These two always had a special bond…and a story they shared.
My son with my grandfather.
These two always had a special bond…and a story they shared.
My son with my grandfather.
If you are young and have never walked through the “valley of the shadow of death” with a loved one don’t read this. Live into the simple joys of Christmas. Let your stresses be finagling a smile in the Santa photo and finding a way to teach the next generation about joy. Smile, laugh, bake and eat cookies!!
My chosen title isn’t quite right. Joy isn’t a simple thing, it isn’t always jolly, true joy is hard in some ways. Just as true love isn’t lollipops, rainbows and roses on a sunny summer day: it gets deeper and stronger dealing with the adversities life throws at you.
A few days ago the Daily Prompt was Jolly. I wanted to do a post related to that, perhaps to have the illusion that I have some jolly joy in my life. But I didn’t get around to it. A common theme this year.
How can I describe the emotional turmoil, frustration, and weariness that are dominating this season of joy for me?…yet also convey that there is joy, even if it isn’t jolly.
I am blessed with “all I really need”, as the Raffi song says: a song in my heart, food in my belly, and love in my family. Many blessings, including that my Grandmother is not just alive and kicking, but actively enjoying many things. Even so, her health is deteriorating. Her heart and kidneys are tired and strained, keeping the balance is becoming more and more difficult for her health care providers. Today I got a call from the nurse practitioner about her kidneys, she is getting close to “stage 4” Kidney disease.
Being a “modern girl” (although “girl” hearkens back to the song from my younger days not my age) I looked it up on the internet. It means “not good”.
This late summer to late fall (technically it is fall for almost another week) has had a lot of what I call “whammies”. There have been a couple this past week. It is hard for me to wrap words around them (which is why I haven’t been posting much). Most have been related to my grandmother: her deteriorating physical capabilities caused by worsening of the underlying health conditions, magnified by the often overwhelming amount of paperwork needed to provide her with care.
I am emotionally ambiguous right now, out of sync with “Joy to the world the lord is born”; my refrain doesn’t have the rhythm and rhyme in the right places (story of my life): “Seek joy in this world. But do what you have to do. Hold on to love, but take care of yourself too.”
Never-the-less, it is important to make this time good, for others, including a scared, ornery, old lady that I love very much, and for myself. I have to smile, laugh, bake and eat cookies…because it is the season of joy, and we are together now, no matter what the future holds.
In our family we like to nest. My grandmother is no exception. We are giving up her apartment, because she will be remaining at a skilled nursing facility. It just isn’t safe or reasonable for her to be without access to care 24 hours a day.
Un-nesting her is a significant effort: her apartment was stuffed, every nook and cranny full of trinkets and memorabilia. The walls covered with paintings and other art to where not much wall showed through, even at that there were a couple of boxes of framed items that were never unpacked from when we mover her up from California over two years ago. And a few items are in the backs of closets.
The holiday season isn’t optimal for dealing with this change: I’ve spent many hours this past week enfolding fragile trinkets in bubble wrap. Things that probably won’t be unwrapped again by us. The stuff of life, treasured and carefully tended for so long, sits in boxes, waiting until someone who is more emotionally distant sends them off to a new home. As a result of this time we aren’t having a family Thanksgiving. Some of us will be joining Grandma at the nursing home for dinner there.
I’ve sent many things off to charity: outfits that will never again fit, clothing items that are too hard to get on and off. Kitchen items that no one in the family needs right now (more of that to come). But mostly I kept things, carefully wrapping up favorite dishes and glassware, fancy china serving pieces. and so on. Maybe a great grand-child setting up a home will need them in a few years.
This “un-nesting” is the antithesis of what most people are doing over the holidays. I feel out of sync. Unlike my cat, the Empress, who settles in anywhere.
The Daily Post Prompt today is Massive. Weight is mass in a gravitational field, so, on the surface of the earth, massive means weighty. I was set to not get around to writing anything, which is my usual method. But as late evening sets in it occurred to me that maybe I could offer up one idea. I am not a clever poet like some who write a post or sometimes more a day, nor am I quick with words, if there is a poem in this day it could take me a long time to formulate it.
Today was absolutely lovely, sunny and, while it was chilly at first, warm.
I spent the afternoon at the nursing home. Waiting for things that never happened. When I arrived Grandma was asleep. Eventually she awoke. The meeting I went over for was one where she had confused things, and probably not answered the phone to the person letting her know what was going on. She’s been doing that, if not doing is doing. She has trouble hearing it and if it is the slightest bit out of reach she doesn’t answer. If she does answer she still doesn’t hear well and sometimes confuses the message. I have no way of knowing what happened for sure…except that no one came.
She has a very bad cough lately. It is hard to hear her go into one of the coughing fits; she is wheezing so badly that you wonder how she can breathe.
The meeting was to have been with a potential caregiver to be hired so she can return to her apartment. Watching her wheeze, knowing that if she were on her own trying to walk to the bathroom when a coughing fit hit her she could easily, I should say more easily than usually-which is pretty easily, lose her balance and fall. Both of the roommates she had while at the nursing home got around much more easily and with less assistance than she needs now, went home and have fallen again. While we waited I got a prayer request for a dear friend of mine who is Grandma’s age who fell and broke both a hip and a shoulder.
If there’s a right answer I sure don’t know it. I feel a deep silence. No guidance. No perky words of wisdom. Just waiting. Maybe she’ll get better. Maybe she won’t fall.
What could be more Simple? Here’s today’s list:
The tasks are simple. No individual item on my to-do list is complicated. However, getting through the list always is. Many tasks have little features or factors that make just doing it tricky.
For example: I need to scan my grandmother’s medical bills into pdf files so that they can be submitted. But my son is asleep in the room where I keep the scanner. He’s still on Beijing time. I’m not quite off of Buenos Aires time, so our blocks of being conscious and cogent aren’t lining up too well, a little twist to many simple tasks.
Then there is managing the list, just the number of simple tasks is a bit daunting so I try to figure out how to batch things up. Every “I need….” from Grandma is a minimum of an hour of travel time, longer in rush hour so you have to keep a tight eye on the clock, plus budget time looking for parking and sometimes a significant walk in to the facility. If I have any errand that is between here and there I try to insert it into the same trip…but lately that hasn’t worked so well.
I call it “the frazzle factor”, and it’s become a major roadblock. We had to go out to dinner the other night because I was so frazzled from a trip to the nursing home that I didn’t stop for food. I just couldn’t face finding parking again, a crowded grocery store and making a decision about what to fix for dinner.
How can I feel so worn out when I just got back from vacation?
It has been a stressful week. Grandma’s dogs, however, are resting easy knowing that they are so cute they will be well cared for. We took them in to visit her last Friday. As always they spread cheer among all who saw them.
Every time she has been in a skilled nursing facility (this is the third different facility she has been in) they have allowed pets to visit. It is pretty cool that places recognize the value of wagging tails and puppy dog kisses.
Just FYI: we don’t allow dogs on the couch…Richard caved first. A little puppy love and his heart melted.
The main way I use the word Elicit is in the phrase “elicit a response”. I wonder why that is. It’s a pretty good word. I should probably try to use it more.
I’ve had a bunch of responses elicited these past few days. Medical emergencies do that to a person. Panic, general stress, relief, frustration, relief, did I mention general stress?
The uncertainty about the future is the hardest part. I like to solve problems. But some things can’t just be “fixed”. Healing takes time and effort. All I can do is to stand by and encourage…did I mention frustration?
There is a famous passage by the poet Rainier Maria Rilke:
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
I am striving to live this way right now. And it is a struggle for this analytical problem solver. Although my unresolved problems are logistical, not emotional, the words above still strike a chord for me,and give me permission to not have everything 100% figured out.
Grandma’s fall yesterday has thrown a spanner (wrench) in the works that we had worked hard to figure out. Everything now is up in the air. It feels like the where?, when? and how? of the future are all uncertain…And there is no way to figure them out right now. The future has to unfold for itself.
All I can do is to try and prepare for several foreseeable outcomes so I can try to smooth out the rough patches as best I can. Rough patches do seem inevitable.
Then Grandma fell.
Yesterday we went shopping together and got everything on our list to make the big turkey dinner for Thanksgiving. We felt like we had mastered the shopping challenge. In those bags were a 20 lb turkey, 10 lb of potatoes and many other items.
This morning I was “Walking with Leslie” when my husband came down to say that we had gotten a call from the manager where Grandma lives and that she had fallen and the EMTs were there. I threw on my sweat pants, grabbed my keys and we were off.
We arrived as they were stuffing her into an ambulance. She was lucid, cheerful even but could not move one of her legs. So we grabbed the pups and went off to the hospital. The EMT said we would get there before them, and we may have but I couldn’t figure out where to park in the large complex hospital complex so we actually got into the hospital a bit later than she did.
All that rushing was followed by waiting. She has a broken hip. She may have surgery tomorrow. The pups are curled up on the floor by the fire. The cat is miffed because the pups are here.
The waiting continues. Too much is unknown to make any plans…even about tomorrow.
I took these pictures in 2013, not long before he flew away to China. In the picture above I got a bit of his hands: he is doing coin tricks as he looked out at the sunset from a friend’s house on Alki Beach.
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