Just when things look good, look out!

At dinner Tuesday evening I commented to Terry how much better he was looking, talking, thinking, acting. His overall improvement, two weeks out from his open-heart surgery, was very good. He has been walking around the block twice a day, and on Monday had even walked a pathway at a neighborhood park after getting his blood test. We were feeling pretty confident.

After I cleared the dinner dishes, Terry remarked that he again had a pain in his right arm. He had it the day before but thought it was muscle pain from overdoing. But now, he wondered. We headed to the hospital’s emergency room.

Everyone, it seemed, had picked that Tuesday evening to head to the ER. The place was packed, so much so that family was not allowed in the care unit, but rather had to wait in the very crowded waiting room. Due to Terry’s recent heart surgery, he was admitted into the care unit immediately for blood test and ekg. Then sent back out to wait with me until they had an available bed. We had arrived at 6 pm.

I took a walk at 11 pm and checked at the security desk when I came back in. Terry was still waiting, but had been moved to another area, behind the scenes. I checked at 2 am, again after another walk outside. Terry was in a bed and I was sent back to sit with him. The doctor was with him when I came in.

All the tests looked good, but one more ekg needed to be done before they would allow him to leave. There was an elevated protein in his blood that the heart was producing, but that was a byproduct of surgery. The heart was working to heal itself, as it should be. The CT scan of the arm showed good blood flow and the ekg showed good heart work. The staff reassured us, though, that we had made the right call, coming to the ER as soon as we did. One never knows until it’s checked out, Even the ER physician said he was unsure of what they would find when they first got started.

It was a long night. We were discharged about 3:40 am and home by 4. We took showers and changed clothing before crawling into bed around 5 am. I was so exhausted that I fell right to sleep and slept until 9:30. I did awake long enough at 7:30 to call Columbia to let them know I would not be coming in this week at all and to let the various teachers whose classes I read to know. In five years, this is my second absence. In both cases, Terry was the cause.

I’m so thankful I have been healthy enough to go every week and now to take care of Terry. But, and it’s a big but, I am seeing that I do not have the stamina I had a few years ago. There was a time I could have done that all-nighter, gone home, slept a couple of hours, and gotten right back into my routine. It was a wakeup call to me that those days are over. I have to be more careful with my activities and conserve energy.


Ten days post surgery

My husband is doing very well, post surgery, getting stronger every day. However, he cannot lift things or bend over. He still needs lots of help with dressing and showering and cannot drive for at least three more weeks. His blood work last Thursday was very good so the surgeon will require blood work only once a week until he sees Terry at the end of the month. I have been able to leave him at home, by himself, for a couple of times today while I grocery shopped.

Our daughter and grandchildren were here this past week, and Jen did the cooking for us. What a treat that was. Now food prep and clean up is all on me. Well, almost everything is on me. All the work around the house plus the extra laundry since linens and clothing must be changed on a daily basis. Terry is managing his meds very well on his own. He has six drugs, the most he has ever been prescribed, so it’s a bit of an effort to keep it straight.

Terry nor I have ever had any major illness or ailment so all of this is quite the shock for us. The amount of time and effort it takes to heal and to care for the one who is healing is overwhelming. I am really struggling as Terry has always been so self-sufficient. I’ve said that I can do what I do because of what he does for me. During this time, though, things have changed as has my life. We are both praying for a quick and complete recovery.

There are lessons I am learning from this, and perhaps as the weeks pass, and I have even more hindsight, I can share what I’m learning.

Life takes a turn

The cafeteria has become too difficult for me to maneuver. The children love to talk and they especially love to talk to me. The noon time assistants won’t allow talking. They have a microphone and they yell, into the microphone, for the children to be quiet and NOT TALK. I say hi to the children as they enter and get their lunch, unless the noon time assistants start screaming at them even at this point. But whenever they start screaming, I leave the building.

Yesterday as I walked out of the cafeteria I saw a very attractive woman standing on the sidewalk. She was well dressed, nicely coifed and made up, she smiled at me and I smiled back. I noticed she was wearing a school lanyard and thought she might be a substitute. As she continued to stand there, I approached her, and asked if she was a visitor. She then told me her story.

Her grandson is having difficulty in school. The teacher has requested someone be with him as he blurts out and doesn’t concentrate. First grade is his first school experience. No preschool, no kindergarten. Kindergarten didn’t happen because his father was diagnosed with a brain tumor that turned the whole family upside-down.  Blindness, paralyzation, no short-term memory. No longer the father he once knew. And yet, we expect him to do first grade like everyone else.

I went to work. Found the school counselor and asked her what she could do to help. She gave me her card and said to have the grandmother call. Today I talked to the attendance officer and found that the grandson has missed a lot of school and is late even more. Of course. In that household it might be hard to get ready and get out the door. The attendance officer wanted to talk to the grandmother. I leave her office, walk out the door, and there is the grandmother, just arriving after helping her daughter take care of her paralyzed husband.

The grandmother was kind and appreciative for the help. I complimented her on her appearance, again she was so well put together.

“My parents were hard on me. My mother always told me how ugly I was. For over fifty years I’ve lived with that. I work hard to be a good person and do the best I can.”

Life…it comes in many shapes and it takes many turns.


Operating in the dark

The minute hand is quickly ticking towards 7 a.m. I have been up for over a half hour, operating in the dark. I chase the dark by turning on lights and lamps as I travel through the house. The porch light switches on when I open the front door to let one cat out and her daughter in. Only Calico Cat spent the night with me. Turning on kitchen and dining room lights, I fix the cats’ breakfasts and head out, through the dark family room towards the large black square that is the sliding glass door. The patio light switches on and the backyard cats make their appearance for breakfast.

I like the sunlight. I prefer to get up when it’s light and go to bed when it’s dark. This week I have had to get up every morning in the dark. Wednesday was especially hard when we got up at 3:30 so as to be at the hospital for Terry’s heart surgery at 5 a.m. It was still dark as they prepped him for the OR.

My trips back and forth to the hospital have been made in the light. Coming home, after my late day visit, has the sun setting in my windshield. The darkness soon sets in around the corners of the house, but that’s okay because I am so tired that I am ready to go to bed when darkness falls. Taking care of all of the usual chores, plus this trips to the hospital, have taken its toll on me. I fall asleep immediately and the dark night passes quickly. But, it’s still dark when I wake up before 6. Sure wish I was waking up in sunshine.

Terry is doing very well with recuperation. He only spent one night in ICU. He has been up walking and doing respiratory therapy just one day, post op. He is now four days post-op and there have been hints of sending him home. I would prefer the hospital keep him as long as possible so he can get the very best care. I can’t assure that will be the case when he comes home.

Bury the dead and shred the documents

My sister and I talk on the phone every now and then. We see each other even more seldom, though. We enjoy one another’s company. We always laugh and tell the best stories and realize how much we have in common. We live in the same town. Why don’t we communicate more? Who knows. It’s just the way we are. For years we both worked demanding jobs. My sister has a big family. I have lots of friends and activities. We have always been so busy. And we liked it that way. On Saturday, after getting my hair done on the far east side of town, I decided to drive south to see my sister. We talked and laughed for two hours and would have spent more time doing so, but I needed to get home, which was a drive across town.

My purpose for the visit was to drop off my advanced directive in which my sister is named as one of the people who can give the authority to “pull the plug,” should the need arise. She would have no qualms about doing this. I also wanted to pick up the deed to the cemetery plots my parents bought over 50 years ago. There is one plot left and I want to be able to use it for Terry and me. My sister wants to be cremated and her ashes scattered to the wind. She wants no trace left behind.

My sister is 83, and in fairly good health, Who knows, though, how much longer she will be around, and when she dies, I’m sure I won’t be able to get things from her apartment, like that cemetery deed. It was stashed in a plastic box, under her bed, with all of the other papers that belonged to our mother. Mom has been gone for 18 years but my sister has done nothing with these papers. I offered to haul them home and shred them as I have a heavy duty shredder. She was happy to let me take the box.

Why do we let things like that box sit for so long? Eighteen years is a long time. I had no idea she still had all these things. There are boxes of blank checks. There is an old ledger from my parents’ farming days. There are hundreds of envelopes from Kaiser. I swear, my mother must have kept every Kaiser document ever mailed to her. Bank records from banks long merged with others. It’s going to take a few days to get it all shredded.

Change doesn’t always happen

Do people change? Can people change? And I guess I should be more specific, not use a generalized term like “people,” because I think people can change. Certain persons, though? No. If the behavior continues, change is hard to happen.

A friend pointed this out to me recently when I was lamenting the situation of a an acquaintance. “Hasn’t he always been like this?” she asked. Yes. “Well, don’t expect a change.” Then, she said something that struck me as so true.

“You put more emotional energy into these people than they can ever repay. Yet you expect them to do so.”

She was right. I have tried to help whenever I could. It’s who I am and what I do. Her comment that started with “yet” is what struck me so hard. I do expect change. I do expect reciprocity. My parents taught me to pass on my blessings. But they didn’t say that people will repay you. The hobo that my mother fed on the back porch would continue to be a hobo. You didn’t help people so you could be repaid, you helped people because you could.

Who has to change here? Me. I need to change my expectations. Some people are never going to change, no matter how much I expect them to.

Go have some fun

What gives you pleasure? A good book? Then read one. A long walk? Take one. Painting or drawing? Get out the brushes. Lunch with a friend? Call someone.

Right now, we need to have some fun. Life has gotten too serious, too painful, careening out of control. People I know are sick and hurting. The political situation is beyond anyone’s comprehension. Even my own neighbors are having struggles beyond imagination. Expectations are not being met.

So, what do we do? I’m baking a pecan pie to take to a friend. I’ll work in the backyard. A stack of new books arrived Friday in the mail. I’m trying to keep from reading them all before Terry goes in for heart surgery in a week. I’ll need some stories to keep me company in that horrible hospital waiting room. I went out Friday and bought a new lipstick.

A new month begins. The last quarter of 2018. Time is flying. Life is short. Go have some fun.