugally as possible all of our lives and now, well, it's an ingrained habit.  Carl's motto about anything we own that's starting to fall apart is, "It just needs a little work."

The Olds has needed more than 'just a little work' for a long time now.  The bumpersticker, 'Honk if Parts Fall Off' wouldn't have been a stretch, but I never bought one.  Carl drove the car from a little less than 40,000 miles to 150,000 miles in the eleven years we owned it.  The sad part is, the rust is taking over but the engine is still as strong as ever.  The last time Carl took the car in for tires and they put it up on the hoist at the garage, everyone stood back and waited to see what would fall off before venturing underneath the body.  Even Carl.  

Like all of our cars, the Old's had its own idiosyncracies.  The 'Service Engine Soon' light was on for at least five years until the light burned out.  Carl was happy, Problem Solved.  The problem was actually a cam sensor which would have cost more than the car was worth to fix.  You just had to know how to accelerate from a stop sign and so it wouldn't stall in an intersection.  

I'm not sure when the muffler problem started, it has to be more than five years now.  Carl had replaced the muffler, but the pipe broke up near the engine.  Carl welded it up and it held for a few years, but then rust took out more of the underbody and there was nothing to wire or weld up to any more.  

Yes, the car was loud.  As in very.  One neighbor said he didn't have to set an alarm clock because Carl goes by every week day at 5:15 AM and wakes him up instead.   When I was out in the garden, I could always hear him coming home from a mile away; it was handy, actually.  The last time we rode together, though, we had to yell to be heard over the racket, especially when accelerating.  Once he had it up to speed, it wasn't as bad.  And in all honesty, it was not as loud as most Harley Davidson's on the road.  But it wasn't good.

Carl was determined to drive the car to 200,000 miles and beyond.  I was skeptical, but it was up to him.  He loved the car, so if he was satisfied, so was I.  We have a 2005 Pontiac (another extinct vehicle, as Pontiacs are no longer manufactured either) as our 'good car' which we bought in 2007 with 30,000 miles.   Even the good car is twelve years old already.  Drat!  I doubt we will ever buy another new car; we had two brand-new ones when I was still working, but once I quit, what was the point?  Let someone else take the hit of the high price tag, buying a one or two year old car has worked out very well for us.  

I took the following pictures off an internet ad for a nearly identical car that was for sale.   I'm not sure where this car was located, but it is in way better shape than our Old Gray Ghost.  I suspect this car lived out its life somewhere far away from Salt Country.  Look at that body, would ya?

My parents bought the Oldsmobile used around 1992, I'm not sure when, to tell the truth.   I think it was around three years old when they purchased it from a car dealer and had about 30,000 miles on it.  A local school guidance counselor was the first owner and she often asked me if my parents still had the Olds, "I really loved that car, sometimes I wish I'd never sold it."  She passed away a few years ago as did my father in 2001 and now my mother.  Ironically, the car outlived three of it's owners.

My father was very proud of the Oldsmobile.  Mom was okay with it, but would have much prefered to own a Buick.  In 2006, Mom got her wish and bought a one year old 2005 Buick Le Sabre as an airport rental with 28,000 miles on the odometer.  

Mom sold me the Olds for a little of nothing. Joel and David were teenagers and it came in handy for them, especially Joel, for awhile.  The premiums weren't bad at all.  Eventually, the boys acquired their own vehicles and Carl claimed it for his work car. 

Carl is a wonderful man, but even he will admit he has a problem with junk, as I've mentioned many times before.  He can see something of value in virtually almost everything and as a consequence, virtually almost everything was in the back seat, passenger seat and trunk of the poor Olds for years.  He hauled steel and all sorts of flotsam and jetsam in his car every day.  The faithful vehicle pulled countless trailers of stone and mulch, kayaks and canoes for years.   
I went back through years worth of photos and could only find a few where just a glimpse of the Olds was shown.

 This was the most recent photo, taken in August when we were hauling the last load of granite landscaping rocks from our friend's home.

 The rear of the car is seen here last November, towing our new septic tanks into the back yard.

 I feel bad, gosh, you'd think I would have taken a better picture of the car who served us so faithfully, wouldn't you?

When Mom had to stop driving at age 93, we acquired her Buick.  For over three years, her car more or less sat in the garage, going out only for her doctor appointments.  After Mom passed away, her car is still sitting in the garage at her house, a 2005 with 36,000 miles.  It still looks and even smells like a new car, but it is coming thirteen years old. Carl said we'd keep it as a spare.  Good idea, but expensive to license and insure a car no one drives very much.

Fast forward to September, when Carl called from work, "My car won't start.  I'm going to be late.  I've called a guy and he's coming over to help me.  I'll be home when I can."

Turns out the mechanic who came to look at Carl's car was a miracle worker, and he managed to get it started.  We put a new battery and starter in and once again, the Gray Ghost was rolling.  

"I made arrangements with the mechanic to take the Olds to him and have it tuned up.  He said he can replace the exhaust too, and look at the other problems," Carl said when he got home.

I looked at him in dismay.  "How much will that cost?  Every time you put gas in the tank, the value of the car doubles.  Don't you think it's time to take the Buick out of mothballs and say goodbye to the Olds?"

I don't like to make Carl sad, but I just did.  How he hates to part with stuff, but the only good thing is, he does not like working on cars.  At all.  If he did, we'd have a real mess on our hands as he would be collecting every car he'd see.  

"The Olds is up for registration the end of October," I said.  "I'm thinking we sell it or give it away or something before then.  We're paying for three cars to be on the road and only driving two.  I think you deserve a better car, don't you?  You're not getting any younger."

"What am I going to drive to work, then?  The Pontiac?" Carl asked sadly.

"Yes, that would work, don't you think?  Then we'll move the Buick up to the 'good car' status and start the process all over again," I said.

So, sadly, Carl began the month-long process of saying goodbye to his car.  He put the word out at work and a coworker said he'd trade us a generator for the Olds.  Carl really doesn't need a generator, but he couldn't bear to turn the car into the junkyard since it runs so well.  He agreed to the trade.

Last week Tuesday, one day before the plates expired, Dave and I followed Carl in Dave's new-used car on the Old's last ride to its new owner.  We were both amazed at how much higher the suspension rode after Carl cleaned out all of his junk.  I know it was a hard time for Carl, he hates to give up on anything he feels he can fix.   

When we arrived at the destination, I was surprised to see the new owner was quite cheerful about the Old's.  Turns out he is intending to fix it up for his teenage daughter to drive when she turns sixteen in a few months.  (I think he's going to have a bit of a problem there, because when his daughter laid eyes on it, she declared she wouldn't be caught dead driving it.  He told her she'd better be prepared to walk, then.) 

Carl is now driving the Pontiac to work (Merle, as we call it, due to the paint color listed as 'Merlot') and is feeling a little better about losing his Gray Ghost lately.  

When he came home from work yesterday, Carl said, "The new owner's taken the car to his mechanic already.  They're going to fix up the exhaust and check it all over.  He said the mechanic said, '"This car has a lot of life left in it yet.'  I bet they will get 200,000 out of it.  You just wait and see."

I bet they will, too, Carl. 


Sunday, November 5, 2017

All Saint's Day

The past week was one I wouldn't care to repeat.  Last Sunday I began the task of taking Mom's clothes that were here in our house to a charity.  It was an emotional time, even though I know Mom would be in favor of me moving forward.  She was always and ever practical; life goes on.  

Still, when I handed the bags of clothing over to the volunteer at the charity, I had to fight back tears.   He must have noticed my sadness for he said, "You will never know how much this donation means.  There are so many people who really need these things."  

I thanked him and shook his hand; he'll never know how much I needed to hear those words.  Carl and I drove off feeling much lighter at heart.

When we got home, we set about gathering up all of the geraniums I am determined to winter over for next year.  Any plant already potted stayed in its pot, and I went and dug forty more planted in the ground and repotted them, too.  It took us two trips with Carl's 1989 Oldsmobile to haul everybody up to Mom's house.  

Mom's dining room is on the south side of the house and sunny, so we carefully carried her dining room set into the living room (I'd given the couch and love seat to my dear friend a few weeks ago).  We put plastic boot trays on the floor and arranged sawhorses and shelving to the best advantage.  Mom's dining room looks like a geranium convention, but it is quite pretty.   

After moving all the furniture and traipsing in and out of the house with all the plants, I set about vacuuming and tidying up before I left.   Though I know it sounds silly, I cannot bear to see Mom's house in a total state of chaos, in the back of my mind, I keep thinking, "How hurt Mom would be!"  She always kept a very neat and tidy home.  (I wish I could say the same thing about me, but I'm working on it.)

On Monday morning (a year to the day my brother-in-law died unexpectedly) just before noon, I received a phone call from my father-in-law telling me my mother-in-law had slipped out of bed the night before and he could not get her up.  Could I come?

I was almost finished with my workout, the same workout I put off doing earlier in the morning because I was lazy, and quickly called Carl's sister as I dashed around the house trying to find my purse and simultaneously changing my clothes.  

When I arrived at their home, I found my mother-in-law lying on the ceramic tile floor, smiling up at me as I towered over her. 

"What are you doing here?" she asked.

"What are you doing down there?" I asked. "Are you hurt?"

"No, I just can't get up.  I don't know what happened."

After a little more discussion, I tried having her roll over onto her side and hoped she could get her knees under her and rest her arms on the seat of a kitchen chair, but she was too weak to try.  I finally squatted down in front of her, and trying to remember to use correct body mechanics, lifted her up.  Just as I had her almost upright, she let out a cry and I put her back down gently.  Darn!  Maybe she does have a broken hip?  She only weighs around 115 pounds, but I wrenched my back when I moved too quickly to lower her again.  

"What hurts?" I asked her, wincing at the telltale ache starting in my back.

"Nothing, I was just afraid I would fall," she said.

Oh.  One more time, I bent down and hoisted her up and finally managed to shuffle her to the bathroom.  I cleaned her up the best I could, put clean, dry clothing on her and then asked her to get up and sit in her wheelchair.  

"Don't help me, I have to learn to do this myself," she said as she tried in vain to stand.  "Why is this happening to me?"  It was obvious after a half hour of trying, she wasn't going to be able to do this on her own and every time I tried to help her, she refused to work with me.  My exhausted father-in-law (who is battling cancer) was asleep in his chair in the living room.  I really did not know what to do. 

Finally, I called Carl to come home from work and assist.  When he arrived a half hour later, he was able to get her up and between the two of us, we manuevered her into her wheelchair. 

Carl's sister and brother-in-law arrived and after many discussions, the doctor's office told us to take her to the emergency room.  We arrived at 4:30 PM as a family.  Tests were run, IV fluids were started, and after all of this, the culprit was dehydration.  She was released to go home around 9PM.  

Much like the movie, 'Groundhog Day', this was just the way last year was, to the day, with my brother-in-law's funeral, my mother-in-law falling ill followed closely by my father-in-law's hospitalization in January, my mother and I going to the emergency room at least three times and her fall on the ice when I wasn't there on time to give her medication in the morning, and finally Mom's doctor saying there was nothing else they could do for her and hospice arriving at our doorstep, ending with Mom's death in April 2017. 

All of the above started happening on October 31, 2016.  Throw in some weird health issues for me, too, and visits to gynecologists and assorted other medical personnel and the time frame was not a pleasant one. I don't look forward to repeating the same experiences this winter.  

After discussing what we should do at the hospital with a social worker, the consensus of all concerned is that my in-laws need help.  Of course, just as you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make them drink, you can lead an elderly person to a doctor's office for a discussion on safety and aging, but you cannot make them take it seriously.  

Once more as a family unit, we made an appointment on Wednesday to seek options and opinions on what needs to be done for the pair of them.  All six of us crammed into the exam room with the doctor as a show of solidarity.  The doctor told them assisted living would be the perfect option.  They are 87 and 88 years old, respectively, and in very bad physical condition. 

 Something needs to be done; we can't handle all of their needs, especially since they are not in favor of budging on even the less invasive things we've tried in the past.  Their daughter and son-in-law arranged for Meals on Wheels a year ago, but they would not accept it so they had to cancel the service.  I talked to them about getting a home health care worker in for bath cares and grooming, cleaning, etc. but that was turned down, too.  

Though I know they do not want to leave their home (who ever does?) assisted living would be the safest option, followed by 24 hour in-home care.  Last fall and winter we were caring for my mother in our home until Mom died and were unable to care for Carl's folks much at all.  Carl's sister and her husband did all they could, too, but they live farther away and let's face it, this situation is bigger than the four of us can handle.  We all know what the answer is, but my in-law's are not asking the question.....they feel they can take care of themselves.  Sadly, they cannot.

Where this difficult time differs from last year is the fact that at 96 years old, my mother was willing to work with me; she was also willing to go into a nursing home if I wanted her to, she did not want to be a bother and realized the doctor was right.  She needed around the clock help and supervision.  As ill as she was, she accepted the move from her home to mine and did her best to be accomodating.  

Yes, I could have put her into the nursing home.   Indeed, a year before she died, in February 2016, she was enrolled in our local home, but at the last minute, I backed out.  I couldn't do it.  We made it work with the help of our sons and 'elder spy-cams' in her house and I finally learned how to operate a smartphone (somewhat) so I could watch her when I wasn't with her.  

It wasn't easy, but it worked until her condition worsened in February 2017 and she came to live with us.  I don't regret taking care of my mother at all; but I will admit it was the hardest thing either of us have ever done.  Hard for me with the sleeplessness and worry; hard for Mom with her leaving her home and trying to do her best.  But she thanked me for absolutely everything everyday, and her love was boundless.  It was the very least I could do for a woman who did everything she possibly could for me all of my life.  

The quandary we are all in is how can we best help Carl's parents?  The doctor has not deemed my father-in-law incompetent, so he is still his own person, able to make his own decisions. And drive, too, by the way.  A year ago, we were told if they do not want help, then the only option is to send them home to fail.  Apparently, this happens a great deal; people are too proud to allow help and only after a catastrophic illness, injury or sadly, death, will they realize they aren't capable of doing for themselves any longer.  

All of this brings me around to today, All Saint's Day.  I haven't been a great church-goer, I don't really know why. I have no excuse, but I have attended a few funerals lately and found some comfort in the services.  A week ago, I received a letter from our church letting me know about All Saint's Day and the service planned in honor of those in our congregation who have passed away this year.  

The first verse of a hymn was sung and the pastor read the first six names of the deceased, and if their family members were present, they could go to the altar and light a candle for their loved one.  Their pictures were displayed on the screen in front of church.  Just seeing Mom's smiling face from her obituary set my tears in motion.  I really didn't think this was still so raw, but it is.

Before the second verse, the next names were read and the process continued until all seventeen people were named.  Carl and I went up when Mom's name was read and I managed to light Mom's candle even though it was hard to see through my tears.  I had my first breakdown of the morning when Joel came to pick us up for church and David and Emily met us in the parking lot when we arrived.  I am so blessed to have a loving family!  Mom would have been so pleased, I could just imagine her smiling.

There were many hugs exchanged with others in the congregation who have lost their loved ones recently and not so recently; after all, we have all lost someone we loved, this is the human condition.  

Today we have dark, drizzly skies, and a raw wind.  Sums up pretty much the way I feel which is not great.  Lots of aches and pains abound, not sure what it's all about.  Could be stress, could be just about anything, but time will tell. 

Time will tell with Carl's parents, too.  We have to be patient, help where we can, and hope for the best.  In a few short decades, we will be facing the same questions, if we are lucky.  And none of the answers will be easy then, either.  

The one place I do feel really good though, is in my heart.  The church service did me a world of good.  Time for me to move forward knowing Mom suffers no more. She would want us all to be happy.  She always found things to do which brought her joy and she found joy in just about everything.  

Ann was walking with her grandson a few weeks ago, and she sent me a picture of beautiful fall leaves lying on the sidewalk, "I almost want to pick all of them up!  Just like your Mom!"

How true.  Going through Mom's art supplies I found a whole bunch of dried and pressed fall leaves.  Every year she would go out and select perfect leaves for her art work and inspiration, marveling at each one.  Carl said we should set them free, but I'm going to hang onto them for awhile.  After all, they are just so different and distinct.  Perfect.  

I'll gather some in your memory, Mom.