After six weeks, two runs of antibiotics (along with two other prescriptions), and innumerable over-the-counter remedies, I finally feel like myself.
My daily chores, including helping Mom, no longer feel like insurmountable tasks.
And despite a somewhat bumpy holiday season, Mom’s also making progress. Not quite her previous independent self, but moving in that direction.
Christmas was low-key and lovely, thanks in part to Darling Daughter being home with her boyfriend (BF), though I must admit a (small) part of the wonderfulness can be attributed to the fact that they willingly(?) took on dish duty.
And everyone (including DD, BF, and The Engineer) was assigned a part of Christmas meals. Mom was not assigned a part, although she gamely offered to help.
The assignments were as follows:
Dutch Babies (not the diaper-wearing kind, see here for a recipe), scrambled eggs and toast, along with fresh blueberries, real maple syrup and butter, and Mimosas [Buck’s Fizz to my anglo-centric readers]): All cooking done by me. All cleanup by DD and BF.
Dinner Turkey, bread sauce, stuffing, Yorkshire Pudding – Me
Brussels sprouts and gravy made from the Bisto his sister sent (because he always says I make it too thick) – The Engineer
Carrots (because DD and BF do not like sprouts) – BF (grown by our CSA and done up deliciously with butter and honey)
Mashed Potatoes – Darling Daughter
All cleanup — DD and BF
Post-celebration snack during traditional family Scrabble game Mixed cheese plate with crackers, honey, and home-made hot pepper jam (delicious, although I may have been the only one eating the jam) — Me
It was great.
Well, I thought it was.
I’m not sure what everyone else thought because by that point, I was falling back into Sinus Infection, stage 2.
I do know how Mom felt about it because at her appointment on the 26th, she basically told her orthopedic surgeon the holiday was “Meh.”
At the time, I nearly jumped out of my chair because I felt like I’d made such an effort, despite still feeling so crappy.
She’d shared a wonderful breakfast, lovely gifts, and a delicious dinner with her family. What more did she want?
When I asked myself that question, the answer came almost immediately. What Mom wants is to not be old, with a broken elbow, depending on everyone else for the smallest task.
Sadly, I can’t make that happen.
What I can do is help her while she needs it, and try to help her become as independent as possible, given her age and physical condition.
So, that’s what I’m doing.
Thankfully (as I said earlier) it no longer feels like an insurmountable task.
I’m failing at the “goodwill to men” part of Christmas.
In fact, I’m failing Christmas full stop, and can’t raise the energy to care.
Usually our cards go out the day after Thanksgiving. This year, I’ve sent exactly two.
Forget decking the halls. The decorations are still packed in their boxes.
The Engineer and I did get them out of the loft, and bought our living tree, temporarily stationed in the garage where it makes me absurdly happy to see it every time I pull in. This is some progress, I suppose.
But, this is the time of year I’m normally busy delivering plates of baked goods, and the oven has been stone-cold all month.
By now, maybe you’re wondering how a Christmas-loving elf becomes a Scrooge, a Grinch, a fill-the-stockings-with-coal holiday drop-out.
Well, my mom fell on November 1. She went out with her cane, rather than her walker, and did a face-plant at the Verizon store. It’s a struggle for me to not to assign blame, so I will only say after she broke her forearm (both bones) in March, I have refused to take her anywhere without her walker.
This is because I noticed her doing what I call a dipsy-doodle — losing her balance briefly and recovering with a little side-step. She’s too heavy for me to pick up if she falls, so when she goes with me, she takes the walker.
She wasn’t with me. Furthermore, she’s an adult, certainly capable of making her own decisions, even if that choice results in a bruised face and broken (the orthopedic surgeon called it “crumbled”) elbow.
Do you know what happens when you are eighty-eight, live alone, with arthritis in your left shoulder and atrial fibrillation, and you break your right elbow (after breaking the same arm seven months earlier)?
They send you home from the emergency room with a note to see the orthopedic surgeon the following week.
Chance would be a fine thing. The earliest appointment available was November 26 — twenty-six days after the fall — although ultimately, she got in earlier due to a cancellation.
The ER report also recommended following up with her GP, but they always say that. As far as I know, no one told my brother the GP was the one who might help us coordinate care for our mother.
Here are some of the things Mom could not do unassisted:
Feed herself anything that required cutting.
Use the bathroom.
Walk, even with a walker (it takes two hands to steer).
Put in her hearing aids.
Clean her false teeth.
Feed her cat.
Clean the cat box.
Sweep the kitchen or bathroom.
Pour a glass of water.
Yet, they sent her home. And for various reasons, after about a week, the bulk of her care ended up falling to me, which meant going over each morning to help her dress and get set up for the day, and going back in the evening to get her to bed.
In between, I was terrified she would fall again, until finally she suggested checking herself into a nursing home for a few weeks until we could sort out some help.
There, at least, they had nurses on duty, aides to help her shower and dress, and a doctor to keep an eye on her progress.
The downside was, she mostly sat in her room. And then she caught a cold, which turned into a respiratory infection.
Still, it gave me time to organize some non-medical help for her. To my surprise, the doctor at the nursing home also wrote orders for a nurse, a physical therapist, and an occupational therapist.
Meanwhile, on the day before I took Mom home (and several days before all the help kicked in), I got the flu, followed by a sinus infection and bronchitis.
The last time I felt that bad, I had pleurisy (which was way more painful, but a lot shorter lived). I could hardly raise the energy to get off the couch, but the thought of Mom sitting there waiting, unfed, unwashed, undressed, forced me to go. Because if I didn’t, I wasn’t sure who would.
I should mention that I have several friends, as well as a cousin, who expressed a willingness to help, but, well, you can’t exactly expect a friend to clean your mother’s false teeth, can you?
To complicate things, I couldn’t bring myself to go to the doctor, even when I knew I needed antibiotics, because the last few times I saw a doctor, I was charged not only for the doctor and prescription, but also a “facility fee.” The Engineer calls this a charge for “the pleasure of walking on their tiles,” and since it was over $200 to essentially pay their electricity bills, I just couldn’t do it. (See my previous blog on the subject.)
Finally, I remembered some drug stores have clinics with nurse-practitioners and/or physician assistants. I went to one of them for a total cost of $109, plus about $5 for the prescription.
I know this post sounds whiny. Be thankful I didn’t have the energy to write it earlier when I was really feeling peevish. (And can I just say here what a brilliant word that is? Peeeee-vish. Somehow it sounds exactly like what it’s saying.)
Things are finally getting better. Mom has a helper three mornings a week, which means I’m only “on duty” for the remaining four, and she can get herself to bed. After she sent the aide home early one day, I’ve also signed off laundry as a task for the aides, instead of dragging it to my house and back.
This has freed me to do things like buy Mom a lift chair and one with arms for her kitchen table (to better enable her to get up on her own), take her to the doctor, buy groceries, and all the rest. Thankfully, I’m feeling well enough now so these no longer seem like insurmountable jobs.
I even got out for a walk today (walking, Yoga, and Pound class having been distant dreams for the last six weeks).
The “walkers” have been trimming the trees of our beautiful park as they do every year. The sight always makes me smile, and I’m sharing these pictures in the hope they’ll do the same for you.
Also, if you feel the need to hear the song that’s been rolling around in my head for the last week and a half, visit here to see a Youtube video of “We Need a Little Christmas” as sung by Johnny Mathis.
Eventually, I expect to feel energetic enough to put up a few decorations, wrap presents, and bake. It may not be Christmas as usual, but it will have to do. As John Lennon supposedly said, “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” (I just looked it up, and Lennon may not have been the first to say this.)
To sum up the Christmas part of this post, I encourage you to read some of the “Christmas Notes” on my original “Reading, Writing, Ranting, and Raving” blog. Just search “Christmas,” and see what you get. If this is too much work, go here to see the best Christmas carol ever, performed by Bing Crosby and David Bowie. I realize this is only an opinion, but I am a Christmas song aficionado, so feel my thoughts on the subject should bear some weight.
As always, I am grateful for your readership, and I promise not to make a habit of writing posts when I’m feeling cranky.
Wishing you a very merry Christmas.
Bee update: We winterized the hives a few days after Thanksgiving. First we pushed them together as close as we could, fit foam insulation between to keep in the warmth, and wrapped them together. We also put in shims, fit sugar patties in the open space, and put more foam insulation under the outer cover. The Engineer built a little shelter for them, which I’ve mentally dubbed “La Hacienda de la Apis Mellifera,” which if I’m translating correctly means “The House of the Honey Bee.”
On sunny days like today, a few crazy girls come out for little flights, even when it’s only in the thirties. Inevitably, a few end up in the snow. One of the (many) reasons I love my husband is because he always goes out, scoops them up, brings them inside to warm up, and then returns the survivors to the hive.