The Twilight Years Are Here

The Twilight Years Are Here

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Biopsy Results Are In

May 26,2010

Last night, between 2:30 & 3:00 am, I heard a noise upstairs that woke me up. I went up and peeked in on the boys who were all sleeping peacefully. As I turned back toward Dad’s room, I heard something. It was one of those noises you know you should recognize but just can’t quite put your finger on. I tiptoed as quietly as I could down the hall and stopped short of the doorway as I saw Mom’s wheelchair roll into view, followed by Dad pushing it. It only took an instant for me to register that he had her cremains in it and was pushing it around the bedroom. He was talking softly to “her”.
With the definite feeling that I was intruding on something incredibly precious and extremely private, I began to back my way out of sight. It wasn’t until I reached the stairs that I realized tears were flowing down my face. In that moment, I missed her more than I have since the moment she died.
This morning when I went to wake the boys for school, I glanced in on Dad. Her remains were back in their place on top of her jewelry chest and the wheelchair was back in its place. I would have been able to have convinced myself it had all been a dream until I noticed that one of her favorite shirts (the only piece of clothing Dad had insisted on keeping) was draped over the back of the wheelchair and one of her porcelain dolls was in the seat. I knew he had found his own way of connecting with her in the wee hours of the morning and I was happy for him.

Just after lunch today the phone rang. It was Dad’s primary physician’s nurse. The test results from the biopsies he’d had last week were in. The good news is the results on his wrist were normal. The bad news… on the cheek was a definite malignancy. She explained that he was being sent to a Dermatologist (who would determine if it was simply skin involved). The fear is that it has already progressed enough to be in his cheekbone. At his age, and in his state of physical health, Dad cannot have Chemotherapy. My heart shattered yet again as I absorbed the ramifications. Arrangements were made for the Doctor to call my cell phone over the next couple of days to schedule an appointment (I will be out of town for the next several days). We were going to move very quickly on this.
As soon as I got off the phone, I went and sat down on the floor next to Dad’s chair. I put a hand on his arm. “Dad, that was the doctor’s office. They got the results of your biopsies back.”
“Well, what did they say?” His eyes were so clear and aware. His voice was strong when he said, “What happens now?”
I replied, “We go to a new doctor. We are being sent to a dermatologist and he will tell us where we go from here.”
He grinned. He actually grinned and patted my hand, “Well, we are just going to have to make it clear to him that we can’t have him cutting my face all up. My public demands that I look good and I’m sure Hollywood will be calling any day now with my new contract.”
I couldn’t help but smile (this has been a running joke as long as I have known Mom and Dad). I saw the worry enter his eyes but he put on a brave face. “If we have to go to a new doctor, then we have to go. But I think it’s all a waste of time.”
“Dad, we have to fight this thing.”
“Ok, if you say so. I guess I don’t have much choice if I want to stay alive.” He smiled again as he winked. “But we have to call my agent first thing in the morning.”
My heart sang as I realized something… Dad wants to live!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Kidneys, Tears and Fears

May 24, 2010

The last few days have been intense to say the least. Friday afternoon (May 21st), we went to see Dad’s Kidney Specialist for his quarterly check up. I found out at the last one in Feb., that Dad’s kidneys are severely damaged. His latest test results indicate that his kidneys are only functioning at about 35%. Reality check… there is nothing that can be done to stop it but there are a few things we can try that might slow the deterioration down. The first of which is several medication changes starting with his high blood pressure meds. He has been on one med that could be the reason for the declination in his kidney function. Ironically, it’s one of the ones his primary doctor had cut in half a few days before. We won’t know if it’s working until the end of July when he goes in for lab tests again.

On Saturday afternoon, Dad was watching TV and Jordyn was walking through to get something from the kitchen. Dad told him to “come here”. When Jordyn approached his chair, Dad struggled to his feet and wrapped Jordyn in a big hug. “If I am not here this summer, and I might not be. You never know…” Dad told him. “I want you to know I love you and I’m proud of you. You are going to set the world on fire if you will just stay on track.”
Jordyn was blown away and immediately came to find me. His eyes filled with tears, he relayed what had happened. “Nonni, was Pop trying to tell me he is going to die?” his voice quivered. “I mean, I know he’s old and stuff but he was acting really weird. Is he going to die… like soon?”
I turned to face him and tried to be as honest as I could, “Honey, he IS old and nobody has a clue when he, or anybody else for that matter, is going to die. He’s just missing Munner very, very much right now.”
Before I could say another word, he threw himself down on the couch and pulled a pillow over his head as gut-wrenching sobs wracked his body. I ran to him, “Honey, what is it?”
His reply was muffled so I wrestled the pillow from his grasp. Between sobs he cried in such a lost voice, choking on his tears, “She really isn’t ever coming back is she? Munner is really dead and I am never going to see her on earth again. I just realized… And Pop… It’s not fair! It’s just not fair!”
I knew it would eventually hit him I just never thought it would take so long or hit so hard. I pulled him into my arms and let him bawl it out.
He eventually wore himself out crying and hiccuped as he gulped in air. “Nonni,” he asked in a subdued voice still full of tears, “I didn’t get it before. I don’t want Pop to want to die.”
I squeezed him tightly, “I don’t either, Jordyn. But, it’s like Pop’s said through all of this… Whatever happens, we just have to believe it is God’s Will. And we have to love him even more now that Munner is gone. We have to keep making him want to hang on for as long as we possibly can.”
He nodded solemnly and went to his room. He was quiet the rest of the night but there was a deep sadness that hadn’t been there before, every time he looked at his Pop.

On Sunday, Damien (the only one of our grandchildren that lives out of state) arrived to stay with us for a few days. His other grandparents, GiGi and Grandaddy, who he lives with, brought him. As soon as they left, Dad wanted to know why he hadn’t been introduced to them. I pointed out that he met them when they were here in Dec. He walked around grumbling that people are always telling him things that are “bullshit”. 20 minutes later, he again asked who those people were that had been here. I explained that they were our ex-son-in-laws parents, that their son had been married to our oldest daughter. He doesn’t remember Allen at all and informed me he isn’t even sure who my children are. I went through it with him again (we do this quite frequently).
Dad has been very confused by this new child in the house. I keep Melissa’s 3 children Mon., - Wed. and having an extra kid around really messed with Dad. I can’t begin to count how many times I answered the “Who do these children belong to again?” question on today.
Also of notable mention, Dad was off balance after dinner tonight. I waited until he headed to bed before coming downstairs, to be on the safe side. About 15 minutes later, I heard a small thud and then I heard Cameryn say, “Pop, did you fall down again?”
I raced upstairs and there he was lying on the floor between the sofa and his desk. “Dad!”
He assured me he was fine, just dizzy. As soon as I had determined that he wasn’t bleeding from anywhere, he tried to get up. He couldn’t do it. I had to get behind him and physically pick him up (he was complete dead weight in my arms) and get him seated on his walker. “I didn’t know you were so strong,” he said.
Then he leaned forward and grabbed something from the seat of his desk chair and handed it to me. It was a folder we had spent a great deal of time this evening looking for, a folder that he had insisted somebody had gone into his desk and stolen. I insisted no one had stolen it, he had simply misplaced or moved it himself.
“On the bright side, I found this on the floor under my desk. I might not have found it if I hadn’t fallen. Guess nobody stole it after all.”
With a shake of my head, I put it where it belongs and helped him back to bed. Admonishing him again to use the walker if he got up during the night at all.

Friday, May 21, 2010

May 20, 2010

I got up this morning excited at the prospect of going for a long walk on the beach. My solitary walks have become a vital part of my mental health routine. I haven’t been able to resume the habit since 3 days before Mom was hospitalized (over a month ago).
I realized I had neither hat nor sunglasses as I headed home from getting the boys off to school. I decided to go home, change into my swimsuit (might as well get some sun) and grab both. But, when I arrived, Richard was up and getting ready to go job hunting. I, of course, have to be here so I settled on a compromise of going later when he got back home.
As usual, God had a plan. If I had gone, I would have missed a very important telephone call. Just before Richard left, the house phone rang and he said it was for me. I absolutely never get calls on that phone. He brought it to me and sat down to see who it was.

It was the State Attorney’s office calling to tell me, “In light of your mother’s recent death, we don’t have enough evidence to take Ms. M (T, the infamous ex-caregiver) to trial. Her deposition is null and void because she can’t testify now.
We want to offer her a diversion package that would, of course, include a stipulation that she can never have contact with anyone in the family again. If she did, she would be incarcerated.”
“But what about stopping her from being able to do this again?” I asked as I felt panic begin to rise inside me. “Don’t you get that she preys on the elderly? She takes their money and drains them dry!”
“Well, we do not have the authority to take away her license.”
“What license?” I was almost shrieking. “She is not licensed to practice in the medical field. She let it lapse a couple of years ago and hasn’t renewed it as of last week. Look it up on the internet. I do every couple of months! Her business license???”
He interjected, “You would have to get in touch with the licensing bureau about that…”
“Look, Mom couldn’t have testified anyway. I have tried to tell you that before. She had DEMENTIA. I want to know what can be done to stop T from going out and doing the same thing to other elderly people?” I cried, “The elderly need protection from people like her! I don’t care whether she goes to jail or not. I just don’t want her doing this to anybody else!”
His voice filled with compassion at my outburst, “I will see if we can get a condition set into motion that she can NOT work with the elderly again. I’ll see what I can do and give you a call back, probably this afternoon.”
“I’m here to help you,” he reminded softly. “If this goes forward, your dad is going to have to come in and give us a deposition.”
My voice with thick with the frustration I felt, “He isn’t capable of that! He has Alzheimer’s. He is so confused on the T issue, he thinks she was stealing their pills and going to Mexico to sell them. Half the time, he will tell you that and the other half of the time, He will tell you he thinks she is in jail. He can’t remember what he ate for dinner 5 minutes after he leaves the table!”
“If we attempt to prosecute, we won’t have any choice. His condition will be taken into consideration but he will HAVE to give us the deposition. Let me see if I can get the no elderly condition to go through first.”

As I hung up the phone, I was livid! I get that Mom was T’s main victim. I get that maybe T shouldn’t go to jail over the missing pills (I still think, with good reason, someone else was stealing them). But what about the unauthorized charges on Dad’s credit card? What about the evidence of neglect (and her poor judgment) as time went on? What about the things that were stolen from the house (yes, I know it couldn’t be proven but she and her employees were the only ones here when the items of considerable value went missing)! I do not get why she should be allowed to have ANY opportunity to EVER prey on another elderly person again.
I am indignant! I am furious! I am in physical pain at the thought that she will get a slap on the wrist after all she has put this family through. And I am sickened by the possibility of not being able to prevent it from happening to someone else…

***** If you are lost about T and how she fits in, please see “It Only Takes One Bad Caregiver to Ruin You” **** originally published on this blog on March 22, 2010.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Oh, What a Night

May 17, 2010

Dad has been very quiet today and it is obvious that he is not feeling well. He ate a good breakfast but he went to sit in his chair immediately after. He went back and forth between the chair and lying down on his bed until lunchtime. He ate a good lunch and promptly went to lie down.
I repeatedly told him all day that we had a doctor appointment at 3:15 with his primary physician. So when it was time to leave we slowly made our way into the car and off. The speed limit in the Village is 15 mph most of the way. The instant I inched it up to 17, Dad started lecturing me, “The neighbors want things a certain way here. You can’t go speeding through the Village and not expect somebody to bitch about it.”
I kept it at a steady 17 mph until the limit went up to 23 mph. I wasn’t trying to antagonize him, but I didn’t have my foot on the gas pedal and I didn’t feel like riding the brake. He fussed all the way to the front gate (exactly 1 mile from the house). As we were turning out onto the Hwy, he asked me how much it was going to cost to bury Mom. I explained that he had already paid for everything.
He suggested I call our pastor and ask him when he thought Mom should be buried. As soon as I agreed he announced, “I guess it’s kind of crazy to keep her sitting on the dresser (it’s actually on top of a large free standing jewelry chest). I just kind of like having her there. Tell Pastor Pete I think we should get her in the ground.”
I told him we would do it all however he wanted things done. I repeated everything I had discussed with the pastor about it the last time I spoke to him.
“Well, maybe, as soon as we get everything paid off, you can put us both in the ground. I want to be buried next to your mother as soon as it’s paid off.”
“Dad,” I said calmly. “Mom’s is already paid off. You don’t owe any more money for anything including burial. Yours is being paid for by the accountant every month. And you could easily be alive when it gets paid off. I can’t promise to bury you as soon as you pay it off.”
“But once I pay it off, there won’t be a reason to hang around. So I’m just going to have to see how long it will take to pay everything off,” he made it sound eerily feasible. “Then I will know when it’s ok for me to die.”

The subject dropped there as we finally arrived. Dad insists on loading and unloading his walker from the car. He isn’t capable of it most of the time but he is a gentleman and it rankles him to have a “girl” do it for him. Today was no exception. He struggled to unload it, pushing me out of the way, until he got light headed. He refused to use the ramp and he refused my help picking it up over the curb. When I opened doors for him, he tried to insist I go through first.
He was acting out in a rather childlike manner when we sat down in the waiting room. I offered him a magazine. He declined. He began fidgeting and glanced around the room making a variety of noises for several minutes before he suddenly exclaimed, “Oh, SHIT!”
All six of the other people in the room turned to look at him, me included.
“Dad, what’s wrong?” I asked softly.
He pointed to his feet. “I guess I should have put my shoes on to come here.”
I smiled at his slippers and touched his arm. Several people around us smiled and looked away. “I’m sure it’s ok. At least you are comfortable, right?”
“I didn’t even notice it…” his eyes were clear for a moment and infinitely sad.

He turned away and resumed his fidgeting and noise making until we were called to the back. We went into the room where he gets weighed and he proceeded to begin to unzip his pants. As he reached to push them down, the nurse laughed gently and asked him what he was doing.
He shook his head as if to clear away the fog and zipped up his pants before stepping on the scale. The nurse glanced at me with a question in her eyes. I shrugged while shaking my head. My expression clearly said, “It’s just one of those days.”
In the examining room, his blood pressure was taken. I saw the nurse’s concern and asked what it was. 108/47 and his pulse was 49… still too low. The doctor came in and did the biopsy on his cheek. When he finished, he cauterized it. When he was finished he looked over Dad’s hands and arms and decided to do a second biopsy on his wrist, he cauterized that one as well. With Dad’s bleeding history, he didn’t want to take any chances.

On the way home, Dad asked what we were supposed to do with Mom. I asked him what he wanted to do with her. “I really don’t know,” he replied. “I like having her in my room with me. But somehow, I think she is supposed to be buried. How am I supposed to know what to do?”
“Dad, you have to do whatever feels right to you. And you don’t have to decide today. It’s all paid for, so whenever you want to, we can bury her. And if you want her with you, that’s ok, too. I promise, if that’s what you want, I will bury you both at the same time.”
He looked at me as relief washed over his face. “Then I won’t decide today,” he declared as he sat back lost in thought for the rest of the ride.

After dinner, I changed the dressings on Dad’s arm, and on his biopsy sites. I was relieved to finally see signs of healing (after only 10 days this time). As I rose from the table to throw away the mountain of trash that accompanies dressing changes, Cameryn came running into the room.
“Nonni, G’dad said don’t put anything away. Jordyn cut his foot really bad and you got to bandage him up when he’s done washing it.”
I hurried to the bathroom to find Jordyn running water on his bloody foot. As soon as it was clean, we headed for the dining room table to bandage him up. I assessed the cut, knowing he needed stitches but positive I could steri-strip it and he would be fine. I was right so it didn’t take long to patch him up.
As soon as I finished with him, I noticed Ayla curled up in a chair in the living room. I asked her if she was sleepy. She shook her head no and made a funny sound. I looked up at Melissa who asked if she was ok. The words were barely out of her mouth before Ayla threw up all over the chair. Thankfully, it turned out to just be an upset stomach and she has been fine since. Wow, what a night…

Friday, May 14, 2010

Here We Go Again... And Again

We went to the doctor yesterday for a follow up on Dad’s light-headedness, low blood pressure and heart rate, and dizzy spells. I also wanted his arm checked out because I have been unable to completely stop the bleeding. I was reassured to hear I had done a good job debriding it and to keep doing the same stuff we always do with these types of injuries.
In light of the pain in the back of Dad’s head, the doctor was once again referring us to the Neurologist. The dizzy spells could be a symptom instead of a side-effect.
We went over his medications again, cutting several more in half. The biggest change for Dad would be cutting back his Trazodone from a whole to a half. (Trazodone is an antidepressant medication. It is thought to increase the activity of one of the brain chemicals (serotonin) which may become unbalanced and cause depression.
Read more: It can be very useful for the treatment of sleeplessness. As we learned last night, Dad is not ready for a change on this medication.

Dad took his meds at dinner as usual. He was feeling off-kilter throughout dinner. My sister-in-law, Susan, and I left to go pick up Dad’s prescription. When Dad finished his dinner, he told Richard he was tired and going to bed (even though it was barely 7:30 and still quite light outside).
We got back just before dark. I went to check on Dad. His night light was off (which is highly unusual) so I leaned down and turned it on, which woke him up. I assured him it was “just me” and approached the bed. He was lying on top of the made bed without a shirt on.
I held out my hand. “I need your patch,” I pointed out.
“I took it off,” he replied automatically. His hand slid over his bare chest until he discovered the patch still firmly in place. “No, I didn’t.” He removed it and handed it to me.
I showed him that I had his credit card and said I would put it in his wallet. He nodded.
“Dad, are you ok?”
“I was feeling flukie at dinner so I decided it was a good idea to go to bed.”
“Flukie how?” I asked as I came back to stand beside him.
“I don’t know,” he couldn’t explain it. “Just flukie.”
“Dad, does your head or neck hurt?”
“No, I just don’t feel quite right… you know… I just feel kind of flukie.”
We were obviously getting nowhere with this conversation. I bent down and kissed his cheek. “If you get up, use your walker,” I reminded him. Please, Dad, I’m trying to keep you safe. I need you to help me. I need you around here.” He patted my hand and told me goodnight then closed his eyes.

I went back downstairs to hang out on our porch with Richard and Susan. About 30 minutes later, Susan went up to the kitchen for ice. She stepped out the kitchen door, closed it behind her and headed down the outside stairs.
She only made it a few steps down when the door flew open and Dad leaned out. “Susan! Susan! Did you hear me calling you???”
Susan froze on the stairs without turning around. “Yes, Dad. I did,” she replied with a sigh.
“You need to get back in here. Go in that room and go to bed!”
In her soft little singsong voice, she said, “Well, Dad… I’m hanging out down here with Richard and Shari right now. We are talking and visiting.”
His anger was palpable as she resumed her descent once more. “You don’t need to be hanging out,” he spat. “Our neighbors aren’t use to people behaving like this. Carrying on and making noise til all hours. These are decent hard working people in this neighborhood. They don’t like to be disturbed.”

Please note, it wasn’t even 9:30 yet and we had just been sitting around talking. We didn’t even have music playing. The bottom line was, Dad couldn’t sleep and the dementia was winding him up. As he closed the kitchen door, still mumbling, I made a decision. I told Richard I would be right back. I headed up the stairs and into the kitchen. As soon as I stepped inside I asked him, “Where is your walker, Dad?”
His glare softened as he looked at me. “In the bedroom. I forgot it again. But I can’t sleep with all this going on.”
I slowly began guiding him across the kitchen. I could feel his agitation bristling in his muscles. He stopped short and turned to me. “How many people are here right now?”
“6” I replied.
“You and me are 2. Richard and her are 2. Who else? That’s only 4.”
“Jordyn and Cameryn make 6,” I pointed out. Jeremy was at work so I deliberately left him out of my count. I knew where this was headed. We have been through this so many times before.
“Now, listen to me,” he implored me. “And don’t go setting pissed off. You always get pissed off when I say this.” I nodded but kept my silence. Here it comes…
“There are too many people in this house. We shouldn’t be doing anything that can draw our neighbors attention to us. They are all millionaires and they just aren’t use to a lot of noise and people running around. If we piss them off,they are going to go to the Board (Homeowner’s Association) and we are going to get thrown out of here. There are too many people here! I am just trying to make sure we don’t lose our house! Nobody wants to listen to me. You all think I’m just a crazy old man…”
I slowly counted to 10 so I would remain patient and quietly said, “I don’t think you’re crazy, Dad.” I let that sink in and asked, “Dad, when you and Mom brought your kids here weren’t there 7 of you in a house?”
“Hell,” he answered. “There were usually 10 or 12 of us. Friends of the kids, friends of ours…”
I felt him beginning to drift into old memories. I touched his arm softly and drew him back to the present.
“Was it a problem to have that many people in the house?”
“No,” he reluctantly admitted.
“Then I guess I just don’t understand what the problem is.” I handed him ½ a Trazodone and a glass of water.
He took it from me and popped it into his mouth. As he chewed it up and swallowed it, he thanked me. He said somewhat apologetically that he must have forgotten to have taken it.
“No, Dad. Dr. Hight wanted you to try taking half of your sleeping pill but that’s just not going to work tonight. You are cranky and I’m just trying to help you get some sleep. You look worn out.”
He hugged me and turned back to shuffle off to his room. I followed him closely watching him carefully for any signs of unsteadiness.
I got him settled into bed again… and reminded him to use the walker if he got up again… and kissed him goodnight again… and I told him I loved him again… and he thanked me again…
And today we will begin it all over again…


May 13, 2010

My dreams were filled with her last night. They were random dreams that seemed to go on forever. They seemed so real I could feel her touch, see her smile, hear her voice. And as I dreamed, I experienced an exorbitant sense of longing, a prevailing sadness tied me to the realization that she is gone.

We were in an unbelievably beautiful garden. She came to me and beckoned me to sit down beside her on a stone bench. When we were seated, she took my hand in hers. We stared into one another’s eyes until I had to turn my head and break the gaze that I felt could see into my soul.
“He loves you very much, you know.”
My mind instantly registered the strength of her voice. There was no struggle to breathe now. I turned back to face her.
“It’s up to you to take care of him. He’s got to find something to DO. He doesn’t go fishing anymore…Get Jeremy to take him. He doesn’t read anymore. He used to love to read. All he does is watch TV without the sound or sit around and try to remember me.
“Mom,” I wondered how many times I had said these words to her when she was alive. “Dad quit fishing because he was terrified to leave you at the house alone. Now, he is afraid that something will happen to him and he will be too far from help if he needs it..
He quit reading because the Alzheimer’s made him forget what he was reading as soon as he read it. What can I do to help him?” I implored her.
She touched my cheek lovingly. “Keep loving him. Keep bringing the babies around. Breathe life into him. Keep finding things for him to do. Make him help you around the house more. Make him live!
He is frustrated because he can only hold on to certain memories and most of those are old memories. You have to help him remember… and help him forget.”
I shook my head in confusion. “Help him forget what?” I cried out to her.
“The bad parts. Help him forget the pain of watching me die. Remind him I am no longer in pain!
Help him forget that pain he feels because I am no longer by his side. Remind him I am always with him, a part of him.
I know it’s a lot to ask but he loves you and he will listen to you.”

I heard a bird singing in the distance somewhere. The smell of the flowers assaulted me… Jasmine, Gardenias, Roses, Sweet Olive, Magnolia, Honeysuckle, Lavender, Hibiscus, Lilies, Lilac, Wisteria, Daisies, Camellias, Azaleas, Dogwood…
As I looked around me, I became aware of a humming. I focused on the tune. “I come to the garden alone… while the dew is still on the roses…”
Instantly, I realized the garden we sat in was HER garden. I was astonished by what she had accomplished in such a short period of time.
She reached for my hand again and gave it a small squeeze. “I am with you, too. Always…”

The scene spun away and suddenly, I was in the living room watching the muted TV with Dad. As I glanced at him, I saw her standing behind his recliner. She had her hand on his shoulder and she smiled.

The scene spun away and suddenly, we were around the dinner table. Everyone was talking and laughing as they ate. Everyone, that is, but Dad. She appeared again, standing behind him, her hand upon his shoulder. As I watched, she gently placed a kiss on his temple. He immediately reached a hand up to brush at the spot.
I marveled that he felt her touch.

The scene spun away and suddenly, I was in the kitchen. She was standing at the sinking looking out the window at the lake. Without turning toward me she said softly, “We need more birdseed.”

The scene spun away and suddenly, we were back in the garden. This time we stood by a peacefully gurgling fountain. We stood there for a moment, holding hands before she said, “I am always with you all. He has to understand… When it is time, which it is not yet, I will be right here waiting for him!”

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Remote Control and The Card

May 10, 2010

Yesterday was... interesting. Dad realized the remote control for his TV was missing and began tearing things up looking for it. As they day wore on, he began to get more agitated about it. He insisted he didn't want to accuse anybody of stealing it, but...
Over the course of several hours, everybody searched the house for it. Dad was convinced one of the boys had laid it down somewhere. I, myself, knew Dad had hidden it somewhere long before the boys got home from school. I searched every hiding place of dad's that I currently know about with no luck.
At some point after dinner, I had a thought. I ran upstairs to Dad's room and began searching through the bedding again. It suddenly occurred to me that when I had quickly looked there earlier, I hadn't really moved the bedding. When I lifted Dad's pillows... there it was!!! Tucked away safely, in a place no one but him could have put it was the missing remote.
I snatched it up and headed down the hall yelling, "Dad, I'm going to strangle you!"
I walked across the room. "Dad, you owe the boys an apology," I said as I handed it to him.
He shook his head, "Where was it?"
"Under your pillow."
"I'm not apologizing," He shook his head again. "Next time it might really be them."
He held out his arms si I bent down to receive his hug. "Thank you, Sweetheart. I'm sorry I make mistakes. I wonder how it got under there?"

Another thing that happened yesterday was a surprise for me. Jeremy, Susan and I were all outside watching the kids play when a delivery van pulled into the driveway. The lady gets out and takes a beautiful basket of flowers out of the back. She asks for me. I accept them and remove the card. They are from my friend, Amy. The card reads, "Hope these cheer you up... You've been through so much lately...Know that you are loved by so many:)Have a great day!! Amy.
I was blown away. What a thoughtful and sweet thing to do. Not to mention, I think the last time flowers were delivered to me I had just had a baby (LOL)! It is a random act of kindness that touched me deeply. I carried them up to show Dad. We discussed how lovely they were and then how much Mom had loved having fresh flowers in the house. I put them on the coffee table where Dad could see them from his chair. I put the card in my pocket as I went back outside to check on the kids.

When I went back inside to check on Dad, I stopped to smell my flowers. I burst out laughing when I noticed there was once again a card in the holder... and it was addressed to Dad. The whole family got a kick out of it. And when Dad was certain everybody had seen it, he removed the card.

This morning, he noticed the card lying on the table next to the flowers. He picked it up and read it before announcing he had found a sympathy card he hadn't seen before now.

May 11, 2010

Today, Dad got fixated on his impending appointment with his attorney. He pulled out his will and power of attorney and every other paper he could think of that the lawyer might need. He demanded Richard take him to the bank so he could get the Deed to the house out (the lawyer actually does need that). Then he spent the entire afternoon and evening shuffling the papers all over his desk. I can't remember the last time anything has held his attention that long.
He would pull all the documents out, one by one, and read them. Then he would straighten them up, put them back in their portfolio and zip it closed. He would slip it into the desk drawer. Within minutes he would pull it back out and start over again. Or, he would arrange them (with a method known only to him) all over the desk top only to pick them up and do it again.
When he went to bed tonight, he made Richard promise not to touch them. He wants to get them ready in the morning. Meanwhile, it is all strewn over his desktop and the drawers are standing wide open. I hope he remembers making the mess in the morning. Otherwise, he will accuse somebody of snooping and tomorrow culd get pretty rough. Oh well, we will see...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day Without Mom

Today is Mother’s Day. It has been a rather odd day around our house. Everyone has been on the quiet side. Don’t get me wrong though, it has been a lovely day. But the absence of Mom has been felt pretty hard by every one of us, Dad most especially.
He went to bed tonight as usual. Less than an hour later, he was back up. He went into the Jordyn’s room and yelled at him and Cameryn. He told them it was disrespectful to watch TV and have a good time celebrating when his wife had just died 2 weeks ago. He told them to turn off the TV and went back to his room.
I went upstairs to get something to drink and Dad shuffled into the room. I apologized if I had woken him up. He informed me that he hadn’t been to sleep because he was lying in bed thinking about his wife. He then proceeded to tell me what had happened with the boys. I told him I was sorry and assured him they were headed to bed.
As I went to tell the boys lights out, Jeremy and Susan came into the kitchen from outside. I heard them laugh. Dad bristled and shuffled in their direction. He promptly gave them the same speech he had the boys. That it was disrespectful to celebrate and have a good time when his wife had only died 2 weeks ago. He said he couldn’t understand what had gotten into everyone. His face, as he left the room, showed his utter disgust. I let him go but followed him most of the way to his room, watching for signs of unbalance.

I went downstairs once everyone was settled. 20 minutes or so later, Richard was outside and I was just inside the door when we heard a couple of crashes from the kitchen. He ran through the house and up the stairs while I ran up the outside stairs. We reached the kitchen at the same time to discover Jordyn & Cameryn with their hands practically in the cookie jar. They each had a different version of what had happened. Basically it comes down to this there was a glass knocked over and the lid to the cookie jar was askance.
Dad came in to see what the ruckus was all about as I was getting onto Jordyn. He jumped to the children’s defense. “It’s ok. No harm done. I quit using that cookie jar because the lid makes too much noise.” He wink at the boys, “Kids will be kids. Don’t be too hard on them. I’m sure they weren’t trying to misbehave.”
I sent Jordyn to his room and settled Cameryn on the couch in the living room. As I was covering him up, Dad reached over and ruffled his hair. “He’s a good one. A real prize! They all are to be honest. But this one is special.” He bent down and kissed Cameryn on the cheek and allowed me to help him to his bedroom.
“Dad, where is your walker?” I asked.
“In the bedroom,” he answered sheepishly. “I keep looking at it and thinking it’s a good idea to use it but then I forget.”
“Well, we need to think of a way for you to remember. Dad, it’s just like the way you use to hound Mom about using her wheelchair. You did it because you loved her. I do it because I love you.” I squeezed his arm, “I don’t want anything to happen to you just yet.”
As we entered the bedroom he looked toward Mom’s jewelry box where her ashes were once again resting. “I’m just not ready to bury her. I know it’s not the same but she is here. We’ve been married so long I don’t think I can give her up.”
“Dad, nobody says you have to give her up.”
“I might want to bury her someday or I might not ever want to bury her. Right now I don’t.”
I stopped and put my arms out to him, “Dad, I kind of like knowing she’s here with you. Maybe now it’s her turn to keep an eye on you. But, no matter you do what you want to and I will stand behind you. I love you.”
His arms came around me and he hugged me tight as he whispered in my ear, “I love you, too, Sweetheart. Thank you. Thank you for all you do for me.”
I tucked him in and moved the walker so it would completely block his path if he got up again. I set the brakes and looked at him. “Now, when you get up, you will have to use it to get out.”
He chuckled softly, pointing out, “I had it there twice already and I just moved it out of the way both times. But you’re welcome to give it a try.”
Shaking my head with a smile, I called, “I love you,” over my shoulder as I left the room. Halfway down the hall, I heard, “I love you, too…”

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Wonky Wonderings

I asked Richard if he wanted to ride to the store with me tonight. He said no. I went by myself and was aggravated that I had to ride alone. So much so, in fact, I called my sister to pass the time. In retrospect, I am so glad he chose to stay at home.
Upon my return, Jordyn met me downstairs to tell me that G’dad was upstairs because Pop had fallen down. I threw my bag and my purse aside. He said, “Aunt Susan said he was ok but…” I almost knocked him down as I made my way up the stairs.
I hurried down the hall to dad’s bedroom. Susan was at Dad’s side assuring him he was fine and “that it was nothing but a scratch” when I came through the door. I saw him lying there in the bed with his injured arm in the air, a wet washcloth held firmly in place. My stomach flip-flopped at the thought that I hadn’t been here for him.
I assessed the cut within seconds and headed to get the necessary medical supplies. Richard hurried into the room with a handful of supplies so I made quick note of what he had brought and what I would need, before hurrying to get them.
As I reentered the room, I flew into action. I cleaned and assessed the wound, realizing instantly that I would have no choice but to debride the wound. Susan faded out of the room. The tears in his skin would, in no way, go back together. The skin was torn and hanging. I cleaned the area, then began to cut away the slightly thicker than paper pieces of torn skin. Then I cleaned, dried, put antibiotic ointment on and bandaged his bruised and bloody mess of an arm.
The whole time I worked on him, Dad thanked me for taking care of him. Something inside me screamed, wanting to say I hadn’t been here to prevent it. I was gone when it happened and I was kicking myself for it. It was my job to take care of him and I had let him down. Each time he thanked me, I felt a knife slice through me. It was the knife of guilt.
When he was settled in a bed with fresh linens (thanks for helping me Richard) and he had a fresh pair of pajamas (the ones he was wearing were covered in blood and soaking), I had time to think about my feelings. They were the same feelings I felt when my children were young and got hurt. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t prevent them from getting hurt. Unfortunately, I can’t entirely prevent Dad from getting hurt either.
His “Wonky” (dizzy, unstable, light-headed) feelings are happening more frequently of late. And it causes so many things to cross my mind. His spirits are good and he is coping so well now that Mom is back with him. Sometimes, it’s as if his body is failing him despite his will to survive. He has insisted that his “Wonky” feelings are related to his heart.

I can’t help wondering if they are. I’m calling his doctor on Monday because I really need some answers.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Munner's Day & Milk Oh My

May 8, 2010

It has been exactly 2 weeks since Mom passed away. Cameryn declared yesterday that from now on, the day before Mother's Day was going to officially be Munner's Day. He said he thought it was a good idea for her to have her own holiday because she would have liked that. Before he went home on Friday night, he made a card for her. He cut a butterfly out of paper and folded it in half, the inside reads…
“Dere Grandmunner,
I am sory that you diid but I hope you are having fun up thare. I hop lot’s of things for you. I miss you.
Love You,
He left it on my desk next to her photograph as we were getting ready to leave. He looked up at me with sad round eyes and said, “I hope she likes it.” I hugged him and assured him I’m sure she does!

Dad and I both slept late this morning. It was after 10:30 when I received a text from a friend. I was shocked to see how late it was and bounded from the bed. Richard came in the room moments later and laughed at my sense of panic. He pointed out it was ok to slow down because Dad hadn’t gotten up yet either. He said he had to run to the store for milk because Susan (his sister) had drunk the last of it. He wanted to get it before Dad got up. Milk is an important part of Dad’s morning ritual for breakfast.
As luck would have it, Dad got up about 15 minutes later and headed straight to the kitchen. He proceeded to go about his routine… until he realized we were out of milk.
“Shari, there isn’t any milk!”
“I know, Dad. Richard went to the store to get some. He should be back soon.” I assured him.
“What in the hell keeps happening to the milk? Somebody keeps drinking it all.”
A small voice replies from the living room, “I drink it, Daddy.”
“Susan, nobody drinks that much milk.” He shook his head and rolled his eyes before looking at me pointedly.
“Daddy, I do. I love milk. I drink it all the time. I drink about a gallon a day.” This is a true statement. I have seen her do it the whole time she has been here.
“Milk is not good for you! Susan, you really shouldn’t drink that much milk. Besides, it is expensive.”
Quietly Susan said, “That’s why I have bought most of it myself, Daddy.” She then moved to the back porch.

Dad poured himself a large glass of orange juice and informed me he would just have to wait for Richard to get back to have breakfast. He slowly began moving around the kitchen making a halfhearted attempt at unloading the dishwasher.
I knew Susan was hurt by his comments so I went outside to check on her. When I returned he was sitting at the bar cheerfully munching on his bowl of cereal. “Dad, don’t you want to wait for the milk?”
He said it was fine. “But isn’t it dry?” I asked.
“Not at all,” he replied, pointing to his almost empty orange juice glass. “It’s not bad. Really, you should try it.”
I am sure I looked slightly horrified when I asked him if he had put orange juice on his Cheerios and banana. He suggested I “just try it”.
I tactfully said I couldn’t because I have a cold and don’t want him to get it. He laughed and said he didn’t want me to use his spoon, he wanted me to get one of my own. With an indulgent smile, I took a spoon out and went to his side. I looked in his bowl and told him I wasn’t too sure about this. With a twinkle in his eye he said, “C’mon try it. If you don’t it makes you a… chicken.”
I dipped the spoon in and tried a bite (I have never been able to resist a dare). When I finally managed to swallow it down, he said, “See, not bad at all.”
I moved to the sink with a grin at his playfulness. I know he doesn’t have taste beds but I would never tell him I know. I will let him keep the secret that he can't even taste it. I enjoy these games we play. But I think I will stick to milk on my cereal thank you very much!

"Jack & Maurine"

May 7, 2010

The extreme down of having to go to the hospital for lab work is not being able to eat or drink after midnight. This can be excessively difficult with Dementia patients because they forget they aren’t allowed anything, they forget they have an appointment, and they forget to tell you if they slip up and eat or drink something.
The extreme up is there is a really good chance that Dad will run into at least a few people he knows and will have an unexpected opportunity to visit. It is a very social experience for him.
As we walked into the hospital this morning, Dad quickened his step. “There’s Jack,” he announced cheerfully. “I haven’t seen him in ages!”
I moved further into the room while he made a beeline for his friend. As I reached a seat, Dad loudly called out to me, “I’m gonna sit here and visit with Jack for a bit.” I nodded and smiled in response.
A woman joined them and lavished Dad with hugs and regrets… first for Mom’s passing and then for not having attended the memorial service. I could clearly see that Dad recognized her but couldn’t remember her name. The three of them took seats and proceeded to talk in loud voices as people in there 80’s often do.
A good portion of the people in the waiting room looked up when Dad told them his “drill sergeant over there was making him use the walker so he wouldn’t fall flat on his face”. Several people chuckled as he pointed to me and announced, “That’s my daughter-in-law she drives me everywhere and takes care of me.”
It only took me a moment to figure out that the couple he was speaking to were the “Jack & Maurine” that had sent a lovely sympathy card with no last name, only a return address. Only yesterday, I had done a neighbor search online with their address to determine what their last name was so I could address their thank you card. I wondered what the odds of that happening were.

I listened to the conversation (along with the majority of the people who sat waiting). Dad proceeded to tell them the story of how his dear friend (and doctor) had taken away his driving privileges and then told him they had to have someone live with them and care for them all the time. Then his doctor had abandoned them and moved to Montana to ride his motorcycle. He told them how he had hired caregivers until they had been robbed “half-blind” and had spent most of their life savings trying to pay these girls. He told them he had called his son Richard, who had come running immediately to help care for them and had moved his family here. He said Richard and I had saved his and Mom’s lives (slightly ironic to me).
He jumped forward to tell them how terrible it had been to watch Mom die a couple of weeks ago. Then he announced that Pastor Pete (he is their pastor, too) and I had saved his life because we said he didn’t have to bury Mom. He chuckled as he said, “She’s at home sitting on the dresser. I wonder what she would say about that?” The reactions to that comment around the room were many and varied. Maurine assured him she thought it was wonderful that he could keep her right there where he wanted her to be. Dad seemed appeased that it was ok with his friends that he intended to keep Mom at home with him.
Shortly after that, Dad was called to the back. Maurine immediately made her way to where I was sitting. She introduced herself and explained that she had known my in-laws since the early days of moving here. They had all arrived within a year or so of each other and had attended the same church and beach club for many, many years. We chatted for several minutes before she told me how sweet she thought it was that Dad was keeping Mom on the dresser. I smilingly pointed out that she was actually sitting on top of her jewelry box.
The elderly lady laughed heartily and shook her head, “That is so perfect. I wish the girls were still alive so I could tell them. I can’t think of a more appropriate place for Del than sitting on top of the family jewels! That is the sweetest thing I’ve ever heard”
The chair I was sitting in began to shake as the lady sitting one seat over from me, on my left, tried to contain her mirth. I looked over at her and started to shake myself. She had tears running down her cheeks as she tried desperately not to laugh out loud. It was all I could do to turn my attention back to Maurine as I thanked her so much for stopping by. “Such a pleasure to meet you and thank you again for the lovely card you sent. Please come by the house to see us sometime. Dad would love to have visitors. He gets rather lonely these days,” I pointed out. Maurine shuffled her way back to check on her husband, Jack.
I looked at my laughing seatmate and finally couldn’t help it. I began to laugh softly too as Maurine announced loudly, “I went to visit with Shari, Dear. She’s Bill’s daughter-in-law, the one that’s letting him keep Del at home. Don’t you think it’s romantic to want to keep your dead wife with you? She seems like such a nice girl.”
The lady next to me said laughingly, “I bet things are never boring for you.” I had to agree. We chatted for a bit.

After a few minutes, Dad returned. He made his way back to where I was waiting. Halfway there, he shouted, “They just wanted me to sign paperwork.” He then remarked to no one in particular, gesturing to his walker, “I don’t really use one of these things but my boss over there says I have to because I passed out the other day. I don’t remember passing out but if I was unconscious it makes sense that I wouldn’t be able to remember it. I learned a long time ago that it’s a man’s job to make the women in his life happy. What else are you gonna do, piss her off?” Shaking his head, he sat down beside me with a snort.
He caught the glance the lady and I shared as well as our silly grins. He looked immediately suspicious. “Are you two talking about me?”
“No, Dad. Should we be?” I replied.
“Of course, you should,” he grinned. “Why wouldn’t you be? I’ve had that problem all my life. Everywhere I go women just want to talk about me.”
I looked away with a big grin of my own.
He was called to the back at that moment and he promptly rose and headed toward the door. I called after him, "Dad?" He stopped and looked at back me.
"Don't you think you should use this?" I indicated the walker he had abandoned.
"Nope," he smiled. "If I pass out here, I'm pretty sure they can figure out what to do." He winked at me as he went through the door.
I had been frantically writing down quotes the entire time all of this was going on. The lady next to me leaned over and said, “He’s so cute. I bet you have such a great time. He’s very lucky to have you.”
I rolled my eyes (which I do a lot) and replied, “He’s very cute sometimes. But I’m the one who is lucky to have him.” (I say that a lot too, just about every time someone tells me my in-laws are lucky to have me, in fact). To be honest, our lives are a two way street, Dad’s and mine… we give and we take, we lean on each other and we love each other. We are a family… and we are muddling through whatever life has to hand us. And we are making it one day at a time with God's help...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

From Mom's Memorial Service Until Now

We had the memorial service for Mom on Friday April 30, 2010. It was lovely and honored her in such a wonderful way. We chose that date in particular because it would have been her 88th birthday. Following the service we had a birthday party for her at the house. It allowed the family to mix at their own pace. Through the course of the afternoon, several familial rifts were laid aside and a sense of family unity began to emerge.
Dad began to get concerned late that afternoon because we had not “buried” Mom. Richard and I repeatedly explained to him that the “cremains” would be delivered to us sometime in the upcoming week. Once they arrived from the funeral home, we would be able to call Pastor Pete and make arrangements to take her to the Cremation Garden at their church (where they have chosen to be laid to rest).
Another concern of his was what to do with the flowers from the service. There were several beautiful arrangements. One was a large cross made out of at least 100 white roses. It had been sent by, Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, and his wife. It was obviously intended to be used graveside. On Saturday morning, I called the church and asked Pastor Pete if he could possibly find a use for it at the church on Sunday. He understood and agreed to pick it up later in the day.

As each day has worn on, Dad has been more concerned about the flowers. He wanted Mom to have them but there was no way to make that possible. He had no sense of closure because the funeral home still had not delivered her “cremains” and he wanted them “buried once and for all”. And he began to fixate on the tiniest details such as, fear that someone would fall off the dock and sue him (the insurance company assured him he was fully insured against that). The air conditioner shouldn’t be run because electricity is too expensive. When his daughter, Susan, would be returning to California, etc.
Lost and alone, he needed something to focus his attention on.

On the morning of May 5th, Dad awoke early. I went upstairs and fixed him some breakfast. His Blood Pressure was a little low (108/57) so I suggested he take it kind of easy for a while. When he was finished eating, I took it again ad it had dropped significantly. He said he was going to sit in his recliner and watch TV. He made his way toward the living room but suddenly reached out a steadying hand toward the chair. In the blink of an eye, he was flat on his back unconscious on the floor. By the time I got to him, he was conscious again and obviously disoriented. After doing a quick assessment, I helped him into his chair.
He sat there for a minute or 2 before he asked me if I could help him to the bathroom. He had soiled himself at some point in the last few minutes and wanted to clean up. I took his BP again and it was lower than before. We very slowly and laboriously made our way to the bathroom. As soon as he was safely inside, I went to retrieve Mom’s walker and placed it right outside the door for him.
When he was finally finished, I rushed forward to help him but he insisted he could make it to the bedroom with the walker. He didn’t make it but a few feet before he again stumbled and fell. This time, he allowed me to get him to the bed. Once he was lying down, I raced to the other room for the BP machine. As I was wrapping it around his left arm I noticed a great deal of fresh blood on his right sleeve. As soon as the machine started it’s reading, I lifted his sleeve to discover a gash near his elbow. Urging him to lie still, I ran to the First Aid closet for supplies.
When I returned I noted his BP was still very low (92/41) but I had to do something about his arm. Once it was cleaned, I steri-stripped it and bandaged it as I have so many times with similar wounds. The whole time I was tending to him he was telling me that he had cut it sometime during the night and it really wasn’t a big deal. I didn’t bother to point out that it had just happened. I just got it taken care of and propped his arm on a pillow so I could run his BP again. When it came back 87/38 I told him I needed him to lay still for a minute until I got back. I grabbed my phone and headed outside to call his doctor. I explained the situation quickly and told the nurse that there was no way for me to walk him around to get his Blood Pressure to go up and I needed to know if I should take him to the emergency room. She promptly said yes.

When we got there, he was quickly put into a room so they could check his vital signs and run an EKG. His BP and heart rate were both too low. I stepped into the hallway with the doctor to explain that he has Alzheimer’s and his wife passed away 11 days before. The doctor said, “She finally died?” Nodding his head, he pointed out that he has treated them both several times. Then he looked at me and said, “You know it isn’t uncommon when you have been married this long to…”
“I know!” I cut him off. “I am here so you can help me to stop it from happening.” The doctor nodded again and said they were going to run some tests but his guess was we might have to install a pacemaker.
A short while later one of the nurses turned to me and said, “Let’s hope it’s not a case of Lost Mate Syndrome.” I was so frustrated I wanted to cry. I am fully aware that it is common for people who have lived together for so long to just give up when their mate dies. It is common for them to essentially die of a broken heart. I didn’t need anyone to point out the obvious, I just needed someone to figure out what the problem was and fix it!

The medical personnel asked him numerous questions while they started an IV about how he felt, what had caused him to fall and what medications he takes. He insisted they talk to me because he “felt like shit, didn’t remember falling at all and has no clue what medications he takes, they are put in his bowl however many times a day he has to take them and he takes them”. “How would you feel if your heart was broken?” he asked the nurse. But, his sense of humor was in rare form a minute or so later, he couldn’t resist introducing me to everyone we encountered as his girlfriend, flirting with the nurses and cracking jokes. As soon as they left the room, he was instantly went to sleep.
As I watched him sleep, I prayed that God would let us hold on to him a little longer. I prayed that he could find peace beyond understanding. This is a prayer a friend of mine prayed for Dad and me as we watched Mom slip away. I have come to lean on the phrase a lot in recent days. I was granted that kind of peace, so now I pray that Dad will be, too.

After almost 4 hours, the nurses returned to let us know that the test results looked amazingly good for someone his age. The official diagnosis… Syncope Vasovagal. Translation…Pulse slows down and causes blood pressure to drop as a direct result of stress and standing or moving too quickly.

Dad’s reply when he heard the diagnosis? He said, “I didn’t know those machines nowdays were good enough to find a broken heart. Well, what do you know about that?”
They told him he could go home as soon as the IV was finished. He asked why he was getting it for the 3rd or 4th time. The nurse explained patiently that he was a little dehydrated and that it would be a good idea if he kept his air conditioning on at home to prevent it from happening again.
He was also informed he would have to start using a walker for stability.

After waiting forever it seemed, the funeral home finally delivered Mom’s cremains late in the day. It was too late to try to get in touch with the pastor so they were put them in Dad’s bedroom.

This morning, Dad asked me if there was a rule about how soon we had to put Mom in the ground. I assured him Pastor Pete would know and I would call him shortly. We had a lengthy discussion about how much better he felt having her back in his bedroom. He said he slept better last night, just knowing she was there, than he had since she had gone in the hospital. He didn’t know what the rules were about such things but somehow it seemed wrong to let her be buried when he had promised her they would be together forever.
I called Pastor Pete and explained the situation. When I was through, he assured me that Dad had every right to keep her with him if that’s what he chose to do. The relief in Dad’s eyes was overwhelming to see when I told him what the pastor had to say. There was such a sense of love and peace that came over him as he said, “I just sleep better knowing she is here where she belongs…at home…in our bedroom.” It stole my breath away and set my heart to fluttering to see such a beautiful sight.

Today, we went to his doctor for a follow up visit. Dad’s heart rate and blood pressure were still abnormally low. After a little discussion, it was decided to cut his blood pressure meds in half. A bigger decision was made when the doctor decided it was time to put him on Lexapro (an antidepressant). He explained to Dad that his serotonin levels were off and it could be affecting his nerves, which could cause fainting as well. Dad said he didn’t care. If he was told to take them he would take them. The doctor laughed and told him to come back in a week.

On the way home from our appointment, Dad said very quietly, “I am so glad your mother gets to stay home with me. I told you God had a plan.”
I am in awe of the love he felt for her…
The love he feels for her still…

The Weekend of Her Passing

On April 24th, the evening of Mom’s death, a dear friend of mine sent me a text. Their concern was evident. The following is exactly what I wrote in my reply, “I feel so blessed and peaceful… Not what I expected. But had no real expectations. Just trust that God is at work.”
“All of it has been ugly beyond belief. It has also been more beautiful than can be imagined. I don’t know why I was so lucky to be chosen for this…doesn’t matter…just thankful I was.”
Those words will always hold true for me. At times, I feel a physical pain because I miss her so much. I awaken during the night and lie in bed listening for the creak of her wheelchair sneaking into the kitchen, knowing it will never come again. I think of things every day that I want to tell her or show her. But I draw comfort from my belief that she already knows.

The following morning, Melissa and the kids were at the house. As soon as Ayla saw Pop (Dad) she ran to him. She rapidly explained that Munner was in the sky and when she looked down, she could see us. She used her fingers to illustrate how small each of us looks to Munner as she went through a roll call of all our names. Then she took Pop’s hand and said, “Pop, Munner loves us very much. Her said so.”
Dad placed his hand on Ayla’s head as he gently patted her curls. With tears in his eyes, he softly replied, “That’s right, Sweetheart. That’s right.”

That night, Cameryn stayed the night with us. Jordyn had spent the last 2 weeks at Melissa’s so I decided it was time she had a bit of a break. It was an uneventful until the following morning.
Cam approached me as soon as I was up Sunday morning. He announced that Jordyn had fallen asleep first last night so he had stayed up playing cards with Munner. My heart twisted and lurched. He explained that he had sat at the table across from her “spot” and dealt them both cards. He said he had to look at her cards to “help her play” but he didn’t “cheat at all”. With a big grin he said, “We had a lot of fun but it’s just not fair because she still won!”
***Mom was an avid card and game player. I am not surprised in the least that she is still winning***

Tyler spent Sunday and Monday trying to find her. Occasionally he would call out, “Munner” while running through the hallway or into their bedroom. For Dad’s sake I am thankful that at almost 2 years old he is still a bit difficult to understand.

Jordyn has been the least vocal of the children. Every once in a while, he reachs out and touches things in passing that belonged to her, a deep sadness in his eyes. But as the oldest, he is either unwilling or unable to express how he feels about the loss. I am confident he will in his own time and in his own way.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Toughest Ladybug Ever

It was a very long night with just the 2 of us there (and an occasional nurse). I sang to her, read Psalms to her and talked to her. Every once in a while, her eyes would fly open and try to bring me into focus. I would smooth her hair away from her face and talk softly as I encouraged her to relax. The struggle to breath was terrifying to watch. For a period of over 3 hours, she was only breathing at 8 breaths per minute. Each breath she took shook the entire bed.
There is a point where the carbon dioxide that cannot be exhaled from the lungs begins to build up and causes an erratic fluctuation in pulse, respiration, heart rate, blood pressure, etc. This is a sign that the end is approaching. About 11:30 Mom had the first episode. It was frightening and the nurse quietly explained that there was no turning back, that there was no way she could recover. Her brain was now being too deprived of oxygen. After the episode, all of her stats leveled off and actually rose back up to normal range. She was fighting to live for all she was worth!
About 4:30, I had my head resting on the bed while I prayed and I fell asleep. When I woke up just before 6:00, I felt a weight on my face. I carefully turned my head to see Mom’s hand resting on my cheek. What an incredible gift I was given in that touch! I closed my eyes and cried. A short while later, the nurse explained that she had been slowly moving her fingers toward me (it was a space of a few inches) until they rested on me. I was also informed that she had had another carbon dioxide episode while I slept.
I asked the nurse to keep an eye on her and went outside to get some air and admire the incredible thunderstorm that had been raging all night. I stepped out into the rain and sobbed until my stomach hurt as I let the rain pelt me. It washed away the tears as they fell. I walked to the car and composed myself (and dried off somewhat) before going back upstairs. The family pastor came by and visited briefly.

Finally about 9:30 or so, Dad and Richard arrived. We gave Dad a few minutes alone with Mom and went outside for some air. When we returned, it was obvious that she was taking a down turn. Her stats had begun to drop and her breathing was more erratic.
Dad excused himself to go to the bathroom. When he returned he told me he had had an accident, he needed to go home and change clothes. I asked Richard to please take him home to change. I implored him to hurry.
A few minutes after they left, Mom’s stats began to once again rise and her breathing leveled out somewhat. I asked the nurse why that kept happening. She asked me if there was anyone who should be here that wasn’t. I suggested possibly her daughters. The nurse told me to call them and tell them to come NOW! I explained that it wasn’t at all possible.
She asked me if I had told Mom it was ok to leave us. I assured her I had. I had made many promises to Mom during the night. I told her it was ok to go to heaven because I would take care of Dad until he joined her.
She then asked me if Dad had told Mom it was ok for her to go. “In exactly those words,” she asked. I said not that I had heard.
“Shari, I need you to do something. You have to tell him when he gets back to tell her it’s alright to go. He has to let her know it is ok to die. That may be what she’s waiting for.”

It was quite some time before Richard and Dad got back. Dad had to shower and find something to wear. I pulled him into the hall and explained what the nurse had told me. I told him I knew how hard it would be but that he had to tell Mom it was ok to go to heaven without him. That it was ok for her to die because he was going to keep going until God called him Home, too.
He went to her side and did exactly that. He held her close and told her that he loved her so, so much. He said he didn’t understand why God was doing this but that it was all in His plan. He told her it was time for her to go. And he warned her not to pay any attention to all those good-looking fellows in heaven because he would be there as soon as God let him. He cried as he held her. He gently smoothed back her hair and leaned his face to hers. He kissed her numerous times.
And as we watched, the stats began their descent once more. Dad begged the nurse to help her as her breathing became unimaginably worse. Quietly the nurse stepped forward and injected a syringe of morphine into the IV of morphine. Within minutes, her breathing slowed, and the numbers began to drop rapidly.
And suddenly it seemed, she simply didn’t take another breath. We watched and waited but it never came again. On April 24, 2010 at 12:27 pm, my Ladybug flew away Home. And while I know she is in a far better place, my heart aches with missing her. I can’t begin to imagine the ache in Dad’s heart at losing his “bride” of almost 70 years…

Sort of the Middle (but not)

On Thursday she failed the weaning again… The doctor came in and explained to Dad (and us) that they would take her off the ventilator early the next day. Dad was devastated so we went home so he could lie down for a while. I went back up to see her with Faith. Then I took Melissa and the boys (Cameryn and Jordyn) up so she and they could say goodbye. I told Grady (another grandson) specifically to NOT go up to the hospital between 2:30 and 4:00, because we were bringing the boys up and we didn’t want any interruptions. He was in Mom’s room when we arrived.
The boys were wonderful. They each took one of their great-grandmother’s hands and took turns talking to her. They were brave and sad and eventually Cameryn began to cry. That was the catalyst Jordyn needed to release his own tears. Through every moment of their time with their beloved Muner, I was thinking how proud she would have been of them both.
Melissa, in tears, said her goodbyes to her Grandmother and we left with Grady in tow. The entire scene was surreal and heartbreaking and gut wrenching. Cameryn and I went to get the car. When everybody piled in, I realized that Grady was sandwiched between the kids in the back seat. He announced he wanted to come to the house for a while. Not knowing what else to do, I drove us home.
Shortly after that, Dad was ready to go back up to the hospital so Richard took everybody else and dropped them off while I took Dad to see Mom. We were unprepared for the next turn of events. When I had left earlier with the children, I told the nurse that Dad and I would be back soon. She began lightening Mom’s sedation. We walked into the room and began talking to her as we had been doing for days. But this time, she opened her eyes and looked at us. She squeezed our hands and responded to everything we did or said. There she was with the ventilator breathing for her and she was awake. It was a wonderful sight. Unfortunately, Dad saw it as a hopeful sign and truly believed it meant she was finally beginning to recover.
The doctor came in sometime after Richard arrived and explained that they were going to remove her from the ventilator the following morning. When Dad asked what would happen the doctor told him simply it would all be in God’s hands.
He suggested that he would call us if we weren’t there when they were ready to begin weaning her off it. By then, Richard and I knew that the writing was on the wall. As we were leaving for the night, the nurse told us to be there about 7 o’clock the next morning.
I couldn’t sleep Thursday night. It was after 3:00 am before I went to bed. I prayed myself to sleep. Sometime around 4:30, I awakened with a start and realized it made no sense to be there at 7 because they don’t do shift change until 7:30.

Unfortunately, I was so tired the sound of Richard’s alarm didn’t register with me Friday morning, until he headed upstairs 30 seconds after he turned it off to get Dad up. I was getting dressed when he returned a few minutes later.
I was grumpy from worry and lack of sleep. I was snappy when I pointed out my wee morning hour revelation. He told me I was ridiculous. So I called the nurses station on ICU and asked what they thought. I was informed that it would be ridiculous to come up there right then because they would be going through shift change and it would be 8:30 or 9:00 at the earliest. The nurse suggested we wait at home and they would call us when they were ready to begin (sort of what the doctor had said).
By 9:30, we were beyond antsy. Dad really wanted to get to the hospital so we went. When we got there, we were allowed to go straight in with Mom. They didn’t ask us to step out of the room until about noon. They removed the ventilator quickly and we were allowed back in.

Friday was an exceptionally long and joyous day in many ways. Mom was able to talk when she came off the ventilator. Her numbers were solid and everything looked surprisingly good. After 30 minutes, it was decided that she had “soared” (a term used for being taken off the ventilator successfully).
The first thing she asked was, "What does all this prove?" and she gestured toward the ventilator. She then asked if she could have some vanilla ice cream so Richard was allowed to feed her most of the cup. She smiled at me and showed her teeth. "See how pretty my teeth are? Thank you for remembering them." (I had grabbed her teeth and slipped them in my purse the morning we went to the ER. As she was eating it, a gurgling began to build up in her throat. I immediately recognized it for what it was… she was developing a “death rattle”. My heart broke even more and I thought I was going to have a panic attack. The nurse came in and told Richard that she couldn’t have any more to eat, just before they had to aspirate her. The ice cream had NOT gone to her stomach it had gone into her lung. My Ladybug had not “soared” after all. In fact, she was beginning to crash.
She napped off and on, struggling to breathe. At one point she opened her eyes and gazed around until she saw me. I immediately stepped closer to the bed. "I talked to God... told Him I'm tired." My heart broke into a million little pieces as it soared with her faith.

It was after 8:30 when Dad finally realized that it could be a long night. He decided he wanted to go home right as it started pouring down rain. I took him home. When we left the hospital, he thanked me for picking him up (I was with him the entire time) and complained about doctors making appointments so late in the day. I was shocked to realize he was completely disoriented and confused about why we were leaving the hospital. The whole way home he asked what other appointments we had coming up. And what the plans were for the next day. It was as if his memory was wiped clean of the current events.
But, when Richard helped him out of the car and into the elevator, Dad told him, “Rich, it’s just too sad. I couldn’t sit there all night and watch your mother die. I just wanted to come home.” As quickly as he had become unclear, he cleared up. Richard helped him upstairs.
He was quiet as I helped him get ready for bed. As soon as I had him settled, I headed back to the hospital to sit with Mom.