Friday, January 27, 2012

Squeeze Hard Enough, Your Brain Pops Out

The changes came rapidly and all at the same time. My mother-in-law needed to go buy groceries, but as soon as they arrived at the store, my father-in-law said he didn't feel well and needed to go home. He said he would be OK for awhile, and she went back to the store.

She came back to find the house empty, my father-in-law gone.

She went next door to see if he was there, and found out he had gotten disoriented and gone to look for her. A neighbor on the far end of the block saw him and realized he wasn't OK. My father-in-law couldn't tell him his name, where he lived, or what was wrong.

Thinking he's had a stroke, the neighbor called 911 and he was transported to the hospital.

Meanwhile, frightened and alone, he became increasingly agitated and a security guard was called to stay with him.

Ever the romantic, he calmed down the minute he heard my mother-in-law's voice.

Her world in changed. He cannot be left alone anymore.

I wanted to support her, but what words are sufficient on the day you finally have to see the truth?

Meanwhile, my mother's blood levels were obviously low. Her conversation would loop, and she would fixate on things. She was frustrated that I would not help her, not understanding that the credit union was not open on Sunday, and I didn't know when her transfusion would be and she would feel better.

I tried to reassure her, but she couldn't think clearly to understand.

Meanwhile, my son had bronchitis and couldn't breathe. He had missed an entire week of school--the first time he'd ever missed that much school--and was depressed when he realized the extent of the work he had to make up. He was angry, overwhelmed, and vocal.

I agreed it was a tough break, but the work still needed to be done.

Three unhappy people, all needing things I could not give. I wish I had an answer for them.

Friday, January 20, 2012

When the Cosmos Aligns

This week the cosmos aligned and a dear friend's funeral and my birthday were a day apart--both events that normally cause me to pause and reflect on my life.

My friend was a wonderful, giving person who died much too soon. He had been able to retire younger than many people, and was able to fill his days with activities of his own choosing--usually helping people and volunteering at his church.

I don't have the luxury of retiring, but I can make different choices that will make life more enjoyable. I want to spend more time with my husband, kids and grandkids. I want to have lunch with just my mom and me at least once a week. I want to have friends over more often, and simplify my schedule to spend more time doing what I want to do.

Change won't happen overnight, but it has already started.

What changes do you want to make to increase your joy? The time to start is now.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

What's in a Name?

Being new to blogging, I had no idea how you're really supposed to name your blog, so I just picked something. I should have read the book first. Turns out there are rules. I broke them all. But at least I didn't go with my first idea which went down in flames.

I thought about naming my blog "Reflections of an Ordinary Housewife." My husband helpfully pointed out that I am not a housewife, and even if I was, I wouldn't be, because that job is obsolete. The best I could hope for would be "ordinary homemaker," and that doesn't have quite the same ring.

Which led to the question of "ordinary." How do you quantify ordinary? I see myself as the epitome of ordinary. I exaggerate all the time, but that's actually true, so imagine my surprise to discover you can't be the epitome of ordinary without disqualifying yourself from the honor. Seems some people think that means you are extra ordinary, which is not the same thing at all.

Then came the issue of reflection. Who knew that word came with so many job requirements? You have to have quiet moments in which to reflect. You need to be still. You need to have a shiny surface.

It's a lot easier to be a jamwich.


Dementia has its own code or language, and you have to learn to decipher it, or you are always in the dark about what's going on. Of course, I'd likely be clueless anyway because it's so difficult to learn.

This is a typical dementia-speak exchange that occurred at a Chinese restaurant.

Me: Mom, what would you like for dinner?

Mom: Nothing. I'm not hungry.

Me: Well, why don't you order a little something anyway, because maybe you'll be hungry when the food comes.

Mom: No, I'm not hungry.

The food arrives.

Me: Mom, would you like some of this?

Mom: No, I'm not hungry. I don't want anything.

Moments pass.

Mom: Why can't I have something to eat? We're at dinner.

Me: What would you like to ear?

Mom: Rice.

Me: Just rice?

Mom: Yes.

Me: That's boring. Why don't you at least order chow mein or something?

Mom: No. I know what I want. I want rice.

I order rice. The rice arrives. Mom takes a bite.

Mom to my husband: Would you like some rice?

Husband: Oh, no thanks, I have walnut shrimp.

Mom to me: Want some rice?

Me: No, thanks, I have beef chow fun.

Mom to my son, getting upset: Do you want my rice?

Me: Mom, don't you want your rice?

Mom: No, I want what you're eating. Why can't I have good food for dinner? Why will you only buy me rice?

Total fail. No communication occurred until it was almost too late, and I don't want Adult Protective Services to have to come translate for me.

Now I know that "My teeth hurt" means she wants to go to the dentist for a cleaning, "This is for the baby" means she wants to barter some item she got for my granddaughter for something else she wants, and "I want to go for a drive" means I am spending my day taking her shopping.

I wonder if someday my mastery of this new language will qualify me for service with the CIA.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Real Cost of Cancer, Part 1

I have two beautiful and talented friends whose lives are parallel. They are both smart, talented, and funny. They're both married to supportive husbands with whom they run a small business. Both have breast cancer.

Most of us fear the diagnosis and all that can go with it--surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, losing our hair, our dignity, maybe our life. Both of them have handled the medical aspects of cancer with humor and courage.

They lives intersect in the other cost of cancer: the human cost. Often too ill to work, their incomes have been slashed in half at a time when their expenses have risen dramatically to cover the costs of their treatment.

Both are in danger of losing their homes and their businesses.

I wish cancer was the only thing they have to worry about. Still, they carry on with grace and gratitude.

They are both busy planning for their future.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Important Things in Life

Today I have been thinking of all the people I love. I am very blessed to have so many friends and family members I love and who love me back.

Some of my relationships seem effortless. Some fill me with happiness and laughter. Some walk alongside to guide me through the hard times. Some require a lot of clarification to communicate clearly. Some need a lot of time and energy. A few are difficult and fill me with a sense of hope for the day when they will be easier.

I know I am all of these things to you, too. I require effort, I make mistakes, I don't say I love you often enough.

You are the music in my life, the light that leads to joy, the most precious thing of all.

You're imprinted on my heart.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Insurance Business as Usual

My mother lives in an assisted living facility, where she spends her days going on outings, hanging with her friends, and eating great food that she doesn't have to cook. She goes on all of our family outings and is so busy, you have to schedule her in advance if you want to see her.

She had employer sponsored medical insurance coverage for retirees, but the company decided it was cheaper to have retirees get coverage through MediCare so we had to find a new plan. It seemed simple enough. The change was set to take place January 1st and was supposed to be "seamless", but her previous prescription coverage cancelled her November 30. They said it was because someone changed the address and if we changed it back, she would be reinstated.

We changed the address. Coverage was not reinstated.

My power of attorney was cancelled with the policy.

Policy can't be reinstated without power of attorney.

Unless they talk to my mother.

She doesn't understand what happened, but my mom gamely tries to explain it to them. They ended up so confused, they don't document that she gave them permission to talk me.

So they need power of attorney.

But you need a policy to have power of attorney.

Shake and repeat. Indefinitely.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Random Thoughts on New Year's Day

Yesterday while visiting family, I attended an 80th birthday party for one of my in-laws' dearest friends. My father-in-law didn't really recognize his friend anymore and didn't seem to be sure where he was, even though the party was at the church he has attended for several years. While he was eating birthday cake, he forgot where he set his fork and started trying to eat his cake with his plastic knife.

My father-in-law is a well educated man who is slipping away, a victim of Alzheimer's disease. He can no longer follow a conversation or string together a sentence longer than a few words. He used to be the family dominoes champion, but can no longer understand the simplest game.

Alzheimer's is a long goodbye to the ones you love.