Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/25/17: Mom's Morning, Mom's Tough Afternoon, Dinner Outside and an Emergency

1. I had planned on getting a couple more chores done around Mom's house and cleaning myself up a little better when a text message came in from Christy at about 11:00 telling me that Mom was sitting up in bed and alert, so I dropped everything and went over to Kindred.

Not having seen Mom for ten days, but having read my sisters' updates, Mom was pretty much in the shape I expected. Conversation with Mom didn't have a lot of continuity and she was preoccupied with things like "where's my purse?", "is the bedroom cleaned up?", "how is the bathroom looking?", and with people in her past.

Mom is living in something like eternal time where the divisions of past, present, and future no longer exist. In fact, for Mom, at least today, some of the dead are alive.

For the first time, Mom asked about her mother and she wondered (I think) what time her mother was getting out of the movies and wondered where she was. Christy told Mom that her mother was at home and Mom's face relaxed, "That's a good place for her."

Later, Mom talked about Jack and Jodi Robinson as if Jack were still alive. When I told her a little bit about going to Eugene, she wondered if the Deke and I stayed with Jack and Jodi -- who, by the way, never lived in Eugene. Later, she wondered where Jack was working now -- Jack died several years ago -- and I said I thought he was working in the mine, but that today he had the day off.  Mom thought that sounded about right.

A little later, having been helped into her wheelchair, Mom wanted her purse and then she wanted some cream for her face. While she applied the cream, very precisely and carefully, I found Mom's make-up bag and she lit up. She carefully inspected it and got out some lipstick and put it on, again, very precisely, without the help of a mirror.

Mom showed a little more interest in lunch than I thought she would. She didn't eat a lot, but she didn't turn the food away either and seemed to enjoy the meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green peas, and apple crisp she did eat. The apple crisp reminded the Deke of a day a year ago when she and Mom teamed up to bake a raspberry crisp. ("Wow!" I thought. "That's right. Just a short year ago, yes, Mom was confined to her walker, but she was doing some things and was mobile. It can all go downhill so fast.") Mom agreed with the Deke that there was no way Kindred's apple crisp would be as good.

2. The first sign that Mom might have a tough afternoon, after having a pretty good morning, was when she wanted to be moved back onto her bed from her wheelchair. The transfer scared her and even in the expert grip of the aide, she dropped herself on the bed before the aide was ready, nearly pulling the aide on top of her. No harm was done, but my sisters had told me that Mom has become more and more frightened about being transferred and about being helped onto the toilet, and I saw what they meant.

Before I went to Eugene, if Mom lay down on her bed, most times she would fall into a deep sleep and I could slip out, return to her house, and come back over periodically to make sure she was doing all right.

Today, though, when she lay down, her eyes were wide open and she looked afraid. Right away I surmised that this would not be a peaceful afternoon for Mom.

I was right.

All afternoon, Mom's upper body and legs would twitch or shudder as she seemed to be falling asleep, snapping her awake. Sometimes these tremors bordered on thrashing and I worried that she might fall off the bed, even though the bed has protective means to help her stay in it.

Mom often moved her mouth as if talking, but spoke no words. At other times, she called out questions, often alarmed. For example, she cried to me, "What's that white thing?" I didn't know what she meant at first and she pointed upward. I reassured her, "It's all right, Mom. That's the light above your bed." Mom mimed different things, like eating, and she also was seeing things in front of her that I didn't see, snatching at them, sometimes grabbing them and moving them or asking me to take on of these imaginary things from her.  

Mom often seemed to fall asleep and then the twitching resumed and Mom asked me questions about the boys in the next room or if she could sleep in the other room or what was on the wall by her bed. At one point, Mom's body relaxed, a smile crossed her face, and she said, "This is a pretty nice house." I agreed with her, "Yes. This is a very nice house." She replied, "It sure is. It's a pretty nice house."

I sat with Mom for the afternoon. Sometimes she liked me to hold her hand or to caress her arm; other times, she indicated otherwise and I pulled back.

I didn't think Mom ever rested. I might be wrong, but that's how it seemed to me.

Mom had no interest in dinner. When one of the aides came to pick up her untouched tray around 6:15, I asked if she thought Mom's position on the bed was too close to the edge. She called out to a more experienced aide who decided that this would be a good time to put Mom in her pajamas, reposition her, and put her to bed for the night.

I thanked the aides and left Mom in their sure hands. Carol was going to be coming by soon to see Mom when she finished her work shift. This was a relief and a comfort to me.

3.  The Deke baked chicken thighs and small potatoes and made a tasty blend of summer squash and tomatoes and, after a cocktail or two on Christy and Everett's back deck, we enjoyed this splendid meal. Later in the evening, Christy came over to Mom's house to report that Everett's daughter is having a medical emergency in Spokane and that she and Everett would be going to see her on Wednesday.  The Deke and I gave Christy our full support, knowing she was not only upset that Everett's daughter is so ill, but knowing she felt torn about leaving and not being able to spend time with Mom. I immediately texted Carol about what was happening and she and Paul were able to volunteer more time than originally planned with Mom and so we have the day covered.




Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/24/17: Goodbye to Eugene and Molly, Easy Drive, Christy and Everett's Back Yard

1. The Deke and I left the condo we rented for the last week and headed to Lindsey's to drop off her bag, find out more about her short stay in Eugene, and to say good-bye. We roared out of Eugene after a visit packed with seeing friends and visiting some of our favorite haunts. The Babes with Axes show was the peak experience and on the nine and a half hour drive to Kellogg, songs from Saturday night played over and over in my head.

If you go here and scroll down on T. R.'s Facebook page, you'll find pictures from the show and keep scrolling and you'll find a video recording of the second half of the show -- the recording documented the intermission -- you might want to skip that -- and I don't know what happened to the show's first half -- oh, well....

2. Our drive from Eugene to Kellogg was uneventful, smooth -- my favorite kind of drive.

3. Upon our return, we joined Christy and Everett in their back yard for drinks and dinner and got caught up on news about Mom. Mom has been having rough, distressed days, occasionally interrupted by periods of peace and clarity. I'll write more about Mom when I resume my own visits.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/23/17: Bagels, Oakshire with the Turners, A Quick Eugene Tour

1. The Deke and Molly and I were up until about 3 a.m. after the Babes with Axes show. I was dragging this morning, but a stroll down to Bagel Sphere to bring a couple of bagels back to the condo helped.

2. I drove the Deke out to Laura's and Babes with Axes split their earnings and talked about things. I didn't hang around because Terry and Nancy Turner were in town and, along with Katie and her two girls, we got together for about an hour and a half at the Oakshire pub.

3. I picked up the Deke back at Laura's and we drove out to the building where she used to teach and went by the new Roosevelt Middle School. We had some food at High Street and a made one more stop at Cornucopia and returned to our rental where we both immediately fell asleep.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/22/17: Show Preparations, Reunion with Jane Hansen, Elation at the WOW Hall

1. Coffee and bagel at Theo's. Dropped off the Deke at the spa. Took a nostalgic automobile tour of Eugene. Picked up the Deke and we went to the Falling Sky deli and split a glorious Beef Brisket Pastrami sandwich, Reubenized. A quick trip to Fred Meyer and back to the condo for a nap -- all this in preparation for tonight's Babes with Axes show.

2. I met Jane Hansen, whom I have known since our days at North Idaho College back in 1972-74, at her room down at the Inn at Fifth Street and we started to get caught up before strolling over to Pure for a bento box and a variety of fresh, tasty sushi. Jane and I had so much to talk about and continued our conversation as we walked to the WOW Hall to experience tonight's Babes with Axes show.

3. The Babes of Axes show enthralled the joyful crowd at the WOW Hall. I was in a state of ecstasy throughout the show, not only savoring the Babes with Axes' splendid writing, stunning versatility, tight and gorgeous harmonies, and invigorating musicianship, but also letting their songs transport me to memories of performances I loved in the past, beginning with having been at their first concert in late 1993, nearly four years before the Deke and I started spending time together and married each other. I remembered being many times at the WOW Hall -- they performed an especially memorable show about a month into my recovery from bacterial meningitis in 1999. I remembered the April 15th, 1998 Babes with Taxes show at Sam Bond's; I time traveled to the Wild Duck, the Willamette Folk Festival, a park in NW Portland, Petersen Barn, Westmoreland Park, the Rainy Day Cafe, the Corvallis Folk Festival and elsewhere.

Over the years, their songs have taken residence somewhere deep inside me. They hibernate. On nights like tonight those songs and the feelings and memories associated with them awaken.  I move into a realm of joy where I feel everything more deeply, a realm unique to hearing the Babes with Axes perform.

The experience I had at this show within myself was deepened by experiencing the collective joy in the WOW Hall.  It's nearly spiritual the way the Babes with Axes bring so much happiness to a room -- as the hall emptied, not only were people beaming, they were embracing one another, gathering in knots of excitement, relishing tonight's show.

Jane Hansen and I walked back to Fifth Street together and had a quiet drink at Le Bar.

I strolled though the swell of revelers partying on Broadway in downtown Eugene. They were throbbing with ecstasy and desire in a world of booze and drugs and loud music in a sphere quite apart from the vitality I was experiencing having spent time with Jane and having spent the evening elated by tonight's Babes with Axes show.

And, then, back at the condo, Molly had arrived and Patrick was there. Thanks to a flight cancellation earlier in the day, Molly missed the show, a huge disappointment, but her dismay seemed offset by being back in Eugene with her brother and parents, anticipating a few days of vacation hanging out and seeing some great friends back in her hometown.


Saturday, July 22, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/21/17: Shopping for the Show, Listen to the Babes with Axes (LINKS!), Winding Down

Babes with Axes KRVM interview: here 

Babes with Axes July 22nd show live-streaming, starting at 7:50 for the 8:00 show: here

1. I ran errands this morning for the Babes with Axes. Since what I purchased is all pretty much a part of the Babes with Axes' longstanding commitment to having a contest and giving out prizes, I won't reveal any details of what I was shopping for.

2. When I was done shopping, I stopped in at Falling Sky's brewery and eatery just off E. 13th Avenue in the Oak Alley and enjoyed a salad and a bowl of cream of mushroom soup and a pint of their Another IPA.

I walked back to the condo we are renting this week to rest and at 4:30, I tuned into KRVM-FM for the radio interview with the Babes with Axes. Tears flowed as I listened to them perform on the radio as I was transported back to the Deke's and my early days together and how central the Deke's music, the Babes with Axes' music, and their many performances were to life back then.

If you'd like to listen to the interview and hear "Blackberry Vine", "Shades of Gray", and "Steal My Key", click here and click on the play icon.


On Saturday, July 22nd, at 8:00 p.m., if you are unable to be at WOW Hall for the Babes with Axes show, the plan is to live-stream it. That means you can go here at watch and listen.  Here is what TR Kelley says on her Facebook page:

 "The Babes with Axes WOW Hall show will be live-streamed on TR Kelley's page starting at 7:50 Pacific Time. It will be set to public, do not have to friend TR to see the show."

3.  The Deke and I returned to Cornucopia after some time in Laura's back yard winding down with the band. We grabbed a table outside out back and enjoyed the refreshing cool air and I enjoyed talking with the Deke and sipping some Whippersnapper whiskey.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/20/17: Linda at Turtles, Surprises at 16 Tons, Bliss at Billy Mac's and Cornucopia

1. We could have sat at Turtles and talked with each other all day. Linda and I had a great time discussing our families, golfing, life at LCC, and the past year and the year that lies ahead for all the Oregon Ducks squads we care about.  Well, we didn't talk all day. We got in a good ninety minutes, though, and it was really fun.

2. Later, I headed over to 16 Tons, wondering if the guys I used to drink beers with at 3:00 on Thursday were getting together today. They weren't. I drank a couple 4 oz. pours of Worthy Brewing's Imperial IPA and pondered a little bit on the meaning of life and, as I got ready to settle my bill, Jay and Sherri were at the counter.  I ordered another 4 ouncer and returned to my table with Jay and Sherri and we had a good time talking until I left to go to Billy Mac's.

3. Billy Mac's was awesome: Kathleen, Lynn, Pam, Michael, the Deke, and I sat at a table together and enjoyed superb conversation about everything from family challenges to life in Washington, D. C. and many things in between. I loved ordering the Thursday night special, ahi tacos with five buck margaritas.  I didn't want the evening to end. We'll see Lynn and Pam and Michael again on Saturday at the Babes with Axes show -- Kathleen will be flying to England and Ireland. I swear, if I had a ton of money stacked up in my life, I'd fly from Baltimore to Eugene a couple times a month just to return to being a part of the Billy Mac's Thursday evening get together. I love it. I miss it.

The Deke and I also miss our third spot where we put everything on the table and worked to figure out our lives back in 2013-14: Cornucopia on 17th and Lincoln. It was the Deke's go to spot for some afternoon solitude and grading papers. It was her go to spot for getting together for a glass of wine and some gabbing with her teaching partner -- and other fellow teachers. It was where the Deke and I often went to talk.

So, after Billy Mac's, we dropped in and Debbie ordered her usual, a glass of boxed red wine, and I ordered some Whippersnapper whiskey and we not only enjoyed our time with each other, but we got to have some great conversation with Star Kelley who has worked at Cornucopia for many years and whom we have known since she was a youngster and used to hang out at our house. We had a superb visit, talking a lot about dogs we've cared for recently who were not our own. We also were heartily greeted by the floor manager, Cam, who was always great to us at Cornucopia and was enthused to see us back again.

It was a splendid party.

Sidebar: my cup was really running over this evening. Kellogg High School Class of '72 member and my friend since boyhood, Terry Turner, was in town. He was down in the Whiteaker neighborhood, sampling cider and distilled beverages at a couple of places, but, by the time I was done at Billy Mac's and Cornucopia, Terry was back to his daughter's home, helping his grandchildren get ready for bed and fulfilling other grandfatherly duties.

It was good to know he was around, though, and that with a little good luck we might have thrown back a flight of whiskey or something together -- but it wasn't in the cards, most understandably.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/19/17: Lunch with Dan, Lane County Fair, Belgian Beers

1. After the Deke did some shopping at Old Navy and the two of us picked up a few things at Trader Joe's, and after I dropped the Deke off at Laura's for another day of practice, I met Dan Armstrong for lunch at Ta Ra Rin. We are both dealing with members of our family being seriously ill and discussed the heartache of loss we have experienced and the loss that inevitably lies ahead. We talked about other things, too, and closed out our time together with a great discussion of the movie, The Conversation. I had remembered correctly that this is one of Dan's favorite of all movies and it was great fun to gush together about how much we both love Gene Hackman's performance and the masterful making of the movie.

2. In the afternoon, Russell and I resumed our tradition of going on photo walks together by going to the Lane County Fair and walking around in the midway, watching the pig races, and checking out the photography exhibits.  I hadn't been to the Lane County Fair for about thirty years and it was fun to see people enjoying the rides and playing the different games and having a chance to talk about stuff with Russell.

3. The Troxstar and I strolled from downtown to the Bier Stein where we joined Carolyn, Rick, Shane, Loren, and, for a while, Bingham for a Belgian beatdown/blowout. It was great fun yakkin' with everyone and buying tall bottles of Belgian beer to share together and rave about how good it all tasted. It turned out to be a great evening for walking home, too.  The contrast between these cool evenings in Eugene and the humid evenings in Maryland is remarkable -- this July weather in Eugene is a comfort, a great relief.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/18/17: Breakfast with Rita, Coffee with Kathryn, Dinner at the Pendletons'

1.  This morning I roared in Mom's Malibu south on I-5 to Creswell where Rita and I each ate a hearty breakfast sandwich at the Creswell Bakery. We talked about all kinds of things and looked at passages from Aldous Huxley's Perennial Philosophy and returned to Rita's house and sat on the porch and talked some more. Rita and I first started team teaching together in 1993. It's remarkable to ponder that that was almost twenty-five years ago and looking at Huxley's book brought back memories of many of the ideas we explored while teaching ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics, along with composition, together, opening, yes, our students' minds to many different worlds of new ideas, but each of ours, too.

Coincidentally, when I got back to our Eugene rental later in the day, a former student of ours from 1993-94 posted, on Facebook, a request for material assistance as she hosts her granddaughter. I thought back to all the writing this student did for Rita and me and all she's experienced over the years and how fortunate her teenage granddaughter is to have such a generous advocate helping her out this summer.

2.  Upon returning to Eugene, I met Kathryn for coffee downtown at Full City and we talked about all kinds of things, including the challenges of helping care for an ailing mother, cooking, mutual friends involved with the Saturday breakfast at St. Mary's, writing, and a host of other topics.

3.  The Deke and I spent the evening at the Pendletons' with Herb and Francoise and Miles and Bryce. Miles and Bryce were both the Deke's students at Charlemagne -- in fact, Miles was in the first class the Deke taught at that school and now he has graduated from high school and is off to the University of Miami in Florida. Another of the Deke's students, Joey, was also at the Pendleton's and so was Martha, the Deke's first principal at Charlemagne. It was a lively evening of cocktails, great food, and many, many stories and lots of laughter.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/17/17: Mom Update, Sweet Creek, Bier Stein, 16 Tons with the Band

Before I write a bit about my day in Eugene, I have good news from back in Kellogg.  Today Mom was moved into a private room at Kindred. It will give her more space to live among things from her home, a quieter room to rest in, and more room for family and friends when we visit. This change came as a surprise to all of us, a most welcome surprise.

1. I had a wide open day today so I packed up my camera and drove to Sweet Creek Falls, one of my very favorite spots anywhere. It couldn't have been more perfect weather for a hike: warm, with frequent cool breezes and the trail at Sweet Creek is comfortably shaded. I will look at and edit my pictures when I get back to Kellogg, but I had the time of my life taking all black and white shots, primarily playing with all the light and shadow contrasts available every step of the way.

2. Upon returning to Eugene, I realized I'd hardly eaten a thing all day. I went to the Bier Stein and had a snifter of Block 15's Sticky Hands Imperial IPA and a half a Reuben sandwich -- which was just right. When I lived in Eugene, I loved going to the Bier Stein in the afternoons. It's much quieter than in the evening and there are always empty seats at the horseshoe bar and that's where I enjoy sitting. Today was perfect.  For dessert, I ordered 4 oz. of Epic's Big Bad Baptist, a whiskey barrel-aged Imperial Stout made with coffee and cocoa nibs. It was a perfect topper to a relaxing session at the horseshoe bar back at the Bier Stein.

3. The Deke practiced all day with the Babes with Axes and, as I was getting ready to leave the Bier Stein, a text message flew into my phone asking me to make a beer run for the band.

Gladly.

I stopped at the New Frontier Market and bought the band a sixer of 8 Ball Stout and one of Torpedo and delivered it to Laura's house where I found the band in good spirits and ready for a break.

Later on, I knew the Deke and Katie were going to go to 16 Tons eventually, so I started to walk there and as I was hoofing it down West Broadway, there, seated at a table on the sidewalk outside Ambrosia, was Barbara Breaden, a good friend I taught with at LCC for about twenty-five years. Barbara is also retired and she told me about the invigorating ways she has spent her retirement -- tutoring, taking Spanish classes, among other things. It was a thrilling surprise to see Barbara and to see her looking terrific and learning she is living such a good life.

It turned out the band was at 16 Tons and I joined them at their table, ate a couple of La Perla pieces of pizza, enjoyed a can of pilsner beer and couple 4 oz pours of sour ales from Logsdon and before long the Deke and I walked back to our rental, stopping off along the way at the quiet and airy Wandering Lamb for a Marker's Mark on the rocks.



Monday, July 17, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/16/17: Liturgy and Hammerhead Ale, Seeing Jane King, The Babes at High Street

1. After I took a stroll to the Starbucks on 7th near the Washington/Jefferson interchange and returned with coffee for the Deke, she and I walked toward St. Marys Episcopal Church. The Deke didn't join me for worship, but I was very happy to walk into the church and immediately see a host of people I've known for years and have some time to chat. Once situated in a pew, the Troxstar joined me. Some mornings I experience the liturgy and the Eucharist as an old, familiar duvet of comfort and lose myself in the folds of prayers, Scripture readings, the sermon, hymns, and the words of Eucharist.  Today was one of those mornings.

After the service, the Troxstar and I found the Deke at Vero Espresso House across the street and we moseyed over to the High Street Pub a couple of blocks away. For me, going to High Street was a return to the source, the place where I was introduced to locally microbrewed beers about twenty-one years ago. I ordered a Hammerhead, put it to my nose and let the memories rush in: suddenly I was seated inside the pub, drinking a Hammerhead, listening to the Who's album Live at Leeds,  at about 10:30 p.m., having hopped off the LTD bus after another Wednesday night of teaching Shakespeare at LCC; I was at Edgefield, marveling at the paintings, wandering the halls of the hotel, and, later, sitting on a comfortable chair on one of the huge porches, sipping a Hammerhead; I was in NW Portland, at the Blue Moon, on Father's Day, 2011, watching Rory McIlroy win the U. S. Open at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, near where I live now; I was in Rita's living room, drinking Hammerhead from a bottle; I was at the High Street bar, relaxing with a Hammerhead and a side of fries after a Friday night run through of another Shakespeare Showcase.

I had a good life in Eugene and in Oregon and so much of what I enjoyed was connected to St. Mary's Episcopal Church and McMenamins Hammerhead Pale Ale.

2. Another dimension of my good life in Eugene was regular coffee meet-ups. Today, seated at a table on the sidewalk outside Perugino's, Margaret, Michael, Nate, and I enjoyed about two hours of conversation, talking about books, family, Paul Simon, and a host of other topics and interests.

While we were yakkin' away, to our great surprise who should stroll up to our table?

Jane King!

Margaret and I have known Jane for at least twenty-five years, dating back to when Jane, as a retired school teacher with a great interest in LCC, took courses from us and was deeply interested in the projects around learning communities at the college.

Today, Jane was strolling back to her residence after a trip to Down to Earth and it was both thrilling and touching to see her again and have some time to talk with her and see how well she is doing. I think I last saw Jane over scones in her apartment on December 9, 2014 when we talked about aging parents in relation to their children, a discussion that poignant at the time and lives in me all the more powerfully today.

3. Michael dropped me off back at the High Street Pub where the Deke and her band members were meeting to map out a practice schedule to prepare for their show this coming Saturday, enjoy some drinks, and eat dinner together. Patrick was there and so was Katie's daughter, Sam. Our table filled the shaded area behind the pub with laughter, stories, ideas, planning, and fun. I mostly listened and enjoyed a flight of McMenamins whiskeys and a snifter of the Unicorn Dreams Double IPA which I'd never drunk before, and a tuna salad sandwich. Not long before we left, Patrick took a picture of the Babes with Axes. If you are unfamiliar with the band, starting on the left and moving upward, you'll see T. R., Laura, Katie, and, on the right, is the Deke.



Sunday, July 16, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/15/17: The Drive to Eugene, 16 Tons, Billy Mac's and Plants

1. I am happy to report that my drive from Kellogg to Eugene was both easy and enjoyable. If not for a longish wait for a croissant at Starbucks in Ritzville where the barista forgot I ordered it and a couple of slowdowns on I 205 and I 5,  I would have made the trip in nine hours. As it turned out, I arrived in Eugene almost simultaneously with the Deke and Patrick -- the Deke called me from the corner of Broadway and High and I answered the phone while at a stoplight one block back.

2. We met at 16 Tons, an almost spiritual experience for the Deke and me. This was one of three places in Eugene during the days in 2013-14 when everything was on the table and we worked out our decision to sell the house and move, eventually, to Maryland.  It was always our favorite beer place and today was no different.  I knew I was back on the West Coast drinking an Oregon IPA as I worked my way through a pint of Ft. George 3-Way IPA, a stunningly flavorful, intensely hoppy, hazy glass of bliss. I also had a couple of 4 oz pours of Logsdon's Kriek Vier Sour, a bourbon aged sour balanced by just the right sweetness of cherries.  More bliss.

Temporary heaven? Reunion with the Deke. Reunion with Patrick. Drinking fine beer at 16 Tons and eating pizza from La Perla Pizzeria across the street.

3. We decided we wanted to go one more place before getting settled into the condo.

Billy Mac's. The refurbished Billy Mac's as it turns out. It was the Deke's and my second place to go to spread everything about our lives on the table and make decisions.

We learned from our Billy Mac's friend and server, Amber, that Cathy no longer works the floor, but we hope she might pop in and visit us when we meet with our Billy Mac's friends on Thursday.

Patrick, the Deke, and I shared a plate of pan-seared ahi with wontons and each had a drink and the Deke and I continued to revel in our return to another familiar place in this city where we lived so many years.

When it was time to go to the condo, I took the long way to 10th and Lincoln and drove by the house we once owned. Back in 2011, the Deke and I had a new yard and gardens put in and I wanted to see how it had all matured.

I also put in some roses along the side of the garage by the alley and I wondered if they had thrived.

Everything has thrived -- well, everything the people who bought the house kept in the ground -- which was almost everything.

I enjoyed seeing all those plants doing so well and will return to gawk at the plants some more.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/14/17: Mom's Late Morning, Hospice Nurse Visit, Going to a Concert

1. When I visited Mom at 10 this morning, she was asleep and in her pajamas. I grabbed her laundry bag and headed back over to her house and washed her clothes and got some chores done in the basement until the wash cycle ended. After I put the clothes in the drier, I headed back to see Mom. She'd had two visitors while I was gone, but I don't know if she remembered them,a and Susan and Joe Kerns came in just as I arrived. While the Kerns visited with Mom, I checked back on the laundry, but it wasn't dry, so I went back to be with Mom and to visit with her and Susan and Joe.

2. At 12:30, a nurse from Hospice North Idaho came to Mom's room. So did Christy. The nurse explained all that is included in the hospice services and Mom signed off on all of it, with Christy's and my approval.

Having Hospice North Idaho involved means Mom will have added caretakers and ones who are more focused on palliative care.

I've been struggling within myself about the fact that I am leaving Kellogg for Eugene on Saturday, July 15th so I can spend time with the Deke, whom I've been apart from for a month now.  The band she's a member of, Babes with Axes, is performing at the WOW Hall on Saturday the 22nd and she will be in Eugene so the band can practice and prepare for their show.

My sisters have been most supportive and encouraging about me leaving. I deeply appreciate that. All the same, it's difficult to leave them and my mother. I know that Christy and Carol and Carol's family will spend generous amounts of time with Mom, but, still, it makes a big difference to have all of us helping Mom out together.

Well, this is all to say that I am torn. I want to help out with Mom's care. I want to be with the Deke. Except for the days the Deke will be in Kellogg when our Eugene visit ends, I can't be with both at the same time.  I'm very happy that I'll get to spend time with the Deke, see friends in Eugene, and go to the Babes with Axes show, but in some ways I don't really want to leave.

I'm torn.

3.  I went back to see Mom around 5:00, in part to return her laundry, and she was in an upbeat, feisty mood, with a greater sense of humor than I've experienced from her since I arrived a month ago. She told Paul, Zoe, and me that she was ready to go to a concert. I told her there wasn't a concert. A little later, she said yes to my idea of going out to the back garden. We enjoyed the flowers and the fresh air and the light breeze.

When we came back into the Kindred facility, lo and behold, there was a concert getting underway. A trio was playing western songs, old pop music, and some folk tunes and I wheeled Mom into the dining area and we listened to the trio play for nearly an hour. Mom enjoyed it a lot.

I returned Mom to her room and told her once again I was leaving in the morning for Eugene and started to say good-bye. She was miffed. She got her back up and wondered why I hadn't told her I was leaving. I explained my plans once again, told her that my leaving must have slipped her mind, but she was stiff and not very receptive when I hugged her good-bye, kissed her forehead, and told her I loved her.

She was happy, though, that I'd be returning with the Deke -- or, as she put it, "That's the big news."

Friday, July 14, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/13/17: Mom's Appointment and Hospice, Back at Kindred, Mom's Playful Sleep

1.  Carol returned home from her trip to Italy Wednesday night and Thursday morning she sprung up, bright and early, to visit Mom. Mom immediately recognized her and they had some good conversation and worked on getting Mom ready for her appointment at the uptown clinic with Dr. McDonald. I met Mom just as she was being wheeled by Misty, the vibrant CNA who schedules and transports Kindred residents in one of the company's vans.

The exam room didn't have space for all of us to be with Mom, so, since Christy and I have been with Mom over the last three+ weeks, we accompanied Mom.

Dr. McDonald last saw Mom on June 15th, a month ago. She seemed taken aback my Mom's decline since then. In the doctor's office, Mom fell asleep waiting for the doctor and was in a confused state when Dr. McDonald asked her some simple questions. Dr. McDonald turned her attention to Christy to see what her concerns about Mom were and addressed the question of how much Mom is sleeping.  Dr. McDonald identified increased sleep as a symptom of Mom's life nearing its end and that we should think of Mom's sleeping less in terms of how much sleep does she need, but how much does she want, understanding it as a source of comfort and happiness for Mom.

This question opened to way for Dr. McDonald to level with all of us that Mom's condition continues to deteriorate and that our main focus should be on doing what makes Mom happy and comfortable. She recommended that Mom be evaluated soon by a hospice nurse. This means that most of our attention will be not on treating Mom but comforting her, helping make her remaining days as agreeable as possible. I should add that the doctor did not say Mom has only so many days or weeks or months to live, only that Mom is showing end-of-life signs and symptoms -- the increased sleep, loss of appetite and diminishing power of taste, cold hands and feet, and confusion, among other things.

Mom seemed to understand what it meant to involve hospice and agreed to hospice care without hesitation. Mom has always had high regard for hospice care, particularly when Dad died. She talked about her memories of Betty Mercado being Dad's hospice nurse. Mom and I both have very pleasant memories of Betty's care for Dad and of our conversations with Betty as Dad's life was coming to an end.

2. We returned to Kindred and, within ten minutes, an aide came to offer Mom a shower. I'm glad I was there because Mom thought she had just had a shower and didn't see why she would have another one. In time, though, Mom came to believe that her last shower was on Monday and agreed to have another one today. When the aide -- another woman named Misty -- came to wheel Mom away, she asked Mom how her doctor's appointment went and Mom didn't know she'd had one.

Mom came back from the shower refreshed and soon her beef pot pie for lunch arrived. Mom and I reminisced a bit about how Stein's used to sell Banquet frozen pot pies for some ridiculously low price like twelve for a dollar. That can't be right, but it's how we both remembered it.

Conversation with Mom invited me into her world, a world of imagined dinner parties and papers on the television and questions about people I didn't know, nor did I know if they exist outside of Mom's personal reality.  I accepted the invitation, doing my best to answer questions I could answer ("Who drove my car last? Is the car in the garage?") and ones I couldn't ("Why did Terry's wife leave the party early?").

Around 1:00, Christy and Carol arrived at Mom's room and I slipped away and, before too long, Christy, Carol, and I met at Best Shots so we could review Mom's appointment and talk about what's next.

3. After lunch, I took a nap. I returned to Mom's room shortly before 5:00 and Mom was asleep and slept the entire time I was with her, until about 6:30. When one of the aides came in with her dinner, Mom woke up briefly and looked at me, puffed out her cheeks, and pretended to put her arms and hands around her own pretend Santa Claus belly -- she didn't say anything, but the message was clear: "they're trying to make me fat!" and she kind of laughed.  I'd never seen Mom make this gesture before and it made me laugh, too.

Later, the aide returned and said, "Miss Mary, darlin', do you want your dinner?" Mom put her index finger in front of her lips and said, "Shhhhh", as if out of concern for her roommates who might be sleeping. This particular sleep that Mom was in was kind of playful sometimes. It also involved little hallucinations, including one moment when she called out, "Mikey! Stop that! Stop that, Mikey!" I listened and tried to think of a Mikey in Mom's life, but couldn't.

When I left Mom around 6:30 to join Christy and Everett for dinner, Mom was sleeping peacefully and didn't stir when I told her I was leaving and that I'd be back tomorrow.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/12/17: Mom Puts on Make-Up, Corby's, Class of '70 at Midtown Pub

1. I walked into Mom's room around 10:00 and she was fast asleep and in her pajamas. I sat with her. I wanted her to have someone to talk to when she woke up and as she started to sort out the day and time and what lay ahead for the day. At about 11:30, she sat up and insisted she could dress herself. I didn't think this was true and I pushed the button for help and an aide came in and, having ticked Mom off because I buzzed for help, I thought it best for the aide and Mom to work things out.

They did.

Shortly before lunch, I returned to Mom's room and she was dressed and in her wheelchair. When an aide brought her lunch, Mom told the aide she didn't want it, to take it away. Mom was a little feisty after her long sleep. Then, out of the blue, Mom asked me to get out her Nivea cream and make-up bag and told me, "I want to go to the bathroom and put on my make-up." I wheeled her over to the the sink outside the bathroom and Mom put cream on her face and then make-up.

I kept thinking how good it would be if Mom had things like this to do more often. Putting on the make-up kept Mom focused. She seemed to enjoy it and it was something she could do without much help.  Christy arrived soon after Mom finished, about 1:40. I had plans to go to Coeur d'Alene and told Mom good-bye.

2. I arrived at Byrdman's and we sat on his front porch and yakked and each enjoyed a German beer. We sprang off the porch and headed out to Post Falls to Corby's, a bar owned and run by Dave Corbeil, who graduated from Kellogg High School in 1967 and was a well-known athlete -- and had helped coach the Babe Ruth All-Star team I was on in the summer of 1969.  Byrdman and I had a beer with Corby and shot the breeze, some about the good old days and some about the good old present. I was a solid time and we shall return.

3. Byrdman and I decided next to stop in at the newly opened Midtown Pub in Coeur d'Alene. We didn't know that members of the Coeur d'Alene High School class of 1970 were having a get together and we were thrilled by the news. Byrdman was especially excited, being a 1970 grad of Kellogg, because he'd played a lot of ball over the years with and against a lot of Cd'A guys.

Well, sure enough, we saw some people Byrdman knew well and I had some connection to. We talked with Tim Shepperd. Tim Turrell came by. Soon Jack Morris strolled in and we yakked with him. It was great talking about playing baseball and basketball back in high school and getting caught up on what these guys and other people we knew were up to.  Byrdman and I were not expecting such a blast from the past when we walked into the Midtown Pub.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/11/17: My Day with Mom, Finished *The Conversation*, Watching *No No*

1.  Today I sat with Mom just before her lunch arrived, during lunch, checked in on her periodically throughout the afternoon while she slept, rejoined her about an hour and half before dinner and during dinner, and returned a little after 8:00 p.m. to make sure she was down for the night.

When Mom was awake today, she was at once remarkably lucid and disarmingly disoriented. At one point, she told me with absolute clarity what she had to do to be able to return home again -- dress herself and get herself into and out of the bathroom -- and in the next she was telling me how she drove Christy somewhere and wondered if I would pick her up. Sometimes, when Mom tells a childhood story, say, about when her mother made her take magnesium pills out at the ranch for her dental health, I see the mother I've known all my life appear before me; but, then, in the same story, she will cast me as her brother, telling me we took these pills when I was in the sixth grade and she was in the fourth, and I see the mother I have come to know in the last few weeks who has any number of things mixed up.

Today, as has been true since her day of prolonged agitation last Wednesday, Mom's times of sitting in her wheelchair or sitting up in bed didn't last more than sixty or ninety minutes and she was ready to lie back down and go to sleep. In fact, she began asking me to be put in her pajamas around 4:30 this afternoon. We negotiated a compromise to wait until after she had eaten her dinner and so by 6:00 or so, Mom was in bed. I kissed her goodnight and told her I'd come back over after dinner to check on her and, when I did, she was sleeping serenely.

2. I finished watching The Conversation this afternoon. I've seen this movie multiple times, more than ten for sure, maybe even twenty times. Once again, the psychological study of Gene Hackman's character, Harry Caul, chilled me, unnerved me. Having seen the movie so many times, I know exactly what's coming, but the repeated viewings deepen my response, not dull it.

3. After a very delicious chicken dinner on Christy and Everett's back deck and after my quick check on Mom, I returned to Mom's house and watched No No: A Dockumentary. It tells the story of the stormy baseball career of Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis who famously pitched a no-hitter in 1970 while tripping on acid. The sensational LSD story might be the hook to get a viewer interested in this movie, but the core of Dock Ellis' story is much deeper, often unsettling, always fascinating. I had seen this movie in D.C. three years ago and very much enjoyed returning to it on Netflix.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/10/17: Mom's Morning, Mom's Sleepy Afternoon and Evening, *The Conversation*

1. When I arrived at Mom's room, around 9:40, she was asleep. She had on her pajama tops and her day clothes pants. An aide explained to me that Mom had refused her shower. I wondered if she'd get another chance and the answer was "yes" in about ten minutes. Sure enough, an energetic aide convinced Mom she'd enjoy a warm shower and whisked her away and Mom returned freshened up and fully dressed.

Mom and I talked for close to an hour. She wanted the eye appointment I had canceled rescheduled.  I texted this news to Christy who made her a new appointment in September. Mom also wanted to brush her teeth, so we went over to the sink and got out Mom's denture cleaner and adhesive and with great focus and purpose, Mom got the job done.

I asked Mom if she'd like to go on a Sunday walk on Monday and she said, "No. But I'd like to take a Sunday snooze." We had a little laugh and before long, around 11:15 or so, an aide put her back on her bed. Mom fell asleep. She slept through lunch. She slept through a stop-in, an intended visit, from Lois Dahlberg. Later, she would sleep though a similar stop-in from Maxine Milot.

2.  I left Kindred shortly after 2:00 and I went to Yoke's for groceries and returned home and did prep work for the fajitas I was going to make for dinner when Christy got off work at 7:00. I returned to Mom's room around 4:45. She was asleep. Suddenly she lurched forward a bit and with as strong a voice as I've heard her employ in weeks, she almost bellowed, "Good morning!" I cheerfully returned her greeting. Mom started to wake up and around 5:30 an aide delivered her dinner. Mom picked at it, ate a little bit of this and that, and mostly wanted to go back to sleep.  Around 6:15, I told Mom I needed to go cook dinner and I'd be back after we ate. I returned about 8:00. Mom was asleep and responded with a big smile and the okay sign with her right hand when I kissed her on the forehead, wished her good night, told her I'd be back tomorrow and that I loved her.

3. This evening I was suddenly in the mood to watch some great acting take place within a tight story accompanied by a simple and haunting piano soundtrack. I'm sure other movies might fit this bill, but for me it meant watching Gene Hackman, Teri Garr, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, Cindy Williams, Frederic Forrest, Elizabeth MacRae, Harrison Ford, Robert Duvall, and others in one of my favorite of all movies, Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation. In particular, this evening, I marveled at the movie's first ten minutes, not only for how artfully it establishes the movie's investigation of audio surveillance, but also for the snapshot it gives us of Union Square in San Francisco in the early 1970s: the upbeat sound of the steel drum and saxophone, the mime, the drunk passed out on the bench. As the couple having the conversation walk, as Mark says, "in circles" around the square, Union Square seems free and easy, but its cavalier surface is in contrast to the drunk's destitution, Ann and Mark's shallow response to the drunk, the fact that the whole scene is being spied on, and the chilling reality of what we later learn is the content of Ann and Mark's conversation.


Monday, July 10, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/08/17: Liturgy at Kindred, Mom Administers an Oath, Cleaning House with Warren Zevon

1. I walked into Kindred this morning and the first thing I heard was a group of residents speaking the words of an Episcopalian liturgy being led by MaryKay Lyons Hanson. My knees nearly buckled. I'd been hungry for liturgy. I haven't worshiped in an Episcopal Church for several weeks and hearing MaryKay and the residents worship together touched me with a moment of grace and comfort.  I delivered Mom's laundry and some other items to her room. I knew it would make Mom happy if I told her I was returning to her house to sweep, mop, vacuum. "How about the dishes?" she asked. "Yes! The dishes, too." On my way out of Kindred, MaryKay and the residents were reading what sounded like a Psalm in unison and the grace and comfort I felt walking in touched me as I left.

2. Mom had a full slate of visitors today. Christy spent between four and five hours with Mom and was there when Teresa Hill Baillie came by and when Susan and Joe Kerns visited.  In the middle of the afternoon, Paul and Zoe visited Mom for a couple of hours and I came to Mom's room around five, wanting to be with her for dinner. From what Christy, Paul, and Zoe told me, it was a good day for Mom. She was conversational. She enjoyed her visitors. When I was with her, Mom was tired, subdued, concerned about a green chair she thought was missing and a suitcase she thought should be in her room. Mom never eats a lot and, true to form, she only ate a small portion of her dinner. About 6:30, I told Mom I needed to leave to eat dinner with Christy and Everett.

"You promise you'll come back?"

"I promise."

I raised my right hand, as if to take an oath.

Mom said, "Repeat after me."

Mom said, as if she were a county judge: "I, William R. Woolum, do solemnly swear" and then she couldn't think what the pledge should be, so she said, "Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah."

I repeated it all, blahs blahs and all.

As promised, I returned an hour later.

Mom was fast asleep.

I returned to Christy and Everett's deck.

3. Back at Mom's house during the day, I did what I told Mom I was going to do -- and a little more. I did the laundry I mentioned earlier, watered the indoor plants, swept and mopped the kitchen floor, put dishes away, loaded the dishwasher, vacuumed the living room, folded my clothes, and generally spiffed up Mom's house.

I made these tasks all the more enjoyable by listening to Warren Zevon's electrifying live album, Stand in the Fire, recorded in August 1980 at the Roxy Theater in West Hollywood.

I also refashioned the pasta dish I had made Friday into a pasta salad, adding pasta shells to it and increasing the amount of tomatoes, fresh lemon juice, and Kalamata olives and brine. I also toasted two slices of Killer Dave's Blues Bread, chopped the toast into small pieces, added Italian seasoning, and fried the pieces in olive oil in an attempt to add some crunch to the pasta. The bread crumbs tasted good, but weren't that crunchy. No problem.

Christy used chicken left over from several nights ago and made a fresh lettuce salad that also featured radishes out of Mom's garden, so we had a cool and refreshing double salad dinner.


Sunday, July 9, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/08/17: Mom's Lighter Mood and Good Talks, Rose Lake, Debriefing

1.  When I arrived at the nursing home around 10:00 or so, Mom was in her night clothes and was wavering between being asleep and awake. She made it clear she wanted to stay in her night wear and didn't want to sit up. I sat with Mom for a while and then told her I was going back home to take her clothes out of the drier so they wouldn't be wrinkled. Mom lit up a little, "Good!"

When I returned with Mom's laundry, Mom was up in her wheelchair and a longtime friend of Mom's, Mary Pierce was in the room visiting. I hung up clothes and gave Mom's hair a long brushing while Mom and Mary talked.

Mary's visit lightened Mom's mood. Mary made her laugh. Mom listened to Mary's stories and told some of her own. Yes, she occasionally had some things about her present situation confused, but not about the past.

Mary left and Mom's lighter mood continued and we talked back and forth for quite a while. I asked Mom if there were songs or types of music she'd enjoy listening to. She thought for a minute and said, "Yes." "Can you tell me any?" Again, she mused and then she said, "Oh, that one that goes 'do dah, do dah'." I brightened up. She went on and told me she thought Frank Sinatra was very successful, but she didn't really want to listen to him and then said that "they don't play the music I like anymore." I told her I could make songs "magically appear on my computer" and she chuckled.

At some point during our visit, an aide arrived to take Mom to the bathroom and dress her and I found "Camptown Races" on my phone. When she came back from the bathroom and the aide finished changing her bed, I played "Camptown Races" and Mom bobbed her head up and down and enjoyed hearing the song. I asked her if she knew who wrote it. She didn't at first, but when I told her it was Stephen Foster, her face brightened and I thought, "I'll leave Sinatra and 'My Way' alone, but start finding versions of 'Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair' and other Stephen Foster tunes to play."

I had plans to meet up with friends out at Rose Lake and, at about 1:30, I told Mom I was going to be leaving. A shadow crossed her face and her mood changed quickly. She knew Christy had a 2:00 appointment and was planning to arrive at Kindred around 3:00. Mom was suspicious. "I'm sure Christy will go where you are and not come here." I told Mom that Christy and I had planned for my time with friends and that she would not be joining me, but would be seeing her.

Now Mom wanted to lie down. An aide arrived and helped her. I thought about Mom's suspicion that my leaving would surely mean Christy wouldn't be coming to be with her. I thought about how uplifted she'd been by Mary's visit. I found it difficult to leave, knowing that when family isn't there or when the occasional visit by a friend ends, she's lonely and fearful.  She prefers to stay in her room. She prefers not to eat in the dining room with others or participate in activities scheduled through the day. She prefers to rely on those she knows for company and comfort.

I took a short walk down to the public restroom in Kindred, returned to Mom's side, and she had fallen asleep. It was after 2:00.  I knew Christy would be at Mom's side in about an hour. I hoped Mom would sleep until then. I learned later that Mom did just that.

I know now that Christy experienced something similar to what I did earlier in the day: Mom's mind was much more lucid than usual. Mom and Christy had a long conversation about Mom's stay at Kindred and her thoughts about the therapy she'd been refusing and why she doesn't eat in the dining room and how she came to be admitted to Kindred in the first place. Christy helped get a lot of things clarified for Mom. We don't know if what she told Mom will take hold in Mom's mind and memory, but at the very least, thanks to this illuminating conversation Christy initiated and maintained with Mom, we understand her feelings and what she's been thinking much better.

2. When it comes to getting in an afternoon nap, Mom wasn't alone in needing to saw some logs. I grabbed some sleep before heading out to Rose Lake around 3:00 or so. I joined Jake, Carol Lee, Ed, Nancy, Stu, and Byrdman on the balcony of Jake and Carol Lee's lake place. It was all about relaxation. We enjoyed a few beers together, yakked and yucked it up, and enjoyed bratwurst, potato salad, baked beans, and watermelon. Outside, it was blistering. Inside Jake and Carol Lee's cabin, it was air conditioned and cool and, after I ate, I sat back in a recliner and was still and serene.

3. Eventually, I slowly roused myself out of the recliner and returned to Kellogg. It had been quite a day and I wanted to learn about Christy's conversation with Mom. Christy, Everett, and I relaxed on their deck as the day grew darker and the air began to cool. We talked about Mom and how to move forward and about other things, too.

It had been quite a day: enlightening, taxing, and relaxing.


Saturday, July 8, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/07/17: Breakfast, Mom Update, No-Cook Pasta Sauce

1. After meeting with an attorney and picking up papers, Christy and I had a satisfying breakfast at Best Shots.

2. We arrived at around 10:00 a.m. to see Mom and we learned that she had, just moments before, asked to be put back on her bed and she was asleep. Christy tried to wake her up. Mom stirred a bit, but it was at that point we learned that she'd retired a few minutes ago, and we left her alone. I returned around lunch time and Mom was still asleep, but not long after I arrived, an aid woke Mom up to eat. Christy arrived soon after 1:00 and she and Mom visited much of the afternoon and I returned to be with Mom at dinner time. Mom didn't eat much today -- she didn't like the Mexican casserole at lunch very much or the pizza she was served at dinner. I left around 6:15 or so to join Christy and Everett for dinner.

3. It was a blistering, thick, muggy day in Kellogg and I didn't want to do much cooking. I found a recipe for no-cook garlic and tomato pasta sauce, here, and mixed it with rotini. I improvised a bit. I added Kalamata olives and brine and the juice of a lemon. I also made a garlic paste or sauce in the food processor with several cloves of garlic, olive oil, and olive brine. I served this meal as a pasta salad, really, rather than as a warm dish it's meant to be. I thought it worked.

After dinner, I returned to check on Mom and she was asleep, in her clothes, and the aid in her room told me that pretty soon she would be changing her into pajamas and putting her to bed.

I went to the Inland Lounge and spent time over a couple of beers talking with Harley, Candy, and Julie. They left after a while and I yakked for quite a while with Cas.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/06/17: Mom's Sleepy Day, Dump Run, Relaxing

1.  Sometimes it does seem that a balancing principle is at work in reality itself. I wonder if Mom's agitation on Wednesday gave rise to her day of sleep on Thursday. Christy was with Mom in the morning when she was awake and I was happy when Christy texted me at one point that Mom had been taken away for a shower. I arrived to see Mom shortly after noon. Christy had already told me Mom was asleep and so I checked in, saw Mom was asleep, and returned to Mom's house. I did this every 45-60 minutes through the afternoon. Each time I checked in, Mom was asleep.

At dinner time, a little past 5:30, one of the aids woke her up, sat her up in her bed, and Mom wasn't interested in eating. I left for dinner at Christy and Everett's and returned around 7:00 and Mom was back asleep. I didn't try to wake her, but waited for Christy to arrive. Christy woke her up. She had brought Mom soft ice cream from McDonald's. Mom ate about three quarters of the cup. Christy had bought Mom new pajamas and some new shirts and pants and showed them to Mom who approved. Christy and Mom continued to visit and I left and Christy stayed with Mom until after 9:00 and helped her get into her pajamas and, with an aid, helped Mom get into bed for the night.

2. Over the years, Mom accumulated a fairly hefty supply of partially filled cans of paint and cans and bottles of other products like floor wax, linseed oil, paint remover, varnish, and other things. She never wanted to let these products go and they have always concerned me as a fire hazard in her basement. Over the last ten days I had bagged and boxed up this stuff and this morning I took it to the dump, a great relief to me.

3.  I went to Best Shots after my run to the dump and enjoyed a plate of sausage, eggs, hash browns, and toast with a cup of coffee. It was the first of several ways I relaxed today, helped along by Mom sleeping so much. I rested a lot at Mom's house. Well, I loafed. Christy fixed bratwurst with pasta salad for dinner.  Late in the evening, after Mom had gone to bed, Christy, Everett, and I sat on their back deck, relaxed, debriefed a bit, and I slowly sipped a couple or three slugs of Pendleton 1910, a Canadian Rye Whisky, out of my favorite glass:  a half-filled 5 oz. jar that once held Kraft cheese spread. I popped a single cube of ice into each slug.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/05/17: Mom's Daylong Agitation, Mom's Lack of Oxygen, Mom Looks Back

1.  Usually, when I visit Mom, she will sit in her wheelchair for a while and we'll have some incoherent conversation and after a while she grows tired. Sometimes she falls asleep in her chair. Sometimes an aid will come in and put her on her bed. Then she sleeps for a while, sometimes peacefully, sometimes fitfully.

Today, however, I never witnessed Mom being comforted by the balm of sleep. I was with her two different times for a total of about six hours and for most of that time she was agitated, frustrated, irked, indignant, and irritated. She talked a lot, kind of like Mom always has; however,  before her illnesses, Mom's long train of speech was grounded in a world she and rest of us lived in and her detailed recall of particular things that happened and of the histories and genealogies of people she knew in Orofino and Kellogg was, at times, almost supernatural.

Today, the long train of speech was back and it was all a jumble. Her conversation veered wildly. Much of it, early in my visit, was focused on her firm conviction that she had driven her car that morning and had misplaced her keys. Mom insisted I help her try to find her keys. I put my hands in the pockets of her trousers. She watched as I opened her clothes closet and went through garments, looking for her keys. She asked me to look for her keys in rooms that don't exist at Kindred, so I went over by the sink, acting like it was another room, and looked for the keys.

Mom demanded to go home today more adamantly than ever. I wasn't quite sure how to answer her repeated entreaties.  For better or for worse, I decided that citing all the reasons that I know to be true about why she is at Kindred was futile. I couldn't believe that long explanations were fitting and I could tell nothing I said was going to be assuring, let alone reassuring. So I responded with short sentences, absorbing Mom's indignation, insults, and sarcasm. I uttered silent prayers for a change in subject.

2. Around lunch time -- I think it was after lunch, but I'm not sure -- everything starts to run together into a blur for me on days like this -- I wheeled Mom down to the lobby of Kindred. Several times she had wanted to go down to where she first arrived at "the Wellness Center" -- this is what Mom used to call Kindred all the time, but hadn't for a while. What she really wanted was to go out the front doors at Kindred, but we didn't wheel quite that far.

On the way, I asked an aid if Mom's wheelchair oxygen tank needed replacing, It wasn't quite empty, but the aid said, sure, let's replace it. While replacing it, she discovered that Mom hadn't been getting oxygen -- I can't remember what the problem was -- but someone had made an error.

This helped explain a lot, I thought. Mom's brain has been starving for oxygen and a lack of oxygen exacerbates the symptoms of vascular dementia. I noted a couple of things to myself: when Mom's in her room, always make sure she's hooked up to the compressor, not the wheelchair tank, and, if she is as incoherent and distressed as she was today, check to make sure everything's working right with her oxygen supply.

3.  The best fifteen or so minutes of the day transpired when Zoe removed the polish on Mom's fingernails and repainted them. I wished this could have lasted for about an hour.  The only other time today when Mom seemed similarly content was when I brushed her hair. I brushed it for quite a while, hoping she'd find it a pleasant sensation and that she'd feel cared for. Later, she wanted to put her wig on. She put it on backwards and I experienced, for the first time in my life, the act of putting a wig on another person. Christy said I did a pretty good job.

There were other less intense passages of time today, although they required my full attention and concentration as Mom talked about a wide variety of things randomly. We talked about street names in Orofino. Mom tried to remember what street Jody lived on and Jim Bessent. She told me about a car crash involving Charlie Adams on Canada Hill. She boasted to me about playing Canasta at college in Lewiston and proudly asserted they never drank any beer or wine, but smoked cigarettes. Later, she admitted that maybe, in Orofino, she had used a fake i.d. to drink when underage. She remembered playing pinochle in Grandma Woolum's kitchen and remembered how much Grandma Woolum loved playing cards and how skilled she was.
*****
There are particular times during the day when the staff at Kindred are under the most stress.

Meal times are tough.

So is bed time as the staff works their way from room to room helping residents into their night wear and into bed -- and all that comes with it.

Mom's already difficult day drew to an end with a long wait. Around 7:15 or so, Mom started to tell me she was very tired and wanted to get into her pajamas and go to bed. She was in pain. Her arms and shoulders ached and she has had chronic pain in her hips and legs for years now. She sent me out into the hallway three times to find someone to help her get ready for bed, but I couldn't do much. Many of the residents in Mom's section are high need people and the aids were busy.

Shortly after 8:00, Mom and I started working on what we could do to get her ready for bed. I removed her compression socks ("Now don't lose them" [ha!]), wheeled her over to the sink where she began washing her face and we unbuttoned her shirt so I could wash her back. We took off her shirt and just as I was putting her pajama top on, the aid arrived, in remarkably good cheer considering all the work she'd been doing, and took over.

I hugged Mom and we kissed each other's cheeks.

I told Mom I loved her and she said she loved me, too, adding, "I wish you could stay."


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/04/17: Mom Update, Dinner Prep, Mom Wants to Look Good and Celebration Pictures

1. I arrived to see Mom around 11:30.  Christy had been there quite a while and she went home to take care of things.  Mom and I talked about things from the past. Mom was pretty sure that she was with Carol and Paul's family on the 4th of July the year they moved from Meridian to Kellogg and helped them get their move organized. I don't know if that happened, but I don't doubt that it's true. Before long, Mom's lunch arrived, a grilled shrimp and vegetable skewer, and she ate it all. Mom started to fade after she ate and asked to lie down and we agreed I'd leave her alone for an hour or so. It was 1:30.  I went over to Christy and Everett's and visited for a while.

At 2:30, Christy walked her Springer Spaniel, Annie, over to Mom's room. I peeked in and Mom had been sleeping and didn't really wake up to see Annie. I didn't really come in the room, but Christy later reported that Mom didn't have much of a response to Annie's visit.

I came back to Mom's house and fell asleep. I woke up disoriented. I didn't know how long I'd slept, if I had slept through a commitment I'd made to go back to see Mom, or if I'd left Christy in a lurch. I went next door and Everett told me Christy was napping -- that made me feel better, that she wasn't at Kindred wondering why I hadn't returned.  My mind was playing tricks on me, exploiting my desire to do the right thing and my fear I had let Mom or Christy down.

2. I got a grip on myself and decided to stretch the fried potato, green bean, and bacon dish I'd made the night before. I fried more bacon, fried corn in the grease, fried a little more bacon, and fried up a few potatoes in it and now one of my contributions to dinner over at Paul's was set.

3. I returned to see Mom and we talked about who lived on the hill on the Silver King School side of the road leading to the Zinc Plant. She remembered how she used to watch those kids who lived up there file home every day after school. We also talked about who used to live up Smelter Heights and about where Ed and Carol Whitley lived on McKinley Avenue.

This was all relaxing, but Mom was also agitated by all the people who were walking by her door in the hallway. Her room is near the nurses station and there's often a lot of activity.

Why was Mom agitated? She didn't think she looked very presentable, or "very nice", if all these people walking by were seeing her. Mom's always been very concerned with how she looks and always worked diligently to look nice, especially in public, no matter what she was doing -- going to the bank, meeting a doctor's appointment, going out to lunch or dinner, everything.

Mom was having trouble pinpointing where she was. She thought she was near her shower at her house. She wanted me to get out the bath towels -- and there are no bath towels in her room at Kindred. Once she understood she couldn't shower, she wanted to at least go to the sink in her room and clean up.

I buzzed for assistance.  Merissa came in and when Mom explained what she wanted, Merissa offered her a bed bath. That sounded good to Mom. I left Mom and joined Zoe, Jason, Paul, and Christy for a grilled chicken, pasta salad, and fruit cobbler Independence Day dinner.

Here is a picture from July 3rd and one from July 4th.

Toasting Everett on his 87th Birthday, July 3rd

Christy and I on the 4th of July


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/03/17: Mom's Disorientation, Mom's Make-up Bag, Everett's Birthday Dinner

1. I spent a couple of hours this afternoon with Mom, starting about 1:00. She was seated in her wheelchair.  At first, she was in a bad mood. She's been combative with her aid, who was sitting with her, refusing to eat lunch, and her first words to me when the aid said, "Your son is here", were, "What are you doing here?"

The aid left after she asked me if I would be all right being left alone with Mom. I didn't really know the answer to her question, but, feeling hopeful, I said I would be okay.

And I was.

It was an intense two hours with Mom.

I listened closely to what Mom said, did my best to answer her questions by giving her short responses and did my best not to contradict or further confuse her while also trying being honest with her. Mom didn't remember that Christy had been by for a couple of hours in the morning. She didn't remember she had showered in the morning. She was sure she had driven her car that morning and wanted to apologize to the person (she couldn't remember who)  to whom she didn't give a ride. For a while, she thought she and I were in Ted and Dorothy Turnbow's house. At the same time, she knew Ted and Dorothy had passed away. She repeatedly asked me about going home and, in the next moment, thought she was at home, that the bed at Kindred was in her house, that she'd slept in this bed, and I slept in the same building, in another room.

At one point, trying to move the subject away from home, going home, and where she was, I asked her if she knew whose birthday it was today (July 3rd).

She didn't know.

I told her it was Carol's birthday. I told her I'd been thinking about the day Carol was born, in 1963, and how Grandma Woolum told me when I got up in the morning I had a new baby sister and I said, "Shoot! I really wanted a brother!" Mom smiled, even chuckled a bit. She was remembering.

I asked Mom if she remembered that she and Dad let Christy and me name Carol.

"Yes."

"Do you remember how we decided to name her Carol Lynn?"

I could see in her eyes that she did remember and she told the story of how Christy and I wanted to name her after President Kennedy's daughter Caroline, but we thought her name was Carol Lynn. We talked about how even though we got it wrong, we got it right. Neither of us could imagine Carol by any other name. The name Carol fits her perfectly.

This line of conversation was working much better. I asked Mom if she remembered Carol's first birthday and who was at our house. Mom remembered Carol sitting on the kitchen table and we both remembered her cake with the single candle and that Ruth and Sharon were there and Earl must have been along with Grandma Woolum. Mom remembered Jimmy Morgan being at the house, too.

I asked Mom is she remembered Carol's 40th birthday back in 2003. At first Mom didn't remember, but when I said in happened in her backyard, Mom said, "It was spectacular."

I agreed and, together, we remembered the fried chicken and potato salad. I said that Debbie and Adrienne and Molly sang together and Mom said, "Yes, and others did, too."

"Right! They did. And people read poems and other things."

Mom nodded.

Then I asked if she remembered who arrived late in the party. She said, "April and Mary?" I didn't know who she meant by Mary, but said, "Right! And a little later Dick and Renae arrived."

She smiled widely. "Oh, yeah." She chuckled. "Dick and Renae. That was good."

2. Things continued to move in this better direction when Mom asked me to have the plate of food she had earlier resisted warmed up. I brought it back from the nurses station and I took her tray away after she ate some of her chicken and gravy, some pasta, and an entire brownie.

Then she asked me for her lip balm and, as I rummaged through the drawer it's stored in, I took out her makeup bag.

"Let me have that."

Aside from needing to intervene when she started to eat her the round make-up application pad -- she thought it was a wafer -- Mom's mind got focused as she took an inventory of her make-up and decided that her "old dry lips" needed some color so she put on, first, a neutral lipstick, and second, a lipstick with a little more color.

Around 3:00, Emma, an occupational therapist, came and I left the room, picked up a prescription at Yoke's, made a quick trip to Christy's house and Mom's, and, when I returned around 4:00 to Mom's room, she was asleep. I left her alone. Zoe and Paul went to see Mom for about 90 minutes or so at 4:30 and left her resting after dinner.

3. Today was also Everett's birthday. Christy and Everett and I celebrated with Christy's terrific pork roast and her home made apple sauce with a rhubarb custard pie a la mode on Christy and Everett's back yard deck. I made a sweet and vinegar-y coleslaw and a fried bacon, potato, and green bean side. The recipe called for the potatoes to be fried in oil, but I love bacon and green beans, so I fried up a bunch of chopped bacon, fried the potatoes in the grease, and added the beans,   once cooked. If you'd like to see both recipes, the cole slaw recipe is here and the fried potato/green bean is here, minus the bacon.  By the way, if you are fixing the cole slaw for people who enjoy a little heat, I think some red pepper flakes would add dimension to the sweetness of the sugar and the bite of the vinegar -- and I used red wine vinegar, not cider vinegar.


Monday, July 3, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/02/17: Photo Walk, Mom's Many Visitors, BLTs at Christy's and Garden Tour Pictures

1. After some morning coffee, a phone call with the Deke, and some breakfast, I walked the trail up to the high school and, for the first time since Harriet Potter stayed with us in Greenbelt, I took some pictures.  I need to keep taking photo walks.  I was very rusty with the camera today. 

2. I returned home, dropped off my camera, and went over to the nursing home to see Mom. Christy was there and she and Mom talked about new pajamas and some new clothes Christy could order for her. Upon my arrival, Susan and Joe Kerns also arrived. Christy and I left Joe and Susan alone with Mom and talked over some things in a community room down the hall. We came back and Zoe and Jason arrived so I went home. As the early afternoon unfolded, Molly, Cosette, Paul, and Laurie all came to see Mom.  Mom was alone at about 3:00, I returned, and she was wiped out. One of the aids changed her bed and put a new shirt and pants on Mom and Mom laid down and went to sleep. I checked back on Mom around 5:00 and she was asleep. The day of wonderful visitors made her very tired. 

3. Back across the street, Christy had cut lettuce from her garden and she fixed Everett, her, and me BLTs for dinner. It turns out I was bushed, too. After dinner, I thought I would go do some shopping at Yoke's, but I collapsed into bed.  I can shop on Monday.

Here are three pictures from Friday morning, the day Mom came over to see her yard and gardens and Christy's.



Mom and I on Garden Tour Day, June 30th

Christy and Mom on Garden Tour Day, June 30th

Tucker, Paul, and Mom on Garden Tour Day, June 30th

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/01/17: Mom in the Garden, Mom Slept, Playing

1. When I arrived at Kindred about 10:30 a.m., Mom's physical therapist saw me and told me that she and Mom had had a great session earlier and said something I didn't quite understand about Mom walking to the bathroom. She shared this news when I was in the hall and she was in the rehab room working with a resident. Mom walked to the bathroom? I hope to learn more later.

When I arrived at Mom's room, Christy was with Mom and soon left to go to work. I hadn't been with Mom long when she said, "Okay. Let's go!" When I asked where, she said, "Outside."

My heart leapt.

I love wheeling Mom out back so we can look at the deep purple violas, handsome columbine, luminous Shasta daisies, and other flowers. The peak heat of day was still to come. It was comfortable out and a refreshing breeze kicked up every several minutes.

After a tour of the garden area, we parked in the shade on Kindred's patio and before long Mom told me she was very tired and wanted to go back home -- she was referring to her room. We stopped for a few minutes to see our longtime friend Peny Benson and soon Mom was back to bed.

2. With a couple of breaks tucked in, I sat with Mom until 5:30 p.m. It was an uneventful afternoon. Mom slept. On occasion, she woke up, sort of, long enough to ask me a random question about the kitchen or the car keys or to find out where Christy was. Often she said things so quietly or mumbly I couldn't understand her, but I never asked her to repeat herself. She wasn't really talking to anyone.

I think Mom's wig was too hot at one point and it was coming off so I took it off and asked Mom if she's like me to brush her hair. Her hair barely grew back after her chemotherapy treatments about seventeen years ago, but she enough grows that she occasionally has it cut and there's enough to brush. I thought she might like the sensation of feeling the brush going through her hair.

She did.

Around 5:30, Mom and I hugged -- she told me a couple days ago not to fall on her, so I always say, "Mom. Can we hug? I promise I won't fall on you." She smiles a little or chuckles and says, "You better not." It's a pretty good deal.

3. I drove out to Kingston to Ed's house, talked for a bit with Ed and Nancy, and then Ed and I bolted in the Malibu down to the Cd'A Casino. I played for a while, went to the Red Tail Grill for a BLT and a pint of No-Li's Born & Raised IPA and returned to the floor and hopped around from machine to machine. I left with fifteen bucks in my pocket I didn't have when I came in. I am always happy if I can just manage to break even, so winning a little was a bonus. Ed and I worked hard on the drive back to the Silver Valley to get the problems of the world straightened out. We'll see as Sunday unfolds how that worked out.


Saturday, July 1, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 06/30/17: Mom's Outing, Mom's Dark Time, Food Lab and Rib Eyes and Going Uptown

1.  The morning broke with a flurry. Christy went over to Kindred to help Mom get dressed. Paul came over to Mom's house and mowed the lawn. I took the car down to the glass shop to have the windshield replaced. I returned home and watered outdoor flowers and deadheaded those that needed it. Indoors, I cleaned different areas of the house.

Shortly after 9:30, Paul went over to Kindred and wheeled Mom over to her house and to Christy's next door. We all agreed that Mom might find it enjoyable to see how things were growing in her flower beds and vegetable plots and to see the many roses, lilies, snapdragons, and other flowers in bloom at Christy and Everett's.

I think Mom enjoyed this outing. After about an hour and fifteen minutes or so, Mom started to grow tired and Paul returned Mom to her room. I picked up the car shortly after noon and joined Mom at lunch time. I helped her into her wheelchair and cut up her chicken fried steak. She ate about half of what I cut up along with some potatoes and gravy and carrots. Around two o'clock, she asked to go back to bed. I rang for help for this task. I hugged Mom. She told me not to fall on her and I complied. I left as Mom fell asleep.

She seemed content.

2. I returned to Mom's room at 4:30 and her mood had darkened considerably. Her stomach hurt. Somewhat aggressive demons of dementia had wormed their way deep into her mind and she was angry that I had been out late last night, that she had worried if I were ever coming home. She was angry that I hadn't been to see her, at one point telling me it had been four days since I'd been there. She wondered why I didn't call. Mom told me, for the first time, that she was scared. I held her hand and stroked her arm.  When I got out of the chair to move aside when a nurse or an aid came in, she begged me not to leave.

I texted Christy to tell her Mom was having a difficult spell. Christy joined me and Mom and we listened as Mom called us knuckleheads for canceling the eye appointment and tried to answer her questions about why she couldn't return to her house to live.  Mom's change of mood from earlier in the day unsettled us, even though, intellectually, we know that things can change quickly for Mom.

Christy left to go fix dinner and I left a little later. I hugged Mom and told her I'd be back in an hour. I returned in an hour and Mom told me that she was sure I was never coming back. I reassured her, held her hand, and listened to other things she had to say. Christy also returned and slowly Mom began to relax a bit. Her fears seemed to subside. Her tone softened. Eventually, she told Christy and me that she wanted to go to bed. She asked us to leave.

A moment later, she asked me to come back, to stay. An aid was going to help Mom get situated better in her bed and possibly get under a sheet and Mom asked me to stay until the aid arrived.

The aid came in the room. I was all right for me to leave. Mom and I hugged.

 As we ended our embrace, Mom had some last words for me:  "Clean your glasses."

3. I spent my time away from Mom in ways I thoroughly enjoyed. I got in a decent walk after I left the car off at the glass shop and another when I returned to pick it up. In the afternoon, I played food lab in Mom's kitchen. I thought sliced cucumbers might taste good with the leftover mayonnaise and sour cream and lemon dressing I made for the Mexican cole slaw the other night along with the do it yourself taco seasoning I made. I experimented by adding leftover rice and then I wondered how the leftover tilapia would taste in it and I added some rice vinegar.   I liked it: cucumber rice tilapia salad with Mexican cole slaw dressing and rice vinegar. I also began to imagine how I could turn Thursday night's pasta dish, now that it has been refrigerated, into a pasta salad with Kalamata olives, capers, more lemon, and, possibly, feta cheese.

I also enjoyed the perfectly grilled rib eye steaks and baked potatoes Christy made for dinner. Christy and I capped off the evening with a relaxing meet up with Ed at the Inland Lounge. We had a great time gabbin' with Ed and it was fun to see and talk with the Lounge's proprietor Cas. He had plenty of opportunity to shoot the breeze. It was a slow night in uptown Kellogg.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 06/29/17: My Many Thanks, Mom's Good Day, Taking Care of Myself

1. I posted yesterday that I'd had a particularly difficult day with Mom on Wednesday.  Almost immediately, friends and family posted or privately sent me words of encouragement, insight, and strength. Every one of these messages helped me see Mom's situation and what she must be experiencing more clearly and have already helped me improve as one of her caretakers. To all of you who wrote to me and for all of you who continue to hold Mom and our family in your thoughts and prayers, thank you very much.

2.  Overall, Thursday was a good day for Mom. Christy arrived at her room in the morning and helped get her up and dressed. If I remember the story correctly, Mom initiated the idea that she and Christy go outside to the back garden area. Susan and Joe Kerns joined Mom outside and I am certain their visit uplifted her. Susan and Joe's mother, Doris, was one of Mom's very best friends and Susan and Joe have continued in the way of their mother, visiting Mom often. Susan and Joe were with Mom in her room when I arrived and I excused myself so that Mom's living area would be less crowded and out of respect for giving Susan, Joe, and Mom time alone with each other. Before I slipped out, Mom had agreed to eat lunch in the dining room -- it had been at least a week since she had done so. When I returned, much to my delight, I learned that Susan and Joe would be having lunch with Mom.

I returned to Mom's room early in the afternoon, sat with her and talked with her for a couple of hours. Mom spent some of that time sorting out the cards, address books, and other miscellany in the top drawer of the chest of drawers by her bed. Soon she wanted to lie down. Mom had been sitting up in her chair for about six hours. As she went to sleep, I returned to her house and got everything ready for dinner -- all the chopping and slicing and I made a basil-garlic paste in the food processor.

When I went back to see Mom around 4:30 or so, she asked me to get her clothes for the next day out and we talked about where she was and where she wasn't. She ate some dinner. Around six o'clock, I excused myself so I could return to Mom's and fix dinner for Everett, Christy, and me.

3. One concern friends have expressed while I help out with Mom is whether I am taking care of myself. I have been trying to remember to post at least one entry in each of my 3BTs that describes things I am doing that I think qualify as taking care of myself.

I post on this blog every morning. It's vital for me, no matter the quality of the writing. Just sitting down and documenting the previous day's events, among other things, is a way I take care of myself.  My next move will be to get back to taking pictures.

Thursday morning, before I went over to see Mom, I once again walked the verdant trail up to the high school. Just going for a daily twenty to thirty minute walk gets my blood flowing better and helps clear my mind. Every time I mention that I have shopped for food and fixed dinner, I am doing something I love.

I had a great time Thursday afternoon chopping onion, slicing zucchini, making basil-garlic paste, grating Parmesan cheese, and zesting a lemon in preparation for making a recipe called "Summer Pasta with Zuccini, Ricotta, and Basil", here.  Christy, Everett, and I eat dinner together almost every night and review the day and make plans for what lies ahead.

I have several very good lifelong friends who live within a short drive of Kellogg and I do my best to get together with these friends, individually or as a group, to have a meal out or to have a few beers together and to gab for a while.

Lastly, by being where Mom lives, I am taking care of myself. My anxiety about how she is doing day to day has been significantly alleviated by being with her every day and by helping out with her care.


Thursday, June 29, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 06/28/17: Mom's Frustrations, Walking the Trail, Chicken Dinner on the Deck

1. My helplessness frustrates Mom. When Mom wants to sit up, get into her wheelchair, go to the bathroom, get dressed and so on, yes, it is frustrating for her that she can't do these things on her own, but the fact that I need to buzz for the help of a CNA or another trained person to do these things compounds her frustration. Likewise, it's often difficult to hear and understand what Mom says and when I ask her to repeat herself or when I say back to her what I thought I heard, it frustrates her.

Mom's disapproval has always had a strong impact on me -- whether her disapproval was directed my way, at one of my sisters, or at others outside our home.

All of that is magnified now in this stage of Mom's life. There's never been a time when I wanted to help and please Mom more, not to make her mad, than now, but it's inevitable that she's going to be mad at Christy and me. She's frustrated with her situation and we are making decisions and can't always consult with her about them.

Today I arrived at Mom's room shortly after 11 and she was asleep. She'd been to the Wednesday yoga class and, as happened a week ago, it tuckered her out. I sat with Mom until she began to stir around 12:30 (halfway through The Chew!) and her first words to me were, "You know I'm really mad at you, Bill. You took away my appointment with the eye doctor.  All my problems have to do with my eyes."

I said, "I know." (Even though I know her problems have to do with her failing heart, not her eyes.) I didn't defend canceling the appointment by explaining again that Christy and I didn't think she was strong enough for the travel to and from Post Falls or to sit for a ninety minute to two hour appointment. (Just going to yoga put her to sleep for about an hour and a half.)

Last week, before the decision to cancel the appointment, Rich Nearing took a picture of Mom and me in the dining room. It's now on a bulletin board above Mom's bed. Mom looked at it at one point today and said, "Boy, you can sure tell how mad I am at you in that picture."

I replied, "Yeah. I know."

I knew I wasn't going to do anything to lessen Mom being mad at me. I knew I'd just have to take it.

Soon Christy sent a text message telling me Mom's longtime friend Rosie Rinaldi was coming for a visit. I told Mom Rosie was coming and she told me to leave: "Go to the door and let our guest into the living room." I didn't leave. I succeeded, however, in helping Mom understand that we were in the room Rosie would arrive in.

Just before Rosie arrived and Mom looked at me and said, "G-O. Go, Bill."

"Do you want me to leave while Rosie is here."

Mom looked at me like I'd just told her the earth is flat.

"Of course. Now leave!"

I returned as Rosie was leaving. Mom had gone to the bathroom in my absence and was in her wheelchair and asked me to take her into the kitchen and asked me if she had set the table for dinner yet and we had other conversations along these lines, talking about whether Mom had taken care of things at her house.

Before long, Josh, her speech therapist arrived and Josh played a memory game with Mom and this lightened Mom's mood and seemed to brighten her day. Josh lived in Greenbelt, MD until he was a teenager and so when Josh needed to create a distraction before returning to the game, he and I talked about Greenbelt and other parts of Maryland.

It didn't take long for the memory game to wear Mom out. Josh continued the therapy even as Mom was drifting away in her fatigue and increasingly Mom couldn't remember things that happened in the game just moments before. Josh ended the session by finding a CNA to put Mom back on her bed. I excused myself to go to the public restroom. When I returned, Mom as fast asleep.  I went over to Christy's to talk for a while and then back to Mom's house.

2. My sleep has been fitful the last few nights and I know it has to do with not exercising at all. All I've done is walk across the street to the nursing home and back. This morning I walked on the trail that connects the convergence of Riverside and Mission Avenues with the high school. It's the trail I used to sled on, the trail that Christy and I walked on to get to the window, down below, where we could look in and see Carol as a newborn, the trail I walked countless times to and back from high school, the place I hid out at in the summer of 1969 and got drunk for the first time. It was where I walked late in my senior year to confront my failures as an athlete and to level with myself that I was not exceptional in high school. All these years later, the trail is lush not only with memories, but with underbrush. The trees on the hill above the trail thrive. When I was young, the trail was an easy way to get to the high school and a place where students could get off the high school property and smoke cigarettes. Today, the trail helped me get my body moving again and was a source of tranquil natural beauty.

3. Paul, Christy, Everett, and I ate dinner together on Christy and Everett's deck. For cocktails, Christy fixed a bourbon drink that was lemony and little sweet at the same time, a real pleasure. Christy used the grill to cook a beer can chicken and it was moist and flavorful. She also made a delicious potato salad. Do you remember the black bean, rice, and sweet potato salad I served Monday night and used for filling in the fish tacos on Tuesday night? Well, I still had some left.  I added grated cabbage and carrots to the salad, mixed some sour cream, mayonnaise, fresh lime juice, and homemade taco seasoning in a bowl and folded the mixture into the salad and cabbage blend and we had a side of Mexican cole slaw for dinner along with what Christy prepared.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 06/27/17: My Day with Mom, Errands and Lunch, Fish Taco Dinner

1. Christy and I just didn't think Mom was strong enough to ride in a car or a van to Post Falls and then have an eye exam at the opthamologist that would last an hour and a half to two hours and then to ride back to Kellogg. So, I canceled her Thursday appointment. Later in the day, Paul agreed this was the right move.

Mom's eyes are bothering her, she said when I told her I canceled the appointment. She asked me if I rescheduled and I told her that I didn't. She flashed me a look of immediate disapproval -- and for good reason. "It's very hard to get an appointment there." She's right. But, I just don't think a visit to the eye doctor in Post Falls will ever happen. I hope I did the right thing.

Shortly after noon, Scott Stuart came to Mom's room to pay a visit and Mom enjoyed remembering the time Scott and other of our friends made wapatuli in a plastic garbage can in her front yard to take to Prichard Days in the summer of 1974.

She also remembered the day back in the early summer of 1965 when Christy and I were cleaning out the garage, in our bare feet, and were hosing the cement floor when Scott came to visit through the Warneke's yard and the gate behind our house. I bounded out of the garage, overly excited to see Scott, and stepped on a shard of the broken neck of an Olympia beer bottle and cut the ball of my foot, requiring a trip to the clinic to have it sewn up. First, though, Mom clipped my toenails.

When Mom said she remembered this happening, I asked her to tell the story and she started out saying that we were about to go on vacation so we needed the garage cleaned out and before long her retelling morphed into another tale about a dance she went to in her youth and who picked her up and that Scott went to the dance. Zoe, Scott, and I listened to this story and I said something like, "Wow! That's great Mom!" and we continued our visit.

That was the last I talked to Mom for the day. I returned to be with her for a couple of hours later in the afternoon. She had fallen into a sleep, a hard sleep, so hard the nurse wouldn't wake her to take her pills and no one could wake her to eat dinner.

Christy went over after dinner and woke Mom up so she could take her medicine, get changed into her pajamas, and be tucked in for the night.

2.  I started out the day getting the tires changed on Mom's car at Silver Valley Tires. She's had the Malibu for eight years and the original tires had finally worn down. I also had a fine pint of IPA at Radio Brewing uptown over lunch with Scott and a few hours later went to the Shoshone Medical Center to have my monthly blood draw taken and sent to the transplant center in Baltimore.

3. For dinner tonight, I refashioned last night's black bean and rice and sweet potato, etc. salad into a main ingredient in fish tacos. I baked some tilapia that I peppered and lemoned, put pieces of the fish on the flour tortillas I had already heated with grated cheese on them, added some cabbage, added the salad, and made a lime wedge for each taco in case Christy or Everett wanted to squeeze lime juice over their taco. I wish I had prepared the tortillas last so that they would have been warm and I wish I had let the salad reach room temperature so that it wasn't so cold in the taco. But the flavors were really good and I liked the crunch of the cabbage.