Tag Archives: family

Never blink…you might miss something

My second niece graduated from high school last night. It seems impossible that she is an adult already, about to head off into the future…and feeling like all of our futures may well be better because of her.

One of my favorite things through the years has been spending time with my nieces. Here are some pictures from the recent graduate’s murky past, in no particular order.

Lens Artists Photo Challenge: Favorite Things

5000 Miles Away

Just after midnight here, at home it was about 9 am yesterday, my grandmother left this world.

I should, perhaps, feel sad. But, so far, I feel thankful. Very few people get to my age with an intact grandmother. She sent me a happy birthday email the day before she died. At almost the same time, I sent her an email with these flowers:

I should, perhaps, feel guilt, because I wasn’t there for her at the end. But, so far, I’ve been remembering happily our last few visits. Before we left, I took her youngest great-grandchild to see her. Our last visit was our regular Wednesday night: sharing a glass of wine and laughing together as we watch British sit-coms. Our good-bye ritual is for me to put each of her two dogs in her lap for some loving attention. So, she got to say goodbye to the pups, even though we didn’t know it would be their last goodbye.

Going somewhere? We will miss you.

At some point I may have different feelings, you don’t lose someone you have known for 57 years all at once, you don’t really lose them at all in some ways, and being so far away I haven’t perceived the changes in my life landscape yet. But, so far, I am not feeling regrets because I wasn’t there last night. Just happiness that I spent as much time with her as I have over the course of our lives, and it was very good time.

I am going to miss her, but, boy, am I lucky to have had her in my life.

Life lag

I got home from China a little over a week ago. Since I don’t work I don’t usually fuss about jet lag. I try to go to bed and get up at about the right times and not worry if I oversleep a bit or need a nap, after all sometimes that happens anyway. It takes a week to ten days to adjust.

I’d been home a few days when we got a call at 1:00 am that they had taken my grandmother to the hospital. It took over an hour of phone calls to find out where she was, which was a bit unnerving.  When I finally located her, I spoke with the nurse attending her and since she was sleeping stayed home until the next day.

I finally drifted off sometime after 3 and didn’t get going until after 9. The first sign that things were a bit amiss was seeing the blood on her carpet when I stopped to pick up a few things for her on my way to the hospital. There had been no mention of bleeding from the nurse who called me.

When I got to the hospital she looked awful, her left hand was severely swollen and bruised, seems the EMTs had botched a blood test and attempt at inserting an IV (at a guess they had dropped the sample resulting in the blood stain I saw). Also, the left side of her face was red blotches, more blotch than skin by a lot. The nurse, when I asked, said that Grandma had said it had been going on for some time, months. I said “no”. We had spent Wednesday evening with her and it wasn’t there then.  She hadn’t seen herself in the mirror and didn’t understand what they had been asking her about.

She looked awful, but the superficial wasn’t the real problem. She had coughed herself into atrial fibrillation. If you are my week ago naive self you don’t know what that means: In a nutshell the top valves of her heart aren’t playing nice with the bottom ones.

Because of her age, 95 years, and health history including a very bad reaction to one of the drugs they usually use to treat this and kidneys that are barely managing day- to-day life, the usual approaches needed modification. So we went from the nurse I spoke with on the phone the first night saying she was just being admitted for overnight observation, to “tomorrow”, “tomorrow”, “tomorrow”, “tomorrow”, “tomorrow”. She is finally home (at her nursing home) now.

While she is in the hospital I suffer from life lag. I have to drive over and be around to find out what I can. We have to arrange a wheelchair van to bring her back and it takes both of us, so when they keep saying “tomorrow”, we keep putting off our own life (vacuuming, grocery shopping, etc) so we are ready to bring her back.

It takes a week to ten days to get over jet lag; I wonder how long it will be until I feel like I’m over life lag, or if I’ll get over it before the next crisis: her heart isn’t really back to the old normal, and the coughing that popped it out of sync last time has been coming and going for years.

Have you ever had life lag? How did you cope? I feel like I need to have a strategy moving forward, because I fear this wasn’t our last rodeo.

Meager Joy

KSM-20141223-Cookies-01If 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.

Meager and Jolly


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 weight of my worries

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.

It’s complicated

What could be more Simple? Here’s today’s list:

  • Put Christmas decorations away
  • Do dishes
  • Pay bills
  • Scan Grandma’s bill so they can be submitted to DSHS
  • Take her walker/wheelchair to the nursing home
  • Order her knee brace
  • Take my son in to fund his IRA
  • Get his tax forms and documents together
  • Clean the bathroom
  • Cook dinner
  • Buy gifts for the nursing home staff
  • Put vacation pictures on a thumb drive for my dad

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?

Puppy Love

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?