Tag 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

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.

My Daily Bucket

photo (7)When I arrived to care for my toddler granddaughter a month ago, I was presented with this bucket. It bears a butterfly made with her footprints. “I will put it in my office,” I said, immediately wondering what kind of plant I could put in it once I returned home.

Meantime, I placed it on the dresser in my room, and it occurred to me that it was the perfect place to hold my pill bottles. Up and away from curious little fingers.

I’ve reached a point in my life where I don’t have to worry about where I place my pills. Though they each have a certain “home” in my house, it mattered not where they went. Now, I have to be conscious about the whereabouts of my concoctions.

What’s in the bucket? Prednisone, my frenemy, 2.5 mg once a day. I’d weaned off, but after a week my hands were hurting so bad I had to cave and go back on it for the duration. When I was young and raising my children, I had no idea the workout my hands took. Now every twinge reminds me that caring for a toddler is manual labor. Though with great and bountiful rewards.

There are days where my hands still hurt, like today, and my wrists as well. Foreseeing that, I packed a wrist brace, which I’ve had to use several times. I wear it at night and in the morning the pain is gone or diminished. Perhaps it’s mind over matter, a placebo effect, but I’m not questioning its efficacy.

Also in the bucket is Folic Acid, the rescue drug for Methotrexate. Nuff said. I take MTX on Wednesdays so it doesn’t rate a place inside the bucket.

There’s my eye vitamins, prescribed by my ophthalmologist. They contain Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Zinc Oxide, Copper, Lutein and Zeaxanthin. I’m supposed to take them twice a day, but usually take it once. They are mostly prophylactic. My “apple” a day, you might say. Or maybe, the apple of my eye.

There’s Vitamins B1, B6 and B12, prescribed by my PCP to treat shingles pain. It is now almost 14 months since I had shingles, but the pain is not completely gone. On a scale of 1 to 10, it is a one, sometimes a two. It depends on how that part of me is affected by my activities. But it took its sweet time climbing down that ladder. I was scared  to death worried it would be a 10+ forever.

Also in the bucket is acetaminophen (the ingredient in Tylenol). Since Naproxen and/or Plaquenil gave me tinnitus I have to stay off NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).  So, hello, acetaminophen, which I take once or twice a day. Some days none at all. The good days. The tinnitus is practically gone. I only hear it when I concentrate on it. And I don’t have much time to concentrate on it right now.

And of course, Vitamin D3 and calcium  supplements, which also contain D3. I’ve been on Vitamin D since 2006 and I give it much credit for my turnaround that began in 2009. I know it was a mix of things that allowed me to rise to the surface and breathe again, but Vitamin D was a major factor. I take 2000 IU’s a day. Each calcium tab gives me another 500 IU’s, so I end up with 3000 on most days.

It would be nice to say that is the extent of my personal pharmacy, but no. photo (2)

In a large Baggie in my unmentionable’s drawer are:

Gabapentin, in case of more severe shingles nerve pain,

the MTX,

Naproxen, if bursitis rears its ugly head again, I will have no choice but to bite the bullet,

the Fosamax, which I’ve yet to start. I know, I’m bad,

and most important of all, cyclobenzaprine (generic for Flexeril, a muscle relaxer). My rheumy prescribes it for sleep. And we know if we don’t sleep, our pain is that much worse. I take 5 mg nightly and when it’s been a painful day I take ten.

No longer in the bucket, its empty husk having joined the inhabitants of Baggie World, is Acyclovir, the antiviral my rheumatologist ordered for a year to prevent a shingles recurrence, Lord forbid. I ran out a few days ago, but I’ve crossed the year mark and now I cross my fingers. We shall see what, if anything, develops.

 

 

 

Tethers

My internet connection is now new and improved, and I can actually get some work done. That also means I can stream my Pandora stations at will and I find that I keep going to the same one. My two dozen stations range from Big Band music to Mariachi music, from Tex-Mex to Reggaeton, from Disco to R&B. Yet I find myself going to the same Reggae/Bob Marley station. I must be homesick.

Amazingly, it’s been two weeks since I left home. Things are easier now; a routine has developed and though I’ve had to dip into the honey/poison jar (the Prednisone bottle) all is going fairly well.  Carmen and I have acclimated and assimilated to each other, with each other?

We are forming a new and improved bond. The kind that naturally results from daily exposure to each other. She keeps my day full till Mom and Dad come home in the evening, but she also keeps my heart full with her smiles, her hugs and her remarkable comprehension skills. Babies must be new and improved nowadays as well.

I miss my other grandchild tremendously. Though by now I usually see her only once or twice a week, I was her main caregiver during her first two years of life and that bond, that tether, will never be broken or weakened as long as my heart beats, and perhaps even beyond. When my daughter sent me this picture, it gave me a visceral pang.

party

Celebrating at a birthday party.

Of course there is the one person to whom I’ve been tethered to for more than half my life. And though that bond has waned and intensified during the peaks and valleys as the years passed, it seems to remain unbroken.

One of the first things we found we had in common was our love of Reggae. Me, from a little Texas town, and he, from the big city of L.A., somehow connected on a little island in the Gulf of Mexico and discovered many shared likes and dislikes. It was the strangest thing, to find a person who for some reason thinks like you.

That first night, we met at a Disco no less, was spent talking on the phone till the sun came up. Now some of the Marley songs take me right back to that time. He’s not taking my absence well. But lucky for him, I have to make a quick trip home next week, when, I suppose, we shall reinforce that tether.

Meanwhile I dedicate this song to him.

 

 

Ergonomics

–A science that deals with designing and arranging things so that people can use them easily and  safely.

–The parts or qualities of something’s design that makes it easy to use.

Source: http://www.merriam-webster.com

It was after I’d had my third child at the ripe old age of 31 that a pediatrician told me only the young were meant to be parents. I laughed because I felt old already. In nine years I’d tallied up three children and two husbands. Who wouldn’t feel old after that?

I am reminded of that incident now that I can truly relate to what he was saying. Once you hit middle age, it’s no time to start having kids, or running after them on a full-time basis. Nature even made sure of that. I guess you could call it nature’s ergonomics.

This isn’t the first time I take over the care of a grandchild, nor is it the first time after RA made its presence known. But I can hardly remember my first granddaughter as an infant and toddler, and she’s not even five yet. All I can recall is the comforting warmth of her little body as I rocked her before her naps. Emotional ergonomics.

I think the main difference now, in caring for my second toddler grandchild, is that I’m not in my own home, where I have adapted things to compensate for my unpredictable aches and pains. Physical ergonomics.

After one full week of being in charge of her care during the better part of the day, my hands are complaining. Loudly. The challenge in this new environment is that I will have to adapt to it, not the other way around. Personal ergonomics.

washing dishes

I’m opting out of using the dishwasher, and instead washing the dishes by hand. The hot water is super soothing to my aching hands. Though some things will have to remain unwashed, at least by me, as my decreased grip does not allow me to open them. Also, the cooking pots and ceramic dishes are quite heavy and tax my hands, but I bear some responsibility for that as some were gifts from me!

sweeping

Necessity is the mother of invention they say. Having a toddler insist on feeding herself guarantees mess on the floor. My broom at home is very light; the broom here is quite heavy. The answer? Carmen’s toy broom to the rescue  and her toy hoe as my dust pan! She follows me around saying, “Hoe, hoe, hoe,” until I rinse out the hoe and give it back to her.

high chair

Her high chair is beautiful. An Amish work of art given to her by her grandfather. The only problem for me is that it is made of solid wood, therefore the tray is quite heavy and hurts my fingers when I lift it. There’s no answer to that, but I do miss the plastic tray that my other granddaughter had.

I have to say the worst part about being in this small town is having unreliable internet service. Music plays a big part of my day. It’s a stress reliever, an analgesic, and a muse sometimes. One day I wanted to run my Pandora Reggae station; it wouldn’t come in at all, though I tried countless times to start the streaming. Right when my frustration reached its peak there was a knock on the door. Two friendly gentlemen stood there. They handed me a pamphlet and said, “We just stopped by to give you this.”

photo (8)

Spiritual ergonomics?

In Her Own Words

Today’s Daily Prompt: Happy Happy Joy Joy

The subject matter hits me straight in the heart. My youngest, world-weary traveler, was home for the holidays. I hated letting her go back to the frigid north, but alas, what’s a mother to do but pray. And come close to a nervous breakdown!

I wanted to write it all out and relieve myself of the increased cortisol production my stress induced, but my little writer says it best in her own words:

After 33 hours of travel, which includes three delayed flights, two airplanes, two layovers (if you count 15 hours in Boston), the longest lines I’ve ever queued in, a number of subway trains, AND one bus ride later, I’m finally settled in my Brooklyn apartment.

And she still has to go pick up her suitcase, which made the trip without her. She is in the young, invulnerable stage of life. I must do the worry duty for her. I do try to remind myself that at her age I thought nothing of blizzards and zero degree weather and try to ease back on the worry throttle a bit.

But, those hours were no fun for either of us. They lasted forever, and I was eternally grateful for the umbilical cord I still have, her cell phone.

I’m extremely happy that she is back safely after that arduous trip, but I stressed that more bad weather is coming and she must take care.

I pray that everyone in those freezing temperatures stays safe. And warm.

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!