Thursday, June 30, 2011


That was a fast trip! Left the house at 6:15 on Monday morning, indulged in a quick stop at Waechter's Fine Fabrics in Asheville, then arrived at Mother's bedside at 4:45. There had been some hiccups in her condition on Sunday and she was taken back to the hospital for tests. Alas, all the skilled and caring medical professionals working with and around her do not realize that her grimaces are only anticipated pain, not real pain!

When her dinnertime arrived, I left, as she always goes right to sleep immediately after dinner. I went to her apartment and spent the evening finishing a summer scarf I've been knitting.

Monday morning I went back to the nursing home and spent the day observing her and offering hints and tips to her care team. They are so kind; they ask her if she wants PT now or later. Of course she says later—she'd rather sleep! I requested that they not ask her. I don't want to listen to her complain when they don't come back for several hours! Then when they got her up and dressed, they asked if she needed to go to the bathroom. Don't ask! Treat her like the emotional three-year-old she's become, and put her on the toilet and tell her to try. Of course she had to go! She can hardly hear, despite the Very Expensive hearing aid. When she nods quickly after your statement, that means she understood. If she nods more slowly and smiles, that means she doesn't have a clue what you said. If you're telling her something important, ask her if she understood, then ask her to tell you what you said or what you want her to do.

I've heard my whole life about the elderly becoming like babies again—the cycle of life—but this is my first time observing it. I just keep remembering what Ridley was like three or four years ago, and treating Mother the same way. It works!

In physical therapy, they got her to stand three times and move the right leg. The rest of the day I kept encouraging her to exercise that right thigh muscle. She wants out of the rehab facility, so my brothers and sister-in-law and I keep reminding her that to move back to her apartment, or be able to go up to the mountain cottage, she's got to be able to walk again. They should be sufficient motivation!

While she ate lunch, I ran out to Wendy's where I could let the tension out of my shoulders and just sit quietly and eat my hamburger. Then I ran back over to her apartment and retrieved her Scrabble game.

That afternoon, she beat me at two games. I let her go first each time, and you'll never guess what her opening word on the first game was: "sex"! The old gal still has it.

As I was ready to leave for the day, my cousin, BJ, called and asked me to meet her for dinner. It was so nice to catch up with this remarkable woman whom I've known as long as I can remember. Then back to Mother's apartment to finish another project: the "Lizard Ridge Dishcloth". I wanted to learn the difficult pattern before I set out on an afghan in that pattern for our new couch. When I get the ends woven in this morning, I'll hand it to the Jazzman and see how he likes it for wiping down kitchen counters.

Wednesday morning as I was stepping into the shower at Mother's apartment, the fire alarm sounded, and I had to find my pajamas and robe again and walk down to the dining hall, where I stood for 15 minutes while being scrutinized by all the residents. Gee, that was fun! Then back to the apartment to get ready to leave.

I stopped by the nursing home again to visit Mother for a few minutes, let her talk to Jim on the phone, and again encourage her to exercise that right thigh muscle. Then I started driving.

I head up 26 from Asheville to get on I-81 around Bristol, VA. Every time I'm on the road, I eye the scenic lookout. I've stopped at the southbound lookout, but never at the northbound. So this time I stopped. The walk up to the lookout was 800 feet, with a 150 foot elevation climb. Good exercise in preparation for sitting behind the wheel all day. Gorgeous morning. Cool. Delicious smells in the air. The sound of cattle lowing or something to the east. (You can tell I'm a farm girl, huh?). Let me tell you, this is one gorgeous part of the world!

On the road again, I always stop in Johnson City, TN, at the Panera for a treat. Then I stop at Tamarack in WV to walk around the building filled with beautiful handcrafts. I fondled some handcrafted pottery mugs, but resisted temptation, Then I didn't resist temptation and ate peach cobbler from the fabulous Greenbrier chefs for lunch. Heading on up the road, I realized I would be rolling past Akron while my salon was still open, so called. My stylist agreed to stay a half-hour late for me, give me my summer cut, and save me a two-hour drive today!

After a little shopping and pampering in Akron, I got home around 9:30.

My state of mind? Exhaustion!!

When I arrived home, I heard classical music playing. I used to always leave the local NPR station on for the cats whenever I left home, but the Jazzman is religious about turning things off. I couldn't imagine that he had left a radio on.

I walked around the house trying to find the origin of the sound. Finally I stuck my head into the basement and realized that's where it was coming from. I walked down the stairs and realized there was music on in my sewing room. Last weekend an electrician came to give me some power sources so I could run my sewing machines without stretching a 25' extension cord across the basement. When I turned on the light for the sewing room, straight ahead of me was a hand-lettered sign, attached to the wall with blue painters' tape, that said, "Happy Birthday Jan. JH♥JC"

The Jazzman had bought five new light fixtures and installed them over my cutting table and the location for my sewing machine. For the first time in two years, I'll be able to see what I'm doing. I'll be able to see black thread on black fabric without holding it two inches from my eyes. It's a bleeping miracle!!

Say it with me now: Whattaguy!!!

Friday, June 24, 2011

I've never particularly thought that Ridley looked anything like her father. I always pictured her features to come from her mother. However, today I found a picture of Tyler taken in second grade. Coincidentally, Ridley just completed second grade. Look at those eyes! Look at those eyebrows! I may have to change my opinion.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

And a Good Day Was Had By All . . .

Here's the postscript on birthday celebration #61:

I picked up Boston and Ridley at 9:00. Nobody in their house remembered it was my birthday. (Lesson One: Learn to be less subtle.) We headed to the Cleveland Zoo, stopping first at the Panera on Richmond in Warrensville Heights for morning pastries to tide us over. I splurged for the calories on a chocolate pastry, my absolute fave.

When we got to the zoo, the parking lot was packed. Who knew it was safety day and tons of day camp and day care kids would be there?! The good part was that there were lots of giveaways for the kids, which they proudly showed to the Jazzman and their parents when we got home.

Although rain was predicted, it turned out to be a lovely day, alternating between overcast and sunny. No sunburns—yea! The kids loved every animal they saw, especially the chipmunks running along the sidewalks and every songbird that wasn't in a cage and would land nearby! We even saw two wild deer eating 15 feet away from the sidewalk. They fed fish to the sea lions and nectar to the tropical birds. Boston looked at the zebra, standing about eight feet away and said, "They look so random." Where do these kids come up with their vocabulary?!

A trip through the gift shop on our way out yielded stuffed toys: a meerkat for Boston and a wolf for Ridley.

We stopped at Mavis Winkle's in Twinsburg for lunch at 3:00, then followed that with a quick trip into Dairy Queen.

We stopped by my house, where they showed the Jazzman all their treasures and we picked up the "Phantom of the Opera" DVD for them to watch at home. I ran them home, then headed back to my house.

The phone rang—my older son calling to wish me Happy Birthday. While talking to him, I prepared a pants pattern to be cut out today. Then I went upstairs to shower and change for dinner. My phone rang again and showed my NC cousin's caller ID. When I answered, it was my mother, calling to wish me a Happy Birthday! As she is in a nursing home/rehab facility right now, it's very difficult to get ahold of her. I told her I'd be down Monday afternoon to visit her, and she immediately turned to my cousin and repeated this news. Nice.

The Jazzman and I went to Lowe's to look at ceiling fans for the bedroom and the family room, then to Caffe Capri, where we like to sit at the bar and enjoy great Italian food. For me - a big salad and a glass of Pinot Grigio.

And all day long, as I walked through each activity, my phone would ping every fifteen minutes with at least three new birthday greetings. This is one of the things I love about Facebook, the way friends old and new, near and far, can keep in touch with each other's lives.

I had a fabulous day, thank you very much.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Secrets and Confessions

May I tell you a secret? I hate birthdays! No, it's more than that. I hate my birthdays. I hate expectations. If I could wipe out expectations, I'd do it in a heartbeat. Those expectations always lead to disappointment.

I pride myself on being a good gifter, as I've written about before. Unfortunately, that makes me expect others to give accordingly.

I've been in financial chaos for a long time. It's been months since I felt I could justify a manicure and pedicure. My last massage was a gift a year ago. Nothing would make me happier than a gift card for a manicure or pedicure or massage. Or a few skeins of Noro Kureyon #149. My needs are simple!

In fact, I placed that on my Amazon wish list so smart gifters would know my needs.

Actually, a really good gift arrived in the mail from PianoLady. A book about music and a book of music. Some Bach I've never played before. Now there's a person who knows me well.

I do love the greetings that come in on Facebook. There are no expectations attached, and it makes one feel cared for.

But the gifts? Oh, well. I'm practicing my gracious responses.

Boys in high school told me I was spoiled. I guess I am.

And I guess I am 61. Oh, well.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ultimate Compliments

The Jazzman paid me a compliment recently, and it was one of the best (and most insightful) compliments I believe I've ever received.

We were talking about my oldest brother, who has a severely diseased heart. He is a transplant candidate, and lives now with the aid of an internal defibrillator and pacemaker. Tyler was asking how his uncle's heart got so bad. I replied, "He got Daddy's heart."

The Jazzman quickly chimed in, "No, you got your daddy's heart. Jerry only got his heart malady."

I was touched beyond words and will never forget those kind words.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there, and buckets of gratitude to my Daddy. Your DNA isn't in me, but your heart is!

Friday, June 17, 2011

But It's MY Perception!

I perceive my beloved Daddy as having been unconditionally loving, accepting, and nurturing. I perceive my not-so-beloved Mother as having been critical, rigid, and never satisfied. That's my worldview, my Weltanschauung. I've lived with it for 61 years (next week), and you haven't.

I've carried around my baggage of being unloved and unlovable. You haven't. I've developed habit patterns to try to jump through the appropriate hoops and behave in a way that would make me more capable-of-being-loved. You haven't.

<Tangent On>
My first marriage lasted for ten years. Ten miserable (my perception) years. I knew two weeks into the marriage that I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I begged my husband for us to go to therapy. "No, we don't talk about our private problems." Three-quarters of the way through the ten years, I suggested/begged that we go to a Marriage Encounter weekend. He refused. Finally, after ten years, and after I told him I wanted a divorce, he acquiesced and said we could go to Marriage Encounter.

The best thing I took away from the weekend was this statement: "Your feelings are not right or wrong. They just are."
<Tangent Off>

I've just spent three-and-a-half days with my sister-in-law. We have known each other for 44 years. She is four years older than I. She's smart, talented, accomplished. She's been the general manager of several software companies. She's skilled at project management and knows how to get things done. She's sat on numerous boards and is highly respected in her community. She's neither afraid nor hesitant to tell you what she thinks, whether you want to know or not.

I don't feel love for my mother, who will probably die within the next six months. I respect that she sacrificed a lot for me. I appreciate being adopted into a family that was able to recognize my musical talent and financially afford all the music lessons, the purchase of the accordion and clarinet and oboe and organ and piano. I appreciate all the schlepping to piano lessons and sewing lessons and so on. I try to treat Mother with respect, as I feel she deserves that. But I don't feel love for her.

To tell you the truth, there are times I question my ability to feel love for anything or anybody. It's almost as if it were bred out of me by her critical and demeaning words and actions. Thank [YourDeityOfChoice] for my children, my grandchildren, my Good Husband, the Jazzman, and certain special friends, thoughts of whom remind me that I can, actually, feel love.

What's my point? "It is what it is." I don't feel Mother loved me. My sister-in-law talks about how much Mother loves me and cares about me and looks forward to my visits. Whatever. For me, that's a fiction. It is not reality. In any event, it is not my reality.

You're welcome to say, "I'm sorry you feel that way." "I'm sorry you never felt loved by your mother." "I'm sorry you had to struggle your whole life."

You're not welcome to say, "That's just wrong." "You're wrong."

I'm not wrong in my perception. It's my goddamned perception. I may not like it any more than you do, but that doesn't and cannot negate it.

It's neither right nor wrong. It just is.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Life Cycle

Molly and I sit across the room from each other. Mother's bed lies between us such that we can't see each other. She reads a bridge guide, expanding her knowledge of the game. The playlist Jim loaded on her iPod Shuffle plays in her ear, and she occasionally sings along. A novel about a knitting group plays in mine, as I work on a cotton and silk summer scarf. Mother lies between us. She is completely "out of it", in a deep sleep. I cannot rouse her. This woman who loves food more than air will not wake herself enough to eat. If I get a straw into her mouth to try to hydrate her, she locks her teeth around it. If I drop some water into her mouth, she will not swallow.

Maybe it's the trauma of the surgery. Maybe it's the Percoset before this morning's physical therapy. Whatever has caused this coma-like state just results in her not being able to focus her eyes when she opens them, in her not being aware of her surroundings or willing [able?] to exert any effort.

The doctors have told us to expect her death in the next six months. Broken hips at an advanced age are the great predictor of oncoming death.

But she's lived a long and full life. She has held positions of leadership in her church. She drove her car up into the mountains to her beloved cottage until she was 95. She has sat on the floor and played "Tammy's Store" with her grandsons. She has a sweet disposition and everyone who knows her, loves her And she's NINETY-EIGHT years old.

I hope she knows that when she's had enough, she can go ahead and leave.

Sweet story: When Scott began talking, instead of "Grandpa", he seemed to reverse the syllables so it came out PA-gram, which became "Pakum". "Grandma" came out "Tammy". Their grandpa loved his name, but "Tammy" - Not so much.

Her reaction was, "I'm not Tammy, I'm Grandmother." Harumph! But when she played Store with Scott and Tyler, it was "Tammy's Store" that Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith would visit.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Customer Service

When Molly and I arrived yesterday morning, Mother immediately volunteered, "I had the meanest nurse!" We wanted to know what the nurse had done that Mother had perceived as mean.

"She walked in here, said, 'Are you alright?', and left."

We asked her what she had answered. Had she said she was okay? "Yes", she answered.

Okay, so what was she expecting? I guess she was expecting someone to hang around and entertain her. And the lack of meeting that expectation equaled poor customer service.

Yesterday was a very long day. Having originally been told surgery was scheduled for 3:00 and that she would be taken down to the OR suite around 1:30, because of the difficulty of the previous surgery, she slid to 6:00. But she slid about 15 minutes at a time. Visibly anxious, Molly and I had to resort to songs and old stories to keep her mind off the delay.

The meds she was being given caused hallucinations, which included thinking my cousin would remember our greatgrandmother, who died decades before our births, and asking if we had gotten the axe out of the attic of the house she owned three houses ago!

By the time she was ready to go into surgery, the one mean nurse had multiplied—now there had been two mean nurses!

The moral of the story? If you're nice and go a few steps further than required, you'll make a good impression on your client/patient/friend.

Today's pictures? At the top, you can see her death-grip on the PCA pump. She's not letting that thing out of her hand. She says she has no pain so long as she's lying still. The physical therapy techs will be here in a few minutes, and we expect to hear some screaming as they attempt to get her to sit on the edge of the bed.

Picture two is the X-ray showing the fracture.

Picture three is one of the four images showing the hardware she now will carry with her for the rest of her life.

She is alert and awake this morning (although dozing as I write), and her sense of humor is active. We are very lucky—I wasn't sure I would see her today!!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Quick Update

Mother fell and broke her hip yesterday. I'm heading south, to meet my sister-in-law, who is flying north. More later.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Wandering through One's Memories

A couple of weeks ago, I had the grandbabes at my house on a Friday evening. It was a dusky pre-summer evening, 8ish, and we were playing outside with balls. For some reason, they've named this game we created "War". It involves pots and pans and bouncy rubber balls. And the best part? It gets rid of lots of energy!!

As we were playing outside, I was suddenly transported in my memories back to my summer vacations spent in the Chicago 'burbs.

My aunt lived in Winnetka or Wilmette, I never can remember. (My uncle's podiatrist office was in one 'burb and they lived in the other. Unfortunately, both cities begin with the same letter, so how am I to differentiate?!) Every summer my mother would pack me into the car and we'd leave Maitland at 4:00 a.m. I don't remember any motel stops along the way, but Google maps tells me the journey is 19 hours, using interstates. So it must have been a three-day drive with no interstates and only one driver. The fact that we left at 4:00 a.m. so as to be out of Florida by 8:00 a.m. tells me we must not have had air conditioning in the car. (Time reference: late 50s, early 60s.)

We didn't have Daylight Savings Time in Florida in that era, and the summer sun would set around 7:30 during the summer. And at our home in Florida, we had palm trees, cypress trees, oak trees, and a citrus grove. I had never seen a weeping willow before we visited Chicago.

My aunt and uncle's house was a couple of doors away from an enormous park—blocks and blocks of grass and trees and children playing all day long and into the night. And the sun didn't set until 9:00 or 10:00, according to my childhood memories.

It was a magical place. Just to have a day that lasted almost into the next day was a strange experience. And the trees and smells and sites. We'd go to the museums in Chicago. We'd drive to the lakeshore. We'd take a day and drive to Wisconsin to visit another aunt. It was a world apart from what I experienced as a child.

And here I am, again in the northwest, where the soft evening light and the smells of evergreens and sycamores and lilacs are at once familiar and unfamiliar.

How strange to have returned to my childhood summers again.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Getting Younger and Younger

I flew to Atlanta last Sunday to drive up to the mountain cottage for our family celebration of Mother's 98th birthday. When I left her on Monday afternoon, I was angrier and more disgusted with her than I've ever been in my entire life.

On Tuesday I screwed up my courage, called her, and told her I was angry. I'm almost sixty-one years old, and that's the very first time I've had the courage to do that. Ever!

What did I say to her? "You're a very smart woman. You're trained as a nurse. You have studied nutrition for years. You're diabetic. And you sit and eat chocolate right before you're having your blood tested." Her reading was 232!

We try to treat her with respect. We do everything in our power to increase her quality of life. My sister-in-law has devoted a great deal of time and energy over the past three years to helping mother.

For what?! For you to sneak candy behind my back?!

I've never felt loved and accepted by her. Honestly? Right now, I don't feel very loving and accepting towards her!

If you want to put yourself into a diabetic whatever; If you want to have a stroke or a heart attack — Go ahead. Just leave us out of it. Do it on your own time. Stop taking advantage of our generosity and our kindness.

I was so happy when the trip was over and I was back in my own home, with my kind and considerate man, near to my loving grandchildren.

I don't ever want to get to be 98 years old and acting like I'm two years old.

The goodness of the trip? Spending some time with my brothers and sister-in-law, and sitting on the porch, knitting, glancing out at this vista.
Or stepping out in the early morning to see this.
Or glancing across at my lot, wondering if it will ever sell or if I'll ever be able to build a vacation house there.

I love going to that mountain cottage, especially when I can go there and not worry about who's sneaking what behind my back.