Monthly Archives: April 2012

On the Road Again

Okay.  Today’s theme music:  Willie Nelson, “On the Road Again.”

Because we are.  Or will be shortly.  Today Kay and Billie and I head for the farm in Texas.  We’ll meet my dad’s sister, my cousin Mike and his wife Sissy, and have tonight to visit.  Tomorrow is the big day, the funeral.  Lots more family and many friends will be there then, and there’s a lunch after the burial, and then probably lots of people dropping by the farm afterwards.  We’ll spend the night there again on Saturday night and head back to Egan on Sunday.

Traveling days, driving days.  And that makes me think of Dad again.

Because, you see, it all started with him.  Maybe, now that I think about it, it started with Mother and Dad buying a house in Beaumont on Detroit Street.  That’s the street I came home from the hospital to.  Indeed, my birth announcement was themed:  I was the 1951 model — complete with squealing lungs.  Destiny.

When I was in first grade, I was the little Rice Festival Princess from Egan Elementary School.  I had a huge (and I mean HUGE) dress, complete with hoop skirt.  It was so large that a state trooper had to carry me up the steps to the stage because the skirt wouldn’t fit between the banisters.  (There is a photo somewhere that my mother took of that moment — complete with the hoop skirt flipping the dress up, leaving a view of my lace-trimmed undies.)  What was I most excited about?  Not anything about the dress, or the competition (I didn’t win.) Riding in a convertible, on the back of the back seat.

Yes, the dress was okay.  I just remember that standing and having it pinned and fitted was a pain.  No, it was the convertible that was most important to me.

Only two years later I learned to drive.  Mother was ill — panic attacks, severe anxiety disorder.  If she had a panic attack while driving, someone had to be able to drive us home.  I was elected.

We had a 1955 Chevy Bel-Air car, two-door, pink and gray.  Dad took me out to the road by the ballpark, and the first time I tried to drive, I flooded the engine.  We had to walk home.  Within two years, Mother just liked having me run errands here in Egan to the little grocery store.  Ten.  I loved it.

Then there was the 1956 or 1957 Chevy truck my granddad Ware bought.  I learned to drive that too, as all the grandkids did, I guess.  That was the first manual I ever drove — and it was a shift off the steering wheel.  Three gears and reverse.  We got to drive in the pastures, never anywhere else.  That truck is still at the farm, and it still runs.

In fact, I remember every car Mother and Dad ever had.  Even the first one, before the ’55 Chevy.  I remember standing up in the back of that 1948 (I think) Plymouth, with my head hitting the roof liner.

Only last week, Dad and Kay were laughing about me as I was mowing the yard here.  It’s a riding mower, of course.  What were they laughing about?  That I love driving.  “If it has 4 wheels and an engine, she’ll drive it,” Dad said.

So when we hit the road in a few minutes, that’s no problem for me.  We’ll talk, and maybe play some music.  But I’ll be driving and remembering Dad.  Every mile.

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The Bustle in a House

The bustle in a house
The morning after death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon earth, –

The sweeping up the heart,
And putting love away
We shall not want to use again
Until eternity.

Emily Dickinson

What do you expect from a retired professor of English whose specialty is American literature?

Seriously, though, this poem has been running through my head for two days now, pushing itself into my consciousness at the very time I’m creating my own bustle in the house here.

Dickinson has always been one of my favorite poets, though I know she’s not everyone’s taste.  I find, though, that her poems have such variety and contemplate such life issues that mirror the conflicting ideas and even confusion that I have felt at many times.  Some poems when read together indicate that she had two opposing ideas and wasn’t necessarily sure of things, even of belief.

But this one, just now, is what has insistently made itself part of my life since Monday.

Truly I have been (as has Kay) part of the bustle that is necessary at such times.  Even as we were just realizing he had died, Kay and I had to be active.  We had to call hospice, and that started the wheels in motion.  First the nurse arrived to officially deal with his death; she cleaned him.  I called Charles, who was here in a few minutes.  I called Billie, who dressed and came over.  About ten minutes later, her son Joe showed up too.  Mind you, this is at 2 in the morning!  We were not alone; we were surrounded by friends.  And we found ourselves telling stories to the nurse, laughing.  When the funeral staff came in to pick up Dad, one of the guys was one of our cousins.  Small town life again, comforting in ways you don’t really anticipate as you are growing up.

Then he was gone, and they were gone, and we were by ourselves.  But we couldn’t sleep — too much to do.  The bustle had begun.  With a 9 a.m. appointment at the funeral home to make arrangements, we had to locate necessary items — clothing, photographs, insurance papers. And then I started texting cousins and close friends.  And started getting responses back, even at 4 or 4:30 in the morning.

Kay and I got through with the funeral director by 11:30 or so, and stopped in Egan for a little while before heading to Lake Charles.  I needed to check for something at my house, though I couldn’t find it.  We had coffee with a friend of mine.  We also had pampering time — I treated us to a spa pedicure and manicure.  I figured we needed to feel better, and this was the perfect treat.  We were back in Egan by 7, and found the hospital bed and other equipment was gone (thanks to Charles, who let the people in to pick it up).  We got something to eat, and  I made some phone calls.  Then we crashed.

Today, Wednesday, we spent here at the house — my friend Patty came from Lake Charles.  She and Kay cleaned up and washed clothes.  I made more phone calls, worked on funeral arrangements, went through paperwork, went to Crowley to the clerk of courts to get a copy of the living trust that Dad had set up and registered.  Then it was on to the funeral home.  Then I picked up delicious shrimp poboys and came home.  It was a bit after 2 by the time we finished lunch, and then went back to work.  By 5, I loaded my two dogs into pet carriers, and Patty took them back to my house in Lake Charles for me.  If we have visitors drop in tomorrow, I won’t have to worry about the pups.

The bathrooms are clean.  Clothes are washed.  My room is neater than it’s been in weeks.  I managed to get the rest of the house in good shape, but really didn’t bother getting my room as organized — I was just too tired, and there were more important things to do.  Now, though, it is much better.  Thanks, Patty!

And tonight, Charles came over for supper.  He’d cooked some jalapeño pinto beans in the slow cooker.  I grilled some sweet peppers and bell peppers and onions.  Kay cooked some fajita meat and made queso.  We had a great meal.  The strawberry daiquiris were also quite tasty.

Now I am relaxing.  Soon I will head to bed and hope to get some sleep.  Tomorrow is another day of bustling, both in the house and elsewhere.  Friends may drop in.  I need to get a haircut.  And Kay and I need to be at the funeral home at 4; close friends and the two of us will be there until 5, when the visitation begins.  That runs until 9.  Then Kay and I and Cindy (one of her oldest friends) come back to the house for the night.

Friday is travel day:  Kay and I will go to Lake Charles for a few hours and then head to San Augustine to the family farm.  My cousin Mike and his wife will drive down to the farm as will, bringing his mother, my dad’s sister, and they’ll get there and open up the house before we arrive.  They’ll also bring supper.  What a treat not to have to worry about that!  We just get to relax and be together and laugh and remember Dad and how many years we’ve gotten together.  We can hear more Aunt Mildred and Dad stories.

Saturday will be the funeral service and burial, followed by lunch and then it’s back to the farm with family and friends coming by.  If we’re still functional, Kay and I will come back to Egan that evening.

I know that the bustle in the house isn’t really over even then.  There’s still so much to do.  There are papers I need to locate, insurance policies to find, business to take care of.  And then there are still the closets to be emptied and books to be sorted and packed.  But that can be at a leisurely pace, certainly compared to the rather rapid pace of this week.

That, though, is when the emotional letdown will come, I think.  The rushing about and the busy pace have kept us going.  Once that pace stops, once we have time to sit and think and remember, the realities will come back into full focus.  No longer having to be social directors of sorts, we will be in our own individual and collective times, when grief will come to visit more often.

One of the great joys of my life has been teaching literature — and teaching literature has provided me with such profound consolation in difficult times — as when Mother died, or Phil died.  Teaching literature means exploring the human condition and the emotions that make us human — and one of the most profound experiences we humans share is the death of loved ones (indeed, loss in the broadest of terms as well).  Through the necessity of teaching major works of literature, I found myself so personally connected and deeply comforted.  I also found that students came to see how literature speaks to us, beyond the differences of time and culture, and touches us, speaks to us, connects to us beyond time and place.

When I taught Anne Bradstreet’s poetry, or the poetry of Edward Taylor, I found not only deeply religious Puritans expressing their faith, but humans who dealt with the loss of parents or children.  Henry David Thoreau’s masterpiece, Walden, came from his deep grief over the loss of his brother, and represented not Thoreau’s becoming a hermit, but his personal search for what Emerson had called for in “Self Reliance.” Thoreau wondered what was essential to life, and in the process of that two years, two months, and two days at Walden Pond he moved through grief to reconciliation — he moved back to town in spring, surely not accidental — but the time of renewal.  Over and over, I found human voices and human grief, working through to acceptance and reconciliation.

Particularly for me now, Bradstreet’s  poems about her father, Thomas Dudley, are pertinent.  In “To Her Father With Some Verses,” Bradstreet says:

“Most truly honoured, and as truly dear,
If worth in me or ought I do appear,
Who can of right better demand the same
Than may your worthy self from whom it came?
The principal might yield a greater sum,
Yet handled ill, amounts but to this crumb;
My stock’s so small I know not how to pay,
My bond remains in force unto this day;
Yet for part payment take this simple mite,
Where nothing’s to be had, kings loose their right.
Such is my debt I may not say forgive,
But as I can, I’ll pay it while I live;
Such is my bond, none can discharge but I,
Yet paying is not paid until I die.”
She wrote other poems in honor of her father, but this one, I find, is  simplest, most direct, and clear.  And I’ve always thought it was on target, but never more so than now that Dad is gone.  If I have learned anything, become anything, if there is anything worthy in me, I owe it to him, and to Mother.  They modeled the values, not just mouthed them.  Bradstreet says that she owes her father such a debt that she can pay and pay and never pay that debt off.  This is the way I feel too.  My debt is never paid off.  I pay it off daily, in pieces, in my own life, in how I live, and in living the principles and values, not just professing them.
Dickinson wrote about loss of many types, and about grief.  Many of my students, frankly, thought she was weird or crazy or just obsessed with death.  Yet her world was so different from ours in that illnesses often led to death, and medicine wasn’t exactly always a help.  Further, death was something that happened at home, not in some sterile hospital room.  And funerals happened at home, not in some special place.
Perhaps too there is some truth to the idea that there is a therapeutic element in writing.  Certainly if that was true for Dickinson, it in no way diminishes the power of her art .
Even with so many of her poems about death and loss and grief, Dickinson could write these lines, which I see as a counterpoint:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.”

And Walt Whitman, her contemporary, wrote of death in surprisingly joyful, hopeful ways.  (He was, after all, an American Romantic).
As he noted:
“this is thy hour o soul, thy free flight into the wordless,
away from books, away from art, the day erased, the lesson
thee fully forth emerging, silent, gazing, pondering the
themes thou lovest best,
night, sleep, death and the stars.”
It has been my privilege to make a living out of my great passion for literature.  That I got paid to teach what I love has always been an amazing thing to me.
So it shouldn’t surprise anyone that lines of literature, even entire poems, pop into my thoughts at any given moment.  They spoke to me as a teacher, but more importantly, they spoke to me as a person.  I pick up literature for fun, not just for a job.
Thanks, Emily, and Walt, and Anne, and any number of other writers, for illuminating my life.  Thanks for giving a voice to my pain, for reminding me that grief has a cycle that can bring me to reconciliation, for showing me the joy that is also in life, even in the midst of grief.
As Whitman asserts in “Song of Myself,”
“All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.”
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Peace and Love: Journey’s End

Dad died very peacefully early this morning, at home, in his sleep.

We called in hospice on Sunday and by the time the nurse left on Sunday afternoon, after a 3-hour visit, I had lovely medicines to help Dad — morphine (given sublingually), some lorazepam gel for restlessness, and some fenegran for nausea.

The initial dosage of morphine worked well Sunday night — .25 ml.  He slept well.  On Monday, though, he felt pain — through his bath and the nurse changing the bandage on his arm. A couple of hours after the hospice aide and nurse left, I called hospice about 1 p.m. yesterday afternoon, and the nurse I talked to walked me through what she wanted me to do — step up the dosage and frequency of the morphine, pair it with the lorazepam the next time THAT could be given, and then back off the frequency if possible so that we were back on the once-every-2-hours schedule.  By 6, Dad was more comfortable, finally.  By 9, he was sleeping.

And a few hours later, my sister (napping in the recliner near his bed) woke up and found that in the 30 minutes she’d been napping, Dad had slipped away.  She woke me up immediately at 1:30 a.m.  We petted his face, kissed him, and called hospice.  The hospice nurse was there within 30 minutes.  By that time, I’d texted our neighbor Charles, who came over.  We called our friend Billie, who dressed and came over.  A few minutes after she arrived, her son Joe joined us.  So there we were, with the hospice nurse, and we visited and talked and it felt so comfortable and natural.  When the funeral home workers came a bit later, one of the two was actually one of our cousins.  Again, more visiting and talking.  By the time they were ready to leave, the second man told us his family was here, told us who he was related to, and once more we knew who he was talking about.

Then Kay and I were alone.  We sat a bit, talked, and then began gathering what we would need for 9 a.m., when we were to meet the funeral home director to make plans for the services.

Small town life is very comforting at such times. We weren’t alone much, but instead shared that time with friends of such long standing that they’re family.  Dad was with us, he left with one of our cousins (through our mother), and then Kay and I were alone to talk and plan and start the process of preparing for the next few days.

We got his suit and clothes to take with us.  We sorted through hundreds of photographs to select just under 40 to bring to the funeral home so that they could scan them and make the memorial DVD that will play.  Kay had actually already begun that process and we had such fun looking at photographs that went back to Dad’s childhood, to World War II, to his wedding to Mother, to our childhoods, to later.  We found such wonderful memories as we sorted and selected.  Happy, lovely photographs of Mother and Dad throughout their lives together; of Phil and Kay and me at various ages; of other family members; of friends.  We found it difficult to actually settle on the 30-35 selected — and fudged with nearly 40.

I completed Dad’s obituary that I had begun a couple of days earlier.  I paid some bills online.  I texted my first cousins and then my close friends.  I didn’t post on Facebook immediately, though, because Kay and I wanted to wait until she had talked to her daughter and let her know.  We didn’t want someone else to tell her or for her to read it on Facebook.

Only when that phone call was over did I sit down at the computer and write a Facebook post about Dad’s death and our tentative plans for services.

Because we’ve lived in Egan so long, we knew we wanted to have something here.  A 4-hour visitation at a local funeral home in Crowley on Thursday late afternoon/early evening would be where our many friends and Dad’s former co-workers could pay their respects.  Some of my friends and some of my sister’s friends will also be here for that service.

But then Dad wanted to be buried in his hometown, the tiny Bland Lake Community near San Augustine, Texas.  Not a problem:  we’d learned it could be done when Mother died in 1993.  Arrangements were no trouble; the funeral director here will contact the funeral home there and coordinate all the events and movements.  Such a relief not to have to work through all that on our own.

We simply gave information, talked about our wishes, and then selected a casket and a few other items.

A few more minutes and we were gone, headed to one of the Crowley flower shops to select flowers.  There was no discussion necessary, either — red roses, Dad’s favorite flower.

Then a few hours in Lake Charles allowed us to relax a bit.  We stopped at the Starbucks near the university, then picked up one of my friends (her car was being serviced), and had a Lady Day — our shorthand for a manicure/pedicure.  It was such a treat to relax and get pampered and then walk out with neat nails and hands and feet.  And nicely painted coral toenails, too!

After a coffee break, another errand, and a brief stop at my house downtown, we were back on the road to Egan, back to the tasks we have to get through by Thursday and Friday.

A few more phone calls, and the funeral plans were done.  A few more, and I’d talked to cousins and I’d related the tentative plans and time schedule.

At 9, Kay and I were eating homemade vegetable beef soup.

Now I’m writing this blog, and then I’ll turn off the lights and get some sleep.

More phone calls to make — but not necessary to make them right now.  My eyes are so tired they hurt and I’m finding it hard to focus.

There’s a beautiful song by Nanci Griffith, a Texas singer-songwriter I’ve long enjoyed –“It’s a Hard Life.”  The song has been looping in my head for a few days, but one line in particular: “Now I am the backseat driver from America, / I am not at the wheel of control.”   That lyric and another one of hers from “Gulf Coast Highway” :

“And when we die we say we’ll catch some blackbird’s wing/ Then we will fly away to heaven come some sweet bluebonnet spring.”

Peace and love today, with rest already here, and journey’s end almost done.

I am not at the wheel of control, and it’s a sweet bluebonnet spring.


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New Week, New Directions

Today Dad has been home for two weeks, and his third week begins.  Yesterday after the difficulties with his dialysis shunt bleeding, we decided to stop dialysis and call in hospice.  At some point, I asked Dad what he thought about dialysis — he said he was tired of it and didn’t want to go back.  Decision clinched.

The home health nurse came; we initiated the shift to hospice.  She did her usual visit as well as make the appropriate phone calls.

Kay went to Natchitoches for the day by midmorning — she needed to do some paperwork and make sure a file was ready at her office.  By 6 p.m. or so, she was back here in Egan.

Just after 1 p.m., the hospice nurse came for the evaluation.  She was here for over three hours, and she and I had much to talk about.  BY the time she left, I had a much shorter medication list.  I also had Ativan gel, morphine to give under the tongue, and medicine for nausea should that be needed.  I had signed who knows how many pieces of paper.  I had a new folder, with new papers and a new pamphlet to read. I had a new medicine schedule and new things to watch for.  Hospice is about palliative care, and medicine is a tool to achieve that.

Dad rested well last night with the morphine.  Kay and I were less rested — we kept popping in to check on him.  I slept a few hours.

This morning was busy — I called Dad’s primary physician, the dialysis clinic social worker, and the ambulance company regarding the changes, and then I went to Crowley to run a couple of errands.  When I got back, the house was filled with lots of new hospice people — a social worker, an aide, a nurse, and the volunteer coordinator.

Dad had more trouble with pain and with restlessness.  After his bath and the dressing change, everyone left.  Kay and our friend Billie left to go to Lake Charles to take care of some errands.  I stayed here.  Within an hour and a half, it was clear that the pain wasn’t diminishing, that the meds weren’t working.  I called hospice and within minutes had a new routine:  more morphine, more often, then more morphine at a slightly longer interval, then that same larger dose of morphine with the Ativan gel.  Moving the morphine to every 30 minutes and then every hour, then adding the Ativan gel with one dose of the morphine — that was the routine.  One dose of morphine after the combined dose and finally he was resting well.  Now I’m shifting to two hours between morphine, with the Ativan added at 4 hour intervals.  Fingers crossed that this works tonight.

Tomorrow is another day, as Scarlett O’Hara reminds me every time I think of one of Mother’s favorite films.

Now he is resting.  I’ve made a few necessary phone calls, talking to family.  More to come.   Business to take care of tomorrow.  Photos to select and scan.  Arrangements to make — though we’ve talked through and know what we’re going to do.

Tonight, after I finish my grilled cheese sandwich and milk (thank you, little sister), I will shower and pull on new pajamas and crawl into bed.

Shakespeare’s right in Hamlet: sleep does knit the raveled sleeve of care — and so I hope to find soon, that my raveled sleeve of care is eased with some quiet time, some reading, and some sleep.



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Sunday surprises

I guess that there’s a certain tone of voice that signals an emergency.  Kay’s voice had that tone just about an hour and a half ago.  I was immediately awake and then at Dad’s bedside.  His dialysis graft had been bleeding — for how long, who knows?  It had done so long enough that the blood had puddled underneath his arm and soaked the pull sheet and onto the bed sheet. And the pillow under his arm.

I put on gloves and took off the ace bandage — only to see blood spurt.  Arterial blood, bright red.  It sprayed up and across the bed and pillow.  I asked Kay to give me the towel that was near — and used it to soak blood as I applied hard pressure.  His arm was elevated on a pillow.

Kay called home health, who got the nurse to call.  She called about 3:00 — and Kay told her what had happened and that the bleeding had stopped.  I continued to hold pressure, though, for another 15 minutes or so just to be sure.  By the time the nurse told Kay she’d be here at 8 a.m., I realized my back hurt from standing and leaning over the bed.  Kay got me a chair so I could sit.  Then she got the ace bandage from yesterday, which was still damp.  A few minutes in the dryer, and it was ready — and then I was able to rewrap Dad’s arm.

At that point, of course, we still had to change the bed, and Dad’s t-shirt.  Not wanting to hurt him more than we had to, I helped Dad sit up and Kay started pulling the bottom sheet off the bed.  It took a long time, and Dad’s back was hurting, but we got it done.  The pillow under his arm had been soaked.  The pillow under his head only had a bloody pillowcase, but it was okay.  Once the sheets and pillows were off, and the fresh sheet was on the bed, Kay got another pillow for Dad.  Then we had to put a clean t-shirt on him.  Actually, I asked him if he wanted to sleep without one, or wanted us to put one on him, and he wanted a t-shirt.

Dad is very modest, always has been.  He isn’t one of those guys who walked around without a shirt on.  Ever.  This is one reason that changing his shorts and cleaning him up and putting fresh pull-ups has been difficult.  Or was the first time or two, anyway.  Now I just do it without hesitation, as quickly as I can, and don’t think about it.  Bathing him wasn’t as much of a difficulty, because until last week he could stand up and help change his own shorts and pants.  Now he’s like a baby who has to have it all done for him.

The whole time we were working on him, he worried that we were tired, that we were hurting ourselves.  He was thinking of us.

And what did he say when we’d pulled him up in the bed so that his head was up on the pillow, and after he was covered with a blanket?  “You girls are tough.”  And he meant it in a good way.  “We learned from you, Dad,” we said almost in unison.

And we have.  That toughness is exactly what we learned from Dad — no matter how difficult the task, no matter how unpleasant, you just buckle down, set your mind to it, and do it.

So we do.  It’s what he taught us.  It’s what we can do for him.

The nurse will come at 8 a.m.

It’s only 4:20 in the morning now, and there are a lot of hours left in Sunday.  I hope the rest of the day is without event– but if it isn’t, I’m prepared.

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Saturday night, Week Two

A tiring few days, these last days of the week.  The fall on Sunday, even without anything fractured or broken, has led to a noticeable change for the worse in Dad.  It’s been strenuous, and tough.

Certainly transporting him by ambulance was the first major change after the fall, but not the only major change.  Prior to the fall, he was able to get up at times and walk with the walker and help — but no more.  Now he needs help.  Now he has muscle spasms — even with the muscle relaxers I got on Wednesday.

And his mental state has really shown a decline.  He is more confused, wandering in time and space more.  He calls for his mother, or my mother (Irene), or his sister (Mildred).  He gets more agitated, is more restless.  He’s more like he was in the hospital when he was hallucinating.  He tries to climb out of the bed.

And he succeeds in that, too.  He has gotten out of bed and fallen twice in the last two days.  Yesterday morning about 8:30 I heard a small thump — got up — and found him sitting on the floor, the walker turned over on its side and him sitting with his back to the bed.  I had checked him not 10 minutes before.  I was in the next room.  I was awake.  He insisted he’d called, but he hadn’t, and he managed to get out of the bed.  I got Charles to help me get him off the floor and back into bed.  He had no noticeable injury.

Just after 11, he was off to dialysis.  I went to bed, too tired to do anything else.  I’d been up all Thursday night, basically, checking on him every two hours or so.  By Friday morning, I was just out of any energy at all.

He came home from dialysis — had slept through it — and my sister got here shortly afterwards.  He slept for a while, but then woke up and was highly agitated, despite pain pills and muscle relaxers.  I slept through the night, while Kay stayed up checking every couple of hours.  At 6:30 a.m. this morning, though, I heard another thump and we both got there at the same time.  Once more, he’d managed to get out of bed — without the walker — and fallen, though again, very luckily, not hurting himself. He’d managed to get out of bed despite the side rails.

It reminds me of how he was when he was in the hospital with hallucinations earlier this spring, after the kyphoplasty for the L1 compression fracture.  He was stronger than I’d thought possible, and I stayed awake for 48 hours watching him.  This has been very similar.

Since he fell on Sunday almost a week ago, his downward slide has been noticeable.  Physically, he can no longer walk with the walker for the physical therapists.  Yet he has managed twice to get out of bed and try to walk.  His pain is greater because of muscle spasms, and even with the Flexeril I got on Wednesday for him, he has had problems.  Today, we got the Ambien refilled — maybe that will help him sleep through the night.  It’s not that we want to medicate him into Never-Never Land; it’s that we want him to sleep without disturbance, and we need to as well

I stayed in Egan this weekend after Kay came — just too exhausted to drive even 45 miles.  Yet that was fortuitous.  Certainly the second fall this morning required both of us.  Last night, though, was the time when it took both of us to work.

We’d fed him supper.  We were lying him back in bed — and at the same time Kay and I noticed that his left arm — where the dialysis graft/shunt is — was bleeding.  It was spurting, in fact.  I grabbed a towel and immediately applied pressure.  She called 911.  We got him to the hospital, and the arm had pretty much stopped bleeding by then, but they called his surgeon anyway.  They kept us until the ambulance could return to take us home — and it was nearly 10 before that happened.  His shunt has been problematic, and now it is again.

Today when the home health nurse came to check it, it began to bleed again as she unwrapped the pressure bandage.  A nurse will come tomorrow to check it as well.

In the meantime, he has been quite restless.  He has talked a lot — most of it not understandable.  He has been agitated and restless.  He ate supper though and then slept for a while.  Just now, Kay and I gave him the Ambien and a pain pill and now we’re waiting to see how that works tonight.

Our friend Billie has been shocked today, I think, because she’s seen for the first time how disoriented he is, heard him talk and seen how out of it he is.  For her, Dad is the last friend of the Sun Oil group still with it.  Now he’s slipping away from us.  I know that has to really hurt her.

Kay and I are surprisingly calm about it all.  We have talked a lot today and tonight about what we want and don’t want, about what we will do.  It’s a sad time, certainly, a heart-breaking time, but a time when the two of us are able to be together and on the same page regarding everything.  That’s a comfort, truly.  If we weren’t, that would be a problem.

So here it is, a Saturday night in Egan.  I slept a few hours this afternoon.  I needed that.  I got up while Billie was still here, sat and talked with her and Kay.  Since she’s been gone, Kay and I have shared a bottle of Prosecco and talked.

Now it’s a bit after 10 p.m.  I think I’ll grab a snack and read for a while.

And hope that the Ambien helps Dad to sleep through the night.

My generation was right:  Better living through chemistry.

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Week 2, Day 3: In the Moment: Take Two

Well, it’s now Wednesday evening, just 8 p.m.  Dad has been back home for 3 1/2 hours, and until 15 minutes ago was sleeping.

Then he woke up, called me, and I realized that this time there was no Home Health aide to clean him up.    The odor was unmistakeable.  It was my turn.

I’d gone shopping while he was in dialysis, so I was prepared with adult pull-ups.  But then I realized I’d need the throwaway gloves.  Where had I put them?  A couple of minutes later, I had them.

Once I had them placed where I could get to them easily, I put on a pair.  I got a pan of water.  I got a towel and the throwaway wash cloths.

The towel was to cover Dad, to protect his modesty.  And my embarrassment.  Next I had to get his sweatpants and shorts off, which wasn’t easy, given his painful left leg.  It took more time than I’d like, and hurt him more than I wanted, but I finally had them off.  I threw the underwear away.

Cleaning him was easy.  My stomach handled it all pretty well.  Then I had to put on the pull-up shorts, which wasn’t as easy as getting them off.  But finally they were on.  Then the sweatpants.

Now we’ve both survived my first cleanup experience.  And I anticipate it should get easier.

Now if the new muscle relaxer kicks in, he might get some relief.  I hope he’ll eat first, though.

So I guess I’d better get something for him to eat.

New part of the day, new experience.

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Week 2, Day 3: In the Moment

Dad’s been home now just over a week.  Every day has reinforced my sense of being more in the moment that I usually manage.  Just being in the moment has been a goal of mine since college, when I read the works of Ram Dass, especially Be Here Now.  It’s not something I ever conquered — that need to control my time, to plan my future, to spend so much time in the yet-to-come that I completely (or nearly so) ignored the beauties of the now.

That is one benefit of living with Dad now.  I can spend some time thinking ahead, but not much, really.  And I don’t assume that my plans will come to be.  No, the plans I make now are really more like possible scenarios.  Yes, that’s it — I think about possible scenarios.  But I don’t count on them.  That is only frustrating.  And disappointing.

Now I spend each day in and of itself.  I awaken to the alarm clock, get up and cook breakfast for Dad.  I give him his medicine.  I put laundry on.  I wash dishes.  I spend time with him.  I watch television.  I read.  I putter around the house and porch.  There is no particular order to these things — they just sort of happen as they are needed.

On a beautiful cool morning like today, I spend time on the front porch with my iPad, reading The New York Times and CNN online.

It’s Wednesday, which means that the home health aide comes to help bathe Dad, and today that’s wonderful.  Today has been a turning point, one bound to come, as certainly as what happened on Sunday was bound to happen.

On Sunday I was sleeping in my bed in Lake Charles, and about 8 the phone buzzed with a text from Kay.  Dad had fallen in the bathroom and she’d managed to get him up, in the wheelchair, and into bed.  What to do now, call 911?  No, I told her — call Home Health.  She did, and they said a nurse would be there in an hour.  Within 15 minutes, I’d dressed and packed and was on the road.  I was back in Egan before the nurse arrived.

After determining that the on-call doctor (who was rude and chewed the home health nurse out for calling him, adding that he’d “kill” his wife for giving out his number) would’t help by authorizing the mobile x-ray unit to visit us, the nurse arranged for an ambulance to take Dad to the ER in Crowley.  I rode with him and Kay followed in her Rav 4.  After x-rays and an exam by the ER doctor, Dad was released — luckily, no fractures, no breaks at all.  The trick:  now we couldn’t get him home by ambulance.  Kay and I managed to transport him in the Rav, and at home I got the wheelchair and we got him back to bed.

He hasn’t been able to put weight on the left leg since then.  He’s been in pain, with frequent leg and muscle and back cramps.  He cannot sit up for more than a minute or two.  He cannot use the walker at all now.

Which led to yet another dilemma:  how to transport Dad to dialysis.  On Monday morning, I talked to his primary-care physician’s office, and learned that I needed to talk to Acadian Ambulance on my own.  I did that, and within 15 minutes had arranged for transportation to dialysis.  That day I followed the ambulance to dialysis, went in with Dad, and talked to the nurse and staff about what had happened.
Then I had lunch and went home, falling into bed for a nap.  I got up, put on some laundry, and watched television while I waited for Dad’s return.  That was uneventful, and I signed all the paperwork.  The phone call later from the administrator who’d ridden with Dad was a surprise — certainly, the call was necessary since he was telling me that Dad had been evaluated and approved for such transportation (Medicare requirements), but it was also partly personal, since the administrator wanted to tell me what a treat it had been to have Dad in the ambulance.  He’d enjoyed visiting with Dad, and asked if he really had played baseball; I told him yes, that Dad had in fact played ball at the University of Texas for a short while.  Dad had reminded him of his own grandfather, and he just wanted to let me know how much he had enjoyed the trip with Dad.  Such surprises are joyful for me, because I know Dad is wonderful not just as a father but as a human being, but with such comments I have the pleasure of knowing that others appreciate him.  Even as weak as Dad is, as in pain as he is, he makes conversation warmly and with interest.

How quickly such turns can occur — on Saturday, Dad had been alert and feeling good.  He watched baseball on TV most of the day, visiting with Kay and our friend Billie.  He ate a good supper of spaghetti that Kay had made.  He had a day better than most days had been.

Yet on Sunday morning, in the bathroom after Kay had helped him get there, his legs simply buckled and he fell.  Even with nothing broken, Dad has now become less mobile, less able to assist me (or anyone) in turning or getting up or getting dressed.

He was in such pain that he wouldn’t let me change his clothes, even though I tried.  He let Billie and me help him to the bedside toilet yesterday only because I refused to let him get to the actual bathroom.  It was, in fact, a difficult task for the two of us to get him out of bed and on the bedside toilet.  He was frustrated after all of the effort, too, because nothing happened.

Pain pills help him for a time, but not long, and not enough.  By last night, I knew that I’d be calling Dad’s doctor this morning to request something more — a muscle relaxer, something, maybe stronger pain medicine.  But I knew that having him lie there and moan and yelp with pain just because he lifted his left leg (or tried to) just wasn’t acceptable.

Yet he was hungry enough to request chicken-fried steak for supper — and I had some ready to put in the oven (thanks, Walmart, for frozen chicken-fried steak patties).  With green beans and mashed potatoes and peppered milk gravy, that chicken-fried steak satisfied Dad and I was happy to see him eat almost all of his supper.  I joined him in the meal, enjoying mine too.  I cleared off the bedside table, cleaned the dishes, and sat with him for a while.  He warned me that he might have to go to the bathroom in the night — and would probably just “go right here, in the bed.”  I told him that was fine, not to worry.  Yet he was, because that was so unpleasant for him.  Dignity often goes out the door with illness, with debilitating pain.  He was embarrassed for saying this to me. I tried to reassure him that it would be okay.

By 8:30 last night, he was in more pain, so I gave him another pill as well as his night sleeping pill.  I tucked him in, kissed him goodnight, locked the door, and went to my room.  I crawled into bed, read a while, and was out by 9 pm.  I slept until 8 a.m. this morning, knowing I could.

Yet by then, Dad was awake.  I fussed because he didn’t call me earlier. Sure enough, he had indeed had to simply go to the bathroom — in his own underwear.

I quickly fed him breakfast and knew that the home health aide was coming, so I didn’t start moving him around yet.  The less of that done, the better.  She arrived, and I told her what had happened.

She cleaned him up and then bathed him and dressed him in clean clothes.  Before she left, she gave me some good tips for taking care of similar problems.  I had put out diapers, but Dad refused them.  Instead, she suggested that I look for adult pull-ups — much more like underwear, and thus more dignified while still helping me out.

Another new surprise twist in caring for Dad — and I just have to learn to deal with it.  The aide only comes once a week, and both Dad and I will have to work together now in dealing with similar incidents.  It’s an invasion of his privacy and a reduction of his dignity, I know, for his daughter to change his underwear and clean him up like a baby.  Yet there’s no one else to do it.  I’m not sure how I feel about it — I used to clean Mother up, certainly, but we were the same gender.  This is different.  I’ll make it happen, despite my own embarrassment, and Dad’s.  I’ll try to make light of it.  I want to allow him his dignity as much as possible.

And yet another unpleasant surprise came today when I called to arrange ambulance transportation to Dad’s follow-up visit to his cardiologist tomorrow (test results from the recent nuclear stress test came back with abnormal results).  Medicare and supplement insurance do not pay for ambulance transportation to a doctor’s visit!  Even a reduced-rate cost would be just over $500.  I am now waiting for a return call from the cardiologist’s nurse to see whether I can leave Dad at home and come in for a consultation without Dad.  The ambulance is tentatively scheduled in the meantime.

Unless the muscle spasms disappear, and unless Dad regains the ability to sit without such pain and use the wheelchair, I don’t know whether I can actually manage to get him into a wheelchair, into the truck, and to the office and back home again.

Not that I wouldn’t willingly use the ambulance for such an office visit, but at that cost, I know I need to be judicious in using it.

All of this makes me wonder just how our elderly manage without family.  I know that nursing homes and assisted living facilities are choices for many. They are, however, expensive, more than mere Social Security payments can cover.  Moreover, I know that for Dad, this would truly be awful — he endured the two months or so at Southwind because it was necessary, but he always knew he was coming home.

Now that he is home, I know that he’s secure in a known environment.  I’m there 24/7 during the week.  He has friends drop in for visits.  He doesn’t have a roommate who is less than thoughtful in so many ways.

He has privacy.  He has his own home around him.  He knows he is loved and cared for by his daughters, that friends are there to help.

So much happens in such short periods of time.

I take my life day by day — I hope for weekends in Lake Charles, I hope for a week in Greece this June, but those will be gifts for me, treats.

Certainly I live my life a day at a time.  More properly, perhaps, I live it hour by hour, even minute by minute.

Even a minute brings such profound changes.  One minute, Dad was able to help us get him up and dress him and he could sit in a wheelchair.  One minute more and he’s on the floor of the front bathroom because his legs have given out.

From Friday to Monday, he went from transportation via wheelchair and truck — with me — to transportation via gurney and ambulance.

It’s only Wednesday.  It’s his tenth day back at home.

Living in the moment isn’t a theory any more for me; it’s reality.  I only have the moments, and I cherish them.

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Happy Hour

When I worked, it was pretty common for a long time for a lot of us to meet on Fridays for happy hour somewhere.  Since retirement, though, I’m out of that loop.  My life has its own loops, but that one isn’t in it.  It’s been replaced by occasional adult beverage nights at my house.  Charles will come over and one of us will supply the drinks.

Yesterday, though, the adult beverage night happened on a Friday, and Kay was there, and so it was our own happy hour.

And after yesterday’s long list of tasks, it was welcome.  Not for the one tall drink (or at least not just for that) but for the company and the laughter.  I had a giggle fit the likes of which I haven’t had in months.

By the time I dropped Dad at dialysis, I’d already been up for 6 hours.  I’d made breakfast for him, let him sleep some more, worked on my taxes, washed dishes, put some laundry on to wash, and then awakened Dad so I could shave him and help him change clothes.  Once I left the dialysis center at 11:35, I had 25 minutes to get to Iota to get Dad’s taxes finished.  I made it with 5 minutes to spare — signed the paperwork, paid the bill, picked up the folder, and then headed to Egan.  I tried to start mowing the yard, but didn’t get far.  The riding mower stopped; I wasn’t sure what was wrong — out of gas, or a slipped belt — but I just left it.  Got back in the truck.  Drove to Walmart in Crowley, calling Charles to see if he could check to see if the belt had slipped.  In Walmart while I was shopping, Charles started texting me.  Playing Marco Polo to find me in the store wasn’t easy with texting — no “pinging” sound to guide by!  He had a good laugh because the mower was simply out of gas.  He filled it up for me and then came in to shop too.

I filled the cart with many many items.  Headed home, unloaded the lot, and realized that as much as I’d gotten, I’d managed to forget a few things.  I met Kay at McDonald’s for a few minutes before we headed to dialysis.  We loaded Dad in the truck and then I was on the road, back to Egan, with Kay not far behind.  Once I got him settled, and she was there to be with him, I headed back for a second Walmart run.

And ended up with far more than I’d planned.  While I was there, Dad started talking about getting out some frozen vegetable soup and adding to it — so I had to pick up some potatoes and some canned corn.  He had frozen tomatoes.  Once more I unloaded the lot to the truck only to realize I’d again forgotten one item, something Kay needed.  I grabbed my wallet and went back in for round 3.  The lines were long, and I was gone a couple of hours for the whole of the second trip.  Finally I got to Egan and unloaded.  Again.

One thing our family loves to eat  is pimento cheese.  My late brother Phil’s fiancee was amazed at how much we loved it.  Dad usually settles for the store-made pimento cheese, but not me.  I start from scratch and make it.  It’s real.  And yesterday Kay and I had the same idea.  I had already put the ingredients on my shopping list when she suggested that I make some.  We chuckled at that one.  It’s a given in our list of comfort foods.

So once I was back in Egan and we’d put everything away, I made a huge batch of it.  I also divided the remaining shrimp étouffée into smaller containers and put them in the freezer.  It joined the chill I made two weeks ago for me.  It’s handy to have some things ready to thaw and eat — and homemade, too, not pre-packaged stuff.

One of the things I’d picked up was some limes, so I texted Charles that the Ware bar was open for business.  He came over and while Dad rested after eating some vegetable soup, Kay and Charles and I enjoyed our adult beverages, ate some chips and guacamole, and talked.

And laughed.  It’s fun to reminisce, and between the three of us, we covered a lot of ground.  I started giggling so hard that I couldn’t talk — I don’t even think anything in particular set me off, but the release was wonderful.

One drink, lots of entertaining conversation and memories.  Lots of laughter.  Friendship and family and love.  Dad in the front room that is now his living room.  My dogs in my bedroom, waiting for me.

I went to bed comfortable, happy, and ready to head to Lake Charles this morning to face the flea infestation at my own home.

Which is exactly what I’ve already done by 10 a.m. — gotten the three cats into their respective carriers, put them in the truck, set off flea bombs, closed the house, gone to the vet and dropped off the cats to board until Tuesday and have their annual shots and be de-flead.  Now I’m at Starbucks, enjoying the time and leisure with a venti mocha.  I’ve already seen one friend this morning here — and another’s one the way.  Afterwards, I’ll hit the craft store, pick up meds at Albertson’s, and go to visit another friend.  There’s a poetry reading here at McNeese tonight, an old friend and former professor here — part of the 30th anniversary of the MFA program at McNeese; he was the long-time director of the program.  I hope to see more old friends and former students.  It’s going to be fun.

It was happy hour yesterday, for sure.  And I think there’s an all-day happy hour going on for me now, even if the beverage of choice is a mocha.

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Homecoming Week

It’s Friday morning, and Dad came home on Monday.  It’s been a week for homecoming, for adjusting, and for many discoveries.  A long week, but one worth it all.

From last week until Monday I worked to get the house cleaned, organized, and ready for Dad.  My friend Patty came from Moss Bluff a couple of times, and the two of us managed to get a lot done.  By Easter weekend, when I needed to see Dad, I was working still, and exhausted.  Kay came in on Saturday, and I just stayed in my bed and slept.  No visit to Lake Charles.

By Monday morning, things were ready.  By 11, Dad’s hospital bed had been delivered and set up and I put fresh new linens on it, with a blue comforter.  The bed is in what was the living room and is now his bedroom.  I angled it with the head toward the kitchen and the feet toward the front of the house so that he could see the television and look out the front door if he wanted.  I drove to Crowley, signed the discharge papers, loaded his clothes in the truck, then wheeled Dad (holding more stuff on his lap) to the truck and left.  A few minutes down the road, I pulled in at the dialysis clinic and reversed the procedure, getting the wheelchair out of the truck bed, unfolded, and getting Dad out of the truck into the chair.  I sat with him in the waiting room until the dialysis tech came to get him, and talked with her briefly.  Then it was off to run errands.  Medicine first, then a couple of other stops, and then back to Egan.

I unloaded a few things, leaving the rest until later.  I set up Dad’s medicines in his pill box and put some clothes away.  Most were dirty, though, and I left those near the laundry room for later.  Back to Crowley, a quick stop for celery and other things, and then to dialysis.  By the time I picked Dad up and got him home, I was truly tired.  Getting him out of the truck and into the house wasn’t too hard, but learning to get his wheelchair up the ramp and in the house was a bit tricky.  He was really tired, so I put him to bed.  While he slept, I made shrimp etouffee and cooked rice.

He ate some etouffee, enjoyed it, and then after taking his medicine, slept.  I tried to sleep, but gave up — he was restless, I was anxious, and didn’t really sleep steadily. At 3:30 a.m. I looked for him and he wasn’t in bed; he’d managed to get out of bed and into the kitchen– without a walker!  I have no idea how long he’d been there, but his skinny legs were pretty shaky, and I managed to get him back to bed.  He was confused, thought it was suppertime, and had been ready to get something to cook.

Needless to say, I did not sleep any more that night.  Luckily, the recliners in the room are very comfortable.  My iPad kept me company as I watched and worried.

Tuesday morning was a busy one.  Physical therapy came to evaluate and assess his condition; a physical therapist will come twice a week to work with Dad.  While the PT was still there, the home health nurse came to evaluate and assess Dad as well.  Dad was pretty alert by this time, which was good to see.  He interacted with the PT and nurse and held conversations.

He slept; we had visitors on and off that afternoon.  Tuesday night was better — I gave Dad his bedtime meds a bit later, to assure that he slept through the night.  Or I hoped so.  I slept, on and off.

Wednesday morning was pretty uneventful.  I cooked breakfast again; he ate.  He always wants his coffee, though I notice he doesn’t drink as much as he used to do.  Still, it’s something he wants. The home health aide came to help Dad shower. By 11:30, I’d delivered him to dialysis again and headed back to Egan.  My friend Patty had come again to help; she was catching up on Dad’s laundry while I took him to Crowley.  I came back and we worked some more.  Charles came over and visited some; I love friends who bring chocolate cake with them!  That was a perfect snack.

Errands, errands:  this time to Jennings, to find a bed alarm (the home health nurse had told me I could get one at the medical supply pharmacy there), a new shower bench (adjustable, because the one in the shower is too low).  I then headed through Egan to Crowley, stopping for another couple of errands.

Dad had been clear all morning.Wednesday afternoon, though, when I picked Dad up at dialysis, the tech told me he’d become a bit disoriented.  He still was so — and stayed that way through yesterday.  Every day at dialysis seems to tax him a bit harder.  He slept on Wednesday night and wouldn’t eat supper, though he did take his medicine.

Yesterday, I puttered around the plants on the front porch.  Carmichael’s delivered the portable oxygen concentrator that’s been in repair for nearly two months.  Physical therapy and home health came again.  Billie sat with Dad so that I could take Dad’s tax information to his CPA in Iota.  I quickly picked up mail and came home.  After Billie left, I warmed up some lunch and he ate, slowly; he finished his small bowl of etouffee.  Later in the afternoon, he wanted cake, and ate the whole piece. That was good.  He was still a bit confused, though less.  His back has been giving him a good bit of pain, and the pain meds help.  He does sleep a lot, though.  But I have to pay attention: last night while I was working on my taxes on the computer here in the office, I heard him — he’d gotten out of bed and was using the walker to head to the back bathroom, which has always been his.  Only when his walker wouldn’t fit in did he believe that he had to use the front bathroom.  By the time he’d turned around and gotten back to the living room, he was too tired to do anything but go back to bed.

Even confused, he manages to do things that surprise me.  Yesterday he kept talking about cooking peas.  He was dreaming, I kept telling him.  I wasn’t cooking peas, and neither was he.  He kept insisting, though.  It was about 5 when I finally noticed a plastic container out on the kitchen counter.  You guessed it — frozen peas. Just when he got them out, I have no idea.  But believe me, I’m learning that he manages to do things whether he should or no.

By this morning when I got up at 6:45, I’d been awake for awhile.  Dad was awake too, and I started breakfast while I gave him his meds.  In between, I finally started writing this blog again.  It’s 7:45 now.  In the last hour, he has gotten out of bed and used the walker to go to the bathroom by himself. He’s eaten part of his sausage and most of his biscuit and jelly.   He’s resting again now, after taking a pain pill.  I told him I’d let him sleep for a while.  I need to shave him and help him change clothes before I take him to dialysis.  While he’s there, I will run errands.  I also need to put the bed alarm on the bed — it’s a pad that fits under the sheet, wired to an alarm.  When Dad is off the pad completely, the alarm sounds.  I’m sure it will startle both of us if it goes off.  But I don’t want any more 3 a.m. surprise visits to the kitchen.  Nor do I want to find any more containers of frozen peas (or whatever) on the counter and wonder when he got those out of the freezer. I’ll unload the groceries and the shower bench.  I probably ought to load the extra garbage bags and boxes and take them to the dump as well.  By 3:30, I’ll be at the clinic waiting for Dad, and wondering what to expect.  Will he be confused again?

Homecoming Week in high school and college is usually about football games and parades and celebrations.  It’s been Homecoming Week here, just without the football game or parade.  Celebrations?  They’ve gone on all week, every day.  I celebrate that he’s home and asks questions about the house occasionally.  I celebrate when he wants to look outside and I coax him to sit on the front porch bench for a few minutes.  I celebrate when friends drop by and he engages in conversations.

Those celebrations are important — he’s home.  He knows it and is comfortable.  He’s glad to see friends.  Even with the confusion and the weakness, Dad knows he’s home again, and I think he’s relaxed more.  He smiles more than I saw him smile while he was in Southwind.  Sometimes, I think, he wasn’t sure he was going to come home.  Now he’s secure in his home of nearly 46 years.

It’s been a week of adjustments — for both of us.  By today, I know the schedule to expect from home health:  Tuesdays and Thursdays, physical therapy; Wednesdays, aide to bathe Dad; twice a week, home health nurse.  I’ve figured out that my free time to run errands will be on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays while Dad is at dialysis.  If I need to make an appointment for me in Lake Charles, it needs to be on Tuesday and Thursday morning, when Billie can sit with Dad; I need to be back by 1 because she works at the library in Crowley on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.   Friday afternoons by the time I get Dad back from dialysis, Kay will be here, and I can have until Sunday afternoon to head to Lake Charles to my house.  I know I’ll have a week to 10 days in June; I’m trying to figure out how to have a longer break — I want to go to Greece to a friend’s niece’s wedding, and to see my apartment in Athens, and to hang out with friends there.  That’s my goal, anyway.

I can tell that every day I will start Dad’s breakfast by 7 — a biscuit, one patty of sausage, and some coffee.  He doesn’t want an egg right now.  I’ll cook.  We eat supper together every night, which is good for both of us.

He sleeps.  While he does that, I do laundry.  I watch television.  I wash dishes and I cook.  I check on him frequently, sometimes talking with him if he’s awake.  Reassuring him if he’s confused.  Today he told me about a trip to town, seeing someone he used to work with.  I guess his dreams take him places he can’t go anymore. I don’t fuss at this; I just accept it and nod and talk.  Frequently, he tries to get out of bed because we “have to go . . .” somewhere; I reassure him that no, we don’t, that he’s at home and we don’t have to go anywhere yet, that he can go back to sleep.  Keeping calm is easy, I find, and if I’m calm, it sets the tone for him.

Now I also I putter around the front porch plants.  They’re all looking healthy and green.  The agapanthus are beautiful and blue; I have some other smaller blue flowers as well.  My friend Carolyn gave me some lovely yellow flowers in a blue pot.  I have two kinds of ivy in hanging baskets.  I’ve planted a lot of herbs.  I have a hibiscus tree in a big pot.  The windchime reminds me often just to close my eyes and listen, to sit and enjoy the moments.  The hummingbird feeder and bird feeder haven’t gotten any action yet, but I’m hopeful — and they’re cute, anyway.  The yellow bench with the blue and tan floral cushion is comfortable and inviting.  It’s lovely to have the small space so handy, so available — and so welcoming to all.

As the week winds up, I now find time to write as well — finally.  It’s as though I’ve been racing for days to get ready to get Dad home, and then to get Dad settled and to figure out what’s going on.  Now, I think I have a handle on the general scheme of things.  I’ve still got chores to do and appointments to set up; I need to set up a follow-up visit with Dad’s primary physician.  Today while he’s in dialysis I’ve got to buy groceries and some cleaning supplies.

Charles reminded me yesterday that I need to spend time here in the office space, too.  I’ll need my own space, he says, and he’s right.  So I’ll start working on clearing up the boxes that are still stacked here.  I’ll figure out where my own craft supplies really are so that next week I can begin working on jewelry again.

In the meantime, I have discovered that when I go to Lake Charles, I have to crate my three cats and set them on the front porch there while I flea-bomb the house.  Yes, that house now has fleas.  Oh well, at least I can bring the laptop and iPad and some cold drinks and sit on the porch there in my rocker.  I don’t have any plants in pots on that porch, but I do have lovely roses that are in bloom.

Two porches to enjoy — and my pets.  Dogs here in Egan, cats in Lake Charles.  Friends in both places.  Dad at home, comfortable and feeling secure.  Kay to relieve me on weekends.

And time to enjoy, to write, to read, to create.

Who needs a parade?  I’ve got porches!

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