Category Archives: Family

You Never Know

You never know when you leave home what things are going to transpire without you. You imagine life will go on as it always has. You imagine you will be missed, but that time will pass and then things will return to the before.

I knew that leaving home for two months would shake things up a bit. But things are different now; there is less to shake up. It’s only my husband and me at home. And he’d gone away and left me behind countless times. Times at sea, business trips, times at sea and now back to business trips.

I said to him, now I’m not going to be left behind. Now I go with you. “Yes,” he said. There are no small children at home anymore. I have only two cats that my neighbors are happy to feed. There is no job to request time off from. I’m a freelancer now. I work when I want. My work is portable to boot. Have WiFi, will travel.

He’s had to make one day trip so far, a meet and greet with the other Directors. “If you were with me, I’d make a weekend out of it and stay in nearby St. Augustine,” he said. I regretted that couldn’t be so. I do so want to see that city. But knowing there will be future trips to headquarters was consolation.

I thought that would be the worst thing that could happen during my time away from home. That he might have to take trips I couldn’t partake in. Sadly that proved to not be so.

While I was away, he decided to move his mother from California and place her in an assisted living facility close to our home. She’d been suffering from dementia and worsening rapidly. He found her a highly rated, top-notch place. The best that money could buy. “It’s so nice, I want to live there,” he said.

During my short trip home, I had a long talk with his sister. Explaining to her what was happening to her mother and promising that I would look after her. When I get back, I will fix up her room, I said. I’ll hang some family pictures and brighten up her room with flowers and mementos. Things to keep her grounded to today.

My husband planned to take her out for the day once she’d settled into her new routine. Shopping, dining, walks in the park. He was upbeat. She liked it there, she’d made quick friends. The reports on her were positive. She was always an ebullient personality. She’d made her living in sales. A people person.

Five days into her stay, she was transferred by ambulance to the hospital. Pneumonia it turned out to be. She’d smoked for nearly sixty years. Her lungs were weak, but she soon recovered and was scheduled to be discharged within the week. Before that could happen, she had a massive stroke. There was a high likelihood of another stroke, the neurologist said. And there would be no recovery from that.

She left us on Sunday, June 15th. Father’s Day. We all think she just wanted to see her son once more. That somehow she knew what was happening to her mind and didn’t want to live that way.

I can not wish that her life had been extended artificially. I would not want that for myself. I’ve seen too much of that kind of suffering during my Nursing days. My husband did not want that for his mother either.

I know that the room, at the appropriately named The Palace, is empty of her spirit now, but I still feel the need to go fix it up for her. I will do so in my dreams during the moments I can sleep. And in my prayers during the time that I’m awake.

I have had to hit the Prednisone bottle more often than not these past few days. My body and my spirit are torn and aching wanting, and needing, to be in two different places at once. There is no Tylenol for the soul.

And while I try to adjust to this momentous change in all our lives, I am informed that our cat, Tigress, is no longer. A sudden illness took her. It will be strange to go home and not see her welcoming shiny, green eyes staring up at me as they did for nineteen years.

Tigress 1995 - 2014

Tigress, born in my home June 19, 1995.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Godspeed, Mary

Once upon a time I met a sailor. A sailor in the making. It was a dreamy night, hot and humid as south Texas can be. I was not impressed, with the weather or the sailor.

In spite of that, a friendship developed. Almost against my will. I was not ready. Not ready. Not ready.

One day I let him convince me to visit his mother. We drove to her one-bedroom apartment in Houston. I was unsure what to expect. I was a divorcée with a five-year-old son. This sailor was her one and only son. The sun and the moon rose with him.

She accepted me with open arms. Boisterous, talkative. There were no corners in her home where dull moments could hide.

She spent that night in the living room with her son, giving up her bed for me to sleep with mine.

In the morning, unbeknownst to me, she caught her son staring at me through the partially open door. I was asleep, he said, with my long hair spread out all over the pillow. “I couldn’t take my eyes off you,” he said.

She made fun of him later that morning. Perhaps because she knew. Knew that her son was hooked.

And that she would be part of my life for 34 years.

RIP, Mary. Godspeed.

 

Mary, on her wedding day.

Mary, on her wedding day.

Be a fountain . . .

. . . not a drain.

I had this terrible habit of writing down sayings that stopped me in my tracks and then not noting where I’d gotten them. Thus, I cannot attribute this particular saying, but I know I didn’t write it. And I give thanks to whoever did.

It’s good advice I am trying to follow.

Be a fountain of giving. Giving of my time to my youngest granddaughter. I have moved into her home for a spell. She needs me. I need her. She has astounded me with her vocabulary and her comprehension. At eighteen months old, I expected her to still be more of a baby than a toddler. Well, she’s having none of that. Her development is in fast forward.

Be a fountain of words. My work of course came with me. I even found a piece of luggage called “Office” to lug it all in. An office on wheels. The advertising copy promised it would fit under an airplane seat, but when I tried to stuff it in there, it wouldn’t go. Too tall and too wide.

Then I realized that the compartment under the aisle seat was narrower than the one under the middle and window seats. I had no choice but to stuff it in the overhead compartment. I’m short and the thing was heavy, but the worst part was that it had my laptop in it and I prefer to keep that with me.

We landed in New Orleans with such a bang that it would not have made any difference where my laptop was. It would have shaken, rattled and rolled wherever it was. The flight attendant joked, “Don’t forget to check the seatback for any belongings. In fact, check all over the aircraft for your belongings.” That was funny, but note to self: no more aisle seats.

Be a fountain of love. What else but love could compel me to leave the people I love to come be with the people I love. I will miss my other baby. I gave her extra kisses and hugs the last time I saw her and I lost track of how many I love you’s we shared on the phone before my flight. Her tiny little voice almost made me not want to leave.

Be a fountain of health. My personal pharmacy came with me as well. Have pills will travel. My hands are not happy that I’m not taking Prednisone anymore, the left more than the right, but since I’m right-handed, it’s not that bad.

And it’s really not that bad overall. I expected it to be worse, but I’m glad it’s not. If I keep moving, the rest of my body feels fine. It’s only when I sit too long that I feel stiff, but that might not be RA. That might just be me. One thing I know, having to chase after a toddler will inoculate me against sitting around.

And be a fountain of youth. Of course. I keep telling myself how young I still am. And nowadays, it is young. But I just have to keep reminding myself. Inside, I still feel 20. And outside, I’m glad I’m not. If I could be 20 knowing what I know now, maybe.

Hanging out at South Beach, obviously not missing Na at all!

Hanging out at South Beach, obviously not missing Na at all!

Watching Abuela work and ripping apart her Post-its.

Watching Abuela work and ripping apart her Post-its.

 

The Naked Truth

So, I pulled out the scale this morning and hopped on. Well, hopped on gingerly. I’m still favoring my right foot. It has its moments where it prefers not to bear me up.

Anyway, I was disappointed to see I lost ground. Or rather, gained fat. Since returning from my L.A. trip in June, I was making steady progress down the number line. I was so pleased, ten pounds and counting. Soon I would be able to zip up my size 8 jeans again. I have a closet full of clothes waiting for me.

But, this latest trip cost me three pounds, and I’m not talking English currency.

It couldn’t be helped I suppose. It started with the beignets and went downhill from there, or maybe I should say uphill. That same day I was served what appeared to be a mere taste of an entrée. Four jumbo shrimp stuffed with crab laid out artistically in a row on a long, white rectangular plate. I should’ve taken a picture. Surprisingly, I could barely finish it. It was deceptively filling.

New Orleans

The girls share a moment while we wait to be seated.

Then there was the trip to Sonic; my daughter had to stop there. The commercials are so appetizing and we don’t have a Sonic close by at home.

And then The Shed, where they served barbecue chicken wings that fell off the bone, with French Fries, of course. The food was delicious, the place eccentric and the girls had a blast playing with rocks.

bbq chicken

The Shed. Pretty awesome little place.

grandchildren

Rocks. Best toys in the world.

There were the tiny star-shaped sugar cookies sent from Texas that melted in your mouth and went fantastic with your morning coffee. And of course, you could never eat just one. They were barely an inch wide; how many inches could they add to a waistline?

And the must-have trip to the family-owned restaurant to have crab cakes cooked in the shell. Oh, how I wish I had a taken a picture of them. The sight of those crab cakes would hold me until my next visit. Not to mention the hush puppies, yum, and the appetizer of fried crawfish and jalapeño peppers. Strange combination, but tasty.

And then of course, the birthday cake. Delicious. Followed by the lollipops I snagged off Alyssa’s collection garnered from the burst piñata.

And last but not least, the pepperoni and mushroom pizza on our last evening at my son’s home.

No, the truth cannot be denied. I ate too much!

 

A Glow

It is eerily quiet in this house now that we two are the only ones left rattling around. For almost two weeks we had a little person around us 24/7. In preparation for our trip to celebrate my younger granddaughter’s first birthday, I kept four-year-old Alyssa away from daycare. Though she loves school, I was afraid she would pick up some germ surprises to take to Carmen, who does not go to daycare.

Sometimes I wish I could stop thinking like a nurse, an infectious disease nurse, no less. But that doesn’t seem to ever become a possibility. And of course, I can never stop being an overprotective grandmother. But my plan worked well. Alyssa remained healthy and she fell in love with her little cousin. And for her part, Carmen loved toddling around after her big cousin.

Though RA went with me, and made sure I knew it was with me, I stubbornly refused to give it any quarter. Instead, I focused on enjoying a whirlwind week with my two grandbabies. From having them pose together for a professional photographer, to our trip to New Orleans, a fun day spent touring a children’s activity museum, then stopping at a pumpkin patch to pick out 25 pumpkins to serve as party favors for the birthday fiesta.

It was a little bit of heaven while it lasted and now that I am home, I miss all that activity. I especially miss that little voice and the little hand that slipped into mine at regular intervals, wanting to make sure that I was still her Na, even though she was having to share me with someone else.

We are back to “normal” now; all of us back to our routines. After a day of rest, it’s time for me to get back to work. But I have fresh memories to keep me company. To keep me warm and my heart aglow

Birthday fiesta

End of Days, Beginning of Days

I’ve been gone for a while and I’m having the hardest time getting back to normal. My routine eludes me. Seems all I have the energy for is cleaning out my inbox(es). I collect not only emails, but email addresses. I’ve tried to downsize, keep to one, but people still send me mail where I prefer they didn’t. And by the time I check, they’ve mushroomed.

I need to get back to my reading, my writing, my work in general. I came home but my mind is still making its way to me. Part of it stayed in California with my father-in-law, who is dying. Today finds him in an intensive care unit. That much closer to over there than to over here. As much as I try to stop the images from forming in my head, I can see all the flustered activity around him. A once robust man, he is down to a mere 110 pounds, slowly disappearing.

Graduation

My daughter, me, my FIL and his wife

And parts of my mind, my thoughts, remain with my infant granddaughter. After two weeks in Los Angeles, I flew across the country to home and the very next day flew backwards to the middle of the country. The thought of spending a week with her gave me the adrenalin shot I needed to get back on a plane so soon.

Uber jet lag, mollified only by the thought of spending my days with my little angel. Days that began at 6:30 am, a shock to the non-morning person that I am. At nine months, she is busy exploring how much she can do on her own, how long she can stand unsupported, how quick Abuela will run when she cries.

baby

My Lovely

baby

That smile

I didn’t realize how tired I was till I got home and began waking up several times a night wondering what bed I was in. What room was I in? What house, what town, what state? I’ve never suffered such disorientation before. It was quite eerie. Like being in your own horror movie.

But now I’ve been back a week and I have to get a move on. I promised a quilt. Due in one week. Yikes!

Quilting

Theme is Native American Culture and it’s barely in the planning stages!

 

How Do You Spell Pain?

shingles

Pain spelled with angry red bumps.

So, life caused stress, which I believe triggered RA, which caused me to have to take a drug called Methotrexate, which then caused me to be immunosuppressed, which then left me vulnerable to come down with shingles.

I think I have that right. I might have missed a few steps. All I know is that yesterday, I reached the mountain peak of stress. The pain was out of this world. I spent it drugged up with Percocet. Kept to the every six hours dosage. When I was awake I could not think due to the pain. And to relieve the pain, I knocked myself out.

Which was good in a way. It relieved the stress of knowing my daughter is in Boston. Arrived right before this horrific event happened. Walked those streets right before. God help me.

I was sitting in my doctor’s exam room while all this was happening. Upon leaving, the young nurse engaged me in conversation, wanted some advice about pursuing her career. Talking to her made me forget the pain, but upon exiting the doctor’s office I heard my husband on the phone talking about Boston. I freaked, inside.

Rarely does my stoicism fail me, but my heart was pounding as it took two attempts to reach my daughter. I envisioned myself on a plane to Boston already.

Today, I have a new stressor. She is driving back to NYC with the rest of her things and no other company than her GPS. I tell myself that when I was 22, I was married with a baby. But, no matter what I tell myself, she is still my baby.

Thankfully, I think I have crested the mountain called Agony and am on the way down the other side. What started out as a dainty little row of pink dots has morphed into an angry, red, diffused eruption. It hurts and it hurts to look at it.

But, I know it doesn’t hurt as much as the people of Boston are hurting. My daughter spent four years there and I feel an attachment to that historic town. My heart goes out to all involved.

Sweet Memories

I remember when I used to scour the stores looking for just the right basket. And when I found that, I went hunting for the just the right gift. What was it they were into at that particular time, in that particular year? Their whims changed with the wind and turned me into a weather vane, always pointing in a different direction.

It gave me untold pleasure to follow their beckoning. I would hide to arrange everything in their baskets just so. And then hide the baskets themselves until that Saturday night when I had to stay up and wait till they were sound asleep. Only then could I sneak into their rooms and place the basket where it would be the first thing their eyes would light upon come Easter morning.

Those days, those moments are now filed away in my memory banks. They are images of times past, marching before my eyes like clips of a movie collage. I needn’t worry anymore about constructing the perfect Easter morning surprise. Now they surprise me. Now they give to me. The most precious of all gifts.

Easter Sunday

 

My granddaughter Carmen (for some reason reminding me of Carmen Miranda).

Happy Easter everyone!