Tag Archives: Family

A Pair of Wings

So I donned a pair of wings
once more
Before,
it was to say hello
This time,
it was to say goodbye

~~~

This past year or so I’ve seen the inside of more airplanes than I probably have in the past 20 years.  August’s trip to Los Angeles was to attend my father-in-law’s 84th birthday. We all knew, including him, that it would probably be his last.

He’d come close the previous June, so close we rushed to his side, fearful that we might not make it in time.  He was so sick then, I doubted he would see his 83rd. But he rallied after chemo was stopped and he was placed in hospice. This gave him not just an extra year, but a quality extra year.

A very good year capped off by the gift of one more birthday. His eldest daughter arranged to hold the celebration in a Mexican restaurant on Pacific Coast Highway. Ortega 120, where you can find “heart felt Mexican cooking.” Its rustic decor made you feel at ease immediately upon entering. And its theme of Dia de los Muertos seemed to coalesce with the religious artworks displayed. Death and hope rolled into one.

My husband led me around the restaurant where we were awed by the hundreds of artworks displayed, murals and ceiling paintings, the Mexican culture that we could both only imagine. I wanted to buy everything, but the pieces I truly wanted were not for sale.

It was a wonderful gathering, the reserved patio filled to capacity with extended family that I hadn’t even heard of. All there to wish Don Alfredo one more happy birthday.

The day before the funeral, my husband’s two sisters were debating where best to take us to lunch. While driving around in search of a place, they remembered Ortega 120. When we arrived, we were shown to the exact same table where we had sat the month before, with my husband ending up in the seat his father had occupied then. We were all struck dumb for a moment as the realization hit us. We’d been taken there, by Al.

The service was held in a wondrous chapel at the top of a sloping hill. From this height, the breathtaking expanse of Al’s beloved downtown Los Angeles lay below us.

My feeble attempt to capture Skyrose Chapel as my husband is walking out alone.

My feeble attempt to capture Skyrose Chapel as my husband is walking out alone.

Again, the venue was filled to capacity, as was the reception later. I was presented to and approached by numerous family members who became a flurry of names to me. We lost track of how many young people came up to tell us how Al had made a positive impact on their lives. Many went up to the microphone to recite stories about him.

There were many peals of laughter as story after story was told. Though few were able to get through their stories without stopping to wipe away tears. The one story that I think sums up my father-in-law and his self-deprecating humor is the one his good  friend recounted. He’d gone to visit Al on a day when he seemed pensive and this is what he said:

“I’ve been supposed to die for several years and yet here I am. So I asked God, why am I still here?”

“And what did God tell you?” his friend asked.

“He said, Al, you just have to wait. There’s too many Mexicans in heaven.”

~~~

Enjoying the sunset in Redondo Beach, California

Enjoying the sunset in Redondo Beach, California

sunsetsunset

My youngest who is traveling in Costa Rica made this token for her grandfather. She used "half of a rotting coconut to symbolize death, a rock washed up on the beach to represent the earth, a piece of palm to represent our family and home, and a flower for life." And then she sent it out sea.

My youngest, who was traveling in Costa Rica, made this token for her grandfather. She used “half of a rotting coconut to symbolize death, a rock washed up on the beach to represent the earth, a piece of palm to represent our family and home, and a flower for life.” And then she sent it out to sea.

Staff Sgt. Alfredo Navarro has answered his final call to duty.

Staff Sgt. Alfredo Navarro has answered his final call to duty.

Digging For Joy

So, I’ve been home for over three weeks. My zest for cleaning out my nest is unfaltering. Seems like an addiction. I can’t stop myself. Twenty-six years in one place will result in an accumulation of unmentionables, and I don’t mean those kind of unmentionables. More like: What was I thinking when I bought this. Quick! Into the trash before someone sees it!

Closets that I considered too small for anything are springing forth a surprising amount of things. It’s not quite the ubiquitous movie scene where a character opens a closet door and is immediately buried in stuff, but close. Where did I find the time? Not only to collect all this stuff, but to store it. So neatly even.

It’s like I’m peeking into someone else’s life. And in a way, I guess I am. That me barely exists anymore.

That me was busy, night and day, raising kids, holding down a job, running a full house. I didn’t have time to be sick. When RA came knocking, I ignored it, who knows for how long? I had no time, no room in my consciousness for me, for my goals, for my dreams.

So much has changed. And the trip down memory lane as I was cleaning out my younger daughter’s room was bittersweet. Six years after she moved out, I accept the fact that she has moved out. But I’m happy she “takes” me with her on her adventures around the world. I’m her editor, copyeditor and proofreader. She has to take me!

The room will now be strictly her dad’s office/bike room. The wall of shelving in her room yielded all kinds of memories, plus toys and books that I will donate. One thing those shelves held was a mother lode of Barbies. Twenty, if I counted correctly, all in their original boxes, untouched. I doubt she has any use for them now. I will ask, but I think I can safely assume that my granddaughters will end up sharing this booty.

I will give the dolls to them slowly, gradually, over several years so that I can stretch out the joy. I picked one out already for the four-year-old, who’s in her Disney Princess phase. I placed it in “her” room, waiting for her next visit.

Barbie doll

And what else have I found during my epic housecleaning? A bout of sciatica. Though it rarely bothers me, I developed it thirty years ago while having my older daughter. It landed me on bed rest at seven months into the pregnancy. The irony: she was my tiniest baby, five pounds seven ounces.

By contrast, my younger daughter weighed exactly the opposite, seven pounds, five ounces. And though I feared being left crippled by another pregnancy, having her was a breeze. I even got my first epidural, ever. Wow! What a difference a little needle makes.

So now I’m on a Medrol Pak, more steroids! And tomorrow I start some physical therapy. I’m not down or out, mind you. Just inconvenienced. After a two-day rest, my cleaning goes on at a slower pace. No more heavy lifting, and the hopping on and off the stepladder has been temporarily suspended.

What’s prompting the physical therapy is that in less than two weeks I will be sitting on a plane for five plus hours on my way to Los Angeles. Ouch!

 

Escape From MS and Other Sundries

I apologize for my long absence, but I made it home, yay! My return came in a roundabout way as my SO (significant other) booked a July 4th weekend stay in merry Coconut Grove.

Coconut Grove

View from our 19th floor balcony.

The eighth floor pool area gave us uninterrupted access to the sight of hours of brilliant fireworks, an awesome production that went on and on and on to the delight of my four-year-old granddaughter. It was a great re-bonding experience with my family and proved to be a nice buffer between there and here. Here being the place where you easily trip and fall into a rut.

I’d never been gone from home for two whole months before and it proved difficult for everyone. Even though it saddened me to think that I wouldn’t see my precious Carmen every day anymore, I longed for home. I dreamed of home.

My Lovely. I shall see her again on Thanksgiving.

My Lovely. I shall see her again on Thanksgiving.

And while my plane landed on a Thursday, I didn’t truly make it home till Monday. I walked in the door with resolve, and with what I call a late onset attack of spring cleaning. It’s an incredible catharsis to throw away stuff that’s been sitting in your house taking up space for a quarter century.

Rut begone. This is a new era. A new era of organization and production. I’m back to my writing and freelance editing. My finger is off the pause button.

***I had my rheumy check-up a few days ago. All labs normal. The usual, “You are doing very well.” There was only one fly in the ointment. Apparently, my CRP is 0.76. Meaning less than one??? I wanted to celebrate and then Doc said, “Creatinine is 0.76.”

Now you know that’s too great of a coincidence. Since we changed insurance companies, these results came from a different lab and I highly doubt they are identical numbers.  There’s no way I went from a CRP of 13 to less than one. I shall have to wait until the next round of labwork to confirm, but Doc is right, I am doing very well. Seems my trip to Mississippi was more of a plus than a minus overall.

***Just read that Levi’s CEO advises not to wash your jeans too often as a way of helping the environment. To spot clean them, and he says when he does wash them, he hand washes them. When I read that all I could think of was my hands, how much that would hurt my hands. I may be doing well but some things are beyond me forever thanks to OA and RA. Wringing out thick denim is one of them.

But I will heed his advice and wash my jeans less often, as well as continue to do my bit for the environment in other ways. Our children and grandchildren deserve a clean and thriving Earth. As do we.

 

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.

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!