26thMay

Breathe…

I can barely breathe.  My life has been such a disaster since last summer that I can hardly believe I might actually be sharing some good news.

DH has been very sick.  He had a difficult time with the chemo.  Many days, he was so weak he was only up for a couple of hours all day.  Last week, he fell twice.  Got a bloody nose and black eye when his legs just gave way and he fell in the hall.  His back was very painful and his white blood cell count was so low they cancelled the last three weeks of his chemo.  His doctor ordered new scans to try to find out why he was having so much back pain and I just knew they were going to find that the cancer had spread.  I went with him to hear the results and I braced myself for the bad news.  Instead, we found out he’s in remission.

He had two lesions.  One was 3mm and the other was smaller.  The smaller of the two is gone and the other has shrunk to 1.75 mm.  The doctor said it was 8% active before (whatever that is) and now it’s not showing as active.  He said he’s optimistic that when DH returns for new scans in three months, it will have disappeared as well.

I stepped out in the hall while DH picked up new prescriptions and finished up with the nurse.  I called DS to tell him the good news and found that I couldn’t say the words.  I just told him that we had the results of the new scans and then I choked up and couldn’t say anything.  I just kept holding the phone while the tears streamed down my face and I couldn’t talk.  I finally managed to choke out the words, “He’s in remission.” and DS was cheering and laughing and scolding me for crying and scaring him to death.

It’s almost like I’m afraid to believe it.  Like I’ll jinx things if I seem too happy.

And it’s a long road to recovery.  For both DH and myself.  I’ve spent the last year in despair.  Trying not to think about how bad it’s been.  Hanging on by a thread.  It’s almost like I don’t know how to be happy anymore.  But it’s time to learn.  Time to begin again.

Started to say “Still hanging in there…but not very well.”  I haven’t posted much lately because there’s not much to say.  Somehow, my life has gone from busy, busy, busy and upbeat to…….nothing.  One day just rolls into another and things don’t change very much.

Funny, in the last eleven months, I’ve had to face retirement, Mom’s fairly simple surgery, slow decline and death all within a six month period, DH’s open heart surgery and cancer, my brother’s heart failure and my son’s glaucoma attack which left him with permanent and severe eye damage.  Not exactly what I planned for retirement.

I need to find some structure in my life.  Each day has become a depressing, monotonous, boring routine.  I find it difficult to do anything.  Like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.  I feel like my family has a black cloud hanging over us and I keep waiting for it to lift.

Many of my friends have told me to be patient.  Be strong.  God will not burden me with anything that I can’t handle.  And I believe that.  But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.  That doesn’t mean I feel like “counting my blessings” and being grateful for all that I have.   A lot of the time, I’m focused on all that I’ve lost.  I can’t help it.  There’s this heavy burden hanging over me and I’m having a difficult time carrying the load.

I’m not going to feel guilty about it.  Don’t think I should have to apologize for being depressed, angry and paralyzed with fear.  But, at the same time, I pray every night for the strength to change my routine and feel better.  A lot of it has to do with DH.  He’s so sick.  The chemo has really taken a toll on him.  He’s lost a lot of weight, lost all his hair, doesn’t want to eat and doesn’t have enough strength to do very much.  So I adapt to his routine.  We get up and play on the computer while having coffee.  I get dressed, straighten the house a little and plan dinner.  Go to the store if I have to while he takes his afternoon nap, fix dinner, do the dishes, watch TV and go to bed.

And I eat.  Everything and anything.  It seems to be the only thing that gives me any comfort.

We have lots of events coming up.  We’re going to Orlando next month.  Got two cruises on the calendar and a three day stay at any of the Bluegreen Resorts.  Usually, these events would inspire me to diet and exercise and buy new clothes.  Not now.  I just can’t seem to get excited about anything.

Just waiting for this round of chemo to be over and then find out if any of it has done any good.

8thMarch

And here we are

Long time since I’ve posted.  One thing leads to another and suddenly, it’s March.  Winter is finally on it’s way out the door.  It’s been really cold the last week but the forecast says it’s going to start warming up.  It’s 30 degrees right now and headed for 50 today.  Going up to 60 tomorrow.

The cruise went well.  At least, as much as could be expected.  It’s not easy to take a crew of nine to New Orleans and spend ten days together.  We had beautiful weather, ate lots of food, drank too much wine and were pretty laid back for a few days.  We rented a little house in New Orleans after the cruise and spent a couple of days in the French Quarter and visiting the bayou.  Donnie was pretty weak after chemo and radiation so I took a scooter that my mom left to me.  He argued about it and then, after we got home, he said he was really glad I took it because he doesn’t think he would have made it without the scooter.  Of course, it really hurt his pride to have to succumb to riding in a power chair but, after two days of trying to walk all around the ship, he gave in and he used it a lot on the rest of the trip.

I promised myself that I would get back on track after we got back and that’s the plan.  I made an appointment with my doctor yesterday because I had labs right before we left on vacation and things are starting to get out of whack.  He wanted to send me to an endocrinologist but I asked him to have faith in me and let me do my thing for three months before we made that move.

I know what’s wrong with me.  Too much junk food.  Too much weight.  No exercise.  Smoking again.  Garbage in, garbage out.  I want to feel better.  I have to stop letting the health problems Donnie, my brother, and my son have keep me down.  I can’t be there for them if I’m a physical wreck.

Oh yeah, my son… Darryl came in from the road shortly before we left for vacation and complained of eye problems.  Wanted me to check his eye because it felt like there was something in it.  I couldn’t see anything and told him he needed to see an eye doctor.  Of course, he didn’t want to because he doesn’t have any insurance.

The next morning, he woke up and couldn’t see out of his right eye.  I rushed him to the eye doctor and they rushed him over to an eye specialist.  He was having an acute glaucoma attack and it was so severe, they didn’t even wait for him to fill out the new patient forms at the specialist’s office.  Took him right back and began treatment.  Gave him meds and two injections right in the eyes.  Ouch!  I couldn’t hardly stand to watch.  Two days later, they did laser surgery on his right eye and he has an appointment to have the left done.  He’s suffered permanent damage to both eyes.  We don’t know how much improvement he’ll have but he can’t see very well at night and isn’t able to drive after dark.  Not good for someone who makes their living driving.

And…the latest update on my brother…his heart doctor finally told him that nothing is working.  He’s being considered for a heart transplant.  His heart is continuing to deteriorate and is now functioning at 15% capacity.  The doctor said it’s a ticking time bomb and he could have a massive coronary just from sitting down.  He’s finally agreed to see a specialist here in Louisville for a second opinion this coming Monday but I can’t help thinking that he’s put himself in a very bad situation by not getting another opinion earlier.  His heart has been continuously deteriorating since he first started having trouble in December and his current doctor has let the situation go on for months now.  Every day is causing more damage.  Maybe the specialist in Louisville will agree but I can’t help thinking his current doctor missed the boat.

Okay, more updating to follow in the next few days but, for now, I’m taking care of myself.  Weighed in at a massive 220 pounds this morning and I have a goal of losing 25 pounds in the next three months.  It starts now.  I’m heading up to the treadmill.  I’ll be keeping track of calories on Sparkpeople and I have a reward for myself after three months of staying on track.

11:30 Update - Finally made my way upstairs to the treadmill.  I didn’t really have a goal in mind, other than to do something.  I felt horrible after just 5 minutes at a sedate 2.5 mph.  So I decided I’d be pushing it to get in 15 minutes.  At 15 minutes, I thought I could make it 20.  As I was working my way to 20, I flirted with the idea of trying to get in 30 minutes and, before I knew it, I was at 24 minutes and knew I could go a little longer.  At 30 minutes, I noticed that I had burned 98 calories (according to the treadmill tracker which is always wrong) so I hung in for another minute and a half to bring it up to a nice round 100 calories.

and that’s how you do it.  Always pushing for a little bit more.

4thFebruary

Open Up the Vents

Time to open up all the vents and air things out.

I get mad.  I know my husband is in a fight for his life and I know he’s sick as a dog and miserable but I get really mad about the whole situation and have to keep it all bottled up.

I saw this coming three or four years ago.  He just quit trying.  He’s always been a couch potato, always drank too much, always eaten whatever he wanted but he really threw in the towel about four years ago. Started coming home from work and began drinking and eating junk food within minutes of getting home. He wouldn’t walk with me or get any exercise at all.  He’d gripe about me fixing healthy dinners and make a frozen pizza for himself or run out for fast food.  He was smoking three packs of cigarettes a day and living on pure junk food and drinking himself into oblivion every evening.

And I could see the toll it was taking on his health.  He’d go to the doctor because he felt like crap and always want some kind of pill to make it better.  His doctor started calling him “Mr. Noncompliant” because he wouldn’t listen and do what he needed to do.

I tried to get him to cut down on smoking, tried to get him to exercise, tried to get him to eat right and quit drinking and it led to a lot of arguments and friction.  He just made up his mind that he was going to do whatever he wanted and nothing I said was going to make any difference.

I kept telling him, “Don’t you care that you’re killing yourself?  Doesn’t it matter to you?  We’re finally getting to a point where we can retire and enjoy life and I don’t want you to wind up having a heart attack or a stroke or getting cancer.  If you don’t care about yourself, what about me?  Doesn’t it matter to you that I’m the one who’s going to have to care for you when it all catches up to you?”  And he’d get mad and tell me to quit nagging him.

So now he’s had cardioversion, quintuple bypass surgery and been diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer all in the last six months.  And he gets to take it easy and avoid exerting himself and I have to pick up the slack.  I get to be the supportive, loving wife.

A therapist calls him every couple of weeks.  Someone his doctors have on their team who calls him and just talks to him about what he’s going through and listens to him.  She called today and I felt my anger rising as he talked with her about his bad luck.  Having all this happen so unexpectedly.  How unprepared he was and how miserable he feels.  I was overhearing the conversation as I was taking down the shower curtain to wash it after he vomited all over the bathroom and then crawled back to bed leaving me to clean it up because he’s so weak he can hardly stand.

I’ve tried so hard to avoid saying, “Dammit!  You brought this on yourself.  I did everything in my power to make you see what was happening and you didn’t care enough to pay attention and do something about it.” I’ve kept all of the negativity bottled up and been so careful not to let him see anything but love and encouragement and positive energy.

After the therapist hung up, I told him I should find a support group or talk to someone.  I needed to go for counseling or something because it’s not easy for me either.  And he said, “I know it’s hard for you, honey.  I know.  But I just get so tired of being sick.  Sometime’s I just don’t care anymore.  I really don’t.”

And the shit hit the fan.  I burst into tears and said, “You know, that’s just about the cruelest thing you’ve ever said to me.  I’ve tried really hard to avoid saying this but you’re in this mess because you didn’t care. Because you wouldn’t listen to anyone or do anything when everyone was telling you you were heading for trouble.  You’ve been sick for six months but I’ve been watching you kill yourself for five years.  And I’ve begged you to stop destroying your health and take better care of yourself but you didn’t care enough about me to change.  So I’m pissed.  I’m angry that you have cancer and I’m angry that I can’t do anything to make it better.  And I’m angry that I saw this coming and tried to warn you and you wouldn’t listen.  And I’m even pissed that I shouldn’t be saying these things because I’m trying so hard to remain positive and be supportive but sometimes the anger is so strong that I’m choking on it.  I’m here for you. I’m doing everything I can for you and I just don’t want to hear that you don’t fucking care.”

Then Donnie got mad and said, “Oh, so it’s the old ‘I told you so’ routine?  It’s all my fault that I have cancer and heart problems?  What about your brother?  He’s always been so perfect and now he has congestive heart failure.  Is that his fault?  How do you know this is all my fault?  Are you blaming me because I have cancer?”

And I stopped.  I walked away and had a good cry and he came and hugged me and he thinks I’m all better. But I’m not.  Thank God I didn’t spew out the rest of it while I was venting.  How I feel betrayed because I’ve given him my entire life.  Been with him since I was 17 and I’ve been a damn good wife for 43 years.  I’ve been supportive and loving and done everything in my power to show him how much I love him and our family.  I feel so betrayed that I gave him all my good years and now, when I’m tired and worn out and getting old, he’s probably going to leave me.  And I don’t want to be alone.  I don’t want to have to spend the rest of my life without him.  And every time he says he doesn’t want to eat or he won’t get out of bed or he doesn’t do exactly what his doctors tell him to do, I feel like he doesn’t care enough about me to fight for me.  But I try to be patient and positive and encouraging and I do my crying at night after he goes to bed.

31stJanuary

Crabby Patties

DH qualifies.  He’s one cranky, crabby ass these days.  I know he feels miserable but he is NOT a good patient. Yesterday, I was worried because he spent all day in bed.  The day before that was an all day sleep and the day before that.  This morning, he’s up and mean as a snake.  I finally told him to go back to bed.

He wants to vent and I understand that.  But he also needs to understand that this is not easy for me either. Since DH has been sick, he’s letting a friend use his car so we only have my car.  He woke up this morning and was griping about Steven having jury duty.  I don’t know why it was a problem this morning.  I’ve been dropping DH off for radiation, running Steven downtown for jury duty and getting back to pick up DH as soon as he finishes radiation.  Steven was supposed to be at jury duty at 9:30 this morning instead of 9:00. DH starts complaining that he’s going to finish radiation and have to wait and he doesn’t feel good.  Steven suggested I go ahead and drop him off at the regular time but DH wanted to argue about it for some reason. He said that wasn’t necessary and yet he continued to complain about the situation.  So I suggested DH go ahead and go to radiation (which is a ten minute drive from home and only takes 10 minutes) and I would take Steven to jury duty when he got back.  Steven might have been 5 or 10 minutes late but he said that wasn’t a problem since he’s just sitting in the jury pool.  DH went to radiation and then called me and said he was heading home and to have Steven come out to the car when he got there and he’d run him downtown. Although it wasn’t a problem for me to take Steven and I was dressed and ready to go, he insisted on taking him.  After he returned, he griped about how bad he feels and how hard it was on him to take Steven all the way downtown.

In other words, he’s looking for things to argue about.

The hand and foot syndrome has spread to his face and it looks like he has a sunburn.  He was applying the lotion to his face and wanted me to do it.  So I started applying it and then he got all upset because I got close to his mouth and he said it tasted bad.  I never even got near his lips and yet he insisted that he could taste it.

Next, it was on to complaining about Steven not putting the toaster away or hanging up his towel and a ten minute search and rant about an insurance card that he said I’d misplaced.  It turned up in his coat pocket.

And on and on and on…until he said, “I might as well just go back to bed!” and I said, “Please! I agree.  Go back to bed.  You’re driving me crazy!”

They’ve cancelled DH’s last chemo treatment which would have been tomorrow since he’s having problems with the hand and foot syndrome.  I guess he’s at about the worst point in this series and I hope he starts feeling better soon.  Hopefully, the effects of the chemo will begin to abate and he’ll get his appetite back and his hands and feet will get better.

Now the house is quiet and I can get some cleaning done.

30thJanuary

Living in Limbo

Sometimes I’m struck by the date.  Can’t believe summer is over, can’t believe it’s Thanksgiving.  Wow, is it really Christmas day?  It seems like I’ve been in a daze since Mom got sick last July.  Dealing with her slow deterioration and then Donnie’s heart bypass surgery followed immediately by his cancer.

Then my brother developed heart problems and I went to stay with him and care for his girlfriend, Kim.

And then Mom passed away.

I just seem to float through the days and hours and it feels like I’m stuck in limbo.  Losing track of the movement of the days and weeks and months.  Now it’s the end of January.  Feels so strange.  I wonder if things will ever get back to normal?

A friend posted on Facebook yesterday:

“have you and your family ever had one of those days…..Sick yesterday…Not feeling great this morning. Went in played politics…don’t like politics….stayed late counting computers (long story) went to grandson’s game…it was not a happy game…daughter and I discussed politics….talked to both sons who had problems…then came home to dark house. Neighbors lights were on…Don was in the house in the dark and mad at me because he had been waiting since 4. At 4 I just leaving Valley for Stuart. Call REMC…Girl argued with me and told me to check our fuse box. That thing has been replaced to to last outage. Explained Transformer outside house had a lose wire. This has happened several times…Squirrels get in transformer and get electrocuted and our electricity goes off. The come out with a long pole, knock off squirrel and reset transform. Now don wants me to call REMC and tell the girl it was what he said and not what she thought. Bed sounds good about now.  What a sucky day!  Can’t get much worse than this”

I had to stop myself from commenting about how much worse it could get.

DH is in bed.  He’s there all the time.  Chemo has made him sick as a dog.  He developed something called “Hand and Foot Syndrome” from the chemo where it looks like his hands and feet have been burned.  The skin is peeling off and he has sores and blisters all over them.  His heels are bleeding and he can barely walk.  They’ve cancelled his chemo for this Friday and we’ve been using Neosporin, ice packs, and some cream the doctor recommended called “Utterly Smooth”.  Really good stuff.   I can’t believe how much better his hands and feet are this morning.  So glad he’s getting some relief.  I keep trying to get him to eat something but he says everything tastes metallic and makes him sick.  So I eat it.  All I do is eat.  And I don’t even think about it.  Just mindlessly cram food into my mouth.  Two more weeks of radiation and no more chemo for a while.  I keep encouraging him and telling him about how much fun we’re going to have on the upcoming cruise in 22 days.  I hope he’s able to enjoy it.

I told my brother I was staying home this week.  He’s still in atrial fibrillation and I can’t believe his heart doctor hasn’t done anything about it.  Scares me to death.  I’d like to be there to help him with Kim but I need to be here for Donnie.  Gotta be where I can do the most good.  Mike has an appointment with his heart doctor tomorrow and I hope they make some kind of decisions.  It’s been a month since he started meds and he’s not getting any better.

Still, I can’t stay in Limbo forever.  I need to clean house today.  Try to find some semblance of normality in all this.  Think I’ll dedicate my energies to laundry and house cleaning.  My annual weekend with the girls starts this Friday and my wonderful Sistahs won’t let me back out.  We’ve rented three cabins at General Butler State Park.  Plan on going to a casino and having the Crab Leg Buffet Friday night, Saturday will be shopping and visiting a couple of wineries and then a Master Chef contest Saturday night where we’ll drink a bit too much and come up with “God Knows What” for dinner after we’re given our mystery ingredients.  It’ll be so good to spend time with my friends

27thJanuary

One Day at a Time

That’s how I’m doing it.  Dealing with things bit by bit and trying not to dwell on them too much.

Mom passed away last Tuesday around noon.  Mike and I were with her when she took her last breath.  Little sister said she was getting pretty bad and I told her Mike and I would be over in a few minutes.  When we arrived, her breathing was very gurlgy and little sister said she probably wouldn’t make it until the next day. I painted Mom’s nails.  She always liked for me to do that and it made me feel like I was doing something she appreciated.  Painted them a light pastel pink like she liked.  It was obvious that she knew Mike and I were there.  She opened her hands and rested them in my hand as I painted her nails. Her favorite CD was playing, Iz Kamakawiwo’ole’s What a Wonderful World,  Little sister took her to Hawaii a few years ago and she fell in love with all things Hawaiian.

Little sister wanted to leave and pick up a Christian music CD that Mom liked and we told her we would stay with Mom until she got back. Donna hadn’t been gone more than five minutes when Mom’s breathing quieted down.  She stopped that horrible gurgling sound and seemed to breath very easy and shallow. And Mike and I both knew.  I don’t know how but we did.  I looked at Mike and saw a reflection of my own face. Tears silently falling from his eyes onto his chest.  We knew that she wouldn’t be struggling to breathe anymore.  He stroked her forehead and held her left hand and I whispered to her and held her right.  I told her to let it go.  Told her to just rest and let us take it from here.  And she did.  She just stopped breathing. So gently and peacefully.  She just took a gentle little breath, exhaled softly and didn’t take another.  Mike and I just stood there, silently crying and holding her hands and he finally said, “She’s gone, Patty.”  And he didn’t need to tell me.  Even so, neither of us wanted to let go.  We just held her hands and stroked her hair and let the tears fall.  Finally, Mike removed the breathing tubes from her nose and turned off the machine. He picked up her Bible and we placed her hands on top of it and left the room to call Donna and my brother, David.

I felt bad that Donna had taken such good care of her; made so many sacrifices and cared for her so tenderly and Mom slipped away just five minutes after she left.  But maybe that’s the way Mom wanted it.  I don’t know.  At any rate, Donna was okay with it.  She’d already said her goodbyes.  I think she may have wanted to give Mike and I some time alone with Mom.

I went to Mom’s house that evening.  Went to find clothes for her to be buried in.  I was shocked to find all her clothes were gone.  They were there when I was caring for her last summer.  I don’t know what happened to them.  There were only about eight hangers in her closet and only one nice outfit.  A beautiful rose pant suit with a white silk blouse.  The collar was lace and the buttons were pearls.  It was exactly what Mom would have chosen.  I suppose she got rid of all her clothes at one point or another and I believe she saved that outfit for her funeral.  I went to her jewelry box to find a brooch and earrings because Mom always wore a brooch but, again, there wasn’t anything there.  Just a pair of pearl earrings and a necklace I bought her at least 25 years ago.  It was a silver necklace with stick figure charms.  One for each of her children.  Mike, Me, David, Donna, and Dennis.  Each silver charm held our birthstones.  Mom was really hard to please.  She’d act like she liked what we gave her but then it would disappear.  She’d give it away or donate it.  We learned not to ask what happened to the gifts we gave her.

It hit me like a sledgehammer to see that necklace in her jewelry box.  I held that silly thing and just broke down.  I didn’t even know she still had it.  But there it was.  The only surviving piece of jewelry in the box.

My little brother came in to find me sitting on the floor crying like a baby over that old necklace.  I told him I couldn’t figure out why it was there. Did she want to be buried in it or did she leave it for us?  He said he thought it would be appropriate for her to  wear it in the casket but we’d remove it before she was buried and I could have it to remember her.

I never wanted anything of my mother’s.  She never kept anything.  I could look around her house and nothing held any significance for me.  She never held on to things from the past but was always getting rid of old stuff and buying new.  At some point, all her stuff became meaningless to me because it was like walking into Rooms to Go.  It all looked nice but it didn’t hold any memories.  I still don’t know why she held on to that necklace but it will come back to me and I’ll treasure it.

The funeral was yesterday.  Mom and Dad must have done something right because my brothers and sister and I were all there for each other.  We gave each other strength and stood together the way my parents would have wanted.  We’ve always been there for each other and I guess we always will.  When one would cry, the rest of us would be there to comfort.

Friends came from everywhere.  I was surprised to see that the friends who came were for my siblings and I.  Mom was the last of her family and there’s no one left of my father’s family.  It’s just us kids, our children and a couple of scattered cousins.  Mom could be very critical of others and she didn’t have a lot of close friends but there were plenty of visitors and friends in attendance at her funeral. Donna and I had worried that there would only be a couple of people at the visitation and funeral home.  We were so grateful for the steady stream of friends who showed up to support us.  I guess funerals really are for the living.

I learned how blessed I am to have so many wonderful friends.  They sheltered me like a swaddled baby.  I told them everyone was coming to my house after the funeral and they set to work.  Surrounded me in my grief and wouldn’t take no for an answer when it came to helping out.  Pam went in my house while I was at the funeral and set up two crock pots of soup she made for visitors after the funeral.  Elsie brought enough fruit to feed an army.  Jana bought a deli tray and others brought desserts, drinks, potato salad, chips, lasagna, a ham, and enough food to feed an army.  One of my son’s friends, raised in a series of foster homes, who has always thought of us as his parents came every day to make himself available to run errands, clean house, and do anything he could to be helpful.  I told him I needed to go get some shoes and get my nails done and then decided that I just didn’t have the energy.  He made me get ready, drove me to the salon and waited until I was finished so he could take me home.  He stayed at the house to make sure DH was okay and drove Andrew and Steven to the funeral home.

There were students.  Kids I hadn’t seen in years.  And yet they came.  Not because they knew my mother but because they knew me.  There were friends that I’d slighted and neglected.  They were there for me. And I felt so blessed.

After the funeral, people filed past the coffin and I was so touched.  It seemed like every other person came to give me a hug.  I hadn’t realized how many of Mom’s visitors were my friends and acquaintances.  I’d been worried.  Mom hasn’t lived in Louisville for 35 years.  My brothers and sister don’t live here.  My sister and I were hoping someone would turn out and it did my heart so much good to see the outpouring of love and support that was generated.

It’s taken me most of the day to write this.  I hadn’t really had time to grieve.  I’ve been surrounded by so much love and support that I’ve been cocooned in a blanket of love.  Writing this post has been the first time that I’ve been able to gather my thoughts and actually have a good long cry.  I went outside a few minutes ago and sat in the rain and thought about my mother.  I hope I made her proud.   I think I did.  She didn’t find a lot of happiness in this life.  Most of what she had came from her children.  I think she lived vicariously through us. Sometimes, we resented it.  We’d get angry that she would steal our thunder and resentful that she’d make herself out to be such a martyr and refuse to accept any real Joy or Happiness.  I forgave all that last summer and just decided to accept her for who she is and love her without reservation in what time she had left.  And I did.  I may have gotten a little gruff with her when she decided to give up but I came to realize that the choice was hers and I’d have to accept it.

I hope she’s happy now.  I hope she can find all that Joy and Happiness that she denied herself on this earth. I hope she’s back on that farm where she grew up.  Sitting beside the spring drinking crystal clear water.

Goodbye, Mama.  I love you.

This is a really quick and easy recipe for cuts of pork loin.  I originally found it in Cooking Light 87 cookbook so you can see that it’s been a family favorite for more than 25 years.

1 (1 1/4 pound) pork tenderloin, cut into 8 slices
1 teaspoon margarine
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup Chablis or other dry white wine
1/2 tsp. beef flavored bouillon granules
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 Tablespoon water

Trim excess fat from pork.  Coat a large skillet with cooking spray, add margarine.  Place over medium heat until margarine melts.  Add pork, and cook 5 to 6 minutes, turning to brown evenly.  Remove pork from skillet.

Add 1/2 cup water, wine, bouillon granules, fennel seeds and pepper to skillet.  Bring to a boil and add pork. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes until pork is tender.

Transfer pork to a serving platter: keep warm.  Dissolve cornstarch in 1 Tablespoon water.  Add to pan juices, stirring to blend.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until thickened.  Pour over pork and serve.

Yield; 6 servings.  134 calories per serving.

14thJanuary

And here I sit

I dropped my brother off for his cardiac catherization at 6:00 a.m. this morning.  Stayed with him until they got ready to take him back to a prep room and then left.  He was worried about Kim being alone and I don’t blame him.  I never realized how much he does for her until I decided to stay with her while he does whatever he needs to do.  He got her up and I helped her dress and moved her into the living room and turned on the TV.  She’s deaf but she uses closed captioning and loves to watch “I Love Lucy” and “2 1/2 Men”.

I got back at 7:15 and fixed breakfast and coffee for Kim.  Mike didn’t want her to eat or drink before we left because there wouldn’t be anyone here to take her to the bathroom.  Little sister is going to get Mom settled and leave her son in charge while she goes to the hospital around nine.  She’ll stay until noon when Kim’s visiting “aide” (not sure what she really is) comes to be with her from noon to 4:00 and I’ll tag team with Donna so she can go home and take care of Mom for a while.

If Mike isn’t out of surgery or settled in a room by 4:00, I’ll come back here to take care of Kim and little sister will take the next hospital shift.

Whew!  All these sick people!  The doctor said if he gets in there and needs to do a stent or a minor procedure, he’ll go ahead and do it.  If Mike needs something major, they’ll send him to Louisville in an ambulance and do it there.

I honestly don’t know how he does it.  I’ve only been here a week and a half and I’m bored out of my mind.  I guess it’s different if it’s your house and you have things to do but the highlight of the day, for me, is walking the dog.  Kim is able to speak, a little, but not enough to really carry on a conversation.  The house is immaculate, so there’s no cleaning to be done.  It’s 27 degrees, way too cold to go outside, and I wouldn’t want to leave Kim alone anyway.  Kim’s only entertainment is TV so I don’t want to interfere with her watching it but I just don’t get into “I Love Lucy.”  So I:

  • take Kim to the bathroom
  • plan dinner
  • play on the computer
  • give Kim her meds and meals
  • and….
  • and nothing

Come on, big brother!  Get well soon.  I’m homesick.

10:30 Update - Just got a call from Mike.  They still haven’t taken him back but he said he’s next in line.  I hope so, he’s already been there for almost five hours.  Let’s move it, guys!  I know hospitals and surgical suites are not exactly on a rigid schedule but this is ridiculous.  I thought he was calling to tell me the results.

13thJanuary

Traveling Nurse

I’m back at my brother’s house.  Been here for a week now.  I went home yesterday afternoon and spent the night.  Felt good to be back home and get to sleep in my own bed with DH.  Got home around 4:00 and then it was up and on the road at 10:00 this morning so I could be back in time for Mike to take Kim to lunch.  Sunday lunch is one of her few treats and I didn’t want to be late.

Mike is scheduled for a cardiac catheterization tomorrow morning.  I hope they go ahead and do whatever they need to do while he’s there.  He really can’t take care of Kim right now and I can’t stay here forever.  DH has been very understanding but he’s not feeling too great either and I need to be with him.  The chemo and radiation are catching up with him and his stomach is all out of whack.

I guess you could say I’m certified in Kim Care now.  She needs so much help.  It’s sad to see this beautiful, vivacious woman live her life in a recliner and need assistance for the simplest things.  I guess we forget sometimes, how lucky we are.  She can’t bend her left knee so she lets me know when she needs to go to the bathroom and she lowers her recliner.  I go over, bend down and bend her knee and place her left foot firmly on the floor and either hold it in place or stand on it to keep it anchored.  She gives several heaves and, after three or four false starts, manages to pull herself out of the chair.  She either swivels into her wheelchair or she grabs her walker and begins to walk with her left leg stiff and unyielding.  Her foot is beginning to turn outward and it makes it difficult for her to walk.  Still, she makes her way to the bathroom, grabs the support bar and manages to pull down her pants and sit on the pot.  She knocks on the wall when she’s finished and I go in and clean her up, pull up her pants for her and she drags herself back to the recliner.  She has to back up to it and then I bend down and bend her knee for her so she can sit down.  She reclines the chair and I place a special pad under her knee that forces her left leg to turn inward in an effort to correct the alignment of her foot and leg.

Every woman should have a husband like my brother.  I’m absolutely in awe of him.  Retired military and he keeps this house spotless.  Cares for Kim including giving her a shower every other day, washing her hair and blowing it dry for her.  He’s kind of proud of his new-found talent for hair styling.  He applies her facial moisturizer for her, shaves her legs and underarms and dresses her.  I asked him if it wouldn’t be a lot easier to let her wear pajamas all the time if they’re not leaving the house and he said it’s important to Kim to look her best.  Her appearance was always important to her and he wants her to have as much dignity as possible.  He’s really stressing over her weight.  Not that it bothers him so much but more that it’s humiliating for her.

I don’t know what the answer is.  He fixes nutritious, healthy meals and Kim makes pretty good choices when they go out to eat but she continues to put on weight.  She gets no exercise to speak of although Mike takes her through her therapy every day.  She’s pretty much confined to the recliner or the bed.  I brought my heart rate monitor and we’re going to put it on her and see how many calories she burns over the next 24 hours.  I told Mike she may be able to increase her metabolism simply by moving her right arm in rapid circles or something.  Mike had to cut the tags out of the clothes he bought her last month because he said she’d be devastated to know that she’s wearing 2X and 3X now.

As for me…I weighed myself this morning and found that I’ve lost four pounds this week because there’s nothing to snack on around here!  Cereal and soy milk for breakfast (or yogurt), lunch is the big meal of the day and it’s usually protein and vegetables and then dinner is a salad or soup.  The only thing even remotely “snacky” around here is Kellogg’s Rice Krispy Treats at 70 calories each.  Kim is allowed one per day.  The closest store is about five miles away.  I’m walking the dog every day since Mike can’t walk 20 feet without gasping for breath, pushing Kim’s wheelchair up and down ramps and doing all the lifting and strenuous stuff that needs to be done.

Next time I gripe, please remind me….  I truly am blessed.

9thJanuary

Love my Girls!

Met my girlfriends for dinner last night.  It was wonderful.  I’m lucky to have friends that go back twenty years. We try to meet for dinner monthly but sometimes we all get caught up in our day to day lives and we miss a month or two.  Elsie chose the restaurant this month and, although it really wasn’t my kind of place (fried chicken livers, meatloaf, salmon patties, fried chicken, fried pork chops, country-fried steak), the conversation was great, the waiter was fun and the laughter and camaraderie was the best.  Jana brought me gag gifts.   Emergen-C Immune + System Support tablets, B-Complex High Potency Vitamins for immune system health, Ricola Honey Lemon Couth drops to “fight colds naturally”.  No one understands what you’re going through like your girlfriends.

I almost missed dinner.  My brother is sick and I’ve been staying with him.  Thinks he’s Superman.  Retired military, runs everyday, does a kazillion push-ups, sit-ups and chin-ups.  Lifts weights.  He started feeling bad a couple of weeks ago and couldn’t seem to shake it.  Got short of breath, didn’t have any energy. Gained 13 pounds in two weeks.  He took his girlfriend Kim out for lunch last Friday and, while helping her in the van, he almost passed out.  He went to the emergency room and they decided he had a leaking heart valve and was retaining a lot of fluid.  They wanted to admit him and do some more tests but he checked himself out of the hospital because there wasn’t anyone to take care of Kim.  Here’s a picture of Mike and Kim taken just four years ago.

Kim had a stroke about three years ago and it left her severely handicapped.  She’s deaf, left side is completely paralyzed, speech is garbled and she’s gone from 103 pounds before her stroke to 250 pounds. Mike is totally committed to her.  Quit his job to take care of her, replaced all the doors in his condo to accommodate her wheelchair, sleeps on the couch and had a hospital bed moved into the bedroom.  Hubby and I went down to see how he was doing last Friday, (a 60 mile drive), stayed a couple of hours, came home, packed my bags, and went back.  I can’t believe how sick he is.  He can’t walk more than a few feet before he starts coughing and gasping for breath.  Can’t exert himself at all and he’s trying to lift and pull Kim.  We feel pretty certain that he’s going to need surgery so I’ve been trying to learn to care for Kim so he can feel confident that she’s in good hands.  Spent the last five days learning how to communicate with her (mostly texting) and I’m learning how to understand her speech a little bit better. Not too good with one-handed sign language but I’ve learned a few things.  Learned how to bend her knee and hold her left foot in place while she uses her cane to get herself out of the recliner and seated in the wheelchair.  Learned how to get her on the toilet and clean her up afterwards.  Learned how to dress her, put on her shoes, and get her in the van.  If Mike has to have surgery or go in the hospital for a few days, we’ve got it covered.

Mike didn’t make any friends when he checked himself out of the hospital.  They wanted to keep him but gave him some meds to reduce the fluid he was retaining and told him to come back on Thursday for an angiogram.  He called them on Monday and told the doctor that he had someone to take care of Kim and could do whatever they needed to do but they seemed totally unconcerned and told him to stay on the meds until Thursday and then come to the office where they’d determine whether or not they needed to do any tests.  I think part of the problem is that Mike doesn’t have a doctor.  He says doctors are for sick people and he’s never sick.  So this doctor that saw him last Friday doesn’t understand that this is NOT like my brother.  He can’t do anything without getting out of breath, can’t bend over without feeling like he’s going to pass out and isn’t getting rid of fluid like the doctor said he would so the meds aren’t working.

Mike knew I had dinner with my peeps last night and insisted that I take a break and go home overnight but I’m heading back today.  Don’t know what would happen if he passed out or had a problem at home.  Kim certainly wouldn’t be able to do anything to help.  So, I’m packing whatever I might need for a couple of weeks and heading back in a couple of hours.  Guess we’ll know better after he sees the doctor tomorrow.

In the meantime, with Mom’s health issues, Donnie’s cancer and heart issues, and Mike’s leaky heart valve, I’m taking my vitamins, Emergen-C, B-Complex and taking all the advice my girls have to give.

4thJanuary

Six Month Meltdown

cough..cough…hack…cough…what the Hell did I do?  I set the oven to clean, went to take a shower and, when I came out, the house is full of smoke.  I put two broiler racks in to clean but I’m wondering if there was something in the oven.  No, there couldn’t have been.  The broiler racks took up the entire space and I would have seen something.  Where did all this smoke come from?  cough…cough…I turned off the oven and opened a bunch of windows even though it’s 34 degrees outside.  Guess I’ll sit her and post while I choke and wait until I can unlock the oven.

I feel like I just finished a six month meltdown/binge/out-of-body experience.  I’m getting used to all the health problems going on with the family.  It’s just been one thing after another. I’ve felt better the last few days.  Starting to come around a little bit.  Donnie has a full day of radiation therapy and chemo today so  I have the place to myself.  I plan on doing some cleaning and trying to work out a little bit.

I weighed myself the other day and I’ve weighed daily for three days in a row.  Shocking. I’m up to 220 pounds.  Wish I could take it off as easily as it goes on.  A lot of the eating was just my way of coping, I guess.  I’d just sit on the computer playing stupid games and mindlessly munching.  I think what made me stop and look around was friends that I haven’t seen for a long time.  With things going on with Donnie, a lot of our friends have come by and I’ve been embarrassed about how I look.  Wondering how I let this happen.  I made an appointment with my GP and told him that I think I’ve hit the point of total incompetency with my weight.  The more I weigh, the worse I feel and the more my ankles hurt.  I’m at the point where I almost can’t exercise.  I told him I wanted something to give me an edge.  Asked him to prescribe phentermine and he shot that idea down.  Told me he did not want me taking it and suggested, instead, that I might want to consider lap band surgery.  He said he never would have recommended it until the last couple of years but he feels like they’ve come a long way with it and I might want to think about it.

And I did…think about it.  But I don’t think I want to go that route.  Not real comfortable with the idea of surgery to correct something I should be able to do on my own.  So I’m back in the race.  I plan on continuing with my old workout tape.  Adding a few minutes each day.  I work best by challenging myself, keeping track of calories and blogging.  So, that’s the plan.

Crap!  Finally got the oven open and found that one of the boys left two slices of pizza in there.  What is it with these guys?  They seem to think that any appliance with a door is a food storage unit.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found food in the microwave and oven.  Instead of wrapping it and putting it in the refrigerator, they just shove it in the oven or the microwave.  And I slid the broiling pan right over the top of it and didn’t even see it.

At any rate…I’m going to turn on my workout tape and do it until I’m ready to die then I’m going to walk around the block.

later…

3rdJanuary

Hanging in there

It’s been almost a month since we found out Donnie has lung cancer.  He has radiation therapy every day and chemo every Friday. It’s scary.  I keep wanting him to eat right and exercise and he doesn’t.  I mean, he never did so I don’t know why he’d start now.  Maybe I want it because he seems weak to me.  I know the treatment is going to weaken him and it scares me that he’s so tired all the time.  He sleeps at least 14 hours a day.  Complains that he can’t sleep at night and I feel like saying, “What are you talking about?  You went to bed at 7:00 and slept until 3:00.  That is a full night’s sleep.  Then you went back to bed at 5:00 and slept until 8:00, went to radiation therapy and came home and slept from 1:00 to 4:00.  That’s 14 hours.  What are you talking about???”

I find it difficult to know how to behave.  I want to treasure every minute we have but then I get aggravated about the same old things.  He fixes his coffee in the morning and leaves sweet-n-low packets all over the counter. Leaves the milk on the counter.  Sloshes coffee on the counter and I tell him to clean up his mess.  Then I realize there will probably come a day when I yearn to see sweet-n-low packets all over the counter.

My friends and family have been very supportive.  Of course, there’s not much they can do but they’re there anyway.  Calling all the time and inviting me out.  One friend smoked a turkey and brought it over on Christmas and another smoked a pork loin and brought it over a few days before Christmas.  Haven’t had to do much cooking lately.

Lot’s of contact through Facebook.  My brother developed heart problems and I just almost feel like our family is being tested. Mike is a health nut.  Never smoked, doesn’t drink, worked out daily for years, walks every single day and eats broiled fish and steamed vegetables most of the time.  Saw on Facebook where he was taken by ambulance to the hospital for heart problems.  Not sure exactly what the story is because he doesn’t want to worry me but I know that he was supposed to stay in the hospital because of an irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, leaky heart valve, etc. and he checked himself out because there wasn’t anyone to take care of Kim, his girlfriend, who had a stroke a couple of years ago.  He doesn’t ask for help but I may pack my bags and go stay with him for a few days.  I need to learn how to take care of Kim because I know he won’t have any surgery done until he knows someone can take care of her and there doesn’t seem to be anyone else who can do it.

Mom’s not doing well either.  Donna put a picture up on Facebook a couple of hours ago.  Thought it was funny that Mom has never liked cats and Donna’s cat seems to have adopted her and lays on her bed all the time.  I didn’t see the humor in the picture.  I just saw Mom.  Every time I see her I’m shocked.  Here’s a picture from her birthday this spring and a picture from today.

I still can’t get into dieting right now but I did make an effort to get some exercise.  I started walking last Monday.  I know this sounds pathetic but I could only walk ten minutes.  So, I walked ten minutes in the morning, walked ten minutes at 3:00 and walked ten minutes at 6:00.  Then, yesterday, I got out my old Jane Fonda workout tape.  Not likely to finish it anytime soon but I did the 15 minute warm up and then walked for ten minutes three times today.  Hoping to add something each day.  At the rate my family is going, somebody better be able to take care of everyone.  We’re dropping like flies.

It’s been such a long time since I’ve posted.  I don’t like to write about depressing things and I feel like all I do is host a pity party these days.  Still, it just keeps getting worse and worse and I find myself wondering who I am and what’s important.  I don’t even recognize my life anymore.

Mom is still dying.  Getting weaker and weaker.  Sleeping more and more.  Even when she’s awake, she’s not the same person she was.  Kind of has this strange little smile and talks about the weather.  Like she’s so out of contact with what’s going on around her.  Every time I see her, I feel like it may be the last time I see her.

And then, there was Donnie’s heart trouble.  I thought I’d weathered the worst of it when he had quintuple bypass surgery and came through it okay.  But they found that spot on his lungs…

He’s been going through all kinds of testing and it just kept getting worse.  Another spot on the artery that sends the blood supply to his left lung.  Then a possibility of liver involvement.  And a brain scan.  A month of everything being on hold.  While we schedule more tests and more scans and see more doctors.

And now, he’s in stage 3 of lung cancer.  Facing chemo and radiation and a life expectancy of a year to a year and a half.  The rate of remission is only 10%.  And he keeps saying, “It’s going to be okay, Honey.  We’ll get through this.”

I’m so confused.  I don’t even know what I’m supposed to feel anymore.  I do my crying in private.  I try to be positive and I feel bad if I even think about a future without him.  But I know I have to think about those things.  We’ve been married since I was 17.  I don’t even know how to be alone.  I’m sad and scared and just totally devastated.  I wander around the house and everything seems so trivial.  Who cares about the laundry? What difference does it make if the dishes are done or the beds are made?  I don’t know what I’m fixing for dinner.  It just all seems so pointless.  I look at the Christmas tree and there aren’t any presents under it.  I just can’t bring myself to go out and shop and look for presents.  I know I should but I haven’t.

5thDecember

A Day to be Proud of

A day of accomplishments.  That’s what I’m aiming for.  I’ve had so many days recently where I don’t think I’ve accomplished a single thing.  Today is going to be different.  I’m going to keep track of the things I do today so I can look at the list this evening and feel good about it.

Retirement has not given me more time to do all the things I need to do.  Instead, it’s given me more time to watch TV, play computer games, sleep and do nothing.  In the past, I usually felt this sense of urgency.  Like I had to hurry up and get stuff done on the weekend or early in the morning because I spent so much time at work.  Now, it seems like I procrastinate with the best of them because, Hey, I don’t have to go to work!  I have nothing but time.  So I waste it.  And nothing gets done.

For starters…I’m going to look at this Weight Watchers stuff.  I have to say, I’m not feeling it.  I went to a meeting on Sunday and another on Monday.  Didn’t go yesterday because I had dinner with the girls.  But, for the most part, it’s come across as a big sales pitch.  Evidently, they’ve just redone their program and gone with something called Weight Watchers 360.  And, in the two meetings I attended, especially the Monday meeting, they pushed the new products.  Buy this, buy that, this product is wonderful, this other product is wonderful, this little thingie is going to help you sooo much, this other little thingie is going to make the program sooo much easier.  And all I wanted was a little inspiration to get me going.  Our first “goal” was to make a commitment to take a snack with us every time we leave the house.  Doesn’t really apply to me. They were talking about how it will keep you from stopping and grabbing a burger or fries or hitting the vending machines and those are things I don’t do anyway.  I just don’t eat fast food.  And I don’t eat junk when I’m out.  I eat it at home.  So that’s one step I’m going to skip.  I know myself well enough to know I won’t eat it anyway so why take it?  For me, I should make sure I have lots of healthy snacks at home.  Cause that’s where I eat.

So, I’m going to put a more positive attitude out there and try to figure it out.  Maybe it’s easier than it seems.  I’m used to counting calories or counting carbs and that stuff is pretty intuitive for me.  This “points” thing…not so much.  And their website isn’t very intuitive either.  I went online and registered and entered my breakfast on Monday.  At lunch, I not only couldn’t find the page where I was supposed to enter my food again, but I didn’t have a clue about how to enter it either.  Homemade soup.  Pretty healthy stuff but I had no idea how many “points” it had.

Today, I’m going to be more positive.  Going to spend some time cruising around the WW site and trying to figure out where everything is.  I think I should probably just stick with some of their recipes, too.  Until I get the hang of figuring out points.

Now, I’m going at it.  Going to have a good day and get a lot of stuff accomplished.  Just wait till you see my list!

3rdDecember

Patty bought Yogurt

And whole grain bread, soy milk and Splenda.  Sounds like I’m back at it.  Fighting the good fight.

I joined Weight Watchers yesterday.  Not something I thought I’d be doing but I realized that I’m in way over my head and need some support.  One day just leads to another, one week to another, month after month, and I just kind of wander around in some kind of limbo.

Things just seem to go from bad to worse these days and it’s really gotten me down.  Mom continues to decline.  She lost her lovely room at the nursing home.  Got dehydrated and had diarrhea so they sent her to the hospital.  She was only in the hospital for a couple of days but they gave her room to the next person on the list.  Faced with finding another nursing home and getting Mom in it, little sister decided it would be best to take her to her house.  She’s doing a great job caring for her but it’s just hospice.  She continues to deteriorate.  We don’t think she’ll make it to Christmas.

DH got out of the hospital after his bypass surgery (quintuple, if you can believe it!) but had to go back for testing because they saw a spot on his lungs and they wanted to check it out.  Turns out he has cancer in the upper left lobe.  He was referred to a lung doctor but the doctor also wanted to check an anomaly around his esophagus.  If the esophagus has a tumor, he’s looking at chemo and radiation therapy.  If not, he’s still looking at having the left superior lobe of his lungs removed.

So, he had the tests done and the heart doctor said, “I removed a portion of an artery in that area for your bypass and I believe it’s just a cyst or blood clot from the surgery.  It’s perfectly round and I didn’t notice anything like a tumor when I did your bypass.  It’s not my call but I don’t think it’s a tumor.”  The lung doctor said, “I think we should do chemo…it just looks too suspicious for me.”  So…we’re waiting for them to call and set up an appointment with an oncologist.

In the meantime, we just try to hang in there and remain positive.

I have to admit, it’s all doing a number on me.  I’ve stopped doing just about everything and stopped seeing just about everyone.  I just hang around the house everyday with DH.  Play games on the computer, do the laundry, clean the house.  And cook.  A lot.  I’ve canned and preserved 6 cases of jellies, jams and pickles. My cabinets and the pantry are overflowing.  It’s my stress relief.  It’s mindless work that keeps me busy and requires just enough concentration to keep me numb.  There are days when I don’t even get dressed.  Just run around in my pajamas all day. And I know it has to stop.  Between Mom and DH, I’ve been dealing with hospitals, home care, serious illness and possible death for almost six months and it’s really taken a toll. I’ve gained a ton of weight.  Everything hurts, my ankles, my knees and none of my clothes fit.

Mom is kind of “out-of-it” these days.  It seems like she’s fairly clear and lucid and then she’ll make some off-the-wall comment that has us all baffled.  She’s used to me dressing nice and looking good.  I went to see her a couple of weeks ago and she looked at me kind of puzzled and said, “Whose clothes are you wearing?”  She couldn’t believe I was in a pair of cheap jeans and a huge tee shirt.  Couldn’t seem to make that image jive with her perception of me.  And I was embarrassed because I know I’ve really let myself go these last few months.

So… I joined Weight Watchers.  I really need some help here to get back on track.  Some kind of accountability.  I guess I should start reading my Weight Watchers packet and trying to figure out how it works.  If nothing else, I’m getting out of the house.  I’m planning on attending several meetings this week to find the speaker and time that works best for me.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

22ndOctober

Help me out, okay?

Here I am again. Seems like I just get back on track and then something happens and I relapse. The latest is DH. I was trying so hard to take care of Mom and we all thought we’d lose her any day. She finally got to the point where the doctor said we might as well take her home or place her in a nursing home because they really couldn’t do anything else for her at the hospital. We got her into a really nice nursing home and she actually began to improve. She’s much better now but she’s just a shell of the woman she was last June.

And then, just when I was beginning to come around again, DH got sick. Went for a heart catheritization and it showed massive blockage in all the arteries in his heart. He had to have immediate bypass surgery. Quintuple bypass surgery. And now I’m trying to get him up and going again. He’s doing pretty good. Not smoking or drinking but not exercising or eating too great. Still, I know he has a long road ahead of him and, hopefully, in a few months he’ll feel better than he has in a long time.

So here I am. Starting over again. I weighed myself this morning and I’ve gained back almost everything I lost by working hard during the first two months of the summer. I have to get my bike fixed because it has a flat tire. The pool is closed for the season. I can’t work out on the treadmill because it’s buried again. So I have to pull myself up by my boot straps and start all over. I’m really not looking for a pity party but I get so tired of trying to take care of everyone else and I wish, just once, someone would be there to help me out. I wish someone would plan meals and fix me healthy food. Just set the plate in front of me and hand me a fork. Wish someone would encourage me to work out and then give me high fives after I do. I get tired of being the one who always has to take control of things around here. And then, after I step up to the plate, everyone wants to knock me back down. “You don’t need to workout so much, take a couple of days off. Come on… order pizza for dinner, please? What do you mean you have to exercise? You exercised yesterday!

I keep thinking of that old song by Faith Hill, “Won’t Somebody Stand By Me”

It’s quiet here tonight
There’s a light burnin’ far away
It burns in my heart
In the rain, in the dark
Well, this girl’s gonna have her day

I’ve been this alone for so long
I’m beginning to wonder why
I stand in one place
Different name, different face
But no one’s gonna see me
Break down and cry

Won’t somebody stand by me
Stand by me just one time
Won’t somebody stand by me
Stand by me just one time

Lord, I don’t understand
What’s slipping through these hands
You’d think by now I’d know when to let go
Here I am
Won’t somebody stand, stand by me

I’m not bending tonight
But I’m twisted and turned and broken down
I’m starting to know the sound
Of nothing and no one and yet everything

Well, if God’s here tonight,
Are You here tonight?
Maybe You could grab me up
Lord, stand me on my feet
Give me strength and set me free
‘Cause I’m not giving in until I’ve had enough

1stOctober

Lost in Twoson

I’ve been wandering around in a daze for weeks now. Trying to deal with Mom and DH in the hospital and retirement issues and everything else. About the only thing I haven’t been dealing with is diet and exercise.

I weighed myself this morning. Woke up with a firm resolve to get back in the fight. I weigh 207.5. Seems like I’ve been stuck in Twoson for years. I was so close to Onederland and then started backtracking.

The days and weeks keep piling up. Mom gets a little better, then she gets worse. And I spend my time running back and forth to Elizabethtown to see her. Eating at fast food venues when I can. Rushing back home and picking up pizza or a bucket of chicken for dinner. Even when I’m home, I feel like I’m so behind that I can’t focus.

Yesterday, DIL came over and asked if her niece could go on the cruise with us in February. I don’t care. Long as she pays her way it doesn’t make any difference to me and it will give DGD, Holly, someone to hang around with. But it brought home thoughts of the cruise and how I was determined to be in better shape. So I could wear some of my nice clothes and feel better.

So I decided that I have to get back to work. Today, I’m aiming for a perfect day. Eating right and finding some way to get some exercise. The pool is a dead issue. Gone for the year. It’s raining so I don’t want to ride my bike. Guess I’m going to try to spend some time on the treadmill.

That’s got to be later, though. Right now, I have to take Andrew for a job interview.

25thSeptember

Home Again, Gone Again.

I just run back and forth from Louisville to Elizabethtown these days.  Mom is better, then she’s worse. 

I’m letting go of my anger with her.  Letting the love override everything else.  Mom is who she is and I’m not going to be able to change her.  She’s never been a fighter and, although I want to scream, “Dammit, Mom, fight this!”, it’s just not who she is.

Little Sister (Donna) called last Saturday and said Mom was going downhill fast and the doctor told her she ought to notify the family.  I went down there last Saturday and she was pitiful.  Tiny little thing lying in that big hospital bed.  She’s barely a bump in the covers.  She wouldn’t open her eyes on Saturday and seemed to drift in and out of awareness.  She was responsive to questions and seemed to be with us…then she’d do something totally off the wall.  Her hands were fluttering in her lap and I asked her if she needed something.  She said she was trying to get some money out of her purse so I could go get us something to eat.  I explained to her that she was on a feeding tube and couldn’t have anything by mouth and she was confused about that.  Finally started fumbling around and I asked her what she wanted and she asked me to “Put this money back in my purse.”  I just said okay.  Even though she didn’t have her purse or anything else.

DH took me down there.  I was upset and he didn’t want me to drive.  Little sister was there.  Big brother had been there for two or three hours with Kim (his girlfriend, who’s confined to a wheelchair after her stroke.)

I stayed a couple of hours and then went to her house to collect the things I’d left down there.  Obviously, I won’t be taking care of her at the house anymore.  I came home but told Mom I’d be back the next day.

Sunday, I packed an overnight bag and went back.  I planned on staying at the house overnight so I could see her on Sunday and Monday.  When I got to the hospital, around 2:00, she was about the same as the day before.  Maybe a little bit better.  She seemed more cognizant of what was going on.   She still kept her eyes closed but would open them and greet anyone who came in.

I hate hospital rooms.  She’s in a semi-private room and there was just too much joy and activity going on with the woman on the other side.  It’s difficult to watch Mom struggling and then have people playing cards and laughing in the same room.  I’m happy for them but it’s difficult when all I want to do is cry.  And it’s uncomfortable.  The people on the other side had taken the chair from Mom’s side of the room and I could only stand there.  Big brother was there and stayed for a couple of hours.  He’d left Kim with a sitter.  I finally got a chair moved into the room but it was such a tight squeeze that I had to turn my legs to the side because there wasn’t room for my knees between the chair and the bed.  I stayed three hours, told Mom I was going to go see little sister and take my bags to her house and then return.

I drove over to Donna’s and we talked for a while.  She helped me with understanding Mom.  I said, “Donna, think about it, how many times in her entire life have you seen Mom overjoyed about anything?  I mean, laughing to the point of peeing in her pants?” 

Donna said, “I’ve seen her smile but I’ve never seen her like that.  She’s always too concerned about what everyone else will think and too timid to do anything that might bring attention to herself.”

I said, “Why on earth is she like that?  She talks about how mean Grandma was to her.  How she was bullied by her brothers.  How Daddy was always to blame for her unhappiness.  But Grandma was wonderful.  Sweet and loving and full of joy.  Uncle Jimmy and Uncle Charles were just normal people.  I can’t imagine that they did any more bullying than any other sibling does.  And Daddy…I remember all the times Daddy would try to get her to dance and she wouldn’t.  How he’d cut up with her but she couldn’t take a joke and always turned a little joke into some kind of personal affront.  What on earth could have made her like that?”

And Donna said, “I’ve thought about it and I think there’s just something wrong with her.  Something she can’t help.  Some kind of paranoia that makes her look at everything in a negative light.  And I think David is a lot like her.  Maybe that’s why they can live together so well.”

Funny…I never thought of it like that.  Maybe she really can’t help being the way she is.  If we act that way, we’d probably be seeing a shrink on a regular basis but, women who are 87 years old probably didn’t have that option.  You don’t see someone as depressed if that’s the only way you’ve ever known them.  The symptoms, which seem so obvious now, were just inherent in her personality.  And I’ve always thought, “That’s just Mom.  She’s so negative about everything”.  I never really thought about a personality disorder.  She can be so sweet and charming with everyone and then, after they’re gone, complain about them and twist everything they said into something unrecognizable.  I never thought that maybe that’s the only thing she really saw.  Never considered that all the negativity she saw in people was how she really saw them and not just something she liked to complain about. 

And so, I’ve forgiven her.  And I think I needed to.  I need to stop wondering why she won’t fight for herself and just accept that she can’t.  She isn’t able.  She’ll do everything in her power to help one of her children but then complain about it later.  And we all just thought about how she always likes to make herself look like such a martyr.  But perhaps she was born a martyr and never was able to rise above it.

I dropped my bag and my coffeepot off at Mom’s and headed back to the hospital.  Although I’d only been gone about an hour and a half, I walked in and had a dozen people asking me, “Are you Patty?  She’s been calling and calling for you and we didn’t know what she wanted.”  About that time, my phone rang and Donna said, “The hospital just called and said Mom keeps calling for you so you’d better get back up there.”

And, as soon as I let Mom know that I was back, she visibly relaxed and seemed more restful.  She said, “I didn’t know where you were.  Are you going to stay with me tonight?”  And I told her I would.  Told her not to worry, that her children would be there for her.  That one of us would always be with her. 

I stayed another four hours and then I told her I had to get some rest.  I said, “I’ll be back in the morning, Mama.  You just need to get a good night’s sleep.”

She said, “I know.  I understand.  Just leave your door cracked so you can hear me if I need something.”  And I assured her that I would.  I gave my cell phone number to the nurses and said, “Call me if she gets scared or aggitated and I’ll drive back up here.  I don’t want her upset and feeling alone.”

I didn’t get to sleep until well after midnight but I was back in her room by 8:00 yesterday morning.  She was much more alert.  Little sister was there and she brought her bluetooth.  She placed it in Mom’s ear and called my brother and Mom smiled as she talked to him.  She really enjoyed that.  Donna called our little brother in New Orleans and Mom enjoyed talking to him, too.  Donna and I stayed with her a couple of hours and then Donna left.  DH called me and I put my phone on speaker and held it next to Mom’s ear and she talked to Donnie for a few minutes.  The physical therapist came in and got her up and in a chair for a couple of hours.  It was tiring for her but she kept her eyes open and talked with me.  She was very aware of everything going on but she’s confused about why she’s in the hospital and how long she’s been there.

I finally told her I needed to go home but I’d be back today and I’d bring DS, David, to see her today.  She took my hand and said, “You’re a good daughter, Patty.  I appreciate everything you’re doing and I know it’s hard on you.”

I said, “I had a good mother.  She taught me well.  She taught all her children well.  She taught them about love and sacrifice and those are the most important things a mother can teach her children.”  And then I kissed her and said I’d see her tomorrow.

I don’t know how many more tomorrow’s she’ll have.  But I’m at peace with her.  I’ve forgiven her for not fighting for herself.  If she doesn’t eat, she doesn’t eat.  If she gives up, she gives up.  It’s not my decision to make for her.  I’m not going to fuss at her and tell her she has to do this and she has to do that.  I’ve accepted that she’s not able to do the things so many of us take for granted.  She won’t die fighting for her life, she’ll slip away quietly and her light will just fade away.  Out of respect for her, I’ll let her finish her life the way she’s lived it.  I know she’ll find Joy and Happiness in the afterlife and I think it’s way overdue.

She isn’t perfect but who is?  In her own way, she made her daughters strong.  Even if it was by us seeing how she let life beat her down and being determined not to follow that road.  She raised gentle, living sons who see women and children as fragile beings needing protection.  And I don’t guess that’s a bad thing.  Even if the women and children in their lives are strong, we all need a little protection at one time or another.

And now, I have to get moving.  I’m going back to Elizabethtown for the day.

19thSeptember

Petunias to Pumpkins

Yeah, Pumpkins.  I was surprised, believe it or not, to find pumpkins all over the place at our local Kroger.  I always park in the back and don’t see the front of the store.  I decided to park out front yesterday afternoon and see if they had any decent perennials for the garden and found myself staring at a bunch of pumpkins.  When did that happen?  All these hospital and nursing routines this summer have caught me off guard.  Even with the pool getting cold I wasn’t prepared for pumpkins.  Where did my summer go?

I called Mom yesterday evening and she sounded pitiful.  I felt bad for her and I’m racked with guilt this morning.  Her veins are so tiny they couldn’t keep the IV in her arm and had to do a mini-surgery to use the veins in her neck.  She sounded so weak and helpless and said she wanted me to come and sit with her.  I told her I just couldn’t go down there right now but it made me feel guilty.

I never know with Mom.  I don’t know if she’s really that bad off or not.  I DO know that my house is a wreck and I have tons of stuff to do around here because I’ve spent so much time away from home caring for her. I asked Mom if anyone had been to see her yesterday and she said, “Only Donna.  And she brought that baby so we couldn’t really visit.   She doesn’t seem to understand (or doesn’t want to) that Donna has taken on four foster kids and she’s dedicated to them.  She’s raising them.  Mom seems to think she’s babysitting or something.

Little sister retired from the medical field.  She was a respiratory therapist for years and she’s the one who manages Mom’s medical issues.  She’s the one the doctors talk to and Mom’s primary physician is a close friend of hers.  She’s also exhausted with dealing with it.  She has four foster children ages 10 months to 14 years.  Between the problems the 14 year old has and the demands of a ten month old and a two year old, she’s pretty busy.  She told me the other day that she’s constantly on the phone trying to deal with arrangements for Mom and it seems like she can’t get a minute’s peace.  Said she felt like just turning the damn phone off.  Guess that explains why she didn’t call me back yesterday or this morning to give me the real story on how Mom’s doing.

I wish I knew how serious this latest problem is.  I don’t know if I should say to Hell with the house and my own obligations and go see her or not.  It would be a three hour round trip and then I’d have to sit in a wooden chair to visit for a few minutes.  Mom’s not even in a regular room.  Just a tiny little room off the ICU unit that barely has space for the bed and a wooden chair.

I’ll probably go tomorrow.  This whole situation has me feeling so guilty and inadequate.  But then, Mom always manages to make her children feel inadequate.  It’s just the way she is.

Guess I’ll try to call her and see how she is today.  I wanted to talk to little sister first.  Get a handle on the situation before I make a committment to drive all the way down there tomorrow.  If Donna says, “Yeah, she’s in pretty bad shape.  Getting weaker and weaker each day.” then I’ll definitely go.  But, if Donna were to assure me that she’s about the same as she has been, that’s a different story.

- 20 minutes later -

Finally blew up little sister’s phone until she answered.  She says Mom is much better.  Says they’ll probably discharge her to a nursing home in the next couple of days.  She says, “Mom is playing you.  Just like she always does.  Of course she’s sick.  She’s 87 years old and she’s gotten herself in this predicament because she refused to eat for weeks after her surgery.  She’s much stronger since they started feeding her through the tube and they’re getting all her vitals back where they should be since they’re finally getting some nutrients into her system.”

So that takes care of that.  I’m going to call Mom and chat with her but I’m not driving down there.