I awoke this morning to realize that the skies had opened sometime while I was slumbering away. As I stumbled through boxes to the bathroom, I could see lightening and just then the crack of thunder that rumbled for what seemed like minutes. It may have been. It was, after all, 6:00 a.m. and caffeine had yet to hit my system.
Somehow I thought that the rains were coming later today or even tomorrow, but here they were. Beyond the bathroom window, all I could see was heavy, sheeting rain. Once I opened the front door and looked out, I could see just how hard it had rained, and how fast. Our ditch out front was nearly full. Ditches everywhere around us, in fact, were nearly flowing over. Huge puddles of water dotted our yard and neighbors’ yards.
Arming myself with the first diet Coke of the day (I had weaned myself away from living on this, at least until recently), I wandered to the new area I have claimed as an office. My desktop was already in place on a real desk (not a plastic Walmart semblance of one), plugged in and online. I sat down on a chair (once I’d cleared off the pile of clothes that were stored on it), took a deep sip to jolt my consciousness, and started my day.
The lightening show, complete with sound effects, raged on outside. Since there are no curtains or shades up yet in this room, the view was unobstructed. When I was a kid in the camp, weather like this always meant that Dad would get called out to the field. Of course mechanics did too, but somehow I always hated that the electrician had to be out in pouring rain.
Otherwise, the sound of rain usually calms me. If I can stay indoors, and especially if I can stay in bed and sleep or curl up with a book, this kind of day is wonderful. I can make a pot of tea and cocoon.
Not today, though. I knew there were errands to run, business to take care of. Whether Tim and his dad would be able to work was uncertain. Yet by 8, Tim was here and we were clearing my bedroom. By the time I left for Crowley, we’d moved one of the bookcases from my room. I also managed to rip a toe with it, but a bit of blood didn’t kill me. And the bookcase didn’t feel it at all. Within 15 minutes, I was filling its shelves with books as Tim brought in boxes of those.
By 9, I left. First came a post-office stop to pick up mail and send a book to one friend and some farm stuff to my cousin. Then it was on to the bank, after which I sat in the truck and figured out Plan B. Then a stop at the dialysis clinic to visit with Dad a bit.
There I stayed a bit longer than planned. With the storms had come a power outage in Crowley, thus everyone was still waiting for the 11 a.m. shift to begin. It was 11:30. My father was sitting in his wheelchair, moaning with arthritis pain. This has become commonplace, but never fails to wrench me. Here is a man who for most of his 89 years has been a tough man who never complains. I mean, never complains. Yet in the last 10 months his pain level has escalated sharply as crippling arthritis has taken over his hip and shoulder joints. Now, in the last few months, he not only says when he hurts, but moans. That’s something I remember from other hospital rooms, but not from his room, or from his mouth. Yet there it is.
So today when I found him like that, I stayed and rubbed his hip joint when he needed me to, or his shoulders, or just stood behind the wheelchair bent over with my arms surrounding him. If I couldn’t make the pain go away, I could at least try to give him some comfort. The power of touch is immeasurable. It might not take the pain away, but it does offer love and reassurance. When he calls my name over and over, or when he’s in such pain that he gets angry, I just keep my hands on his shoulders and upper arms, rather like comforting an infant or small child. FInally some of the dialysis patients came out, and Dad was the first person the nurse took in. I left, hoping that he’d soon be more comfortable.
We went through something similar yesterday at the dentist’s office. At one point he was in such pain simply from the position of sitting in the wheelchair that we let him lie down on the dentist’s chair, reclining him to a prone position, to relieve the pain. After perhaps five minutes, he could bear being in the chair again, and I got him back to Southwind and put him back in the bed.
Sitting is something I take for granted. I haven’t really thought about it much, frankly, until recently. I sit at the computer, or sit in the truck or car, or on a recliner watching television. Sometimes I’m a little stiff when I get up, but that passes pretty quickly. Changes in weather — colder weather, or rainy weather — can make my left hand ache, the hand I had surgery on in 1977. But that pain passes too.
For Dad, though, sitting is no longer comfortable. It must position his hips just at an angle that triggers the arthritis pain. So far, nothing helps. His pain medication works for a while, but is most effective when he’s lying down. Consequently, he spends most of his time in bed now.
Which has led to the newest problem, one familiar to anyone caring for someone who is spends most waking time in bed. Dad’s had a red area that the nurses have been watching, one near his tailbone. Today the nurse called me to tell me it had opened, that now Dad has his first bedsore. Only yesterday I’d been asking for one of the mattress pads that is made specifically for this purpose, one that has air channels in which the air pressure alternates as a pump constantly changes the pressure patterns. One was to be delivered today, the day the first bedsore actually became a reality. Perhaps, though, the mattress pad will prevent any future bedsores.
Such changes for someone who has been as active as Dad has been are difficult enough for me or for Kay to handle. What they must be like for him is something I can’t really wrap my mind around. Only last summer Dad was using his walker and putting in a garden in barrel-halves in the back yard.
Physical therapy continues, and he progresses, despite the issues with sitting. He walks every day, pain or not, down the hall and back, and to the front door and back. Steady progress, though slow.
After I left Dad, I grabbed lunch at a drive-through window, ate it as I drove home to Egan, and then went back to work at the house. I moved a few boxes, unloaded some more stuff and began to make some order from the chaos in the office room. Tim and his dad finished early today, so after they left, I worked. I read some. I continued writing this blog.
By mid-afternoon, Kay had arrived, and we sat and talked for a while. Then I loaded my car with my weekend bag and laptop bag and drove to Lake Charles. First stop: Starbucks and a large, a very large mocha. I visited with a friend. We went to dinner with another friend.
And the rain began again. After dinner, I drove home in the rain. I parked in the driveway and unloaded my bags in the rain. I came in, put on my nightshirt, fed the dogs and cats, and went to work, finishing the blog.
So as I sit tonight in Lake Charles typing, listening to the rain and watching the water pool in the yard, for the first time I really appreciate that I can sit for long periods of time without such pain, and that the weather changes irk me when my left hand hurts a bit. I don’t take for granted anymore the fact that I can sit so long, or that the pain I have in my hand bothers me. Nothing I experience can compare to what Dad goes through, or what other people like him endure every day.
I distracted Dad as I could, telling him about the house, about moving books and bookshelves and refilling bookshelves, and that the mice continue to challenge me. He responded for spurts of time, talked to me, asked questions, and then always halted as he bent over in pain. And moaned.
It’s colder tonight. My hand hurts a bit. I can get comfortable with an aspirin, though.
I hope his night is better than his morning and afternoon were. I’m glad he’s lying down and hope that has eased his pain.
The kind of pain I’m really feeling isn’t physical tonight. It’s the pain of frustration that I can’t make his pain disappear. It’s the pain of watching the father who was always so strong become so helpless. It’s the pain of hearing someone who never complained, who was always dignified in his pain, moan audibly.
I can find comfort in the presence of my pets tonight. Their touch comforts me.
Rain can calm at times. It can also disturb. Tonight I’m left a bit melancholy.
I’m tired of the rain.