Saturday, May 25, 2013

Letting loose and...

Today, Jim and I hit a few grad parties.  We went to three to be exact and they were all boys that we have known since they were little.  Each one graduated with a different plan in mind and were in different groups in school.

Spring has finally arrived and the day was glorious.  It was also the first day in a long time that I wasn't waiting for a phone call because a hospice patient was on his/her way to heaven.  Sometimes I forget what it's like to not be on guard, to not be thinking that I am going to have to leave, to be able to let loose and enjoy myself.

On Wednesay night, my patient passed away. He was an old guy, a world war II vet and a husband and father.  He was going about his life, living with his daughters, taking care of his demented wife and got sick.  Before his daughter knew it, he was losing weight and not feeling well.  Four weeks after that, he came home from the hospital to a hospital bed in the living room.

I admitted him last week and didn't think we would lose him.  I thought that he would just perk up, revoke hospice and live another year with his daughters.  Then, a few days ago, he took a turn for the worse...

I had just put the burgers and brats on the table, the corn and the baked potatoes for dinner.  The boys were sitting down after washing their hands when the phone rang.  I looked at the caller ID and saw the number.  No way, I thought and answered...."Terry, I think he's gone" I heard on the other end.  I was stunned and and said so.  She just said it again and I told Jim and the boys I had to go...my patient just passed away.

I got there and walked over to the daughter and hugged her as I looked toward the hospital bed.  He was indeed gone.  "How did it go?" I asked.  She told me that he had a quiet afternoon and his breathing had evened out, he seemed so peaceful and comfortable and decided that it was time to move him.  She rearranged him on his back and sat down next to him on the chair and noticed that he was taking deeper breaths but was still very peaceful.  She had a feeling he was dying so she called the family around and he took three more deep breaths and stopped...he was gone.

There were tears and laughs, memories and thankfulness while we waited for the mortuary.  I sat at the kitchen table and made my phone calls.  His wife sat with me but had no idea that her husband of 60 years was gone.  She didn't know who the man in the bed in the living room was.  She thought he may be her father.  Her family decided that they were going to wait to tell her and asked my opinion.  I didn't know what to say.  I began to think of what it must have been like to spend most of your adult like raising kids, making decisions, hating and loving each other and then to have that person not know who you are.  Sometimes life is so cruel.

His daughters and I talked about that while we waited for him to be taken away.  They talked of what a lovely man he was and how he took care of his wife as she progressed into the abyss.  They talked of one day, he already an old man, coming over to say he didn't want to take care of her anymore because it was so hard and his daughter saying she would help but he signed on for better or worse.   They talked of how he went home, took care of her and never mentioned it again.

The guys showed up and took him away but before he went out the front door, his girls, one by one, kissed his forehead and thanked him for being their father.  They stood and watched as the van pulled away and wiped tears.  They had put their mother to bed because she was beginning to get agitated and didn't understand what was going on.  I thought again about how they have been married for 60 years and as he left, she was in bed...she missed saying goodbye to the man she spent her whole life with.  I thought about how unfair dementia is and maybe it's better to leave before it gets a hold of you...not that we have any control.

As I left the family, I hugged each one of them and let them know how proud and honored I was to help them with their father, what a wonderful job they did taking care of him and wished them luck with their mother.  Then I got in my car and sat in silence and tried to put the night in it's place in my head.

I thought about Wednesday night while I was out at the parties.  These boys will go to college, find mates eventually and try to make a life.  They don't know how it will turn out and either do we.  Twenty five years ago, I was in the same boat.  The only thing we can do, I guess, is try to make the best of it, love those folks we commit to and remember we are in it for the long haul.  Even elderly men who have been married forever forget that sometimes.

But, at the end of our life, we can only hope that we are in the livingroom, in a hospital bed or in our bedroom, in our bed, surrounded by the people we love the most caring for us...holding our hands, changing our position, keeping our mouths moist and every so often bending down to give us a light kiss on the lips.  My guess is, if we have that...we've done something right.

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,

Friday, May 24, 2013

What does Mom know?

My  daughter, the Queen as I refer to her, is working in Mexico this summer.  She could have tried to get an internship in some hoity-toity engineering firm making money.  Yes, money...

But no, she decided that she wanted to go to Mexico, then Guatemala and build houses...

Let's just say, I wasn't totally on board but what does Mom know?

Well, she started writing about what she's doing and what she is learning and in turn...I am learning.  I guess Mom isn't always right, huh? 

I go on record as saying,  "Mom's are right, MOST of the time!"

You can read it here:  http://wondermarkstheroad.tumblr.com/

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Please excuse me for this post...

I woke up this morning on the verge of tears.  I lie in bed with a feeling of dread, sadness and wondering what to do.  I remember that feeling and still have them, but nothing like today.  Today, the feeling was almost heart stopping.

Last week was one for the books, work wise.  I lost two patients in a  span of 18 hours and and kept on going.  I had a dear friend staying with us, dropped the Queen off at the airport for the summer, did a 19th birthday for my son, and got through Mother's day.

It all sounds so wonderful, except for the work stuff, doesn't it?  Even the work stuff could not have gone better.  The patients were so peaceful and surrounded by the families...not exactly like in the movies but darn close.

I am wondering what my problem is then...Could it be that every bone in my body aches and some are worse than others?  I am sure that all this sadness, this emotional stuff takes a toll on me...or maybe it's the sugar, wine and pasta that I eat non-stop to get through this stuff.  Can you say "Gluten intolerant"?  My heel on my left foot is killing me, my lower back on my right side is too...enough that when I get up to go to the bathroom at night, I can't step on my heel and my back is aching.  Lovely...

My husband wants me to go to the doctor and I would, but I am sure they are going to find something and I will be my own patient...at least in my mind, that is how it is going to go for me.  While I think that is okay, I think about my 16 year old and how he doesn't need to go through that and if I wait until he is headed to college to go to the doctor, he will be spared the heart ache.  Sounds crazy, huh?  Welcome to my world on some days...

Here's a great example...my youngest has AP tests this week and has been studying.  No, not really, but he is prepared to study.  I mean, the test is tomorrow, so why start any earlier than the night before?  Anyway, he was looking for his book and practice tests this morning and was convinced that when the company was coming, I put them somewhere.  I am sure I did, but for the life of me, I couldn't remember where.  As he asked me, I began to cry...and he began to feel bad and Jim began to raise his voice because I was crying.  Does any of this make sense?  If I wasn't so out of sorts, it would be hilarious but it wasn't so funny this morning. 

But now, the house is quiet except for the music I have on.  I am finishing my last cup of coffee and will get ready for work.  Today is meetings and patients and sitting in the car.  My 19 year old is in bed and probably will be until I come home at 3 pm...he is still on college time.   In 11 days, I will send him off to camp to be a counselor for the summer.  God help those kids that have him watching over them!  Then, it's down to us again...me, Jim and my youngest...

I tend to let my heart get really hard after a run of sadness like this so I can not feel a thing...avoid these black "wake ups".  No emotion, no pain and definitely no love. When I finally got up and sat at the kitchen table,I began to think about how the black was taking over.   Quietly, Jim asked me how I was today.  I looked over at him with tears in my eyes and said "I'm fine".  He came over to hug me and I shoved him away...I have to keep that part of my heart shut down and avoid these feelings or my heart may break in half.

So I guess I need to wrap up this complaining session, change my thinking and look at the bright side.  I can and will but it may take more time today than usual.  That's okay, I mean, for today...I have time and pasta and after 5...plenty of wine.  Sounds like a good plan, huh?


We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What if?

What if you were sure you weren't going to see your kid walk across the stage at graduation?
What if you knew that this would be the last snow you see?
What if you were feeling your wife's or husband lips brush against your cheek for the last time?

I have the honor of taking care of two folks that are in the last days..and they have amazing families and want for nothing...except time.

What a concept to think about.  What if we wanted for nothing except time?  Not a new car, a bigger house or some fancy jewelry...not to be thinner, prettier or smarter.  Just time...time to spend with the person you married, time to stare at your kids, and decide who they take after, time to watch the mannerisms that match yours and the ones that match your mates...time to really listen to the ones you love and imprint it in your brain.

Life really comes down to time, doesn't it?  It comes down to how we spend our time, how we spent our time and what else we want to do with our time. 

It seems to me, when someone is dying, families gather together and are with the person.  I often come to a house to see them and the patient is in bed and so is the spouse, the kids and the pets.  I always think about how they are trying to get every precious second out of the time that is left.  I also see the comfort of the person, the proud feelings when they have the family around.  I bet they are trying to get every second they can with them too.

There isn't much time here on earth for my patients.  They have bodies that are not cooperating and they are exhausted...almost ready to leave.  They are running out of time quickly and the families can feel it.  They gather and talk about the old days, the meetings, the marriages, the births, the vacations and what having this life together means to them.  They are cherishing the time and making sure there is nothing left unsaid.

For you and me, although it isn't guaranteed...we have time.  We have time to say the things that stop the argument, to offer the apology and to stop the behavior that causes pain.  We have time to do things that make us laugh so hard our bellies ache and then time to imprint that memory for all eternity.  We have time. 

And yes, I am one of the people who complained about having no time for me and being mad because I didn't get things done, blah, blah, blah.  I am humbled.  I watch with patience as the family wants to care for their loved one...when I could have them cared for  in 5 minutes.  That is not the point now, is it?  The point is, that with this little bit of time left, they want to be doing the care, with love...to wash the face, apply chapstick on dry lips or lift the cup of cold water for the dry throat...to perform tender acts of love for the person leaving.  That's when the lump that lingers in my throat gets too big to breath...

So tonight, as I watch the snow come down in May, I count my blessings...I have time to make memories, cherish moments and do what makes me feel like I have a purpose.  So when I ask what if...it is to keep me humbled, to make me close my mouth at times before I say things I shouldn't and mostly to be aware that bad things can happen to anyone at anytime and am I using my time wisely?  I sure hope so...

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Snow, blinds and Peace...

Today, when I woke up, there was 6 inches of snow on the ground. I could say that I really didn't care but of course, I did.  I wandered around thinking about going back to bed and taking another run at it tomorrow.  But then, I remembered that my niece was visiting from Florida and snow is a big deal.  

I found her sitting in the living room looking out the window with child like wonder...and I had to smile.  This kid is 26 and was excited to experience the snow.  Before we left for the airport, she went outside to touch it and to  feel how cold it is.

It made me think a lot about how we look at things...about how I look at things.  The snow is a bummer for me because I am so ready for spring and planting my flowers and opening my windows to smell the fresh air.  I look at spring snow, especially this late, as a burden, a problem and something that I need to get through.  Needless to say, I don't look at it positively.

It's interesting to change how we look at things.  I think about when I walk into a dying person's home and want to help them think about leaving as a release from pain, suffering and that they now have control of how they leave us.  Believe it or not, I try to make it as positive as I can.  But, put a little spring snow in my path and I can't get past it...

We drove to the airport in the snow and I watched my niece as she video taped the falling snow, noticing the big snow flakes, the hills covered in white and how it changed the drive.  She spent the ride marveling about the snow.  I gripped the wheel and felt like the winter was never going to end.

Then I came home.  Jim had a rack of pork ribs ready to go into the oven, Howie was doing his homework and the blinds in my office were being hung.  I started to feel a sweet feeling of peace...

We  had dinner and I did some laundry, played banangrams with my husband with a cocktail and moved to my office.  The cat was sound asleep on the clean laundry and pandora had my favorite station playing...

I must say, life does not get better than this..spring snow or not.

You see, I spent the week with my niece and her "boyfriend" learning about her life, her dreams and hanging with her sweetie, making her feel at home and remembering the days when she was a kid.  I got to explore places that I haven't taken the time to right in my back yard (Golden and Evergreen), drank plenty of good wine, ate great meals, and played some mean basketball.  We even got to hang out on Pearl Street in Boulder on a Saturday night with the college kids...

So a little snow...yeah, I want it to go away but hey, I got my blinds up in my office and a cat on the bed and my heart is full of sweet peace.  

That, my friends, is what makes life worth living...at least for me!

We'll tawk tomorrow,
I love you all,