Gloomy Monday

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True to all expectations, November is turning out to be a pretty crappy month so far.  I have been trying my best to see some light through the heavy layer of clouds hanging low in the skies.  In fact, I have been looking forward to a couple of much-needed days out of the office this week.  I was planning to take a short trip, a mixture of business and pleasure, with people whose company I enjoy.  Enter November, the month were all joy is quickly extinguished, and it looks like I won’t be going anywhere.  Even as I made these plans, there was a knot in my stomach.  I worried that something would happen, and it has.

This morning I received a call from a nurse at my mom’s assisted living facility.  This person informed me that when my mom hadn’t shown up for breakfast, she had gone up to Mom’s apartment to check on her.  What she discovered, according to this woman, was a “shit storm.”  My God!  Who uses words like that to an elderly person’s family member?

Mom is sick again.  She had apparently been ill all night long, and all over.  Her mattress has to be disposed of.  (Today I will mattress shop at lunchtime.)  The recliner in her room is going to have to be cleaned.  The carpets and bedding were a mess as well.  Mom is running a fever, is unable to eat or drink, will not be able to go to dialysis today, and is refusing to go to the hospital.

I understand.  Mom is ready to give up.  There has been one episode after another all strung together.  She doesn’t want to get better.  She doesn’t want to be away from the things that are familiar to her.  She doesn’t want to go to the hospital, and I understand all of that.

Here’s what I don’t understand.  I don’t know what to do.  The nurse said that they can’t make her go to the hospital.  They can’t call an ambulance while she is conscious and refusing to go.  (If she passes out, then they can call an ambulance.)  They can’t make her go to the hospital, but they can refuse to allow her to stay there under these circumstances.  Where in the world does that leave me?  She won’t go to the hospital, but it sounds very much like she is being kicked out of the assisted living facility because she is too sick to take care of herself.

Thankfully, the nurse I have been dealing with is kind.  She is going to allow Mom to stay there for the day to see if she turns a corner….one way or another.   God, I understand.  I certainly understand hard-headedness.  I understand why Mom is basically saying, “Enough is enough.”  I’m just not sure what my role is in this.  I don’t know at what point I am to intervene.

Oh, how I hate November.

 

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Missing Most of Me

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This weekend sucked.  Pure and simple, it was not good.  I won’t go into the minutia of all that is going on.  By this afternoon, I was counting the hours until Monday morning.  Work may be stressful, but it’s not thankless.  Often, work seems to be the only part of my life that I seem to do well.  It’s stressful, but most of the time, it is logical.  The rest of my life is like a roller coaster.  I feel like the ball inside of a pinball machine.  I am bouncing around all over the place.  When I land in one spot, I am flung across to the other side.

Added to the mix of a career, four kids, and a husband is my responsibility for my very ill mother.  I am all she has.  Please don’t ever be envious of anyone who is an only child.  I have yet to see ANY benefits to that situation.  I miss having siblings.  I always have, especially now.  My mom has end-stage kidney disease.  Since my father’s death, we have situated her in an assisted living facility, although she has been often in and out of the hospital for an endless variety of complications.  She was admitted to the hospital again last night/this morning.

The fact that the responsibility of my mother has 100% fallen to me has been fascinating.  Well, mostly it has been horrifying.  I haven’t lived in my parents’ home in almost 30 years, yet the moment my father died, I was “given” sole charge of my mother.  It has been hellish to navigate.  Hellish!  I won’t go into all of that right now, it has been almost two years of incidents.  Last night was another.  At almost 2:00 a.m., my phone rang.  My mom had been taken from her apartment, which is connected to the hospital, to the emergency room.  She was vomiting.  Sadly, this is not an unusual ocurance.  Of course, I would expect them to call me to let me know.  What I wasn’t expecting was for them to basically demand that I drive there immediately with a list of her meds.  WTH?  My mom takes over a dozen different medications on a daily basis.  I have arranged for them to be bubble packed.  She gets them each week.  There is a card with AM MEDS, one with PM MEDS, and another with BEDTIME MEDS.  The pharmacy she uses is IN THE FRICKEN HOSPITAL.  Her assisted living facility is ATTACHED to the same hospital.  I live of a hour hour’s drive away.  Plus, and most importantly , as I told the nurse who had awakened me, “I don’t have a list of her meds.”

“Well, you should,” was her answer.  Sure, yeah, I know.  There are a lot of things I “Should” do.  I will add this one to the list.  To think that I had been patting myself on the back for making all of the arrangements for her meds to be bubble-packed for her.  Frankly, I was pissed off.  It seems that no matter what I do, or how hard I try, there is always someone waiting around each corner to tell me that I hadn’t done something right.  I went back to sleep after being reassured that my mother was now resting comfortably.

A few short hours later  at 7:00 a.m., and I assume a bitchy-nurse shift change, I was once again awakened by a phone call.  “Yes, I am calling about your mother.  I need you to bring us a list of her meds.”  Jesus!  Wouldn’t you think that it would make more sense to call the pharmacy (located IN the hospital) or maybe even pick up the phone and call her doctor?  Yes, I did suggest these things.  Turns out the pharmacy is closed.  Closed?  Yes…closed, because it was Sunday.  As for the doctor, they didn’t want to call him.  He would be in later when he made his rounds.

When I made it to the hospital this morning, the first thing my mother said to me was, “Pam, they said you needed to bring a list of my meds.  Did you bring it?”

“Mom, I don’t have a list of your meds.  I didn’t know that I needed a list.  I thought the pharmacy and your doctor had a list.”

“Well,” she sniffed and said disapprovingly, “your Dad always kept a list of my meds.”  Too bad no one ever told me!

The rest of my day didn’t go much better.  I came home from the hospital to a messy kitchen and a yard that needed to be mowed.  T was grouchy, because he had wanted to spend the day painting the garage, not standing around a hospital with me.  There was so much that I needed to do, because company was coming for dinner.  Andrew had invited a girl over for dinner and to meet the family.  Others would be there, too.  That is just a normal Sunday in our home.

Dinner wasn’t the problem.  We were having a simple meal, just burgers on the grill.  The problem was, once again, trying to please everyone.  I don’t seem to be doing a very good job of it lately.  Instead of digging in and cleaning things up, I wandered back to the patio.  I sat there staring and trying to figure out why my life doesn’t seem to fit me very well sometimes.

T came back to find me and sat down to talk.  I looked at him, just looked at him.  Where was that guy I knew so long ago, the one I married?  I asked him that.  I looked at him “real hard” as he would say, and I said, “Hey….are you still in there?”  How in the hell did our lives get so unenjoyable?  Why are we responsible for so much and enjoy so little?  While he agreed with me, neither one of us really had an answer.

Our moment together on the patio didn’t last long.  Soon, we were joined by a kid or two.  We delegated the work.  The burgers went on the grill, corn on the cob was put on to boil,  a fire was built on the patio.  Other friends stopped by to visit.  We made s’mores.  We had a few drinks.  The mood lifted and lightened.  I felt peace for a few moments.  I felt love and friendship and caring.  It is hard work to keep the ship afloat.  All of these people relying on sameness, stability, security.  I’m not sure if they realize the hard work that goes into making our lives as a family simply a routine.

I need my dad.  I miss my dad.  What I miss most is the stability that he provided in my life.  He loved me.  He listened to me.  He understood me, and I trusted him.  Mostly, what I miss most is the unconditional love he gave me every moment of my life. There was never a moment when I didn’t feel it.  I feel it still.

I haven’t been to visit my dad’s grave since the day he was buried.  It’s time.  The grave stone is up, and I want to see that, too.  I need to be near my dad again and feel the strength  of his unconditional love once again .

My dad called the cemetery Sand Hill.  I’m not sure if he was the only one to use that name, but I doubt it.  The land is part of the old family farm.  My great, great grandpa donated a portion of his farm ground for a church and family burial grounds.  It’s a tiny cemetery with only a couple hundred graves.  I know, or know of, most of the people who are buried in that cemetery.  I walked on Sand Hill with my great-grandpa, my grandpa, my dad, and my kids.  Sand Hill has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember, and Sand Hill will be a part of me even when I am long gone from this world.

My babies and my brother are buried at Sand Hill.  T and I have our spots all reserved.  All we had to do was mark it on a map.  I have actually laid in the spot where I will be buried.  I still remember that sunny day.  I laid there laughing and rolled over in the grass, “Hey, look at me rolling in my grave!”  My dad was there that day, too, and I remember his smile.  Sand Hill is not a place of sadness.  It’s a place where I played as a child.  I took many walks with Great-Grandpa over from his big, stone farmhouse to Sand Hill while he told me stories of people long past.  Sand Hill is a place of love and family.  It is where my history rests, and where I will rest.

I have decided to make the trip to Sand Hill to visit my dad.  I’m going to go alone later this week.  There are so many things weighing heavily on my mind.  It would take me an hour to drive there from my home if I took the interstate, but I won’t.  Instead, I will meander over the two-lane country roads I know and love so well.  I will revisit the places that I hold dear in my heart, and I will remember.  No doubt, this won’t be an easy visit.  For sure, I will cry, but I will also talk.  I have so much to say to my dad, so much that has been stored up this past year and a half.