Wednesday, September 13, 2017

a previously unposted rant and a bit of insight

I wrote the post below about 18 months ago but never published it.  It feels like now is the time to update it and post it.  So here it is.

~~~



If you are my age or older and not dealing with a parent or spouse with dementia, please shout out mighty thanks.  I am not complaining here.  I am not looking for sympathy or advice or anything really but I need to vent.  Care centers, nursing homes, whatever you want to call them?  Nobody wants to go there.  Nobody wants to take their loved one there.  Nobody wants to change their parent's or spouse's diapers.  Nobody wants to have their diapers changed.  Sometimes I think that if one more person tells me they hope somebody shoots them or gives them a bunch of pills rather than take them to a care center, well, I might just scream--REALLY?  Is that what we should do with Jack's mom and my dad?  Yesterday some one told me if he developed dementia, his kids should just give him a granola bar and release him into the forest and walk away.  OMG.  This dementia thing sucks.  There is no easy answer.  It would be so great if everybody could keep their loved one in his or her home and take care of him or her and still have a full life.  But I watch my mom trying to care for my dad at home, totally isolating herself because she won't leave him there alone or with anybody else, and I think it's just a matter of time before he falls or has some other accident or she gets hurt or he loses the ability to walk or something worse that I haven't even imagined yet.  And then what?   And as hard as it is to see Jack's mom declining in a care center, I know we can't give her even a tenth of the compassionate, loving care she receives there.  I suspect it is even worse for people who didn't or weren't able to save and invest wisely like Jack's dad did all his life.  And even though we spend large sums of money for the compassionate care his mom receives, honestly, the place is still chaos.  So what are the options when bodies are failing, minds are going, life is ending?

~~~

Time changes everything.  Several months after I wrote those words, my dad suddenly declined and passed away.  It was a painful release.  So hard to let him go while knowing full well that his quality of life was nonexistent.

Seven months later, my mom was living with us.

And one month after that, on a Thursday afternoon in April, Jack got a call from Silverado, the care center where his mother was living.  The doctor said she had been having difficulties so they'd performed an ultrasound on her kidneys and found one was 90% blocked from draining and the other was completely blocked.  We had anticipated this call for several years and had expected she would die from kidney failure, so the call wasn't unexpected but it was still a surprise when it came.  We knew she had been declining, but she was still up walking around and reciting nursery rhymes and eating well and patting nurse's butts.  He said it was only a matter of days.  We told the family, and all day Friday, her loved ones came and visited.  She seemed to enjoy so much seeing everyone.  By late afternoon, she was exhausted, nodding off in the wheelchair we'd needed to use to move her to a room that was big enough to accommodate all of her visitors.

Jack and I stayed with her that night, doing whatever we could to keep her comfortable.  The staff was very helpful, administering pain medication as often as possible.  It seemed to us that she was still listening even though she didn't say much that night or the next day.  We stayed with her again Saturday all night.  I sat by her side, holding her hand, listening to her breath become more and more ragged.  The staff assured us she was not suffering.  We talked to her about good times in the past, told her how much we loved her, stroked her cheeks and forehead and hands and arms.

We went home around 8:00 a.m. and I fell into a deep sleep.  After two nights without sleep, I was exhausted.  Jack tossed and turned and eventually fell asleep.  At 11:30 a.m. we suddenly woke up and a moment later, his cell phone rang.  It was his sister calling to tell us their mother had passed away.  It was April 9, 2017.

~~~

I've been present for the births of several loved ones and present or nearby during the deaths of several loved ones, and I've come to realize that these experiences and the emotions I've felt are best described as sacred.  Not sacred as usually used in a religious way, even though sacred is defined as having to do with spiritual matters.  I'm defining it as a deeply emotional, deeply spiritual (but not necessarily religious or churchy) experience.  If that makes any sense.  Yes, there may be celebration or mourning, but these are events that every individual experiences in his or her own deeply felt way--we come in alone and we go out alone, even if surrounded by others.  It seems vital that we recognize the sacred nature of these events and respect the individuals who are experiencing them.

I felt my babies' movements during pregnancy, bonded with them long before they were born, but something special occurred when they transitioned from inside my body to outside my body and took their first breaths and released their first cries.  These were overwhelming, powerful moments in my life that included joy and fear and concern and love and I now recognize these times as deeply sacred moments. 

Watching a loved one die feels so very similar to me.  I felt a very clear transition, a process, an acceptance and a peace when my gramma passed away, when my father passed away, and during the time we stayed with Jack's mom as her body gradually died and her soul gradually left her body.  It was a deeply sacred time that we tried to honor with quiet respect and loving care.

I see life now as a time in which we begin as infants, helpless and alone.  We grow and gain and learn and experience life, and at some point, if we live a long, full life, we begin to decline and experience loss.  Loss occurs in many ways--loss of family, friends, abilities.  And eventually, we transition from life to death.  Perhaps it seems more difficult when a young person dies because they haven't had the time to find their way to the best version of themselves before they are gone?  Or they are living life with family, children, friends, and can't possibly be anywhere near the decline that logically should precede death? 

I don't know the answers for any of these questions, but I know the sacred experiences of birth and death are some of the greatest gifts I've been given.  I will always treasure them in my heart.

catching up some more


Today when I got out of the car at my house after a dental appointment, I smelled the scent of roses before I even saw them.  These beauties have been in my gardens as long as we've lived here and every year I am delighted by their effort to not only please the eye, but also the beautiful smell they produce.

It doesn't seem to matter to them how much effort I make to keep them healthy and blooming.  Roses are one of the easiest plants to grow, once they are established and as long as they don't freeze.  But even if they freeze, they convert to the wild rose stock they were grafted onto and cover themselves with countless, smaller but equally delightful blossoms. 

Earlier this year, after my mom joined us, I was out in the gardens one day and I thought about roses.  How very little effort they require to provide so much enjoyment.  They have so many good qualities--their lovely blossoms, their unparalleled scent, how easy they are to grow and enjoy.  But I also remembered the one thing about roses I don't love.  The pruning.  I don't like pruning because roses, for all of their good qualities, also have thorns.  I cannot prune them or even get very close to them without coming away a little scratched and even bleeding.  So incredible yet so prickly.

I realized as I pondered roses and gardening and the changes in my life at that time, that my mom is like a rose.  She has so many good qualities.  So many traits I admire and love.  Just like my roses.  And like my roses, my mom can be prickly sometimes.  Sometimes she only pokes or scratches a bit, but sometimes it feels like she is drawing blood.  Just like my roses.  And also like my roses, she isn't prickly on purpose--no, it is simply a part of who she is, just like all of her good qualities are parts of who she is.

These wandering thoughts in my mind were a gift, a blessing that has helped me remember the gift and blessing of having my mom living with us.  I never thought for a second that my gardens could help me adjust and willingly accept this gift.  But they have.  I love my roses even more now.




Sunday, August 27, 2017

and yet another birthday gift!

Today I saw all of my kids and all of the grandkids.  My kids arranged a tasty dinner complete with pudding cake (yes, that's the second birthday cake for me this year) and Herschel caught this moment on his camera for me:

That's all nine of them, playing happily together in the basement. 

I'm gonna have to get that new toy room put together down there soon.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

gardens update

When I retired, one of my goals was to spend hours and hours in my gardens.  They were feeling neglected, I could tell.

When I got the call that my mom had fallen in her bathroom, I had no idea what that would mean.  But after she was checked out, stitched up a bit, and released from the ER, she was in no shape, physically or emotionally to go back home alone.  So she came to our house.

We told her she was welcome to stay as long as she wanted or she could go home whenever she wanted.  After a while, she gradually decided she wanted to stay.  So we emptied the office and set up a sitting room for her along with her bathroom and bedroom.  It wasn't the whole house she was used to being in, but she seemed okay with it.

For the first few weeks she was here, she and I sat five feet from each other in chairs in the family room and watched movies, Jeopardy!, and Law & Order.  Every day.  She was used to sitting by herself in her empty house and I had not yet established a retirement schedule.  It didn't take long to realize we needed to have some space occasionally if this new arrangement was going to work well.

So I went ahead with my retirement plans for the gardens.  I weeded for days.  Pulled every big and little weed I could find.  Then I learned how to repair drip irrigation.  Then I bought plants, hundreds of new perennials, and then I planted them.  Last I bought three pallets of bags of mulch, which if your counting is 180 bags, and I spread the mulch.

These plants (and several others I bought on numerous visits to nurseries):


now look like this:

 I pulled out most of the overgrown plants in the courtyard and planted these:

The roses are still blooming even through the heat

These beauties have been giving it their all, all summer long.  In the morning, they are spectacular. 


One side of this bed looks like this and the other looks like that below:


The trumpet vine is a big hit with buzzing insects and humming birds

As always, the black-eyed suzies are stunning and this year the phlox is brilliant

The rose of sharon never disappoints

 And these new lilies are a bright spot.

The plants have settled in nicely.  So have the people living together in the house.

Friday, August 25, 2017

birthday week continues over here

Last night I met up with Jessie for our water color lessons.  Yep, we're learning techniques from a real artist!  And we also get to be together for a couple of hours every Thursday night. 

And last night she insisted I come to her house after class so she could give me something she made for me for my birthday.





It's a print one of her friends designed for a fabric designing contest.   It is lovely.


Kinda can't wait for the cooler weather now.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

i'm back?

When you write a blog that details your personal life, and your personal life, rather than slowing down as planned, suddenly blows up into all kinds of different, you can find yourself six months down the road having posted nothing because you couldn't decide where to start, and everyday, even sometimes every hour and even every moment can become something to document, if only that weren't so overwhelming--the events as well as the posting of details of events.

So here I am, six months after my last post and I feel the need to start documenting again, which means there will need to be some documenting of the events of the past six months.  But, where to start?  I considered starting by writing chronologically, but that could easily end up dry, boring, or way too philosophical and less historical (at least historical from my perspective, which if we're being honest is kind of how history works, right?  We're presented a view from someone's perspective of a particular incident, which may be completely different from the perspectives of other people who might have been there.)

Last night, it occurred to me that I could get back into the blog by taking some pictures of my kitchen counter top.  It has accumulated a collection of items that describe some of the events of the past few days and some from the past six months.  This is how I've decided to jump back into the blog.  (Btw, that beautiful flower in the updated header is a plate-sized hibiscus that is growing just off my deck.  The shot is the view I had of that flower from behind with the morning sun shining through.  Breathtakingly delicate and beautiful.)

Herewith the photos with appropriate historical detail:


This shot is the corner of the bar counter top.  That red bowl almost always contains bananas.  And often there are a couple of avocados ripening nearby.  I've started enjoying avocados more on sandwiches and such because my mom likes avocado sandwiches and I make them for her frequently since she moved in with us in March after a fall in her bathroom.  Luckily she wasn't hurt seriously, but it was an eye opener that maybe it was time for her to not be alone so much.  We set up a bedroom, sitting room, and bathroom for her and her cat (yes there are now four cats and four dogs living in our house).  I will admit that there was an adjustment period of a couple of months, but after a bit of adjustment of attitudes and medications, we've all settled in just fine.  At some point in the future I'll fill in more of the details, but for now, I'll just say that this is a good thing for all of us.

Under the avocados are two different papers.  The white one is a report from the eye doctor I saw on Sunday morning.  Who knew they are available on Sundays?  They are if you call and report floaters and flashing lights in your left eye.  Come right in to the office to determine whether or not the jelly in the back of your eye is separating (normal for my age, apparently, in my family) or is tearing off some of your retina with it (normal in 5% of cases, including some in my family).  Give it a few weeks to see if it separates without damaging the retina--or if you suddenly see many flashing lights and hundreds of floaters or God-forbid, a curtain or shadow blocking your vision, get right back to the office for some procedure to keep you from losing sight in that eye.  I'm feeling relief that for now everything is going okay with my vision.  Fingers crossed for a few more weeks.

Happily, the other paper by the avocados, the red paper, is a program from the University of Utah School of Medicine White Coat Ceremony for the Class of 2021.  On Monday morning, we went to Kingsbury Hall to watch Herschel receive his first white coat and stethoscope and to watch him raise his hand and recite the Hippocratic oath.  He's on the long path to becoming a doctor.  I was astounded to learn that over 3,700 applications were submitted and only 125 were admitted to the School.  I think he will do compassionate and great things in his life.  But I thought that before he started medical school.

Near the fruit, are a couple of birthday cards I received yesterday on my 59th birthday.  That isn't an especially eventful number to me but 59 is apparently a lucky number for my brother-in-law, which is another story for the future.  I spent some of the day yesterday sorting books at my mom's house, which we're getting ready to sell, and some of the day picking up grocery and other items for my mom and for Jack's brother, but the best part of the day was dinner with Jack, my mom, Jr, and his roommate, which is another story for the future--Jr has moved into an apartment and is settling into actual grownupsville.  I am happy to see him moving on but I really miss having him around.  It is that simple, and happily, he lives nearby and stays in contact.


Truly, the actual best part of the day was this yummy German chocolate cake Jr baked for me.  It was super moist and delicious (Betty Crocker's claim is correct).  It may take me a day or two, but I'll force myself to finish off that cake.  Near the cake are the dogs' nighttime pills.  Yes, we are those people who give our dogs medication for arthritis and other older dog issues.

There's a glimpse of the watermelon I bought a few days ago.  I have been really enjoying the melons this year.  I think we're six of seven for sweet juicy melons so far.  I'll be cutting up that one today so there will be cold, sweet, juicy melon in the fridge for snacks.


Here are my burned birthday cake candles and my most recent favorite flavors of crystal lite--peach tea (think those words using a southern accent) and cherry pomegranate (which tastes like how I remember cherry Koolaid tasting when I was a kid).  Drinking more and more water (flavored and straight up) and less and less diet coke.  But I'll never give up the Diet Coke.  It's been my friend for a long time.


These are the succulents that have invaded my window sill this year.  I've had the orchid with the little flowers on the right for five years now.  Every year, it blooms around my birthday.  My friend from work gave me the metal container with the three succulents in it.  And a few weeks ago I was invited to a "Crazy Succulent Party" by a friend.  I will admit I didn't know what that meant and so googled it and asked Jr if it was a euphemism for something crazy (he wasn't aware of anything), but it turned out to be a fun little get-together with my friend (who is someone I met at weightwatchers who is an incredible defense attorney who works for and is successful at obtaining the release of wrongly convicted people) and her eclectic circle of friends.  There were attorneys, paralegals, others from weightwatchers, friends from her childhood and high school and college.  She provided all of the necessary ingredients for succulent planting (containers, soil, decorations) as well as food and drinks, and we had a great time together.  When I told Stu I was going to the party, he said he'd been thinking about planting succulents in some of the pots he made in our pottery class a couple of years ago and I realized that was a perfect thing to do with my little pots.  So those four pots in the middle are my creations with tiny little succulents in them, trying their best to grow even though my mom keeps watering them too frequently.  She means well.


This is the last picture for now.  It shows the watermelon, the dogs' pills, some corn pops I bought for Jack (I ate the Apple Jacks), and also the box of insulin needles I use for Millie the cat.  She's always been a round-bottomed tabby (some would say she is overweight, I thought she was perfect).  A few months ago, she started showing symptoms that were concerning so I took her to the vet.  She was diagnosed with diabetes.  So now I'm that woman who gives prescription food and twice-daily insulin shots to her 13-year-old cat.  Morning and night, Millie comes looking for me for the food and I dish it up and sit down and pet her while she eats and then I inject her.  She rarely notices the injections but loves the food and attention.  And she looks healthier than she has in a long time.  That feels like the insulin (and the crazy cat lady title) is worth it.

Finally, this picture also includes a little sign my friend gave me for my birthday.  In case you can't read it, it says, "Plant a garden & believe in tomorrow".  There was a time, a very long time, when I didn't know if there would be tomorrows for me.  But now, I feel so very good about today and many more tomorrows.  My life is complicated now but very right now.  Full of opportunities to do good things, time to do the things I want to do for myself, and good relationships all around me.  I'm grateful to have found my way back to this place.

Monday, February 20, 2017

a little misty

This retirement stuff is a pretty good gig.  Lots of reading, time with kids and grandkids, bits of projects in the house and gardens, some gym time. 

And I'm getting really good at naps.

Last week, Jack and I went to Ephraim for a few days.  He went to a class to learn to make another piece of furniture.  I stayed in the hotel for the first two days (which was like retirement without dogs) and then spent time driving around in the truck on the last day we were there. 

I drove down to Manti and stopped for lunch at the same place we ate breakfast at on the day Stu and Shi were married. 

then

It was the kind of place my dad used to love to drive to for a late lunch or early dinner.  A place that served a tossed salad followed by chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and milk gravy.  Sitting in that booth, looking out the window at the motel where Shi and her parents stayed on her wedding eve fifteen years ago, remembering so many meals in restaurants just like that one with my dad, left me feeling misty and emotional. 


now

So much time passed by, so many good memories.

The other day at my mom's house, I picked out a Dove chocolate from a bag of them on her kitchen table.  I love that when I open a Dove chocolate I get not only a sweet little treat, but also a few words to read.  This is the wrapper from my Dove chocolate last week:



I thought this was excellent advice and got a little misty after reading it.  I showed it to my mom, who smiled and noted that I probably shouldn't be following that bit of advice. 

The first thing I remembered that I could quote from my dad was his never ending quest for someone to pull his finger, and then, of course, he would fart.  And laugh.  Every time. 

I thought of his determination to see the world watered and green if only everyone, everywhere would install rainbirds.

I thought of his stories about trains and working at the smelter and the Silverbell gas station and being in the army air corps. 

I thought of his tale of drinking a cup of tea with his mother who would then offer to read his tea leaves by tipping his cup upside down into his saucer and then carefully examining the leaves and proclaiming his future for that day.

Then I thought of the day when I learned my daughter and her family were moving to California.  Jack understood how distraught I was by this and immediately told me I would just have to plan to visit them often.  When I told my dad they were moving, he took my hand in his, looked me in the eye and said he knew how much I loved that little family and that must have been one of the hardest things ever for me.

I'm not sure my dad was really the kind of guy people would quote.  But he was funny and experienced and smart and thoughtful and very kind and he knew me.  Thinking about him and being in their house, sitting on the kitchen bench next to where he always sat, sitting on the couch next to where he always sat, and sitting in a small town cafe where we'd spent time together all likely contributed to my misty emotional state.  

I suppose that's how the thing called death works.  You can find joy in the memories even in the mist of still raw emotion.  And it's okay.