April 5, 2016

Turning sixty seems to be practice for old age.

You have the next five years to adjust before official oldness begins and you actually begin to benefit from it, with discounts and special offers, and not having to haul your own groceries to the car. People treat you with more deference as a ‘senior citizen’ once you reach sixty-five. As a senior citizen, you’re expected to have wrinkles and grey hair, although it would appear that most women’s hair turns some shade of red as we age. I added to my already red tones for years, until we spent some time in the desert. It was too hot for hair down there. With short, short hair root touchup becomes a weekly chore. And leaning towards lazy as I get older, that was just too much trouble. Besides, I’ve gone far beyond the salt-n-pepper stage, and I like my hair again. The lightest grays and whites are around my face, softening some of the years recorded there, honoring the struggles behind every wrinkled scar. A person without wounds is a blank page that the fates can’t seem to resist. Once you achieve oldness, the wrinkles that women are told to fight with every fiber of their fashion sense become instead badges of honor. In the elderly, your life is written on your face, and personally I think people with few wrinkles have a proportionate lack of character. Now that I am closer to oldness, I can sit behind my aged disguise, gazing with knowing eyes at the antics of the young and driven. I do not offer them my hard won wisdom, they wouldn’t listen. After all, didn’t. In the audacity of youth, they learn their own lessons.

Age is a construct that we humans have created, an odd way of judging time, another invention of the human need to define and measure our existence. Humans have a passion for labels. Everything must be identified and quantified, and put in its proper place within the matrix. Being a round peg, I have always resisted attempts to stuff me into a square hole. As a child, I once went with my sister to color in coloring books at a friends’ house. I got sent home for not coloring within the lines. That experience gave me the impetus to become an artist, and don’t use lines often. But when I do, its sharper than silkscreen. When you make an entrance into a room, what response do you want to elicit from the people there? The one I direct my efforts toward is, “What the f…?” Keep ‘em guessing. From the age of sixty to sixty-five, people are in the worldly wise and still powerful age, one of the few times in our lives that kids listen to us. Unless you are a grumpy curmudgeon… Sixty is an age that cuts both ways. You are old unless you die, and then people will say, “Oh, but she died so young!” There seems to be a certain respect for those who make it this far. You’re old enough to expect respect, and still strong enough to kick their asses if you don’t get it. Sixty-five through the seventies, you are tolerated by society, good for hugs and food and cards with money inside. By the time we hit eighty, people will assume that we’ve lost our remaining marbles, and only have a handful of memories, the stories of which they have heard countless times. At ninety, you get a grudging respect from those who can’t imagine getting that old, and if you make it past one hundred-you’re a rock star, and people are impressed. Do you want to know what the secret to living that long is? Keep waking up. We attach so much importance to the numbers of aging. We have milestones that are supposed to be meaningful. But honestly, when you turned twenty-one (assuming you have), weren’t you just a little disappointed that you suddenly didn’t feel different? I feel very much the same at sixty that I did a few days ago, at fifty-nine. And people don’t mature at the same point in their lives. It can be argued that some people never do, while others seem born mature-looking at the world with old, watchful eyes.




February 22, 2016

Some days I feel like a hamster on a wheel, running madly and getting nowhere.

Or more likely, a hamster clinging helplessly to the outside of the wheel, at it whirls madly out of control. I’ve had a regular parade in my head, led by the Doubt Yourself Revival. The Beat Yourself Up rhythm section has been rockin’, playing in a You’re Running Outta Time beat. Sigh. Nobody can run me through the wringer like I can. Guilt is something my brother says I shouldn’t feel, but there’s no escaping it. I don’t see the last fourteen months as ‘I gave it my best’-rather that I gave out before the finish line. I hate not to finish something I’ve started. I have what may be my final appointment with the plastic surgeon. Everything seems to be healing well. There’s still a bit of swelling, but I think the results are pretty good. It may be time to get a fitting, and find out what size I’ve become. I’ve gone well over six months without wearing a bra, and sister, I’m not so sure I ever want to wear one again. In this case, letting myself go is a good thing.

I’m going to have to call the supervisor for the caregivers this morning and cancel the visit for today. I made this appointment thinking Kevin would be off, but he is overseeing the laying of new carpets at the hotels. My appointment is for before the aide is due to come-I will have to leave around eleven am to get there in time. Kevin is going to try to get the carpet layers started and go along, but we’ll see. At the very least I will have Mom and the dogs along for the trip. It’s a busy week for appointments, Mom sees the oral surgeon on Wednesday, and I finally get to see my pain specialist on Thursday. By the end of next week, Mom should have her new teeth. Her cataract surgery isn’t until May. She continues to go back to her room and sleep whenever there’s nothing going on. Which is most of the time, we’re pretty boring people. The last few days, we’ve had a preview of premium stations on tv, so I’ve been trying to catch some movies that I haven’t seen. There’s not much appeal in that for Mom, since she can’t see. I spend a lot of time, every day, pondering the problem of finding appropriate activities for Mom-going over the pros and cons endlessly, and winding up doing nothing at all. The sheer weight of her need is sometimes suffocating. I stand in the midst of that tempest, just wishing it would stop. Mom is showing classic signs of depression-with lack of appetite, wanting to sleep all the time, and little interest in doing things. I’ve been trying to spend more time with her, especially around meals. I want so much to talk this move over with her, but she will hear none of it.

I just went out to get my second cup of coffee, and half the pot is gone. Mom has taken to pouring her coffee over the sink. It saves us from having to clean up the flood on the counters and floor, and usually I would just shrug this off. But this is our last pot of coffee until tonight, when the shopping gets done. She can’t have had more than one cup, which means the rest has gone down the sink. So, the remainder I now have in here, with me. I’ll go out and giver her periodic refills, but rationing has now gone into effect. You just don’t mess with my java supply. I’m sure I will hear the complaints about how they, the mysterious yet ubiquitous they, should know better than to run out of something so essential. In truth, they just didn’t feel like going in to the store, and we’re not going to fire them for that. As hard as it is, I’m going to have to stop dragging my feet on moving Mom. The pressure that my husband is enduring has developed a short fuse, and he needs someplace to find peace. Home should be that place.

It has always been our habit to create a space of peace and calm with our home. You need a place to escape from the everyday madness. A hidden pocket of reflective beauty in the chaos, protecting you from the storms of life. A place to restore your balance and regenerate enough to fight another day. This week we are going to have a lot of sunshine, promising the advent of spring. By the fourth day, the yard just might be dried out enough to mow. It will certainly need it by then. Four days of sunshine seem to produce four times the growth of grass, which already threatens to cover branches waiting to snap a mower blade. The presence of storm debris berates me to clean it up, even though the threat of more storms still exists. Spring, that tumultuous siren. There are buds and early blooms, and the verdant green belies the dry conditions of the summer before. Jonquils and crocus are making their appearance in the garden, and the tree that I began sculpting into a topiary piece beckons once again. It will be of great help to me to be able to get outside again, as I’m sure the doggies would agree. As much as I love what the mists and rain bring us, I look forward to seeing blue skies again. The sun may burn the gloominess from this house, shedding light on solutions instead of problems. At least, that is my hope.

December 21, 2015

My office today rides on rails, taking me up to Seattle and home. 

There was no time for writing yesterday, getting up at four was to give me time to get ready for the trip, having already procrastinated for far too long. Mom kept the rail car entertained, and talked one gentleman out of half his piece of cake. When we got to Portland, we transferred to a bus, where Mom met her first unamused gentleman, as she felt his head from behind. My helpless apology seemed to fall on deaf ears, but we made it to Salem without completely offending anyone. My sister put out a good spread when we got there, with spaghetti and garlic bread, and a lovely salad. My niece brought homemade fudge, making me grateful that I had eaten spaghetti first. Fudge. Manna from Heaven, or the Devil’s tool? Hard to say, the allure of chocolate is difficult to resist. I knew I was in big trouble when I figured out how to make really small batches of fudge in the microwave…but I digress. My sister and I immediately fell into our habit of sitting on the floor in her office, sipping coffee and catching up. Mom was kind of wired after the trip, and spent some time getting lost between the bedroom and bath. I was grateful to hear her call out to my sister for assistance. Sometimes I worry that she will be having a hard time with something, but is too proud or stubborn to ask for help. I certainly don’t want her to suffer anything needlessly.

I am eager to get back home to my puppies, too. I think I suffer by being separated from Einstein as much as he does me. Mom has already informed my sister that she doesn’t think animals should be on the furniture, and for the times that she’s there, they won’t be, not if she has her way. It’s one thing, though, to make temporary adjustments, but when it becomes more permanent, it’s harder. She already had them drawing the blinds, because it was too bright in the house. I told my brother-in-law to be prepared for a loud, dark house. I think its time to have her ears cleaned out again, she couldn’t hear anything for a while this morning. It got a little better over time, but I still couldn’t resist asking her if she would like one of those horn things that old people used to use as a hearing aid. She still maintains that there’s nothing at all wrong with her, and if people would just stop mumbling all the time there wouldn’t be a problem. I told my sister that once Mom has her teeth fixed, and her cataracts taken care of, we would look at her finances and see if its possible to reconsider hearing aids for Mom. They have ones now that stay inside the ear, with nothing sticking outside, and only need to be taken out a couple times a year to change out the battery. I’m sure they cost considerably more that the four thousand dollar price tag on the last pair she tried and promptly lost, adding to my white hair. I would have to be sure that she wouldn’t be able to take them out herself.

I fully agree that improving Moms hearing would have a profound impact on her. The difference in her hearing was amazing, but she didn’t really notice. To her, she always hears the way she does at that moment. She can’t tell you if it’s made any difference at all, because she only knows what is happening in real time. I’m not trying to discourage anyone from something that could make such a profound difference in her day to day. But I am more cautious, now. More and more, I wonder if she wants some of these things done. The faces she makes when I bring up the dentist or eye doctor cause me to second guess a bit more, but even if she doesn’t think these things will make a difference, I believe they will. And the thing is, I feel a responsibility for making sure she gets the most out of the life she has left.

You would think, with two weeks of freedom, that I would plan all kinds of things to do with it. To be honest, though, I think I could spend the first week sleeping. Aside from taking the dogs to the beach, I really have no plans. Some of the time, of course, will be spent getting everything lined up for the surgery, but mostly I think I will enjoy just having time to myself, and my critters.

November 25, 2015

The day ended with a blast of arctic air, once again sailing debris across the yard.

The cold air from Canada arrived late, which is why we wound up with rain instead of snow. The mercury has only dipped to forty degrees this morning, but the wind out of the North is bitingly cold. Even Einstein didn’t want to hang out in the cold this morning, doing his duty as quickly as possible. I’ve been itching lately to take some pictures, I guess I had better get the batteries for my camera fully charged. That’s another issue that I’ve been weighing in my mind lately. I began this journal using pictures for each entry. Its eye catching and lends its character to the words. In the digital age, it’s easy to pull images off the web-and I do so, by the score. I save these images, sometimes specifically for use in the blog. In the beginning, this was fine. It was only shared with family and friends. Now, even though I never try to claim the images as my own, they travel into the public domain attached to my words. I could put ‘photo courtesy of’ under them, but it would still be missing three important words-‘used by permission’. As an artist, it shames me to use someone else’s work so freely. I should be more mindful of the rights of intellectual property. I’m not sure how that will all translate going forward, but until I work it out, mere prose is what you’ll get. I will have to rely on the power of my words alone to tell our tale.

In a way, it feels like I’m taking the training wheels off and hitting the trails of the unknown. Now that the opportunity for having a life of my own again has arrived, its time to reassess what I want that life to be. How odd, to hit sixty years and have a crisis over what I want to be when I grow up. Artist? Writer? Performer? Philosopher? Healer? Joker? Since I am already all of these things, but master of none, I suppose I’ll eventually have to settle for ‘Interesting but eccentric’. I can live with that, I’ve grown too slow and flabby for Amazon warrior, anyway. I’ve been itching to start creating a new costume and character for next years Steampunk festival. Obviously, I haven’t quite grown up yet. It may, in fact, be time to give up on the whole ‘growing up’ idea anyway. It looks like I will grow old, instead of up. If you haven’t grown up by the time you’re sixty, you shouldn’t have to. I will likely go to my grave trading jokes with God and barbs with the Devil, neither quite willing to claim me. I look like a normal person, but then my thoughts come spilling out of my mouth or through the tips of my fingers…and the illusion is broken.

The second day with the new caregiver went really well. I almost want to tie her to an anchor so she can’t get away. She tidied up the house and then sat with Mom and read to her from the Bible. In wasn’t communion with a fellow Christian, but Mom enjoyed it. And it was a nice thing to do-I appreciated the fact that she recognized Mom’s need for spiritual support. I’m probably going to wind up talking a lot about this person so from now on, and for the sake of convenience, I will refer to her as N. N offered to take Mom in to have her hair done, and also just to get her out of the house for a little bit. I hadn’t even thought about the scenario of having the house to myself. My pain level was pretty high yesterday so I didn’t venture out to the garage for Christmas decorations. It’s not much better today, but sometimes you have to go on, regardless. That’s the thing with pain, especially chronic pain-you either let it stop you, or you don’t. So I will make a hair appointment for Mom today, and get out there and climb the mountains of garage debris searching for Christmas treasures. We have a fake tree, I don’t like cutting one down. But Mother Nature delivered an abundance of evergreens to make wreaths and garlands, and get that wonderful piney smell that’s so evocative of the Holidays. I need to get a stocking for Mom, and of course Theo, Nycci, and Einstein. It will be the cats first tree, and once they see all the decorations, it’s probably only a matter of time before something gets played with.

And it’s Einsteins’ very first Christmas. Thankfully our tree decorations aren’t round, or the plethora of shiny balls would probably be too hard for my little soccer player to resist. I love to be around family and friends during the holidays, but I avoid being around people. Anyone willing to camp out for two days for the opportunity to kill someone over a Black Friday deal is beyond my ability to understand. In cities, it sometimes seems like the ‘spirit of the season’ has become carnivorous, and only the brutal survive. People are more stressed, traffic alone is enough to ruin your day. When folks raise a hand in greeting, only one finger stands out. Shoppers will use automobiles like bumper cars to get a parking space. It’s different here, where people gather for holiday-friendly celebrations, where the noses are cold and the hearts warm. Where instead of blowing their horn at you stranded by the by the roadside they stop and lend a hand. Small towns and neighborhoods are where selfish turns into selfless. Gifts are more from the heart than socially obligatory. Less of them are ordered online, and more are made by hand. Stroll down Water Street and people will greet you with genuine smiles and salutations. Lobbies are decorated and some businesses offer hot cider or cookies for those browsing around town. It isn’t that we are not as diverse in our population as anywhere else, and we have a few Scrooges too. And I’m sure there are wonderful places and people in even the largest metropolis, but I prefer it here. Maybe we are simply willing to open ourselves to the wonder, and remember the joy is in the giving. Even the town gifts us with itself to gaze at, in all its Victorian splendor, free to all.

November 17, 2015

A high wind warning goes into effect in a couple of hours, but its calm now.

We’ve been in the convergence zone caused by the rainshadow of the Olympic Mountains. It’s raining, but all else is stilled with anticipation. When the rest of my world wakes up, we’ll see what’s in store I think I may have to call the surgeon before the appointment Friday morning. I hate to do it, but on day five of the double antibiotics, I’m not only not improving, it’s getting worse. And if I start feeling worse, I may not be up to making the drive to the hospital in Gig Harbor. There’s been a steady ringing in my ears for the last two days, and all my hurts are yelling. I hope my body isn’t rejecting the implants.It doesn’t feel like a normal infection. It makes dealing with a demanding mother and whining puppy a lot more difficult to maintain, especially at the end of the day. Kevin supplied us with tv dinners so the most I had to do was ask Mom if she preferred meatloaf or chicken pot pie. He is at a conference in Seattle, but he will hopefully come home today. I told him not to take any chances if the weather is really bad. I would revel in the freedom from cooking if I didn’t feel so lousy. I too often find myself staring blankly into space with my body not wanting to move. Afternoon naps help a little, but my exhaustion at the end of the day is profound. It’s a very good thing that help is on the way.

I spoke to the social worker from DSHS, and she’s going to get the ball rolling on Mom’s Medicaid. All of the approvals are in place, it’s just a matter of coordinating care, and how we want to use it. She qualifies for forty-seven hours of home care per month. She is still physically capable, or she would qualify for more. I’m going to use about twelve hours of that for weekly housework. I’ve gotten really spoiled, having a housekeeper in once a week. And I can go back to my monthly VECOM meetings. An occasional night out with my husband would be lovely, and my therapist would be happier if I didn’t drag Mom along to my sessions. During the housecleaning sessions, Einie and I could go to the beach, or run errands. Mom wouldn’t have to go to all of my appointments with me. I think this will make a world of difference. It could, in fact, make all the difference as to how long I can keep this up. Having respite available makes me feel a lot better. I don’t have to feel guilty about my brother or sister losing time at work to give us a break. And now that the support system is in place, we can more easily make the necessary transitions, as her health changes. I’m certain now that she’s had changes in her vision. I had been holding off a little setting up all her necessary appointments until things settled down a bit with my own health. One of the things they can do is take her to appointments, so I don’t have to worry about them being in conflict with my own. Maybe by the next round of appointments, though. But its been a long time since I talked to her doctors, and I want to be there for these first ones back.

Plus, its time to start planning Mom’s trip to Oregon. My sister can only afford to take two weeks off from work, so if Mom goes down for Christmas, she would have to be back before my next surgery. I told my sister no worries, I’m sure we will have agency caregivers in place by then. And Kevin and I will have two whole weeks of privacy before she comes back. Hopefully my stoopid bloobies will have cleared up by then. I want to get the second surgery done and get on with life. The new year may start out rocky, with both of us recovering from our respective adventures. My body will have gone through major trauma, and her mental state will almost assuredly regress. That leaves us both in a fragile state emotionally. But we’ll judge that crossing when the road takes us there. Mom is up already, and what little energy I woke up with has expired. There’s only one solution at a time like this-waffles. If I can appease her hunger, she will likely be fine. I have an appointment with my therapist today, and I think I will bring Moms’ audiobook along again. Last time she sat quietly listening to it in the lobby during the appointment, While Einstein sat not so quietly in the car. It’s not perfect, but it worked. Of course it all depends on what’s happening with the weather by this afternoon. I don’t fancy driving in sustained winds over sixty mph, which was the last forecast I heard. And there’s no way that I’m going to drive over the Tacoma Narrows bridge, or to Gig Harbor, under those conditions. We’ll just see what the surgeon has to say when I call this morning. Batten down the hatches, folks, it’s starting to pour.

November 14, 2015

The rain continues unabated, washing yesterday into the Bay of Memories.

It did not start out well. Mom decided that she would sleep in, and didn’t get up until it was time for me to bathe and get ready…then she spent the next fifteen minutes in the bathroom, doing Mom knows what. I tried calling the kennel before we left, but there was not answer, so I threw (figuratively, of course) Mom and the dog in the car, hoping the kennel owner was just away from the phone. Alas, when we got to the kennel it was shuttered and dark, and I had no choice but to bring Einstein with us. When I went to put the dog back in the car, the handle to the drivers side door broke. Now, I have to climb in and open it from the passenger side. Sheesh. Good thing I wear mostly pants… The rain ranged from light sprinkles to heavy down pour, making the trip slower, and seemingly longer, within the watery curtains. There was some wind, but nothing like the day before, and the Tacoma Narrows carried warnings but was quiet when we crossed. At least we were making the trip in late morning, so the traffic wasn’t too bad. Still it seems…unsatisfying to drive three hours in inclement weather to have the surgeon say, “Lets keep an eye on it and check again in a week.” Not only that, but they had only an early appointment next week, at eight forty-five. That means leaving the house by six-thirty. Ouch. 

I think it will be a full calendar for Mom, for a while. Her needs have been set aside while we dealt with mine, and its high time we got back to hers. Eyes, teeth and feet will be my focus for a bit, as we catch back up. Although she denies it, I believe her feet have been bothering her and its been a year, almost, since she saw the podiatrist. But first I want to get her eyes checked out, see how the macular degeneration is doing, and discuss removing her cataracts. And get her to the dentist, I still believe that I could get her to eat more healthy if she could chew better. She seemed a little more tired than usual yesterday, grumpy at the puppy’s attempts to get her to play. Aside from her cereal for breakfast, she only ate Cheetos all day. (Note to self-I should have only brought a portion with us, not the whole bag) She had been so tired and sleepy all day that I didn’t run a bath. She usually won’t take one when she’s really tired. But last night she drew her own bath. I wish she were that independent all the time. She has finally, to my surprise, become tired of her long fingernails, so at her next hair appointment, we will cut them short. I think I will still have her get a manicure, at least once a month.

I may need to get her back in to see her regular doctor, too. Along with the fatigue, I noticed her rubbing her temples a lot, and she was coughing more. When asked, she is defiantly fine, making it hard to figure out what’s going on with her. Even animals are easier to read. They may not have the gift of speech, but they don’t deny it when there’s something wrong. I don’t want her to ‘suffer in silence’ but so far she is firmly in denial. She gets angry with me if I tell people of her ailments, because she thinks I’m making it all up. I wonder sometimes if she thinks she’s being gaslighted. Since she started the new med for anxiety and sleep, she has not only been more upbeat, but her reasoning seems to have improved a little, too. That doesn’t mean, of course, that she’s still not whacked in other ways. I’ve wondered once or twice if she’s beginning to hallucinate-she will get up a dozen  times a day to check the yard, and one time actually told me that she saw someone out there. It seemed to make her anxious, so I went outside to check, but didn’t see anything. When my grandmother developed dementia, she saw bugs everywhere, and once called the police with concern, because she said there was a young black boy in the tree across the street. This was in Indiana, and I suppose they’ve had their share of racial strife. I think she may have been worried for the child’s safety.

Kevin is up, although Mom isn’t. But she will be, once she knows that other people are up. I need to start early today anyway, and get things picked up and put away before the housekeeper shows up. Yes, technically that’s pre-cleaning, something my mother used to do. It made no sense to me as a kid, but hey. Times change. She does dusting, vacuuming, cleans the bathrooms and the floor in the kitchen, and usually we have a project, like cleaning out the fridge. I don’t feel it necessary for her to do dishes or litter boxes, or laundry. And I am behind on all of them…


November 12, 2015

My head is full of cottony clouds, and my bloobies are blotchy and red.

Strangely enough, eight weeks post surgery and wounds healed, I seem to be developing an infection. What began looking like a slight sunburn has deepened and spread, looking almost bruised. I have to go to Urgent Care this morning, and back to the surgeon tomorrow. I should have gone last night, but it was too late. I spent most of yesterday lost in the fog, too weary to do much of anything. I thought it might be a good opportunity to watch some tv or movies with Mom, but she insisted on sitting  behind me, at her table. It was so easy to just zone out, which I did off and on all day. It took me until late afternoon to make the call. I knew they would want me to go down to Gig Harbor, and I just didn’t have the strength. I hope my mind clears a little between now and when I do have to go. I guess this morning after breakfast I need to get Mom up and dressed, and take she and Einie with me to Urgent Care. It’s unusual to develop an infection at this point, but my immune system was weakened by more that a month on antibiotics, and the stress in never ending. They will probably want to give me even more, now. I am mostly anti-antibiotics. I have a fairly good immune system most of the time, and overuse of antibiotics has caused the rise of super bugs like MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus).

It read forty-two degrees on the outdoor thermometer this morning, the coldest reading so far this year, and Einstein got to start his day by chasing a couple of deer out of the yard. It makes him feel good that something so much bigger than he will run from him. We are expecting another soaker this weekend, as we settle into the winter pattern of storms. The sight of snow on the Olympics makes my heart sing with joy. There was something obscene about those naked peaks. Throughout November, the snow level will advance and retreat several times before settling down. We are under flood watch on the Peninsula because of this. I can hear the wind starting to pick up now, and a look at the radar shows the front edge of a very large system just now hitting the coast. I’ll check the news at seven, but it doesn’t take a meteorologist to know that we’re going to get wet. I’m hoping for a break in the weather for the trip to Tacoma, but we’ll leave early just in case. I’ll call Moms hairdresser and see if she can’t do her hair today rather than tomorrow. My sister has insisted on continuing to pay for a housekeeper so this weekend she will be back. It has been wonderful having the help, and I am becoming quite spoiled by it. Besides, its good to have an adult with full faculties to talk to once in a while. If you know of anyone battling breast cancer, or have even had some other major surgery…the gift of a clean house is marvelous.

Terrific. I tried to go out for a cup of coffee, tripped on a blanket, and fell. I have a nasty scrape on the back of my thigh, and by the way it feels, it will soon be joined by bruising. It ain’t easy, being gracefully challenged. I hope this isn’t an indication of how the rest of the day goes…short post today, my muse left me during the crash.

October 29, 2015

Fall has unpacked its bag of tricks, and viruses frolic throughout the populace.

I like to avoid crowds of humans during this time of years, but it’s not always possible. For my husband, running hotels, it’s not at all possible. Mom and I have had our flu shots, but Kevin hasn’t, yet. So today he’s staying home sick. It’s the domino effect of workplace illness. Earlier in the week, he covered for someone, working an extra day when he could ill afford it and getting sick himself. For many, many people, if you don’t work you don’t get paid. People will usually choose a paycheck over bedrest, ignoring the fact that they are spreading the misery. It may surprise you, but nowhere is this more prevalent than in healthcare, particularly in long-term care where some of our most vulnerable live. In long-term care the patient loads are so high that a great deal of pressure is put on sick employees to go ahead and work. Deaths from flu hit the elderly particularly hard, and I’ve often wondered how many of those were caused by keeping sick employees on the floor. I hope that things change, but I have a feeling it will get much worse, before ever getting better.

Mom has been off her feed the last couple of days, and all three of us here have been coughing a lot. I hope that Mom isn’t getting sick, and can’t afford to be ill. You can’t, after all, stay home from work when home is where you work. On the other hand, I get to stay in my pajamas all day, so… Yesterday amounted to three hours of driving for basically nothing. We didn’t expand any more-at last I saw someone who, like me, didn’t see the point in getting any bigger. So now I have an appointment with the plastic surgeon, finally, to discuss outcomes and decide how to proceed. At least it was a pleasant outing. The weather finally seems normal, we had rain showers off and on all day, and the skies stayed overcast and storm tossed. I had packed along a bag of treats, since we would be on the road at lunch, so that kept Mom contented. It wasn’t a pretty day, but the rain wasn’t bad enough to stop us. And we didn’t have wind to contend with, for which I am grateful. I have seen the footage of the Tacoma Narrows bridge in a windstorm that earned her the nickname ‘Galloping Gertie’-and we have to cross that bridge on our way. At any rate, it got us out of the house. We stopped at the store, picked up an exhausted puppy, and made our way home. For the second time this week, Mom disappeared into her room, before dinner, and hasn’t been getting up as early in the morning. Sometimes she’s not even up when I go out to the kitchen in the morning. She’s been a little grumpy and on edge the last few days, which could be another sign of illness. I will keep a close eye on her for symptoms.

Even though I’ve begun writing again, I’ve yet to start catching up on posting entries on my blog. Part of the reason is our awful internet access debacle, but also because I’ve been starting to suspect that there are things my husband won’t tell me now-afraid that his words will appear here. I’m having a hard time reconciling his need for privacy with my need to communicate. After all, I don’t share any intimacies or secrets here, and we need to keep our lines of communication open or we might make the silence a habit. We do a lot of communicating without words-we’ve always been able to tell what the other was thinking, with just a look. But now his eyes are always on one device or another. It would be nice to have his point of view, this account would be more comprehensive with it. When you take a parent into your home, you have to take your spouse into account. Their lives are as impacted as your own, although in different ways. This begs further thought.


October 28, 2015

The stars are hiding behind a warm blanket of clouds, as we prepare for a wet day.

At least today we have a trip to Tacoma, and that will break up the monotony. Einstein will go to the doggie day care, and will be happily exhausted at the end of the day. I think I will put a roast in the crock pot before we go, so we don’t have to worry about dinner. After today’s expansion, I’m going to insist on a face to face meeting with the plastic surgeon, to discuss possible outcomes. If he can’t make the damn things smaller, I’m not willing to haul these around for eight weeks. We could get the second surgery much sooner if we just take them off, and be done with it. Since I have no working nerves in that area, recovery should be pretty smooth. Right now my position is smaller or none at all. My incisions are healed, and even the holes from the drains are doing well. I am so close to being able to relax in a long, hot bath…! My creative side has been mulling over tattoos, trying to find the right expression. My breasts are still completely numb, and may remain that way. So a tattoo in that formerly sensitive area would be nearly painless. I will wait a year before doing a tattoo, regardless. There’s plenty of time to design it. The numbness is a blessing and a curse. While I don’t have any pain, because of the larger size I keep running my boobs into cupboards, doorways, etc. Stupid bags of mostly water…

Mom stayed kind of grumpy yesterday, but I have to admit it was a really boring day. With her vision and hearing failing, really the only thing that she enjoys is close conversation, and she really believes that she should be entertained. It just isn’t possible for me to sit all day with her at her table. Barring the possibility of an android companion, (and wouldn’t we all like one of those) my problem is in finding ways to keep her engaged. A couple of days without stimulation, and she starts looking like a zombie. That slack-jawed apathy is frightening after a while. Her only activities are eating and walking back and forth to the bathroom, or to the kitchen for coffee and a cookie. She eats her cookies one at a time, fooling herself that she hasn’t gone through a whole jar by the end of the day. She will audaciously stand with the last cookie in her fist and claim, “But I’ve only had a couple of bites, see?” I don’t usually worry too much about it, she always eats well at breakfast, and she gets a nutrition shake every day. But yesterday she didn’t eat more than three bites of any meal. I know we have a nice new doggie dispose-all, but that’s too many leftovers. Her stance is that she ate all she wanted. Today I think I will put the cookie jar away after breakfast, and see if we can’t get her back to eating food. Mostly because I want to know if the problem is her appetite, or she doesn’t like the food.

I know that not being able to chew properly is part of it, although she will vehemently deny that she has any problems chewing. Nor does she have any vision problems or difficulty hearing. She’s never been sick a day in her life and she’s perfectly fine now, thank you. I, however, am once again on the horns of a dilemma. Would Mom be happier in a facility, where she would be surrounded by folks her own age and activities to keep her stimulated? Perhaps. Or would she feel angry and abandoned? I’ve worked in enough long term care facilities to know the challenges she would face. There would be no private rooms, not on Medicaid, and she would have to room with someone. I’ve seen as many as four beds in one room, particularly in an Alzheimer’s unit. She would have no choice in when she eats or gets bathed, and eventually even her toileting would be on a schedule. I have worked in long term care from here to Hawaii and down to Las Vegas. Nationwide, there is a chronic lack of adequate staffing in these facilities. At every place I’ve worked, there are really good people. And, there are always those who either hate the job and do it just for the pitiful amount of money received, or are predators looking for easy prey. All of these people-good, bad, or indifferent, are overworked and underpaid. Her clothing and personal possessions could be subject to thievery or ‘borrowed’ to clothe another patient. Abuses of many kinds are more prevalent amongst the demented, who may not be able to remember an insult or attack. Thankfully, outright abusers and rapists are rare in long term care. But even simple neglect can have a huge negative impact on your loved one. You also have a tired staff, and when people get tired enough, they make mistakes. And in this field, mistakes can mean lives. The issue of long term care is one that we all need to start thinking about. When we ‘Boomers’, the largest generation in US history, hit the point of needing long term care…lets just say our ability to handle it needs some work.

And the clock is ticking…