May 12, 2016

It’s an odd day, here on the Island.

I’m writing later in the day than usual, but then everyone seems to be off their schedule. I haven’t written for a couple of days. I’ve been mired in reflection and, quite frankly, self pity. It’s a cumulative effect, one thing piling on top of another until the whole mess falls apart. That hot mess would be me. Mom is in fine fettle now that she can see a little again, although her biological clock has been a bit off with all the daytime sleeping that she does. I think she was up in the wee hours, whilst I wasn’t. The evidence-the light on at her table and an empty cookie jar-suggests that she was up for some time. I’ve seen her go back and forth to the bathroom a couple of times, but she hasn’t come all the way out yet. I will need to get her up and moving soon, we have to go in to town this afternoon. I have an appointment for acupuncture. I will be quite interested in what the doctor may be able to tell me about my latest test results. I have very high levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) in my blood, which is an indicator of disease or inflammation. My belly blows up over the course of the day, becoming distended and as tight as a drum by bedtime. It makes everything more difficult, from breathing to walking. And, of course, it hurts. 

Lets just get it all out while we’re at it. I’ve had a sore, swollen ankle that I don’t remember injuring and doesn’t want to heal, worries about further skin cancers, the continuing deterioration of my spine, and a tumor in my head that I don’t think we’ll ever get around to addressing, since I only get to talk to my VA provider once a year-and then only deal with one issue at a time. I’m sure there’s more, but right now I’m probably lucky that they’re finally addressing the anemia in a serious way. So, what could be the cause of my discomfort? According to what I’ve been able to find online, the options are Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or one of several cancers. My CRP levels would be considered high at five, and mine is twenty-four point nine. If we are dealing with a cancer, my CRP levels drastically reduce my chances of survival. Add it all up, and it makes me weary and more than a little bit frightened. I mean, am I really falling apart, my body systems crashing in cascade fashion? It has to be a bad sign to have so many system failures going on at once. So I’ve been having myself a little personal pity party here at the homestead. It’s a shame, too, with the lovely weather we’ve been having. I haven’t been to the beach with the dogs in a long time, and I haven’t had the stamina to play with them outside very much. Having skin cancer has made it problematic to be outside. If I stay in the shade, as I should, the mosquitos have me for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Would you like a little Zika virus with that?

The house is in a state of utter chaos, the laundry is piling up, and the kitchen is hidden behind a mountain of dirty dishes. I have to decide which mountain to climb this morning, because by the time we get back from my appointment, I will undoubtedly be done for the day. I’m leaning towards laundry, I need clothes if I’m to go anywhere today, and the bed is beyond needing to be changed. On thing I will never be is a domestic diva. It interferes with thought and creativity to be faced with mundane household chores. Speaking of chores, Mom has finally risen, so I’m off to make her breakfast. Hopefully I can come up with some answers today, for good or ill.


May 6, 2016

It’s going to be another banner day in the Pacific Northwest.

We awoke to a sky of flawless blue, and every bird on the Island is in full voice, singing its praises. In fact, the next week looks to be sunny and beautiful, with temps comfortably in the seventies. While that should (and does) make me feel good in a temporary sense, (who doesn’t love a warm spring day), it also makes me decidedly uneasy. It’s another indication of the end of weather as we know it. It has become hotter sooner in the last few years. There are times when I feel like I’m standing at the dawn of extinction for the human race. I wonder sometimes at the purpose behind denying the evidence all around us. We should be complaining, this time of year, about the endless rain and clouds. People at the top of the socio-economic ladder seem to be grabbing onto wealth as though that will save them. At a time when global survival is in question, all resources should go into finding and implementing solutions, not hiding our heads in the sand. What does holding onto their money buy them? A front row seat? Sooner or later the politics of survival will kick in, and the mighty will fall-and take the rest of us with them, unless we start coming up with some answers. I think I’m with Stephen Hawking on this one-the only path towards survival for the human race is to leave this amazing world that we have plundered, and find another planet to live on. The question is, do we deserve another chance? Are we just going to frack up the next one with our insatiable appetites and reckless abandon, or learn to live in harmony with what we find there? Whatever qualities of redemption we find in ourselves seems to be overbalanced by our reasons for needing to be redeemed. It is a point of great frustration to me, especially in an election year, that almost no one running for office-with the exception of Bernie Sanders-is even talking about the looming disaster of climate change. Not only is it real, it’s here. And if we aren’t careful, we may witness the end of the evolutionary experiment known as mankind. This soapbox is now closed.

We have our second day with the new caregiver, M, today. This time, I will try to write down a list of duties for her. When she came on Monday, she did virtually nothing. Mom has a hair appointment, so she will have to be dressed and taken in for that. Her laundry is piling up, and if not for my conscientious husband, she would have a load of dishes from last night. Mom pays for it, (in part), and she should get value from that service. M needs to be able to work on her own, too. I have errands to run today, and I shouldn’t need to supervise her all the time. Mom has been doing really well since the surgery although now that she can see more, the animals get kicked off of the furniture more often. She is still spending the majority of her day resting in bed. Most of that due to boredom I am sure, but she was looking sort of haggard by the end of the week with my sister here, so I know she sort of needs her naps. Today I will call the social worker from DSHS, and try to have Mom reevaluated for level of care. I would like to see her daily rate go higher before I spend too much time talking to residential facilities. I’m hoping that once I get the ball rolling, things will move along quickly. Even with the reunion coming up, there’s no good reason to keep putting this off.

My sister is sending Mom some headphones, and they may arrive today. I can put a bunch of music on my old iPhone and she can enjoy music all day if she wants, or listen to her audiobook without competing with the television. She needs more things to stimulate her mind, and music has always been a source of happiness for her. Musical talent and appreciation run in both sides of our family, and I’ve lived with my mother enough over the years to have an idea of what she likes, or may like. When I worked in Hospice, I used to like to dim the room lights and put some Tangerine Dream in the CD player before I would bathe my patients. The music and warmth was soothing, and sometimes, in that warm relaxed state, they would leave life behind with a sigh very much like contentment. When its time for me to make my own exit, I wouldn’t mind going that way myself. I think I will spend some time at the beach with the dogs today and see if that doesn’t chase away today’s shadows in my mind. I could use a more sunny outlook, and I can’t think of a better way than sun, dogs, and beach. I will let you know, reader, how that goes.

May 5, 2016

I have come to the realization that turning off the alarm is becoming a bad habit.

The wee hours are still the best time to write, and not simply due to the lack of distractions.  In the darkness before dawn, it sometimes seems easier to get to the gritty details, as though the shadows of night are more comfortable being scrutinized in their natural habitat. From the safety of my lighted sanctuary I can observe them without being overwhelmed, mostly. The morning is overcast, and the ghostly moaning of foghorns can be heard in the distance. According to the forecast, the clouds should burn off when the sun rises. There’s always a period of time when my clearing is full of sunshine but the fog hangs out over the waters of the sound. The foghorns still go off, even though I can’t see a hint of mist anywhere. Between procrastination and a faulty mower, the yard is now a jungle of grasses, perfect for an ambush. The dogs think its great, and they chase each other in merry abandon. Watching them play together brings me no small measure of joy, and I find chuckles of amusement escaping my lips often as I watch them romp. I have been looking online for crates. I need one small enough to fit in the backseat of my car, so that I don’t have to worry about it being chewed to pieces when we have to leave them in it. And crates big enough to start training them to be left at home. Until we can get a fenced area for them to be in, it’s the only solution to the chewing and separation anxiety that I have come up with.

The surgery to remove Moms’ cataract went really well. I was surprised at the short length of time that the procedure actually took. After the hour-long drive, an hour to prep, and another to wait, the procedure itself took maybe ten minutes. While we were getting her prepped, the doctor asked her for her full name, and my heart fell a little when she couldn’t remember her last name. It’s the oldest memory she’s lost to date. “What name have I been using, now?” She asked, her voice small and helpless. Mom came out of the surgery with one brilliant and wide open blue eye sparkling. As expected she could not give us a comparison, she seemed to have forgotten that she couldn’t see just scant hours before. I could tell the difference right away, by how confidently she moved about, easily avoiding bumping into things. Although she denied any difference in her sight, she spent the rest of the day gazing about her and drinking in the view. And when she ate dinner, I could tell that she could actually see what was on her fork (or not), and spent no time aimlessly searching her plate for the food. When I brought her dinner, I automatically told her what was on her plate and where…and she gave me a look that said, I know that, silly. What do you think I am, blind? think you’re a Doodle, Mama. She ate better, too, all day. Although her vision is still considered poor due to the macular degeneration, it gives her enough sight to function a bit more normally. I am really pleased with the results, though now we seem to spend most of the day doing eye drops. She already had three eyedrops to do twice each day, now she has three more, done thrice. They want me to wait five minutes between each application, which really drags things out.

They require a one-day follow up appointment after the surgery. Luckily, it was at the Port Townsend office and not Poulsbo. Unluckily, I forgot all about it. Mom went down for a nap after lunch, and the only other thing on the calendar was the weekly radio check-ins that I had already done that morning…and somehow I forgot. I took the dogs out to play for a little while in the afternoon, and while I was out there, five phone calls, two voicemails and a text came in and were shouting their existence. I smacked myself in the mental zone and called to see if maybe we could make it the next day…of course not. It is required, lectured the receptionist when I called. I was still in my pajamas, and Mom was still in bed, so I told her I would do my best. When we got there, the girl at the desk huffily told me I would be seeing someone else, because the surgeon had already left for home. I might have made it sooner, I wanted to say, if not for two road crews and emergency vehicles jamming up already heavy tourist traffic. And the doctor was still there after all, and seemed not nearly as displeased as his minions with my tardiness. It made me want to go back out to the reception area and stick my tongue out at her.

Although he noted my happy observations, he didn’t seem entirely pleased with the physical exam. I asked him if he was encouraged enough to go ahead and do the other eye, and his reply was cautious and subdued. And he told me that the brilliance of her blue eye was probably due to a dye that he used to visualize her cornea. Spoilsport. He wants to see her again in two weeks, and said that at that time we would decide whether to do her other eye. He also said that its possible for her eyesight to continue to improve as she heals from the surgery. Even if it doesn’t, it has given her back some confidence. In a few days, I will start asking her to look through one eye and then the other, to see if she thinks her vision is better with the ‘before’ eye, or the ‘after’ one. It’s not really a fair test, because the vision in her left eye was already much worse, with lots of scarring from a bout of what they call ‘wet’ macular degeneration. It will depend on how she feels about it in a couple of weeks and whether the surgeon thinks it’s worth putting her through the second surgery. Until then…one day at a time.

May 2, 2016

The sun is rising on a gorgeous Soggy Bottom day.

The forecast is for temperatures in the upper eighties in Seattle, which translates to the mid seventies here on the Island. It will be hard to stay indoors today. At some point, I need to take my husband into town to pick up the company truck. That way I will have our truck for transportation, until we get new seat belts for my car. It will make travel with the dogs more complicated, they won’t like having to ride in the back. I wonder if Newton would eat the canopy…he seems to have a fond appetite for vehicles. The dogs are slowly getting accustomed to using the stake. For the last two days, they have mostly stayed in the yard, only taking off once. They seem to be getting the concept that they can stay outside longer if they stay home. I don’t want to leave them staked if we go somewhere, that would freak Einstein out completely. Someday we will be able to leave them in the house when we’re gone, but not until the chewing stops. I still dread the learning curve on that one. It would be a wonderful day for a beach run, we have a caregiver for five hours today. At some point, however, we need to do the shopping for the next week. There shouldn’t be much, we really stocked up on essentials the last time. I got Mom and I both new socks and panties. Hers and mine have been getting mixed up in the laundry. Even though I don’t mind sharing clothes with my mother, I draw the line at panties. I should start putting Moms’ name on her things, in preparation for the move into long term care.

It was such a nice time while my sister and brother were here that I didn’t want to push having the talk with Mom about moving. There won’t be another opportunity for family support on that decision until June, when everyone is here again. It would be a bummer to do that during the reunion, when everyone should be happily celebrating family. I will just have to put on my big girl panties and deal with whatever fallout happens. I feel like the cowardly lion, trying to find my inner bravery. I would willingly travel to the Emerald City for rescue, but I don’t think Oz lives there anymore. Thus far, Mom hasn’t seemed to be thrown off course into more confusion from the upheaval of visitors. I half expected her to take a nose dive once everyone left. I don’t think that my sister was prepared for the manifestation of Sundowners’ Syndrome, which increases confusion once the sun goes down. The medication she’s taking could account for some of it, but she really seems to have evened out on that one. Her speech gets a little bit slurry and she may lose her way, but since the time we had to carry her to bed, she seems much better, to me. My sister tried her noise cancelling headphones on Mom, and she spent several afternoons lost in music. She seemed to enjoy it very much, and I have a feeling she will have her own set before long. Mom has begun her back and forth to the bathroom, and it won’t be long before she ventures all the way out. I got a late start anyway, and should really get busy with the daily routine.

April 18, 2016

I’m hoping that a day of blazing sunshine will give me a break from wrestling demons.

Even though the decision to move Mom has been made, I still can’t let go. I’m supposed to start taking Mom to lunch at various facilities, but excuses for not doing that are so easy to find. This week we won’t go because we have to get the house in shape for visitors. Next week…company. The week after, getting ready for eye surgery. And the biggest hurdle of all is my cowardice in addressing the issue with her. I’ve tried, at various times, to bring up the subject, but it doesn’t go anywhere. I’ve wondered recently if her new habit of spending all her non-meal time sleeping in her room is an attempt to stay out of the way, be no bother. She’s still not eating much, even her cookie jar stays relatively untouched. She stays determinedly cheerful when she is out of her room. If I am at the computer, she will pop up every few minutes to say hello, then wander off, with a sing song voice lamenting, “Ho hum…ho hum…” Perhaps on the chance I will come up with something to do that includes her. I sit here until the guilt overwhelms me, and then I get up-generally winding up in the living room with the television, once she and I have run out of things to say. All of this leads to not doing anything constructive, and me beating myself up for not getting things done.

The nice weather we’ve been having has made it very difficult for the dogs, who naturally want to be out in it. This time of year any sunny spot on the floor becomes prime real estate, and the cats join in to the power struggle for the best spots. What makes it really hard right now is that I’m trying to train the dogs not to take off down the road. When they do I jump right into the car and go get them. And when they do, they have to go right back in the house for a while. Yesterday they ran off four times. And a couple of days ago we had a close encounter with one of the attack dogs from down the street, exactly why I fear them taking off like they do. And I couldn’t tell if the attack dog got away from the owner, or was let go. Einstein had to spend most of yesterday on the leash, and I hate to do that. Our dogs are runners, and they need to be able to. We’ve been mulling over solutions, the most effective would probably be a fence, but location and size have yet to be determined. In the meantime we’re probably going to attempt staking them out. They would happily stay out there all day long, and it bothers me to deny them that. I don’t know how Einstein will react to me not being out there with them, but I think he would get over it pretty quickly once he’s out there. The problem with staking is them getting tangled up in play. We don’t want to stake them so far apart that they can’t play with each other.

I’m still struggling with anemia, staying up all day seems an exercise in futility. I get up strong, but once lunch has filled our bellies, I can barely drag myself into the bedroom for a nap. I’m taking enough iron to lay a railway, defecating in a color suggestive of death, and still I’m dragging my ass through the day. Next week I will go to Seattle for a consult with gastroenterology, to discuss a colonoscopy. Oh joy, always a pleasure. It’s very frustrating though, because we seem to have accumulated a lot of junk over the winter, and I can’t seem to get anything done. There’s been a pile of general crap out on the deck for months, never quite making it to the garage or dump. Inside the house is all the wicker from the back room, which was way too crowded, and all that is destined for the storage unit. There are three lamps that bit the Big One. Only one, surprisingly enough, the result of over enthused canines playing-another reason to get them outside. Theo has been going outside again, but only during the daylight hours. He would go out after dinner, but I haven’t been letting him. The coyotes were stopping by for a few days after he went up the tree, so that’s probably who scared him up there in the first place. I still can’t believe that I climbed up that tree after him. It’s unseemly for a woman of my…maturity.

Theo just came in to play with a pipe cleaner he found. Einstein finds this puzzling, since the cat never wants to play with him. As we ponder that mystery, the birds are beginning to sing the day into being. It’s no longer dark at the end of our morning writing session, and I’ve begun to question the necessity of writing back here at all. Mom never starts getting up to the bathroom these days until nine am or so, and she doesn’t get up up until around ten. I should be able to get out there and take a bath before she rises. I need to take her into town this morning for another adjustment on her teeth-hopefully we’re getting close to perfect on her fit, and won’t need to come back for a while. I look longingly at my sleepy dog and thinking of the warm bed just behind the door, with the realization that this does not portend well for completing today’s necessary accomplishments…but I will soldier on for as long as I can.

April 9, 2016

Yesterday’s adventures have left us all stiff and sore.

Theo the cat stayed up in the cedar tree all day, despite my efforts to coax him down. We have a long ladder, but it was too heavy for me to carry, so I had to wait for my husband to come home. Once he got here and we got the ladder situated below the tree, I channeled my inner monkey and up I went. Once I reached the top of the ladder there were good, heavy branches. My perch was fairly secure, although I had to contort my body to get there. (…and boy, do I feel it now) I could reach the cat, and I gave him a reassuring pat or two-but realized that there was no way I could climb down with one arm holding a squirming, unhappy feline. As I made my slow and painful way back down, I was followed by the wailing of my stranded boy. We regrouped, and Kevin suggested we take a section of two by six and lay it across the branches, giving Theo space to walk. He was on a branch too small for him to perch without hanging on by his claws, which he had been doing for about twenty-four hours. Grumbling about the ludicrous picture of a sixty-year old woman climbing trees and muttering about the wisdom of tempting fate once more, back up I went, hauling the board up with me. If would’ve gotten stuck up there the fire department would have never let us live it down. Try as I might, I couldn’t get the board secure enough for the cat to use. While I was playing 3D puzzles with board and branches, Theo decided he wasn’t going to watch me climb down and leave him in the tree again.

It started with a little slip, went from there to a desperate but futile attempt to get back up, and wound up with him hanging by all twenty claws, upside down from the branch. I could see in his eyes the point where he decided to trust us. When he let go with his hind feet, I hollered a heads up to Kevin. He was as ready as he could be to catch a seventeen pound furrball with upset claws when Theo finally let go and came hurtling down. He bounced off Kevin’s arms, saving him from hitting the rungs of the ladder, but he hit pretty hard-leaving a decent bruise on Kevin’s wrist, as he took the blow. It was a leap of faith that Theo made, I think he knew we had tried everything we could. He seemed to be moving okay afterwards… After chowing down the two meals he had missed and peeing his displeasure on the bedroom rug-again-he disappeared for the evening. He was on the chow line this morning, getting good and hungry yesterday seems to have prompted him to not be so picky about his food. He is limping a little this morning, and growled when I tried to pick him up, so I will watch him closely to see if I need to make a Vet appointment for him. Kevin told me Theo took the force of the fall on his stomach, so I want to be sure there’s no internal damage. Since the urine war seems to be continuing unabated, we’ve decided to see if he may have urinary problems. It is the end of all ideas for us, and if we don’t get to the heart of the problem, we may have a difficult decision to make about his future.

Mom had N for the afternoon yesterday, and I spent as much time as I could outside with the dogs. I was mindful of the sun, trying to find a balance between dangerous sunshine and mosquito filled shade. Yep, the little suckers are out already. With the rains we’ve had, there’s been plenty of standing water for them to breed in. At least we don’t have to worry about them spreading the Zika virus…yet. I wonder what plagues this century has in store for us. According to scientists, global warming will cause disease rates to soar as climate change alters habitats and species migrate…and mutate to adapt.  Back to Mom-N and she followed their habit of going in to Port Hadlock for Moms’ hair and a treat of donuts and coffee. They both enjoy these outings, and I was disappointed when N told me she wasn’t coming back. She decided to take a job in the office, for more hours. So we will have a new caregiver starting Monday. I think this will be the last staffing change we will put up with-continuity of care is really important for Mom. She was just getting used to N, and liking her a little. If we keep upsetting her with changes, life could be more difficult for all of us. The recent changes Mom has gone through have been almost profound, and N and I spent some time chatting about it.

Mom is a hundred percent better on this new med. She’s back to being sweet and funny, and she can follow the thread of a conversation, as long as she can hear it. She sees almost nothing now, and thankfully her cataract surgery is coming up in a few weeks. Now that Mom is able to reason a little better, she is starting to communicate her needs more. Since we got her teeth fixed and soon her eyes, she has started to demonstrate an interest in possibly helping her to hear better, while things outside of self are still of value to her. Hearing aids are a huge expense, though, so we shall see. I have no idea how long this period of lucidity will last, but I know its only temporary. It has been lovely lately, with Mom being alert and mostly reasonable. I can have a real conversation with her again. It may wander and occasionally delve into the obscure depths of her disorientation, but she can put a complete sentence together most of the time. She frequently checks my location, since she can’t see well and I don’t make much noise, she just needs to make sure I’m around. For her, the fog has lifted just a bit, and we will enjoy it for as long as it lasts. Speaking of mists and fog, even though the low clouds are quickly burning off to reveal another gorgeous spring day, I can hear the foghorns in the shipping lanes, playing reveille. Must be time to shove off and start the day…


April 2, 2016

Brushing aside all worries, we surrendered to the sun…and the beach.

It was one of those awe inspiring, postcard perfect days. I suppose we were April fools, but in this we were not alone. I have a feeling that at least some of the other people out there had foregone tricks for a day of sun hooky. We went to the northern beach at Fort Flagler, where if you hike down the beach for a mile or so there are few people. Usually. We did run into some of the hardier souls, including a couple with another puppy. The boys were in seventh heaven. They had the beach, and another puppy to romp with, and they tore up the sand in the pure joy of youth. I was really hoping that after a couple of hours of fun they had run themselves out, but on the long walk back to the car, they dragged me down the beach with every bit of the enthusiasm they showed at the beginning of our trek. I was also held back by the interesting rocks I had filled my pockets with, which threatened to pull my pants down along the way. With one leash in each fist, keeping my sweats on was an exercise in contortion. They had little sympathy for my need to move slowly, and I had to stop them twice so that I could catch my breath. (And secure my trousers.)

Mom had a great time with N, she went in to town for her hair appointment, then out for coffee and donuts. Mom got up…perky yesterday. That’s fine when she can keep it to herself, but I don’t wake up that way. I was trying to sort through the mountains of email that had accumulated, but she would trot over every two minutes to tell me she didn’t have anyone to talk to. She wanted me to entertain her while I did my work, or to just stop what I was doing and entertain her. So she kept bugging me, even going so far as to head for the master bedroom-where my husband was sleeping-just to snoop. I finally gave up on trying to hold a thought long enough to get it on paper (so to speak), and went into the kitchen to fix her some food. At least she would have her mouth full for a little bit, I thought. She kept getting a mouthful and coming into the office to chew and stare at me, letting her body language take the floor. I told her if she kept leaving her plate unattended, the dogs would get it. They know she doesn’t finish her breakfast, and they circle like furry vultures, waiting for the scraps to fall. Thankfully N came at eleven and soon after the boys and I made our escape. It was still a bit cloudy when we made our happy way to the Fort. I don’t even know for sure just when it burned off, but when it did, the vistas were shockingly surreal. The colors were so vibrant and clear that you could have sworn it was photoshopped. I could see both Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier, and the incredible fusion of mountains, sea, and sky. There was a flock of noisy seagulls eyeing us from a safe distance offshore, and I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a seal or two.

Picturesque seems a pale word to describe it, this is a fierce, in your face beauty, gobsmacking you in the cerebral cortex with the brilliance of it. After the deprivation of life down in the desert, I will never again take the beauty of this place for granted. It humbles me that circumstances have allowed me to be here, in this incredible place. The northern end of the Island looks directly across the bay from Port Townsend. With the port filled with wooden boats and sails and all the Victorian architecture, you can imagine the town as it once was, daydreaming about the reputations that once played out there in its younger, wilder days. The Olympic Mountains rise up behind the town, their sparkling white caps promising a summer without water worries. Shades of emerald light the forests below, while the water twinkles in blue and white. On the other side of the sound, looking out from the town itself, (or just to the right from my point of view), the Cascades make their appearance. To the South, even though I can’t see it, I know that Mt. Rainier sits on its bed of mist, and Seattle seems tiny and toylike below it. Out on the bay the ferry can be seen making its way between Port Townsend and Whidbey Island, and in the shipping lanes huge cargo ships make their way to ports within the Puget Sound. I live in a magical world of wonder, and I am honored by it.

March 31, 2016

March has kept its promise, leaving us on a gentle, sunny note.

One more perfect day before the clouds return. It’s going to be a brutal morning, I have to have Mom at the dentist at eight o’clock. I probably shouldn’t take the time to write this morning, and get ready to go to town instead. Just five more minutes, Mommy… It may be a short post, but duty calls. Yesterday was a wash, I told Mom after breakfast that we would be going into town right after lunch, so she went back to bed. It took me until two pm to get her up and moving. I was betting on there being just enough air in my rear tire to make it. We didn’t have a chance to test that theory, however, because the car battery was dead. I unpacked Mom and the dogs, gave the car a kick in the tire, and tried to regroup. Mom still looked tired, but being dressed seems to keep her upright. We installed her back at her table, and then me and the boys went outside to enjoy the remains of the day. Theo the cat joined us for an afternoon in the sun. Well, I did try to stay in the shade. Theo had a marvelous time, chasing bugs and dreaming of catching a bird or two. He really just wanted to hang out with us, even though the play was too rough to join in. I hope to spend much of the day out there, doing stuff in the yard, getting ready for the mower-if it works.

Moms’ appetite was a little better yesterday. The evidence is on her plate, she is chewing much better, and not taking the wads of masticated tissue back out to set aside. I still haven’t been able to persuade her to rinse her dentures after eating, maybe I can get the dentist to lecture her on oral care. She is skeptical of anything I say, but coming from a doctor, it may carry more weight. She has a standard ‘you’re making that up’ attitude when I tell her anything. Mom used to complain that Daddy didn’t give her any credit for her medical knowledge, and she’d doing that now, with me. Funny how things turn out, isn’t it? My head is beginning to nod over my iPad, and reaching beside me to pet Einstein only makes me want to snuggle. Sitting here is not doing the trick today. Maybe I will find time a little later today…but time can be a faithless bitch who runs faster than I do.


March 30, 2016

The half moon is peeking through the cedar boughs, shy in the brilliance of a billion stars.

It’s going to be a beautiful spring day on the Island. The ground is firming up, and soon we should be able to address the ever growing grasses in the yard. Maybe today I can pick up the branches hiding in the tall grass, before they become a menace to the mower. It never fails that the need is there long before we can get to it. The first cut of the year is the hardest, the grass is full of moisture, and heavy. Our poor lawn mower has been used hard over the last five years, and I really don’t expect it to make it through another year. At the top of my shopping list will be a pair of sturdy gloves and a good machete. It is rainforest, and cutting a trail is a real thing here. I still lobby for acquiring a goat or two, not for milk or cheese, but blackberry control. We have Himalayan blackberries, and while they are large, plump, and delicious, the plants can quickly take over. As hard as I’ve worked to clear the land, I hate to give it back to the wild. There is a large area behind the garage that only seems to grow moss and lichen. It would be a perfect spot for a goat pen. In truth, at least half of the yard is actually moss, not grass. We don’t bother trying to keep the grass pristine and pure. It’s green, it’s pretty, and I find the daisies and dandelions cheerful.

We’ve never even planted grass, we just clear an area and start mowing whatever comes up. When we finally get to the point where we can start a garden, we are thinking of chickens, too. Our eventual goal is to be as self-sustaining as possible. We need to make the land work for us if we are to have any comfort in retirement. We have much to learn and do, before we can be confident of success. If there were ever a place forgiving to novice farmers, this would be it. It is impossible to ignore the life force that fuels our environment here, especially now, when it is exploding with growth everywhere you look. Spring here has taught me that there are not enough words to cover the full spectrum of green. Getting things to grow here is not as much of a problem as getting things not to grow where you don’t want them. The forest took a beating during the winter storms, and I am surprised at the size of the branches that were brought down. There are also large branches that are still hung up in the trees, a hazard to those walking below. The ones I can’t reach to pull down I keep a close eye on. Blackberries are trying to retake the areas I cleared last year, hence the need for sturdy gloves. You have to get as many of the roots as possible, to have any chance of success. I am enamored by the idea of a food forest, where your environment is your garden. To this end, I plan on using food plants as landscaping wherever possible. The problem is that I work so slowly that things keep catching up to me from behind.

I think I will try to get Mom out of the house today. The fresh air will do her good, and I need to pick up her prescription at the pharmacy and run a couple of errands. Her appetite hasn’t really increased, but chewing is obviously easier, and I think she is pleased now that we got her teeth fixed. And there’s only a couple of weeks before we get started on her cataracts. Whether or not we do both eyes will depend on how the first one goes. By the end of April, we will be done with all the major things, for now. At the very least, a break in the never ending parade of doctors is warranted. We may still try to address her hearing loss, but we’ll have to see how she and her finances are before proceeding. As tired as she is of doctors at this point, I’m sure a rest would be welcome. And, I don’t know how quickly we will be able to arrange placement for her. Okay, I guess the biggest challenge will be moving her. My mind keeps skating away from the subject whenever thoughts of moving Mom arise. It’s going to be a rough go. Maybe the social worker will have ideas for how to make the transition easier. One can hope. I am a pragmatist trying for optimism.

And I will attempt to teach the dogs that if they stay in the yard, they can stay out indefinitely. Run down the road, and playtime’s over. I hate to coop them up inside, especially when it’s this beautiful. And confining them to a leash whenever we’re out doesn’t give them sufficient exercise, not with a gimpy slowpoke like me. We have plenty of room for them to run and play, it doesn’t seem right not to let them do it. Waiting for a fence could take a long time. It is a joy to watch them play, free and happy. I can’t run like they do, but I remember how it feels, and its grand. Vicariously, I take in their joy and imagine leaping with them, running smoothly through the forest-awash in the scents and sounds around us. We are all enthralled by the season, and impatient to jump in. Theo the cat tries to escape into the emerald wonder every time the door is opened, and both of the cats are rediscovering the happiness found in laying in a patch of sunlight. Mom will complain about the brightness of the day, but even now with her cataracts so bad-she can appreciate the fluffy white of the clouds against the blue of the sky, reflected in her twinkling blue eyes. I’m not above using donuts as a bribe, once she gets out there she usually enjoys it.

I would like to thank you all, readers, for stopping by to share our days. I appreciate those who stuck with me when I was absent, and those who see fit to carry on with us now. I hope that all of you can find the beauty in your world, and celebrate it. Personally, I am humbled by the sheer abundance and variety of the beauty that surrounds me, and I hope I’ve been able to paint a picture vivid enough for you to appreciate it with me.

March 29, 2016

After two weeks of phone tag, I have an appointment with the social worker.

He returned my call while I was asleep yesterday, but Kevin was up and took the call. It will be mid-April before I see him, but at least things are in motion. Since, of late, I only seem to last half the day, it may be just as well. Lately my naps have become something more…instead of an hour or two, I go down for three or four. And if it weren’t for the need to get up and take care of Mom, I could sleep from early afternoon on through the night. It isn’t depression, although it does bum me out. Especially times like now, when we have a stretch of beautiful weather. And it’s harder to take really long naps since we got Newton. Einstein has always been happy just to nap with me, but Newton will only go so long before he sticks that cold, wet nose in my face to say, get up! Then he sits with tail hitting the pillow like a runaway metronome, tongue at the ready to polish any exposed areas. Our now communal bed is growing more crowded as the pup gets bigger. We all only fit in certain ways, and all of us seem to know our spot in the configuration. Yesterday morning found me wishing my camera were at hand, when Kevin and the dogs were sprawled in blissful comfort across the bed. I would have entitled it ‘Sunday morning with my boys’.

We know that we could solve the overcrowding by making the dogs sleep in their own beds, but I sort of like sleeping with the pack. And Kevin is tickled that Newton likes to stay in bed with him in the morning. Newton doesn’t have the need for close proximity that Einie does. He knows that the bed is the most comfortable place to sleep, and while Einstein will curl up on the floor wherever I am, Newt goes for comfort. Its even more difficult for the dogs with the weather so nice. They want to be out in the yard, enjoying the sunshine. I try to let them off leash once in a while, but they inevitably tear off down the road for a run. When they take off now I just climb in the car and go get them. I can no longer chase them down by foot. I’m starting to have trouble with my legs, they start to feel like they weigh a hundred pounds apiece by the end of the driveway. I think the stenosis is forming again. But with the anemia, and the mastectomies, and the cancer, addressing my spine has taken a back seat. With my one-problem-at-a-time-only VA physician, it would probably be a year or more before we could address it anyway. It may be a question of whether I want to go through more surgeries-and if not, what the prognosis would be. Right now, I am heartily sick of waiting rooms and doctors.

Mom is just about fed up with them, too. She often says that if we got paid for all the time we spend in waiting rooms, we could take a cruise. She has been so sweet this last week. Kevin says that even when she would shoo the dogs off the chair yesterday, she did it gently. She let N do her nails with only a little grumbling, and no fisticuffs. I think she waits now, for me to come and get her if her presence is required, because she can’t tell by looking. One colored blob is much like another to her right now, and unless she sees movement, she doesn’t think anyone is here. I have to go and wake her up for meals, or she would just go without, because she can’t remember if she’s eaten or not. I’ve learned, though, to have it ready for her. Otherwise, after a couple of minutes she will go back to bed. get anything from annoyed to angry when something or someone wakes me up, but Mom loves it. I’ll come in and kiss her cheek, and she will smile and snuggle down in her bed, trying to draw me in with her. It’s quickly becoming a ritual we both enjoy. I am so glad I stuck it out through Moms’ adjustment to the new medication. There were doubts, but now she is so like the mom I’ve always known that I am grateful, only.

N always gets Mom up and dressed on the days she is here, using donuts as a bribe when necessary. Its good for her, to get up and dressed, and out of the house. I berated myself yesterday for not getting up, but my body had other ideas. As soon as N leaves for the day, Mom gets back into her jammies, and bed. I don’t necessarily object to her spending so much time laying down, its better than sleeping at her table. But it does increase the chances of her developing pneumonia, it’s a danger to anyone bed bound. Mom once told me that doctors sometimes called pneumonia ‘an old mans’ best friend.’  That seems to be a tough way to go, to me. She has definitely gone through a sea change, the sleeping more and eating less has been going on too long to pretend its temporary. Mom, to whom food was the answer to all ills-can take food or leave it, at the moment. Now…the lessening of her appetite could be attributable to a number of things. She could still be trying to adjust to her new teeth, it could be that her sedentary existence doesn’t require as many calories, or it could be part of the end of life process. I am not saying this is what’s happening here, but she is over ninety. People whose bodies are preparing to die lose their appetite, as their bodies have a harder time processing food. They will also reach a point where their bodies cannot process it at all, and they stop eating altogether. This is a hard phase for families. Your instinct is to feed them, but you can actually do someone harm that way. And people who are experiencing this physical change don’t feel deprived or hungry. Right now Mom seems comfortable and contented, and I will take my cues from her.