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After 2018 reached such abysmal depths, I had such hopes that 2019 would be a better year. But we couldn’t even get through the first day without a big problem that threatens ruin – dad’s in the ER due to an accident with his tractor and a tree, and subsequently had a negative reaction to the meds they gave him. Did they not look at his records? The news hit me hard, I couldn’t stop the feeling that the holiday was utterly trashed. Dr. Don is on the scene, which is the saving grace in all of this.
I’m in a holding pattern – I don’t know if I’m headed to Michigan or to Washington or staying put. There’s no real good news about dad, he seems to be having a very hard time shedding the medication, he isn’t himself, he doesn’t recognize mom. I can only imagine what it is like to wake up somewhere and not recognize anything or anyone. Dr. Don is still calm and not overtly worried, so I’m trying to take my cue from that but Mom’s having a very tough time handling this new reality.
I know I went to work at office today, but I don’t know what I did. I just punched the clock today. My mind was definitely not on things here but several hundred miles away. There are all sorts of questions running through my mind. None of them that I can answer, probably none that have an answer quite yet. I am trying to keep a positive outlook, but I will admit to some significant doubts and concerns. There is no long term plan in place and my parents to stay in that house both need to be functional.
Four days into the chaos, Mom makes the call I’ve been expecting for days. News still isn’t good, but a slight bit better. On the phone with Dr. Don, I try to keep it calm. I was at knit night in body but not in spirit, not after the phone calls. I will look for a flight when I get home tonight, and have already started mentally working on the list of what to pack for a week. I am hoping it will only be a week, but I am not going to buy a round trip ticket.
Amid preparations for the trip to Michigan, we take down the Christmas tree. I won’t leave himself with that task for any number of reasons, not the least of which is self-defense. It is always a slightly depressing task, but today, trying to do it as quickly as possible, it is definitely depressing, even though we’d planned to do it this weekend. We power through the cleanup of a million pine needles –every year we think, “this tree has lost a LOT of needles”. And every year, I pack away more ornaments into the same container space.
Between getting to the airport, waiting through security, flight times and the need to change planes somewhere, it still takes the better part of a working day to go from here to there. And this time there was the added fun of worrying whether or not there would be a “blue flu” episode with the TSA agents at LGA, courtesy of the government shutdown. By the time I got to the hospital, it was dinner time. Dad seemed somewhat alert – he’d shaved – but definitely not all there still. Is this because of the drugs or is this something else?
A game of hurry up and wait, with the promise that Dad will be released today – early! While we did get paperwork from the doctor at noon, there were still multiple provider visits that had to happen, and which took another three hours. As a result, Dad was so tightly wound by the time we got out of there, trying to keep him still, quiet, and on the ground floor at home was a losing battle. After only four hours of trying to keep eyes on him, we had to call in reinforcements – one neighbor who was an ER nurse.
You know the formula from Hollywood: family drama and angst, but punctuated by a moment of levity. Our comic relief came this morning at breakfast, everyone seated around the table but no one quite yet awake despite all the coffee cups nearing empty. And of course, we’re all wearing glasses. At one point, mom & dad both take theirs off for some reason, conversation continues. They put their glasses back on, and they both blinked like owls. . . somehow, they managed to unknowingly swap glasses, the wire frames close were enough in shape to escape immediate detection as the wrong glasses.
Even though dad clearly is confused about many things still, he has moments where he surfaces, and is clearly overwhelmed. He asked me to talk to the medical folk who are coming. Has he noticed – and retained? – the fact of my constant journaling? It is how I am keeping track of everything that needs to be done, now, tomorrow and beyond. It is a very good thing I started this at the start of the New Year. Now I'm trying to get mom using the basic technique of daily listing of things to be done, events and things of note.
It is exhausting, like trying to keep up with a toddler. There is a constant battle with dad wanting to go upstairs. About going out to the shop. Or just going somewhere, anywhere. And after just three days, even I am worn down and rather than redirecting or responding in a neutral way, so I am saying no, and sounding frustrated when I interact with dad, remind him to use the walker. I’m not entirely sure how we are going to get through this. I think he’s slowed down just a bit? Perhaps the pain is finally registering?
I started cancelling doctor visits and other scheduled appointments today. It has become clear to me that this visit is not going to be just a week, as I had originally hoped. I will be lucky if it is only two weeks, but words cannot express how unhappy that thought makes me. I am trying to face this appalling reality now, rather than deny it until it is too late, as happened last spring. I am also trying to think of dad’s behavior as medicine induced side-effects, but I seem to be having real problems with that perspective.
As we head into the second week, I am reliving my childhood Sunday dinners. OK, the pasties from Copper Harbor were a seasonal treat. Pork roast. Pot roast. And Mom’s lasagna – which required a conversation about how and when did she start making it, because let’s face it, lasagne was rather exotic for the when and where of my childhood. All these things that make leftovers that mom can freeze and pull out sometime in the next few weeks. The only thing we didn’t have was chicken & dumplings, in part because ---shhh!--- I like my version best.
I am so mad I could spit. Dad came up stairs, with no assistance, just to get something (an inhaler?) from the bathroom. He’d been incredibly squirrely the last few days in his attempts to get upstairs – saying that what he wanted was too important for me and mom to know about? By the time I caught up with him, he was essentially downstairs again – not taking the stairs one at a time. Logic and reason make no difference to him. He did state, somewhat bitterly, that he was sorry if he was a disappointment after all these years.
Dad continued being charming in the face of Dr. O, and so the doctor missed the signals that have become increasingly obvious to mom and me. Dad has become unstuck in time – without the daily, regular routine of small activity, with calendars and reminders and lists and cheat sheets – he doesn’t know what day it is, or what he did earlier in the day. Or even what it was the doctor said at the start of the visit, 20 minutes earlier. Which makes it hard for him to later believe us when we say something is against doctor's orders.
Dad was being a speed demon for the physical therapy guy today, showing off and trying to prove that he doesn’t need the walker or PT, he’s just fine. But yesterday he was shuffling around, looking every inch the old, beaten up man. Yeah, he’s gonna hurt even worse tomorrow. I’ve stopped feeling sorry for him. I’m calling him on his bad behavior. Being nice, rational, and logical has gotten nowhere with him, let’s see if being tough makes any different. And I don’t have the spoons to be nice to him anymore.
Dad visibly perked up with a visit from one of the radio guys, John. He wasn’t motoring about the house, up and down the hallway as he did yesterday – it was a slow, deliberate movement with the walker. I’m sure that in part it is an admission of how much he hurts, but also… that he’s comfortable with John, there’s nothing to prove there? But after John left, he went into the bedroom and basically spent the rest of the day there. He’s like a petulant child, unwilling to show agency in his own recovery.
I had hoped to learn more about dad’s family this trip, but he’s still not willing or able to be communicative. I don’t know what his deal is now, but I will take the stories from Mom’s side – I had so very little exposure to anyone other than her parents, that they all seem more like characters in a novel. Grandpa Verhage - so grandma’s father – was a performer at the theater? I should have asked: was that bio dad or what? How does that jibe with the pictures of grandma as a toddler in Detroit?
Since dad’s long term memory is fine, I’ve been trying to think of topics of discussion that will get him talking about the past. But good things - less about family. Where did they see movies, back in the day? What about my memory of a toy store on the mall? That appears to be partial – or a faulty memory: there was never a separate toy store on the mall, they both swear, just a toy department on fifth floor of Gilmore's. Then of course, mom takes over the conversation and dad retreats to quiet, then back to bed.
Mom is certain that she will be able to manage by herself for the next two or three weeks, so I am actually leaving. I say goodbye to my parents at the door, neighbor Rick is driving me to the airport in the fresh snow. As I hop eastward, I stay just ahead of the storm that is moving fast, shutting down airports behind me. Settling into the comfort of a first class seat headed out of Detroit, knowing I’ll be home tonight - that realization . . . almost breaks me. I wasn’t really sure I was going to make it.
Home. The cats all came on the bed at some point last night. Sleeping on my own bed was fabulous, even though the sheets need to be changed. I spent the morning lounging – and feeling wrong that I wasn’t on alert. There is a decided lack of focus today, but I am trying to get the rest of Christmas put away – the dishes, the card tree, the mini light – as well as laundry and other basic household chores. Tomorrow is not a holiday at the office, so what doesn’t get done today has to wait until next weekend.
What a welcome home. I don’t know if this is a stomach bug or food poisoning. I don’t know and I don’t care which it is, but it is trying to kill me. While himself reported some issues last night, he’s fine today. Not so me, I am not able to do anything, I’m either in the bathroom or the bed. I don’t care about the office, they can wait another day. I’m not even knitting. The cats are no longer snuggly – I don’t know why. Meds are not making a difference.
The good thing about being sick is that there is plenty of time to dream, daydream and everything in between. I can still think. I figured out the pattern to use for the green, springtime pullover. I have figured out a couple of potential knitting projects, if I only had the time to knit them. I have had some time to consider my journal, playing catch up on the list of things to do around the house, and for the year ahead. Which is still mostly ahead. I managed to do some work today, got the inbox almost under control.
At some point this week, I had some brilliant ideas for posts. Memories of the past triggered by the recent Michgan visit. About college? Or high school? About elementary school kids? I have no idea at this point. I didn’t manage to write it down at the time, or record a voice memo or anything. I have no idea when I had these ideas – early morning? Late evening? Or different times? This is partly why I wanted to do the journal thing, it is one place to record everything. But it is not always convenient to write something down.
There have been a surprising number of kittenballs since the fall. What’s a kittenball, you ask? Transporting one or more cats in need of a forever home, from their temporary foster homes to their permanent humans, by plane, train or automobile, or any combination thereof. There was Chester, who went to a human who recently lost her kitty. There was the run from Puerto Rico to somewhere in the Midwest. And a mammoth superfecta is currently in the works for next weekend: there will be four, maybe five kittens going from Fresno to various locations, including.. somewhere in Canada.
I can’t believe there’s even a need to discuss whether or not to do home delivery of groceries in a crappy Michigan winter. I don’t even know if mom is really talking to dad about this stuff, or just assuming his reaction. He was willing to talk about home aides, just wanted me to cross-check with her. She was the one who stated “no, he won’t like that” – even after I told her what he’d said. So maybe dad has expressed – what, reservations? – about home delivery. But it honestly makes no sense to me.
The GSD starters this week were about color. I realize I have a lot of purple yarn, but not a single purple sweater (OK, I knit one purple vest). So I’m back thinking about what purple sweater I should knit as my next project. Which yarn? A pullover – like a new Peasy? Or a no-buton cardi? With a bit of swing? Or maybe some lace? A Mine Hill with pockets? Or do I start by choosing which of the purple yarns – many cashmere – I want to knit with first? Do I want an electric violet or soft lavender?
The journal is definitely helping me track and prioritize things, from knitting to chores to longer term life goals. At least on a weekly overview basis and on the weekends; I didn’t do very well during this last work week. At work, I just… work. If I can make a personal task a meeting on my calendar or write something on my daily print sheet, I might get it done. Weekends I'm still tempted to create insane to-do lists. If I add “knitting” to the list, it often doesn’t happen. “Bake something” is more likely to happen.
I have started to reschedule the remaining appointments that I had to move at the start of the month. Of course, some of those appointments had been a trick to schedule in the first place, which is making this more fun that it needs to be. And I now have an office roommate again, so I have a limited window to make personal calls from my desk. Grrr. I knew it was happening, but for the last year I’ve had the luxury of my own office. I am much happier and productive when I can ignore everyone and everything.
Based on what the doctor said – and that he cleared dad to start doing stairs, and driving if it doesn’t hurt – it would appear that dad managed to avoid doing any more significant damage to his leg. Which is nothing short of a miracle, if you ask me. He still cannot drive the Kubota for several more weeks, which is going to drive him crazy. But if he can start moving about, maybe his attitude will improve? At least a bit? And if his attitude improves, will he start doing other things? You know, a virtuous circle of recovery?
The snow squall was entirely expected. In fact, it was actually a couple hours late. It was almost too late for us to see it in the dying light, but there it was: a sudden start of tiny flakes that gently swirled into flurries, and then exploded into a near blizzard-like wall of flakes traveling almost horizontally. It isn’t supposed to amount to much, and tomorrow is likely going to be very, very cold (for Long Island, not Michigan!) but I wouldn’t mind a snow day at this point. Not that I’m likely to get it.
I shouldn’t be surprised by the feeling, but I am – where the hell did January go? The month just slipped away. I don’t have a finished sweater, the one that was supposed to be done for Thanksgiving. And then Solstice. Then New Year’s. And now? Imbolc? Or Valentine’s day? I’ve not done any knitting weeknights. None of the cleaning I meant to get done in the dead of winter, i.e., January, has been done. But I’ve taken care of the car, and gotten my medical appointments scheduled. I will get back on track.
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