Thursday, August 31, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/30/17: Moving Estimate, Calendar at Quench, Ruminations at Old Line

1. Just so we could have the information, the Deke scheduled a mover to come over and estimate how much it would cost to move our belongings to Kellogg. We know already that we will give away much that we own, but it was informative to have the mover give an estimate. He was a good guy, especially proud that he managed Coach Tony Bennett's move when Bennett left Washington State and moved to Charlottesville, VA. We also got an estimate for shipping the Sube to Kellogg. We will most likely not have the car shipped, not fly the Corgis to Spokane, and not fly ourselves to Spokane. I am pretty sure we'll drive.

2. We went to Quench taproom in Silver Spring late in the afternoon and thumbtacked down some dates for when we might do this and that -- we didn't really nail them down just yet. We told the owner of Quench, Mike, that we were moving and his immediate response was that maybe he would open a "super taphouse" with 100 taps in Kellogg. It was a good load of b.s. he was laying on us. I laughed inside. I didn't bother to tell Mike, as Debbie sipped from a $12.00 pint of Imperial IPA from Two Roads Brewing, that during happy hour at Radio Brewing in Kellogg, I could drink four pints of superb, fresh beer brewed in house for the cost of one of the Deke's pints. I also decided to keep my mouth shut about the remarkable Inland Lounge in Kellogg. I'm not a dream crusher.

3. We ended our night back at Old Line and, just like last night, split a burger and an order of parmesan truffle fries. By now, we'd had enough of calendars, lists, and estimates and we just marveled at Venus Williams playing tennis on television and the Deke had a good conversation with the couple sitting next to her about schools and the good old days when she taught in the Prince George's County School District. I sat quietly, ruminating about all that has happened in 2017 and all that is still to come.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/29/17: Bills Paid, Wedding Writing, Epic Party Talk

1.  For the first time since June 16th, I woke up in Greenbelt, Maryland this morning. I was a little bit anxious because a small pile of medical bills related to appointments I met while being re-evaluated for the kidney transplant list were awaiting my attention, but I faced them squarely, and got online and on the phone and paid them all in their entirety.

2. With that bit of anxiety lifted, I could give my attention to finishing the next draft of Julie and Curtis's wedding ceremony, coming up on Saturday in Huntingdon, PA. I'm pleased with the draft I completed today and will return to it tomorrow to polish any of its rough edges. I had a couple of questions for Julie and she answered them and I will double check to make sure I have everything in order. I am very happy that I am not trying to finish this up at the last minute and that I can return to what I've written on both Wednesday and Thursday to make sure it's working the way I want it to.

3. About 3:00 or so this afternoon, the Deke and I decided we'd been hanging around our apartment home enough and we headed to the edge of NE Washington, DC to have a beer at DC Brau. We arrived at the tasting room and it was closed -- the bathroom is being redone. Well, luckily, DC Brau is just minutes from Atlas Brewing in Ivy City (DC), so we buzzed down to West Virginia Ave, NE and strolled into the tasting room. Only one other customer was there, the guy serving beer was playing the Clash station on Spotify, so the music was killer-awesome, and the Deke and I settled down at the bar. Since we had the end of the bar to ourselves, there was plenty of room to put a bunch of stuff on the table regarding our move to Idaho. The beer we drank enhanced our decision making tremendously. I didn't want to stop drinking Atlas's Rowdy Rye Ale and the Deke loved her Ponzi IPA.

It's too early to divulge the decisions we made because they are tentative at this point, but, if they work out, we will be very happy.

We left Atlas Brewing fired up. We'd just had a great party and an epic conversation. We were also hungry. We cruised up to Beltsville and plopped down at the bar at Old Line for one more beer and we split a burger and truffle fries. It was the perfect amount of food and brought a perfect afternoon and evening to a perfect conclusion.

It's great to be back in Maryland again and I will savor every day here until we make our move to Idaho.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/28/17: *S-Town*, The Last Two Months, Back to Maryland BONUS Picture of Mom

1. I sprang out of my comfortable queen-sized bed at the Ramada Inn at 4:30 a.m., after racking up eight hours of sleep. I gathered my things and took a shuttle to Spokane International Airport where things went very smoothly -- especially because I was assigned to the TSA Pre Check line. I gave myself plenty of time to have a coffee and a scone at the airport, so I got ready for my day of flying my favorite way: I was never rushed. I could sit and relax. I sat on the aisle for all three legs of my flight with the middle seat empty from Spokane to Chicago and Chicago to Cleveland. There very last person to board the plane sat in the middle seat between Cleveland and Baltimore --

My eight and a half hour trip went by very quickly thanks to the podcast S-Town (or Shittown), the story of a murder that never happened and a death that did in Bibb County, Alabama in the town of Woodstock. I didn't quite finish the podcast's next to the last chapter and I have the last chapter still to go.  The podcast's home page is here.

2. When I wasn't listening to S-Town, I reflected on the the past several weeks in Kellogg. I arrived in Kellogg on June 17th to help out with Mom. I thought a lot about the day I arrived in Kellogg. Christy and I went to the nursing home and I remembered thinking how small Mom's space was in the four person room she lived in, but it was quiet right then and very clean. Mom and I hugged and Christy and I talked for a bit before Mom asked us to leave because she wanted to be alone and rest.

On June 17th, Mom felt frail in my arms as I hugged her. She was much weaker than when I had seen her two months earlier. I just looked back at my blog entry for June 17th and now I remember that she was seeing things -- tubes overhead, an envelope at the end of the bed. On June 17th, Mom was still using her walker to get to the bathroom, but on that day she was too weak to walk the short distance back to her bed and sat on her walker and wheeled herself back, with Carol's help.

It goes without saying that we had no idea on June 17th how long Mom would live. I thought a lot today about how Christy and Carol and I had a bite to eat that afternoon at Radio Brewing and talked about Mom's finances. Carol had estimated that Mom had enough money for living at Kindred for the next year and on that day, for all we knew, Mom would be there another year.

On June 17th, Christy, Carol, and I were already concerned about how we would keep Mom company in September because I would be returning to Maryland in late August and Carol would be returning to full days of work and Christy would continue working part time. We brainstormed a bit about this, but I, for one, felt pretty stuck.

I thought a lot today about how Mom passed away two months later, on August 16th. I thought about her July 13th appointment with Dr. McDonald. That was the day the doctor recommended we bring hospice on board to help Mom out. Even then, a month before Mom died, not having a crystal ball, we were talking about what would happen monthly with hospice and what would happen after six months, and beyond. That day, Mom couldn't stay awake in her wheelchair in the examination room and couldn't really answer Dr. McDonald's questions about how she was doing. She did raise some good questions about her loss of appetite and the infrequent movement of her bowels and she seemed to have a pretty good understanding of and a strong approval of hospice entering her world. Christy and I both noted, though, that not having seen Mom since mid-May, Dr. McDonald seemed rattled by Mom's condition on July 13th.

From that point forward, time seemed to collapse on Mom. I thought a lot today about the incremental deterioration of her condition -- increased sleep, loss of appetite, more hallucinations, rarer and rarer moments of clarity, but her bursts of energy between July 30 and August 1 when she and Carol sang hymns outside together and when Judy and Angie visited.  Then came the eventual loss of her voice, and, by about August 10th, almost all she did was sleep.

I don't know if in my entire life I've ever experienced such an intense two month period of time. It helps a lot to have written a daily record of all that occurred and it was good for me, today, while flying across the United States, to piece things together and realize how very little I could know when I arrived in Kellogg on June 17th and how very grateful I am for how frank the medical people were with us about her condition as Mom's life neared its end. No one tip-toed around the facts of her decline. No one gave us false hope.

3.  The Deke picked me up at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport shortly after 6:00. We drove straight to Old Line and I loved drinking a couple pints of Bell's Two Hearted Ale, one of my favorite of all beers. We relaxed at the bar and returned to our apartment home where the Deke cooked salmon on the stove top and served it with a delicious quinoa salad and avocado slices. We split a 12 oz. bottle of Heavy Seas Loose Cannon IPA and, I have to admit, I started feeling a little sadness at the prospect of leaving behind these East Coast beers I've loved drinking over the last three years. I'll get over it . . . .

*Here's a picture Carol took on July 30th, the evening she and Mom sang hymns while on the patio at Kindred, the same evening Mom had propelled herself in her wheelchair up and down the nursing home hallways with her feet:

Mom and Carol on July 30, 2017

Monday, August 28, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/27/17: Packing and Cleaning, Sibling Outing in Spokane, Early to Bed

1. I spent the morning packing for my flight to Baltimore, doing a little bit of cleaning in Mom's house, and taking several breaks to rest my tired back. It's a little bit shot after all these days of sorting and hauling -- I have lifted and transported countless boxes and bags of things out of Mom's house.

2. Christy, Carol, and I had our first sibling outing in a long time. We drove to Spokane and enjoyed walking around Kendall Yards. We stopped in at Veraci for a drink and we shared a Caprese salad. We then buzzed up to the Manito Tap House for dinner. I enjoyed this time with my sisters a lot, but if enjoyment is measured by how much I talked, it would seem that I wasn't enjoying myself. I was just beat from all the things I've been doing around Mom's house and with other tasks since Mom passed away. I enjoyed relaxing, but I wasn't very animated for our sibling outing.

3.  Christy and Carol dropped me off at the Ramada Inn at the Spokane Airport and I was dead asleep by 8:30, happy for the having spent an afternoon with my sisters, but too tired to even look at television or do much other than update the security on the two HP computers that belong to the Deke and me.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/26/17: More Hauling, Stu and Ed, Inland Lounge Crowd

1. I made two trips to St. Vincent de Paul's in Osburn, a last trip to the dump, and a trip to the Fuller Center for Housing Thrift Store in Smelterville. The garage is empty of the boxes and bags I packed. I got as much done, with Christy, Everett, Carol, and Paul's help, as I could within a week's time.  Mom's house is lighter. It's more open. There's more to take care of over the next several weeks.

2. Stu dropped by for a visit this afternoon and we had some very good food at the Hill Street Depot Pub. Ed joined us not long after we arrived and the three of us had a good time yakkin' about all kinds of stuff.

3. After eating a garden fresh BLT, prepared by Christy, I went up town to yak for a while with Bob Casady at the Inland Lounge. It was a great session and helped me dive a little deeper into the world of Kellogg, Idaho where I will soon live. The crowd at the Inland Lounge was good -- well-behaved, happy, and full of vigor. One guy was a miner on strike at the Lucky Friday. Bob had taken a break from running his bar to go to this guy's house to watch the Mayweather/McGregor bout.  I had a long talk about baseball, football, and Oregon with the guy who runs the food bank. The owner of Radio Brewing was in. The woman at the far end of the bar told me she knows all of Paul's family (Taylors and Roberts) because her sister is married to Dave Taylor, Paul's uncle. Charlie, who lives in a room in the Rio Hotel, was at the other end of the bar. I had met Becky, who works at Radio Brewing on Tuesdays, at the Silver Mountain Brewfest and she said hi to me as she walked in with a couple of friends and joined the owner of Radio Brewing at the bar for a while. I talked with County Commissioner Mike Fitzgerald.

Living in Kellogg is going to be very different than Greenbelt, MD and Eugene, OR -- and it's different in a lot of ways from the Kellogg I last lived in back in 1976. Much feels very familiar, but I know it's not the Kellogg that thrived on mining and logging over thirty years ago when there was plenty of work and the town was abuzz with retail and other commercial activity.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/25/17: Starting Another New Life, More Work, Dinner and a Mary Rose

1. Back on October 1, 2006, I started writing this blog, kellogg bloggin'. I've posted over 3900 entries to this blog in the last eleven years. Over the past several years, I found that the structure provided by Clare Law's now-shuttered blog Three Beautiful Things, has given me just the form I need to write every day and chronicle what is happening around me, sometimes in photographs, but always in words.

This blog began as a vehicle for me to write about my hometown Kellogg, Idaho, especially about memories I have of my life in Kellogg years ago. My blog has taken on different purposes since I started it, but I've always hoped that this blog would help me, along with anyone who read it, understand that I am who I am largely because of growing up in Kellogg, Idaho.

I have often wondered what it might mean to this blog if I were living in Kellogg, if it were a blog called kelloggbloggin' because I was in Kellogg nearly every day.

Soon I'll find out.

This morning I bought a plane ticket to fly back to Baltimore on Monday, August 27th. Upon arrival, I will be shoring up the writing of the wedding ceremony I will be officiating on Sept. 2 for Julie Fether and Curtis Rockwell in Huntingdon, PA.

Most of the time, though, in early September, the Deke and I will be packing up and closing out our life in Greenbelt, MD.

We are moving to Kellogg next month.

We are going to move into Mom's house, next door to Christy and Everett, and just blocks away from Carol and Paul.

It's hard for me to believe we are actually doing this. The Deke and I talked for years, when we lived in Eugene, about relocating to Kellogg (or Spokane) one day, but it seemed that we had shifted our lives in an entirely different direction when we moved to Maryland.

Well, we did shift our lives in an entirely different direction in 2014, but now we are shifting again.

I wrote in that initial blog post, back on October 1, 2006, that Kellogg is my Paris. By that, I meant that Kellogg is a microcosm of the larger world -- not quite as full and various as Paris is (!) -- but in its history as well as in the present, the world is here and I look forward to being back in this world.

I'll be close to my sisters and their husbands. I'll be close to friends I've known for my whole life. I'll get to reacquaint myself with the natural beauty of North Idaho. I'll be able to enjoy the beers of North Idaho, the Inland Northwest and the Pacific Northwest (but, I sure will miss the great beers of D. C., Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York).

The Deke and I just can't seem to get enough of starting a new life somewhere else.

We used to think that by this time in our lives we'd be settling in.

But, no.

We are moving again, not only with a sense of adventure, but with a great sense of gratitude for Mom's generosity to her children, the generosity that makes this move possible.

2.  This move helps explain why we have been clearing out Mom's house with a sense of urgency. I am trying to do all I can, with Christy, Everett, Carol, and Paul's help, to have Mom's house pretty much ready for the Deke and me to move into next month. Today Paul took down the last of the memorabilia Mom had covering the east wall of her kitchen. I took another load to the dump and tomorrow I'll take at least two pickup loads of things to donate to charities and return to the dump. There will be plenty left to do when the Deke and I arrive in Kellogg.

In many ways, we are seeing Mom's life of collecting and keeping things, as well as her love of kitchen supplies, gardening supplies, clothes, shoes, and knick knacks, pass before our eyes and we are reliving many memories that her things trigger. Carol and Paul's house is where we'll be keeping historical things: Mom's spoons, pictures, things that belonged to Uncle Bill, and other such things. When the Deke and I return, we'll deal with the top level of the house where more artifacts are stored and Mom's copious collection of Christmas lights and ornaments and other Christmas things she loved to put out in December.

3. The sorting, hauling, loading, remembering, and grieving wore me out today. I could hardly talk by late this afternoon and hungered for rest.  I was very grateful that Ann Hill made us a delicious and fortifying dinner and delivered it to Christy and Everett's. She made us shredded beef to be served with Swiss cheese to make sandwiches along with a green salad, a fruit salad, and a huckleberry cake.

Earlier in the day, a Mary Rose plant, in honor of Mom's life, arrived in the mail at Christy and Everett's. It's a gift from Roger Pearson's family and the family of his sister, Trudi Brown. Christy and Carol opened it and we all eagerly anticipate its gorgeous blooms and love that we will have such a beautiful tribute to Mom in our midst. Roses have grown really well in Christy and Everett's backyard, so that's where the Mary Rose will be planted.

Our gratitude to friends and family grows in the aftermath of losing Mom. We have received many thoughtful cards, messages, dinners, and gifts.  We are beginning to hear from people who plan to attend Mom's service on Oct. 6th and are very grateful as we anticipate all who will join us to celebrate Mom's life.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/24/17: Business, Taco Thursday, Beer and Humdinger Burgers

1. It was a business day. I saw our attorney to get things underway to take care of Mom's estate.  I signed papers. I called an insurance company to find out if a policy of Mom's I found papers for was still in force. It is. I learned what Christy, Carol, and I need to do to file a claim.  I got things underway to donate to charity a burial space at Fairmount Cemetery in Spokane. It's one our family has owned for nearly seventy years, but that no one in our family is going to use.

2. I enjoyed a light lunch at the Hill Street Depot: smoked tri-tip steak street tacos and a glass of Radio Brewing's Pale Ale. Fatigued from grieving, packing, sorting, hauling, and figuring things out, it felt good to sit silently at the Depot's short bar and go blank for a while.

3. Byrdman and I had planned a get together with friends at Corby's this afternoon, but changed our plans when key figures couldn't make it. Instead, we sat at the bar at Radio Brewing and ate some chips with salsa and guacamole and enjoyed some IPA and Wildcat Wheat. Afterward, we stopped at the Humdinger and each picked up a burger and fries. Byrdman dropped me off at Mom's and I ate my dinner and, after a brief nap on the couch, went to bed and slept with my head right by an open window and enjoyed the fresh, cool North Idaho air and had a long night's sleep, hoping to be revived for more grieving, sorting, packing, and hauling on Friday.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/23/17: Donating Mom's Clothes, Mom and Grandma West, Many Thanks to Chris Meyer

1. Carol and Christy very carefully went through all of Mom's clothes that I had packed on Tuesday. Many of the Mom's clothes brought back memories of weddings, trips to the Oregon coast, other events, and phases of clothing styles Mom went through. Christy and Carol are much more attuned to the history of Mom's clothes than I am, and while I left at one point to take a load of donations to the Fuller Center for Housing's thrift store in Smelterville, I enjoyed listening to all that they knew about Mom's clothes and all that they remembered.  When they finished, Paul helped me out immeasurably by loading the tubs of Mom's clothes into the Malibu and I drove them to the Hospice Thrift Store of Coeur d'Alene where we hope Mom's clothes will have an extended life, knowing that any that are purchased will help Hospice of North Idaho continue to provide palliative care to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay.

2. It was one week ago today, on August 16th, that Mom died. As I drove to Smelterville and then to Coeur d'Alene and back, I kept picturing Mom in her last days and how she looked when she had passed away. Nothing adorned Mom. She was dressed only in a hospital gown because it caused her too much pain if the aides tried to put anything else on her, even her pajamas. She didn't have on her wig, her glasses, or any make-up.  Mom's eyes narrowed and, to me, became more blue. As her cheeks became more hollow and as she slowly diminished in size, her appearance started to transform. She looked more and more like her mother, Nona West.  It was as if the closer she came to dying, the more she resembled the woman who originally gave her life. It was a remarkable experience to be with Mom in her last days and hours. It verged on the miraculous when I felt I was simultaneously in the presence of Mom as she died and the return of Grandma West.

3. Today was a tiring day. Christy, Carol, and I talked over the steps we've learned we need to take to settle Mom's estate. We continued to work on sorting and packing Mom's belongings and made plans for how to deal with things we still have to do. I made an appointment with our attorney. Paul and Carol transported more things to their house. Christy packed up and walked things over to her house.  I delivered donations.

It was a great relief that Chris Meyer brought us a complete dinner to Carol and Paul's house. It was a generous spread: smoked Cornish hens, green beans, tiny red potatoes, a splendid green salad, and dinner rolls (did I forget to mention anything?).  Chris made us huckleberry cocktails and a strawberry rhubarb pie was available for dessert. The dinner was delicious, nourishing, and nurturing. It was a relief to relax over such good food seasoned with Chris' kindness and thoughtfulness.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/22/17: Progress, Mom's Clothes, Patio Party at Dick and Renae's

1. The garage's load is a little lighter today and will further lighten on Wednesday. I made a trip to the dump (also known as the Shoshone County Transfer Station) and deposited a truckload of different items I brought up from the basement. Christy and Carol and Paul sorted through things and took some items home. Paul and Carol will take more things home tomorrow. I'll get to work on the next level of sorting: deciding what remaining things become charitable donations and what goes to the transfer station.

2. One of Mom's chief concerns over the years was how she looked, especially when she left the house. Whenever we went anywhere, whether to a medical appointment, a wedding or funeral, a shower, a summer musical theater production, a meeting of retired educators, shopping at Wal Mart, out to eat at the City Limits or (when it was open) the Silver Spoon, a production at the Sixth Street Theater, or dinner at Carol and Paul's or Christy and Everett's, Mom started getting ready at least an hour before we left. She never just threw something on and dashed out the door. She cleaned up, meticulously applied her make-up, often cleaned and combed her wig, sometimes wiped clean whatever shoes she was wearing, and chose something to wear from her many combinations of dresses, pants, slacks, blouses, shirts, jackets, and sweatshirts. In particular, Mom loved the Alfred Dunner line of clothes as well as clothes she ordered from Blair Clothing.

The many outings Mom and I went on over the last several years rushed back to mind today. I couldn't help but think about how getting ready to go was becoming increasingly difficult for Mom the past three or four years, but how she was determined to look good, no matter how difficult it was to pull a blouse or shirt out of the closet or to change from around the house pants into nicer pants or slacks.

Our family did Mom's laundry when she lived at the nursing home. I took over washing and drying Mom's clothes after I arrived in June. Mom made it a point back in June and in early July to tell me to take the clothes out of the drier right away so they wouldn't get wrinkled. If they still came out wrinkled, I knew to either iron them before I brought them over or spray them with Downy Wrinkle Releaser in her room. Mom didn't often leave her room at Kindred, but it didn't matter. She wanted to wear good looking clothes, wrinkle free.

Now her clothes are all in tubs, sitting in the living room, awaiting their next destination.

3. Christy, Everett, and I met at Dick and Renae Costa's for a patio party with drinks and a generous variety of food: meatballs, cheese, salami, broiled French bread slices, a cherry cream cheese spread for the bread, salad, a vegetable tray and more. Renae had lemonade ready to go to mix with gin and muddled cucumber. We met Dick and Renae's friend from Madison, WI, Connie, and Connie told me about her son who has completed studies at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting and is now doing a paid internship in a theater in Cincinnati and who loves Shakespeare. It was a great evening. I was sorry that I had to call it quits kind of early. I was just tired after another day of working to empty Mom's house.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/21/17: Eclipse in the Basement, Haunted by the Basement, Dump Run Prep

1. I was unloading the big cupboard and packing boxes in Mom's basement during the solar eclipse. I am so determined to get Mom's house cleared out that I almost forgot there was a solar eclipse. Later, I read others' experiences on Facebook, but I have no first hand knowledge at all if, in Kellogg, birds stopped singing or if street lights came on. I did find two cast iron pans I didn't realize Mom had squirreled away in this cupboard and I look forward to cooking with them.

2. Working in Mom's basement haunts me. As Mom's mobility deteriorated, she was determined to continue to use the basement to store surplus food, toilet paper,  paper towels, and other things and to continue to make regular trips up and down the stairs, one foot on a step, the other foot on the same step, slowly, one hand on the rail, the other hand holding her cloth laundry bag or a plastic grocery bag with ground beef or pork steaks from the freezer. It scared me that she was going up and down those stairs so often.

Working in Mom's basement brought back to mind the day in early March, 2015 when Mom fell and broke her collarbone. The accident occurred in the basement. Mom always kept many rolls of toilet paper on the living room level of her house in a cupboard near the bathroom and she wanted there to always be about a dozen rolls in that cupboard and three or four rolls in the bathroom. On March 5, 2015 she decided she needed to replenish the upstairs supply and went to the bathroom in the basement where she kept surplus toilet paper under the sink.

I'm haunted by my knowledge that this wasn't a toilet paper emergency, by my knowledge that Mom could have waited until Carol came to the house and asked her to get the toilet paper from the basement.

I'm haunted by knowing that when Mom bent down to get toilet paper rolls out from under the sink she fell, maybe as she was standing up again, and slammed her shoulder against something and suffered a fracture.

I had had fantasies before this happened of hiring someone to come to Mom's house and seal off the basement door.

Later, after her fracture and surgery, I had arguments with Mom about her going to the basement. She never wanted to give that up. Going to the basement endangered her, she stubbornly resisted that fact, and she hated finally being barred from going down there. I'm haunted by our arguments over this.

As Mom became increasingly immobile, dependent on a cane and then her walker, she lamented not being able to go to the basement as much or more than anything.

The basement vividly represented to Mom how her world was shrinking, how much she was limited by the deterioration and betrayal of her body from her waist to her feet.

I'm haunted by all she suffered in relation to the basement as I work to clear all the things out of there. For Mom, that basement just might have been the most important space in the whole house for her -- and the most dangerous.

3. Everett backed his pickup into Mom's driveway and I loaded it with a mountain of 13 gallon Glad bags full of refuse along with old carpeting and useless paint stained chairs that have been in the basement since before I was in high school. We'll make our first run to the dump Tuesday morning.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/20/17: Mom's Basement Cupboard, Up the River, Scotch and Classic Vinyl

1. I spent the morning clearing out more space in Mom's basement. Many years ago, Mom and Dad had a large cupboard built in the basement and, over the years, it became a place where Mom stored a wide variety of things: glass vases, a coffee bean grinder, canning equipment, huge plastic bins of flour and sugar, light bulbs, mixing bowls she had replaced in the kitchen, crock pots, a meat grinder, a meat slicer, and much more. Mom loved giving kitchen gadgets a try and when she ran out of room in the kitchen to store them, she put them in the big basement cupboard and sometimes she packed one of them back upstairs for a cooking project, but mostly they have sat in this cupboard. Mom always knew where each item was located in this cupboard. Her memory for such detail astonished me.

This morning, after I lugged up Mom's artificial Christmas tree, disassembled a bricks and boards shelf, brought a now flimsy set of drawers to the garage, filled several garbage bags with everything from old tupperware containers to mildewed Boy Scout memorabilia I decided to let go of, I tackled the big cupboard. I'm not quite halfway done emptying it.

The garage is slowly filling up.

Soon it will be time to make a run to the dump and to figure out where we might donate other of Mom's things.

For years, I wanted to get started on this project while Mom was alive. Mom could never bring herself to let me (or anyone else) move all these things along. These belongings were more than just things for Mom. They held memories of fixing Nuts n Bolts, baking cookies, and making popcorn balls at Christmas, Thanksgiving dinners, weddings and receptions, people who had given her some of these things as gifts, trips to the Oregon coast, slow cooking soups, and many other experiences she cherished over the years.

These things also gave Mom a sense of accomplishment, security, and comfort.

It's no wonder she couldn't let them go.

2. I buzzed up to the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes trailhead across Forest Service Road #9 from the Snake Pit, parked the Malibu, and met Byrdman in the Snake Pit parking lot. He drove me up to where she shares a river property with Dan Carrico's family up the North Fork. We got some Prichard Mai Tais out of the freezer, each filled ourselves a glass of the boozy slush, and sat down by the river for a while and reminisced about the Kellogg High School All Class Reunion from a week ago and other stuff.

3. After a while, we moved our two man party to another part of the property where we could listen to "Classic Vinyl" on Sirius-XM radio. I drank a few short pours of Glenlivet 12 Single Malt Scotch over a cube of ice and we listened to great hits by Led Zeppelin, Santana, Little Feat, CCR, The Rolling Stones, and many others while we remembered the teams from the NBA and Major League Baseball we enjoyed when we were kids.

At one point, Byrdman remarked that the Dodgers during the 1960s had the first infield ever made up of all switch-hitters. (It turns out the year was 1965.) We worked together and pieced together that the players were first sacker Wes Parker, the double play combo of Jim Lefebvre (2B) and Maury Wills (SS), and Jim "Junior" Gilliam at the hot corner.

It was a perfect afternoon up the river. The temperature was in the 70s. It was quiet. The river ran clean and peacefully. The music was awesome.  I was totally relaxed.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/19/17: Mom's Things, Brewfest, Steaks on the Deck

1.  William Carlos Williams famously wrote: "No ideas but in things." Objects give us a concrete way to experience concepts, whereas concepts alone are invisible, intangible. We can't experience concepts with our senses nor do concepts trigger memories.

I spent much of the morning today carrying things that belonged to Mom out of her basement into the garage. My sisters and I will decide what we'll keep, what we'll take to the dump, and what we'll give away.

I moved dining table chairs that we used over forty years ago, cleaning supplies, numerous and various vases, glassware, including sundae glasses, flutes, cups, and other items; I brought up several electric fans, my dad's bowling ball, bags filled with smaller plastic bags, a bar stool, yard furniture, and more.

There's much more to haul upstairs: boxes of records and receipts stretching back over thirty years, bread machine, numerous books, more vases, a set of China dishes given to her and Dad as a wedding gift, a canner, roasting pans, dried flowers, a box of seashells from Oregon, the artificial Christmas tree, the Tom and Jerry bowl and matching mugs, aprons, doilies, tablecloths, towels, and Mom's store of sweatshirts, pants, blouses, shirts, and sweaters among other things.

Mary Idell West Woolum's character is in these things. Mom's way was to save things, collect stuff, and store up on sales items -- sugar, flour, light bulbs, spices, meat, canned goods, and more.

Moving and sorting Mom's things triggers many memories of when we used that furniture, Mom's painting projects, her devotion to cleanliness and cleaning supplies, the many loaves of bread she baked, her career as an educator, and her love of flowers, fresh as well as dried.

As I make my way through these days following Mom's death, mom is very much alive to me, not as an idea or a memory, but in her things.

2. After a morning of hauling, I went over to Dick and Renae Costa's condo and we gathered ourselves and jumped on the gondola and attended the Silver Mountain Brewfest. About twenty breweries set up shop and I enjoyed samples from all over the Pacific Northwest. I decided to focus on red ale, brown ales, ESB, and Irish Death. The samples were between three and four ounces so I didn't drink much more than a pint and a half of beer and had a great time listening to the Sara Brown Band from Kettle Falls, WA and Spokane's Soul Proprietor. I also saw two great classmates from high school, Susan Dahlberg and Patty Hei and enjoyed shooting the breeze with both of them.

3. Christy had texted me that she was going to grill steaks this evening, so I joined Everett and her on their back deck for a generous rib steak, baked potato, and green salad. I didn't last long after dinner. My day of hauling and going up on the mountain tired me out and I hit the hay early.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/18/17: A Tree Blocks the Road, Deep Appreciation, Trip to Worley

1. I woke up this morning yearning to be among old trees in the cool of their comforting shade. I drove up the North Fork of the CdA River and on up to the West Fork of Eagle Creek and entered the gravel road that leads to the Settlers Grove of Ancient Cedars Trail in the Coeur d'Alene National Forest. But, I never made it to the trees. A large, limbless tree had fallen from up the hill bordering the road and the top of the tree rested on the road, blocking it. I had to make a seventy-five point turn on the narrow single lane Forest Service road to get turned around.  I decided to go to the Bedroom Goldmine Bar in Murray for a hamburger and couple of ice cold cans of Budweiser beer.  The bar was nearly empty, so I experienced some of the solitude I had sought by trying to go to the cedar grove. The hamburger and beer hit the spot.

Still, in these sad days following Mom's death, it would have been comforting to have some solitude among those old and mighty cedars.

2. I returned home and read the scores of condolences and words of support from friends from the Silver Valley, Coeur d'Alene, Spokane, Eugene, Seattle, Boulder, Portland, Huntingdon, PA, Grass Valley, CA, and many other places. I thought of my friendship with each of person. If they knew Mom, I thought about their relationship with her. I appreciated how many people, who didn't know Mom, felt they had come to know her over the last several months and beyond because of the writing Christy, Carol, and I have done about her on our blogs and on Facebook and the pictures we have posted.  My friends have been generous in their support and I deeply appreciate how many people have told Christy, Carol, and me that we did everything we could to care for and comfort Mom in the last months and weeks and days she was alive.

By the way, if you'd like to read Mom's obituary, just click right here.

3.  Ed and I both needed some time away and we headed down to Worley to the CdA Casino. As always, it's not so much the casino that makes these trips so good; it's the driving down and back, talking about stuff, reminiscing, and solving the world's problems. We did plenty of talking, not only in the car, but over dinner at the Red Tail Bar and Grill inside the casino. I got back to Kellogg about 11:00 and fell into a deep and refreshing sleep.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/17/17: Goodbye Mom, Clearing Mom's Room, Arrangements and Drinks and Dinner

1.  Wednesday night, at around 10:30, Christy, Carol, Paul, the Deke, and I visited Mom just minutes after she died. Nurse Kay Day joined us some of the time. Her father-in-law Woody was our next door neighbor for several years back in the 1960s and 1970s. Kay told us about how, years ago, she took a leave of absence from Kindred and moved into her mother's Kindred room and took care of her as she died. Kay also told us what a sweet resident Mom was, how she always seemed to have something kind or humorous to say when Kay looked in on her, especially, for example, when Kay asked her to explain why she'd thrown her oxygen tubing on the floor.

For the thirty minutes or so we were with Mom before Pastor Art Fleming came from the funeral home to transport her away, we told little stories, some through tears, others through laughter, and we admired Mom for the full life she had lived, how strong she was, and marveled at how beautiful and peaceful she looked in death. We took turns holding her hand, stroking her forehead and face, telling her good-bye with our touch and our words and our kisses.

2.  Back at Mom's house, I was wound up after saying good-bye to Mom. I tried to settle down with the help of a couple of cheese spread jars half filled with gin and ice, but the Deke and I didn't really get to sleep until after 1 a.m. At 5:15 a.m., we were back out of bed to get ready to drive to Spokane where the Deke was catching a flight back to Maryland. The size of Mom's house will expand with the Deke gone -- it will be a lonely place for me. Ever since the Deke and I arrived in Kellogg after our ten days in Eugene, back on July 24th, the Deke has been a source of strength and solace for all of us;  not only as she has listened to me and my sisters, talked with us and supported us, but as she cooked us meals, volunteered to do anything we needed, and spoke of her love for her good friend Mary Idell West Woolum.

After I left the airport, I ate a hearty and delicious breakfast at the Breakfast Nook in CdA and returned to Kellogg to join Christy, Carol, and Paul over at Mom's room to gather her things and bring them back to her house. I stopped in to visit with Peny Benson and we talked about Mom and the way she died after, we thought, it must have seemed clear to Mom that everything for her celebration of life and everything at her house was in order and she knew we were complying with all of her instructions about her cremation and being laid to rest with Dad in his funeral plot, in a myrtlewood urn, near his heart.

3. After helping clear out Mom's room, I collapsed until 3 o'clock, sometimes sleeping and, when not sleeping, reading the deeply touching expressions of condolence and love from friends and family on Facebook, in electronic messages, and in e-mails.

At 3 o'clock, my sisters and I met with the funeral home director, Debbie Mikesell, to, among other things, compose an obituary, to plan Mom's interment, and make arrangements for her Celebration of Life.  When the date has been confirmed with the church, I'll post it.

Next stop: Best Shots, for my sisters and I to share a drink or two together and wind down and relax.

We ended the day in Christy and Everett's back yard and feasted on delicious food fixed with Mom's favorite food in mind:  seafood pasta pesto salad and green salad prepared by Jane next door and a very tasty second pasta salad prepared by Kellee Crall. Jane also baked our dessert and it was Mom's very favorite, her request every year on her birthday: angel food cake with lemon cream cheese frosting.

I excused myself a little early from dinner, came back over to Mom's house and, for the second time today, collapsed, this time into a deep and refreshing sleep.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/16/17: Update -- Rest in Peace Mary Idell West Woolum

1. At around 10:25 this evening, Nurse Kay from Kindred called me with the news that Mom had just died. Carol and Paul had been with Mom until close to 10:00 and she passed away shortly after they left. I called Christy and Carol with the news and we, along with Paul and the Deke, went to Mom's room to bear witness to her death, to stroke her forehead, hold her hand, to kiss her good-bye, and to express our love one last time.

Three Beautiful Things 08/16/17: Evening Visit, Two Weeks Seems Like Two Months, Frozen Treats

1. I am writing this at 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday evening. I've just returned from seeing Mom. Nurse Dawn told me that Mom has probably lost all her senses now except her hearing. Fluids are gathering inside of Mom. Her hands and wrists and forearms are swollen. Her breathing is both rattly and gurgly. Nurse Dawn doubt she feels very much except deep pain and so Mom is being given doses of morphine and Ativan to help her rest and sleep calmly and with as much relief from pain as possible.

2. Late July and the first half of August have felt very long. So it seems like a long time ago that Mom and had the standoff I wrote about. But that was just July 26th. It seems a very long time ago that Judy and Angie were in Kellogg and Mom was so animated and with it, telling stories and enjoying her nieces, but they arrived on July 31st and left the next day. I spent a lot of time with Mom today and so did Carol and Christy. All three of us were in Mom's room when Andrea, the hospice nurse visited and gave Mom another lasix IV and worked to get some things straightened out about nurses being sure to medicate Mom regularly. Christy, Carol, and I did all we could to comfort Mom by holding her hand and stroking her forehead and Carol swabbed her mouth to moisten it. I thought more about the trajectory of Mom's decline. Just a week ago she impatiently reprimanded me for asking her FOUR times if she wanted to eat pears. That was about the last time I really saw her eat. It was just two weeks ago that she sent me home to get her a dill pickle, thinly sliced. Now, such a short time later, her animation is essentially gone. Her last stand of resistance is not letting anyone remove her dentures. She is slipping away.  The last two weeks feel like they've lasted two months.

3. The Deke fixed our whole family a delicious dinner tonight and we ate on Mom's deck. In honor of Mom, we ate ice cream sandwiches for dessert in memory of how Mom used to always stock her freezer with frozen treats. It was the Deke's idea and a very nice touch.

Three Beautiful Things 08/15/17: Comforting Mom, Treating Mom, Evening with Mom

1.  I arrived to be with Mom at 9:00. I made a brief trip to Mom's house late in the morning and ate a bowl of cereal, but returned quickly because Christy was going to work and Carol had errands to run. Today, Mom didn't moan or groan, but her face was often pinched, her forehead and brow wrinkled. The nurses continued to give her morphine. The medicine brought her some relief.

Mom has not been out of bed since August 11th, the last time the staff tried to have her eat in the dining room and she mostly slept. Aides come from time to time to reposition her, change her gown, change her diapers, and run a damp washcloth over her and it is painful for Mom. She's not only frail, but tender.

I tried to comfort Mom by holding her hand and stroking her forehead and talk with her some. Often she opened her eyes and she tried to talk, but either no sound came out or her utterances were unintelligible. April Lee talked with Mom in private and the Deke visited and also talked with her. Christy and Carol both comforted Mom and spoke with her and Carol swabbed out Mom's dry mouth with wet, small sponges that come on a stick.

2. Both the hospice CNA and nurse were scheduled to visit Mom today and, as it turned out, they both arrived mid-afternoon at about the same time. Nurse Andrea immediately determined that Mom's heart failure was worse than ever and that fluid was collecting throughout her body below her heart. Mom's hands are very puffy. Her breathing is often rattly, wheezy. Andrea expressed concern that Mom was at risk to develop pulmonary edema. Her immediate course of treatment was to try to help Mom flush fluids out of her system.  She also ordered an increase in Mom's dosages of morphine.

She ordered an IV of lasix, a diuretic, and fitted Mom with a catheter to accelerate Mom's voiding of fluids. She also ordered a couple other medicines to help dry the secretions that caused the rattling and wheezing. She worked efficiently and gently to minimize the strain that putting the IV port in Mom's wrist and inserting the catheter caused Mom.

Andrea told me, and then I relayed this news to Christy, Carol, and the Deke that Mom's life is drawing very near to its end.

We siblings were all with Mom late in afternoon. So was Everett. At the right time, Christy left to fix us all dinner and I left a little later to get some rest and to eat.

3.  Much of our delicious dinner came directly out of Christy's garden. After I ate, I returned to be with Mom. Carol was there, singing softly to Mom. I sat and listened and when she had finished a song, asked her if she wanted to go to Christy's and eat. She did. I stayed with Mom for about another hour and a half, trying to comfort her, praying silently.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/14/17: Mom's Day of Distress, Good Visits, Evening at Carol and Paul's

1. I was with Mom today for about eight hours, beginning when I walked over to Kindred with Jeri Robinson and Don Windisch. Mom was in distress of some sort all day long. I don't know if it was physical or mental or spiritual distress or a combination of all three or something beyond my understanding.  Mom seemed to be trying to sleep, but I could never tell if she succeeded or if she was in state of being I don't have words for. Sometimes she made indecipherable responses when people talked to her. Both Jeri and Don spoke to Mom. So did Renae Costa. The Deke did. Carol did. I did, too. The nurses and aides talked to her when they gave her medicine and did other things. She seemed to hear all of us, but her responses were unintelligible.

Mostly, Mom moaned and groaned. Today, the medicines seemed to have little effect. It looks to me like she's losing her ability to swallow. I never saw her eat or drink anything. The nurses had to give Mom repeated encouragement to swallow the applesauce spiked with her pills.

I sat next to her bed for several hours and held Mom's hand or rested my hand on her arm. Sometimes she squeezed it tightly.  Other times she pulled her hand away.  Mom was almost never relaxed. I'm hoping that with the help of the nurses from Hospice we can help Mom find comfort in the coming days.

Today, I mostly wanted Mom to know she wasn't alone. Being close to her, sometimes talking to her, and holding her hand didn't seem to relieve her distress, but, at least for much of the day, she wasn't alone in her determination to stay alive.

2. I was grateful that Jeri and Don and, later, Renae, and then the Deke came to visit Mom. Before we went to Kindred, Jeri, Don, the Deke, and I had a good visit at Mom's house. Carol and I enjoyed talking with Renae in Mom's room. It was a comfort to me, in the afternoon, when the Deke arrived.

3. The Deke and I went over to Carol and Paul's around 7:15 and ate sliced Italian meats and Romano cheese left over from last week's Italian feast. We enjoyed gin and tonic together and had some good conversation about Mom's day and many other things. The evening got chilly. The air was clear of forest fire smoke. It wasn't long before the Deke and I returned to Mom's house. We were both weary and in need of going to bed kind of early.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/13/17: Mom Has Slept for Days, Breakfast at Sam's, Piling Ideas on Tables. . . Reunion Picture

1. I now know, from reading Carol's blog, that Mom has had some brief times of being awake and I know that this morning she ate a little bit of yogurt. On the whole, though, she has continued to sleep. I visited her briefly at 10 this morning and she was asleep and I spent about three and a half hours with Mom this afternoon and she slept. When Nurse Brian raised her head a bit and tried to better position her to take her medicine, Mom cried out. The slight repositioning hurt. Nurse Brian was very gentle with her and succeeded in giving Mom the medicine. I thought at that point Mom might be a little bit awake. I talked with her a little bit, she murmured. I couldn't understand her. By this time, the Deke had come to Mom's room. After a while, we left. She was asleep.

Mom has been asleep, with only brief intervals of being awake, since Thursday. Today, Rick Wainright, Sue and Joe Kerns, Pam Sample, Rick and April Lee, and maybe others I've forgotten came to visit Mom.

2. It was fun to have Stu message me this morning and invite me to Sam's for breakfast. I joined him and Lars and, a little later on, Ed and Mike also sat with us. We yakked about the reunion and other stuff and agreed that it had been and fun weekend full of great times with people we've known ever since we were kids.

3.  The Deke and I continued putting ideas for our future on the table after we said goodbye to Mom. We began by piling up ideas on the bar at Radio Brewing where we enjoyed a glass of IPA and also had some really good conversation with a couple of the employees whose names I haven't learned yet. I will.  Then we went down to the Hill Street Depot and piled more ideas and possibilities on a table. The Deke hadn't been to the Hill Street Depot and enjoyed it a lot. We found out that the Hill Street Depot features smoked meats, smoked on site, so we ordered some smoked Buffalo wings and enjoyed them a lot.

The wings were appetizers in preparation for a superb comfort food meal that Christy prepared: pork steaks and sausage gravy with brown rice. She also served cucumbers and green beans out of her garden. It was a delicious and comforting way to end our day.

* Sharon Waldo took this picture of me Saturday morning while we got the float ready for the parade. As you can see, I was very happy to be with so many life long Kellogg friends:

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/12/17: Mom's Sleep Continues, Reunion Parade, Somber Conversations

1. This morning, Carol reported that Mom continued to sleep. I went to be with Mom for an hour or so around 1:00. Mom slept and hardly stirred. Christy was with her through the afternoon. Mom slept. Mom slept all day Thursday, Friday, and Saturday with short breaks to take medicine or for a change of clothes.

2. We had a great turnout at Jake's Mom's house to decorate our Class of 1972 float for the All-Class reunion parade. Our class was also represented by bicycle and motorcycle riders and it was fun laughing it up with lifelong friends and tossing candy to onlookers on the parade route.

3. Our class had a patio party later in the afternoon at Kellogg's Mansion on the Hill. I had a very good visit with Deni Rinaldi, a classmate -- we walked in together at our high school graduation -- and lifelong family friend. All weekend long, the mood was festive and fun, but many of my private conversations were somber. Often the subject was death. Deni lost her husband over two years ago. Deni told me about his last days and we talked about Mom. Many people I talked to knew how frail Mom has become and extended their empathy and sympathy and support. Many told me their own stories about their parents either dying or being frail now. I deeply appreciated all this support and all these stories.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/11/17: Mom Slept All Day, All-Class Reunion, Inland Lounge

1. Mom slept all day. I arrived to be with her at 8 and she was back to bed after spending much of her time in the dining area during breakfast asleep. She barely ate. I stayed with Mom until 1 in the afternoon, mainly to make sure she was comfortable. Around 10 o'clock, two nurses had to check a bandaged spot on Mom's back. I left the room and took a stroll. When I returned, Nurse Michelle told me that Mom stiffened up when they moved her to look at her back, making the procedure difficult. It also triggered pain and so immediately Nurse Brian gave Mom morphine and then another dose an hour later. Mom grimaced and fidgeted and occasionally groaned until around noon and then settled back into peaceful sleep and rest.

I returned to Mom's room around 4 o'clock when Terry Turner paid Mom a visit. Mom gave no indication that she knew Terry was in the room. I left Mom's room around 5:45. She continued to sleep.

2. The Deke drove Christy and me uptown to the Elks. This is the weekend of the All-Class Reunion. We joined the gathering of all Kellogg High School alumni who graduated in the 1970s. I saw dozens of people I've known for over fifty years. It was fun to get reacquainted with people like Susan Sellers and Jim Morgan whom I hadn't seen for decades and fun to see and talk with people I've seen more recently and others who I see frequently.

3. After making the rounds at the Elks, I strolled across the street and spent the rest of the evening at the Inland Lounge yakking with old friends, shooting the breeze with Cas, and enjoying the relaxing effects of Maker's Mark. It was a great night.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/10/17:Mom Slept All Day, Afternoon Party in CdA, Italian Birthday Feast

1. I spent the morning with Mom, from 8-12. I learned, upon arriving at Kindred, that she had been wheeled to the dining area to eat breakfast. At 8, she sat in her wheelchair, in her room, drifting in and out of sleep. We didn't converse. Mom talked a little bit from time to time, but not in conversation. She wanted to sleep. Some time after 9, a couple of aides put her back to bed and Mom slept the rest of the day, peacefully, without agitation or restlessness. Her facial expressions, the regularity and depth of her breathing, and her physical and vocal stillness all indicated that she was comfortable. I returned to see Mom at 5 o'clock and she continued to sleep. At about 5:40, I checked in with Mom's aide to report that I was going home.  Misty, the aide, told me she'd be checking in on Mom after dinner and on into the evening.

2. The Deke and I took an afternoon drive to Coeur d'Alene where I got a haircut and the Deke checked out a yarn store she'd never been to, Knit Knit.  We met up again at Crafted and sat at the bar where the Deke enjoyed a pint and a half of Ninkasi's Dawn of the Red and I loved my pint and a half of Mad Bomber's Fatman IPA. The Deke and I needed another bit relaxed time with just each other and had a great conversation about the near future. It was a great party.

3. Back in Kellogg, we went over to Carol and Paul's house and celebrated Molly's 27th birthday with the Roberts and with Christy and Everett with an Italian feast. Carol had been in Italy back in June and early July. Tonight she made three main dishes that included polenta, sausage, artichokes, pasta, and cheese. I can't name the dishes. We also had a delicious green salad. Carol served Romano cheese and sliced meats and baguette for an appetizer and we drank an Italian cocktail before the main course and Italian wines with dinner. We topped off the meal with lemon cake and espresso for dessert. It was a very happy birthday dinner for Molly and a great Italian feast for all of us.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/09/17: Mom is Frail, Mom's Burst of Impatience, Christy's Gratitude

1. I went over to see Mom at 9:00 knowing that both the CNA and RN from Hospice were scheduled to visit Mom this morning. Mom is frail. Their (and my) chief concern is keeping Mom comfortable with the help of medicine. Both the CNA and RN observed Mom in pain and Andrea, the RN, made adjustments in Mom's medication.

2. I returned to be with Mom at 3:30. She was in her wheelchair and nearly mute. Occasionally, Mom said some things. Mostly she drifted in and out of sleep. Mom barely at any dinner. She had a moment, though, when I could see the Mary Woolum I've known all these years shine through. I fed Mom what little dinner she ate. She had both cottage cheese and pears on her tray. I asked her if she wanted cottage cheese and if she wanted pears. She'd declined pears three times. I thought I'd give it another try:

"Mom, do you want some pears?"

In the strongest voice her frailty could muster:  "For the FOURTH TIME, NO!"

I chuckled. I smiled broadly. I thought to myself, "Good to have you back, Mom" (if only for a moment) and didn't offer Mom any more pears.

3.  The Deke made a delicious pasta salad and Christy grilled chicken apple sausages and we had a baguette to round out the meal and Christy, Everett, the Deke, and I had a relaxing time of cooling off, talking, and laughing in Christy and Everett's back yard. The last few days when Christy has been with Mom, mostly Mom has slept. This afternoon, though, Mom was awake with Christy. Mom asked Christy about her day and they got to talk. Christy was very grateful.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/08/17: Mom's Contented Morning, Care Meeting and Cosette, CdA Jaunt

1. I arrived to be with Mom at 8:00 this morning. Mom was finished with breakfast and sitting up, in her pajamas, in her wheelchair. I noticed she didn't have her glasses on and then discovered her glasses were not in plain sight. Several staff from Kindred looked for her glasses, but they are officially missing. Mom was unfazed by her missing glasses. In fact, Mom was in a state of relaxed dementia throughout the three hours or so we spent together. She spoke whatever came to her mind. Sometimes I couldn't hear her, even though I was sitting very near hear. None of the things she said or the questions she asked me connected with each other and none of what she said was driven by much worry or anxiety. She chuckled from time to time or broke out into a smile.  At one point, as if she were standing on the back porch calling us kids in for dinner, she called out to her deceased sister Lila's deceased husband Ted, as if his name had two syllables: "Uncle Te-ed! Uncle Te-ed!"

I later learned that Mom was restless and agitated in the afternoon, but by the time Christy spent time with her shortly after five, she was sleeping much more peacefully.

2. Christy, Carol, and I met with some Kindred staff and with two staff from Hospice for a care conference. We siblings had some questions about Mom's medicine, how Kindred and Hospice coordinate their efforts, Mom's diet, how Mom is being transferred from bed to wheelchair and back, and other things. It was a positive, informative meeting and afterward we talked a bit more with Andrea, the Hospice nurse.

While we were in this meeting, Cosette, revived, back on her feet, active in the world again, spent time with Mom. I found out later that Cosette felt well enough to go to CdA to have some fun with a friend. It looks like she has recovered from the mysterious ailment that had her so sick, so down and out for four or five days.

3. The Deke and I had some errands to run in Coeur d'Alene. We got them done and went to Daft Badger Brewing for sandwiches and couple of beers. It was an easy time at Daft Badger. We loved our food. We had a fun chat with our server, Amy. I always enjoy a couple short pours of Badger's Bounty.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/07/17: Cosette on the Mend, Mom's Good Day, IPA and Backyard Dinner

1. The best news of the day was that after returning home after spending the night in ER, Cosette had a much better day on Monday. She felt much better. She was able to keep food down. When I last talked to Carol and Zoe at about 5 o'clock, they were both optimistic that the worst of it was behind Cosette and Cosette wrote a post on Facebook that told the same story.

2. I spent time in the morning and the afternoon with Mom. Mom had had many hours of sleep, starting early Sunday afternoon and she was much more alert and with it on Monday morning. She had several visitors, including Christy's puppy Riley, and Mom enjoyed them all. Her CNA from Hospice also visited and I enjoyed her a lot and learned more about how palliative care requires that caregivers learn as they go. I got the impression that the people working with Mom are getting a clearer sense of how to administer medicines that will help keep Mom more comfortable. I was especially happy that Nurse Lisa had given Mom a morning dose of Lorazepam (Ativan) before she might have started showing symptoms of agitation and Mom was relaxed in the morning and slept peacefully for the two hours I was with her in the afternoon.

3. The Deke and I went uptown to Radio Brewing and enjoyed their beautifully brewed X Minus One IPA. I talked for a while with Rick Chapman and the Deke had some great conversation with Page, who poured our beers. We returned to Mom's house and went next door for some grilled chicken, corn on the cob, beets with chard, cucumber salad, and watermelon and had a relaxing time with Christy and Everett in the ever reliable cool North Idaho evening air.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/06/17: Mom's Painful Morning, Mom's Peaceful Sleep, Cosette's Emergency

1.  At 9:30, I went to Mom's room. I knew Carol had requested that she be transferred back to her bed because Mom was nodding off and twitching in her wheelchair. Mom was in a state of distress when I arrived. She was restless, pulling her knees up, moaning, groaning, calling weakly for help, grimacing, rolling her head back and forth, and twitching. She had very brief intervals of calm, of stillness, and then, I imagine, another wave of pain came on and she showed all the signs of pain. I tried to comfort Mom by holding her hand and stroking her arm. Sometimes she squeezed my hand hard and other times she pushed my hand away.

Soon I realized that this pain wasn't going to subside on its own and I asked for Mom's nurse to come in. She immediately determined that Mom should have a dose of morphine. The morphine didn't take effect immediately and when an aide came in about an hour later to check on Mom, she stayed for a few minutes, saw how restless Mom was, listened to Mom talk incoherently, and saw her act out benign hallucinations and went to Mom's nurse to see if the nurse could give mom further aid.

The nurse gave Mom a dose of Lorazepam. This was at 11:30. It didn't take effect right away.

2. At about 12:15, I texted Christy and Carol that I thought the Lorazepam might be taking effect. Mom seemed to be a little more still, not so restless. I fed her some lunch -- not a lot -- and she talked a little bit with Joanne Monteith and said hi to Carol Lee. She had been out of it when Susan and Joe came by.

At about 1:25, I texted my sisters that Mom had been still for about ten minutes without any physical signs of restlessness or pain. The ten minutes grew into 45 minutes, became an hour, two hours, three hours, four hours, and when Christy came to see Mom at 6:00, Mom continued to sleep peacefully.

I stayed with Mom all through this afternoon of peaceful sleep because I wanted to see how she would be when she woke up, but I decided soon after 6 o'clock that I would leave and go back over to Mom's house and have a beer with the Deke and, a little later, the Deke and I joined Christy and Everett in the back yard for brats and salads and beets with chard and watermelon.

3. Meanwhile, Carol and Paul's daughter Cosette was having a medical emergency. She'd been unable to keep any food or liquids down for close to a couple of days in Moscow and, at 9:00 Saturday night, Paul drove to Moscow and brought her back to Kellogg.

Early Sunday afternoon, Paul took Cosette to the ER. She was in a lot of pain and severely dehydrated. The doctors ran tests, did blood work, and worked to hydrate Cosette.

Cosette returned home in the early evening, but, later Sunday night, Paul and Carol took her back to the ER for another IV. Cosette spent the night in the ER.  I'm writing this on Monday morning and Cosette is back home again and Carol is very cautiously optimistic that she seems better.

Maybe, by the time I write on this blog again tomorrow morning, I'll have a clearer understanding of what's been afflicting Coco and I can write a clearer report telling how she's doing.

Please keep Cosette in your thoughts and prayers, right alongside Mom.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/05/17: Laundry Delivery, Mom's Groggy Day, Evening Relaxation

1.  I popped up at 5:30 this morning, mildly agitated about the day that lay ahead, and surmised that I'd better get Mom's laundry over to her room as soon as possible because I had a sneaking suspicion that she didn't have any clean pants to put on. She'd had two or three spills over the last few days, so she was going through her wardrobe more quickly than usual. I finished her laundry by 7:30 and, when I arrived at Mom's room, she was in her wheelchair eating some yogurt, in her pajamas, and the aide confirmed that she wasn't dressed because she didn't have pants in her closet. None of this was a big deal. I restocked Mom's closet with clean clothes.

2. More of a big deal was the fact that Mom was very tired and groggy, barely able to stay awake while eating breakfast. At about 8:30, Carol came to be with Mom and soon asked for help to put Mom back to bed. I returned to be with Mom a little after 9:30. She was in bed, moaning, grimacing, twitching, and pulling her knees up. I went to the nurses' station to see about Mom getting some pain relief medicine. The nurse assigned to Mom was on a break. Soon enough, she came to Mom's room, observed what I saw, and gave Mom a dose of morphine. It helped some.

I was with Mom until about 3:30 in the afternoon. The Deke visited. So did Susan. A little later Jane came by. Mom was fast asleep when Jane visited. Both the Deke and Susan talked with Mom. Mom was all smiles, but not conversational. That's been the case for the last four days or so. It's difficult to know how much she tracks what others are saying to her, but she does know who is in front of her. Mom utters some sentences. They usually don't have much to do with what anyone has said to her. Her voice is barely audible and because of the sound of the machine producing her oxygen, I have to lean way in to hear her. She is also losing sentences. She'll start to say something and her voice trails off into silence, the sentence unfinished. Sometimes she falls briefly asleep in the midst of a sentence.

I returned to be with Mom at 6:00. Christy had been with her the last two and half hours. Mom ate a little bit of her dinner and was ready to be back to bed. Christy was concerned about Mom's pain and, as she was leaving, talked with Nurse Kay. Mom was sleeping. I decided to leave with Christy, hoping Mom might settle into a night of restful sleep, possibly with the help of medicine.

3. The Deke and I have a lot to talk about these days and had a very good conversation. Soon, Christy and Everett were done with their dinner and we joined them in the refreshing cool of the late evening and had a relaxing time and good conversation.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/04/17: Mom is Subdued, Lunch Errands, Relaxing Evening

1.  I spent about two and a half hours with Mom this morning on into the early afternoon. When she said, "All right, let's go!", I took her out into the hallways of Kindred. We stopped to visit Peny. I didn't take Mom outside because the air is so smoky from forest fires. For nearly the whole time I was with Mom, she was subdued. She didn't have a lot to say. She drank a protein shake and picked at her cottage cheese and pears a bit, but was not very interested in food.

2. Around 1:00, just before Christy arrived, Stu came to Mom's room and Mom greeted him with a smile, but didn't say much. When Christy arrived, Stu and I went to the liquor store to get some boxes, ran an errand in Osburn, and had lunch at Sam's. I stopped off at Mom's room to pick up my pack I'd left behind and a shirt and pair of pants of Mom's to add to the laundry. Scott left and the Deke and I delivered a stack of blankets and towels to the vet in Kellogg and Pinehurst, recycled a load of magazines and broken down boxes, and did a little shopping at Yoke's. Back home, I continued our project cleaning Mom's basement and broke down more boxes and loaded more magazines in the car to recycle.

3. Carol, Paul, Christy, Everett, the Deke, and I were ready for some relaxation this evening. The evening cooled off comfortably. Christy prepared a very delicious dinner of barbecued chicken drumsticks, garden bread, and a cool refreshing salad that included zucchini and pineapple. Carol made a batch of mojitos and we ate, drank a little, and talked about a variety of things, with some special emphasis on what each of us has been experiencing with Mom and questions we have for the staff at Kindred.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/03/17: Mom and Pain, Decisions, Short Beer Tour

1. While Mom sat in her wheelchair until about 2:30 this afternoon and while she looked refreshed from taking a shower, she was groggy throughout the time I spent with her from about 11:30 until 3:00. Mom talked occasionally, without continuity. She ate some applesauce, enjoyed her protein milkshake, and ate a tiny bit of cottage cheese and zucchini and rice from her lunch plate.

Mom got weighed when the aide showered her and she's down to 128.2 pounds.

Early in the afternoon, Andrea, her hospice nurse visited and examined Mom. Andrea is animated, personable, and knowledgable. In appearance, she thought Mom looked a little better than a week ago when Andrea last saw her. When I asked her if I heard this observation correctly, she said I did, but was quick to add, "Your mother is very frail." I agreed and never thought otherwise.

Andrea explained to me the five signs approach to determining and evaluating pain in a patient. She explained that it is best to evaluate Mom's pain after she has lay down and been at rest for about five minutes or so. Andrea looks at five areas and assigns a 0, 1, or 2 to each category. The five areas are these:

1. Breathing: Is Mom breathing smoothly and easily or is there some degree of labor to her breathing?

2. Vocalization: Is Mom verbally expressing that she feels pain? Is she moaning, groaning, or vocalizing pain in some other way?

3. Facial expression: Is Mom's face relaxed or is she grimacing? Is her face wrinkled from discomfort?

4. Body Movement: Is Mom's body still? Or is she fidgeting? Jerking? Twitching? Writhing? Mom tends to draw her knees up and then let her legs down again -- a sign of pain.

5. Can she be calmed down? If we talk to Mom while she is lying down and showing signs of pain, does she respond, say, with a smile? Does she seem comforted if we hold her hand or stroke her arm? Do any of these efforts relax her? By the way, last Friday, Andrea assigned a "1" to Mom in this category because when Andrea spoke to Mom, Mom did smile and seemed glad to hear Andrea's voice, but she didn't completely relax. Had Mom not responded in any positive way to Andrea, she would have assigned her a "2" in this category.

Last Friday, Andrea determined that Mom was at level of "1" in each category. When Carol had reported that Andrea scored her at five out of ten, I thought that meant that on a scale of 1-10, Mom's pain was at 5. I thought this because when Mom used to go to the pain clinic, the doctor always asked her to rate her pain on a scale of 1-10.

Now I know that the number five represented a pain level of one in each of the five categories.

Andrea also talked with me about the medicinal powers of morphine beyond it being a pain reliever  and, on another subject,  helped me understand how Mom's complexion shows signs of oxygen depletion even though her oxygen levels are very good thanks to the oxygen she has going into her system all day and night. A consequence of heart failure is that oxygen doesn't get transported well to all tissues -- so Mom's nose continues to be blue and she continues to experience the mental difficulties that come with vascular dementia. The heart failure also helps explain the fluid buildup Andrea could feel in Mom's upper arms and in her legs, and hear near her heart.

2. Debbie and I have a lot on our minds and are in the midst of making some important decisions. We drove to Coeur d'Alene this afternoon and talked. I'm not 100% sure that we have arrived at absolute decisions yet, but we sure worked at it and think there are some good possibilities for our life together as move ahead.

3. We went downtown to Crafted for a glass of rye IPA and split an order of chicken wings. Then we went to Slate Creek for a half a pint of their IPA. We love Slate Creek and would have stayed longer, but there's no air conditioning in their tasting room, only a fan blowing hot air. We look forward to returning to Slate Creek when the weather is cooler. We ended our little tour of beer joints at Daft Badger where I loved my Badger's Bounty IPA and Debbie thoroughly enjoyed drinking Peach Perfect, a lightly fruited peach wheat beer.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/02/17: Mom's Day of Sleep, Decisions, Kitchen Products

1. At around 9 a.m., while Carol was with Mom, Mom said she wanted to go to bed. She slept for the rest of the morning, the entire afternoon when I was with her, and was asleep when Christy left her room at around 7 p.m. I didn't have any conversation with Mom today. She didn't wake up for anything.

2. The Deke and I are facing some short-term and long-term decisions and we went to Radio Brewing for about an hour for a beer and started talking about the upcoming week and the upcoming months.

3. Mom always liked to stock up on kitchen products. She loved to buy food and aluminum foil and spices and other kitchen items, especially when they were on sale. Since she hasn't been active in her kitchen for quite a while, it had been a while since she bought products ahead of time and her supplies had dwindled. Last night, Christy, Carol, and I went through what she had left. Christy and Carol took some items home, we put together some donations for the food bank, and we discarded some things the food bank can't take because they are outdated. We know the time is going to come when we will need to remove nearly everything from Mom's house. This was a small way we could make a little more progress on this task.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 08/01/17: Mom's Dill Pickle, Mom Faded, Meet Up at Corby's

1. Much of the time, Mom doesn't quite know or understand where she lives. Often, she thinks her kitchen is nearby, as if she is in her living room in her house. Usually she just wants to know if the kitchen is clean, but today she made a new request. Judy and Angie were near the end of their visit, and suddenly, out of the blue, Mom said, "Bill, get me a dill pickle. I want it cut thin, like this [she made a chopping gesture with her hand] and don't let it leak." I immediately texted the Deke and Christy to find out if there were dill pickles in either Mom's or Christy's fridge. Deke texted me back, "Yes". The Deke met me out on Cameron Avenue with a small baggie with a couple of pre-sliced Clausen pickles. I wondered if I could slice them thinner and discovered I couldn't.

I hustled back to Mom's room with the dill pickles and told Mom she had bought these pickles -- I said this because I was pretty sure Mom wanted a home canned dill pickle hand sliced, not a store bought one pre-sliced. Mom wondered when she bought these pickles, but didn't give it much more thought. Then, suddenly, she said, "Bill, get me a piece of bread." She thought I'd just have to go to the nearby kitchen and get a slice. I thought for a split second and headed to the Kindred dining area, hoping I could get a slice of bread in the kitchen. On my way to the dining area, the very helpful aide Vanessa was wheeling a resident to lunch and I asked Vanessa if she would use her power and authority to ask the kitchen staff for a slice of bread. She said she would get one and deliver it to Mom -- and, she did.

At her request, I cut Mom's slice of bread into quarters and cut a pickle slice into smaller pieces and Mom ate a single square of bread topped with a piece of pickle.

Her craving was satisfied.

2. Mom hardly touched the lunch she was served, but she did drink Ensure. During and after lunch, Mom was fading, nodding off in her wheelchair, and I was sure she'd soon ask to go to bed -- and she did, shortly before two o'clock. So the aides would have plenty of room, I left while they used the Hoyer lift to put Mom to bed and when I returned, after a good visit with Peny Benson, Mom was asleep. Carol came to be with Mom at 3 o'clock.

3. Not long after leaving Kindred, I drove to Byrdman's house in CdA and we met up with Stu and Lars at Corby's Bar in Post Falls. We talked with Corby some and had a good session telling stories and laughing it up. Meeting up at Corby's was kind of like a warm up for next week's KHS All-Class Reunion.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Three Beautiful Things 07/31/17: Sibling Breakfast, Mom is Animated, Tasty IPA BONUS Mom's Good Times

1.  Christy, Carol, and I sat down at Best Shots for breakfast together and we let each other know what's on our schedules for the next month and planned out our time with Mom over the next week. This is one of my favorite things to do: talk with my sisters about Mom's condition, share beyond our writing about what we see and experience, and talk about how Mom's decline is affecting us. Our breakfast made me long for the days of our Sibling Outings. It's been too long since we've been able to go somewhere together and eat food, take pictures, and relax together over drinks. I miss those outings a lot.

2. I had a quiet time with Mom starting at noon. Until two o'clock, she was in her wheelchair. She ate some chicken, pasta, carrots, and a bit of brownie at lunch. Mom wasn't very talkative, although at one point when a woman on some HGTV show kept complaining about the different houses she looked at to possibly buy, Mom said, "What a big baby." I winced, thinking she was talking about me, so I said, "You mean that woman on tv?" Mom said flatly, "Yes."  Mom went back to bed at two o'clock and was sleeping when Christy walked in the room to be with her.

Just a couple of hours later, things changed for the better, dramatically. Judy and Angie, Mom's nieces, arrived from Boise and Mom became the most animated I've seen her in weeks.

Christy texted me to come over to Mom's, so I strolled into Mom's room around 5:30 and Mom was holding court. Her speech was lucid, she was tracking conversations really well, and she had a lot to say about people in her family and things that happened in the past.

Mom did slip into the world of imagined events from time to time. My favorite was when she talked about the time she and I took a train to Texas and how big the stars were in Texas.

By seven o'clock, Judy, Angie, and Christy had all left to go to Christy and Everett's for dinner.

I just couldn't leave quite yet. I tuned in Jeopardy on the television and Mom and I watched. With everyone but me gone, Mom quieted down and she was starting to nod off while Jeopardy was on.

I decided I'd join the others for dinner at 7:30.  I made sure Mom's help button was clipped to her shirt and I kissed her on the forehead and said, "I love you Mom."

"I love you, too, Bill."

I started to stand up straight and then Mom said, "You must find me very irritating."

I recoiled.

"No, Mom. I don't find you irritating at all. I promise." I made an X over my heart and said, "Cross my heart."

Mom smiled, "OK. Good night, Bill."

"I'll see you in the morning, Mom."

3.  At around four o'clock, the Deke and I drove up to Radio Brewing at each enjoyed a couple of 10 oz. glasses of their very delicious X-Minus One IPA.  The Deke and I starting to think that this is one of our favorite of the beers we've sampled from Eugene to Beltsville, MD and points in between. It's hard for me to pinpoint exactly why I like this IPA so much, but I think it's because its mildly bitter, allowing other hop flavors and its malt foundation to assert themselves. I enjoy hoppy IPAs, but this beer takes me back about twenty years to when locally brewed IPAs were not quite as hop forward. I enjoy this beer's balance. The Deke and I talked about what we might do over the next couple of weeks and, as we left, we had our Radio Brewing growler filled with X-Minus One.

When we drank from this growler later on while enjoying grilled chicken, potato salad, and a zucchini/mushroom mix, we commented again that this X-Minus One is, for us, a really good beer.

BONUS: I'm going to write a little more about Mom because I want a more detailed record of the last couple of days.

On Sunday, July 30th, Mom slept for about seven hours, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. During those seven hours, she woke up for a little while and talked with Christy and a family friend, Tina, but mostly she slept.

When she woke up around six, aides transferred her into her wheelchair and she ate pretty well and we had a meandering talk, but I had this feeling that when Carol would at 6:30, Mom might have a burst of energy, much like she did last Thursday, July 27th, when she propelled herself on a circuit in the hallways of Kindred's building.

I was right. Mom and Carol had what Carol reported was good talk about why she was at Kindred.

Then Mom said something like, "Okay! Let's go!" and Carol wheeled her out to garden. On the way, Mom stopped and talked with her longtime friend, Peny, and she greeted everyone she saw. Out in the garden, Carol and Mom watched hummingbirds at the feeders. Carol asked Mom what her favorite hymns are and when she responded "In the Garden" and "The Old Rugged Cross".  Mom started to sing "In the Garden" and Carol joined in and Mom teared up. Mom let Carol take some selfies of the two of them and the one Carol posted shows Mom with a wide grin, looking animated and happy.

So Mom had a lively evening on July 30th, singing hymns with Carol and another lively time on the 31st when Angie and Judy visited.

We were told when Mom was diagnosed with vascular dementia that Mom would have some really good times and some lousy ones -- peaks and valleys.

These peaks, these bursts of energy and animation may not come often, but it's sure fun when they do. It's heartening to have these short periods of time when Mom is awake, alive to what's happening around her, and really enjoying herself. I love it when she is happy.