I used to be a health care financial executive -- I don't miss it. Before that, I was in radio/TV -- I still miss that. Radio has to be the craziest business ever invented.Today, I am happy to be living in this wandering place, blessed to be married to the best man I've ever known, and being blessed by my 89-year-old mother living with us. I miss my dad; he died in November 2018. I write (all kinds of stuff), garden, cook, clean, sew (a little), play anything with a keyboard--including the organ, and love on my grand-babies. We watch all the wildlife that frequent the ravine and our Shih-poo pup just turned two. Life is abundant around these parts.
It’s a daunting task, this cleaning out of Dad’s books and papers. The job would go faster if I could resist reading everything that looks interesting. A few months ago, I found, on a shelf, a small cardboard box labeled “Things I’ve Kept.”
I opened it to find a used-up air freshener jar, two empty after-shave bottles, a thousand business cards, four wallets, three key cases, assorted key rings, a used battery, a floppy disk, eyeglass lenses, two pair of sunglasses, a tiny New Testament, a silver Western belt buckle, a clothes brush, a hairbrush and more.
Yeah, I chuckle about that box then remember my own “keeping” habit. My collections include bottles to be transformed into painted vases, corks, tissue and paper towel rolls, medicine bottle and rusted metal parts I might use in a collage or a mobile. Most of the time, some art teacher wants some of this stuff but I don’t part with the rusted pieces. I’ve loved making the mobiles–just want to be sure to have materials in case my muse visits.
And then there are the bags of seeds in the freezer.
Dad was a gardener. The berries he planted long ago yielded a couple gallons of strawberries and another of blackberries. Dave begged me not to plant vegetables this year, but I couldn’t help myself. A friend and I planted tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, bush beans (Dad’s favorite Pickin’ and Grinnin’), basil, and butternut squash. The rest of the space where Dad had full rows of everything looked so bare that we threw native plant seeds all over where grass and flowers co-mingle into beautiful gardens looking a bit like the English style.
It’s trouble keeping up with the gardens around this big old place. Dave still waters, but Dad always helped me with tilling, hoeing and harvesting. I look at my prolific plantings every day, but I still miss some cucumbers and they grow too large before I find them. That happened to Dad, too. He didn’t see well for several years, so I helped him find squash, beans, and cucumbers.
One day I found five foot-and-a-half zucchini, yellow squash so overgrown you could use it for a ping-pong paddle (if you could slice it up), and cucumbers I needed two hands to carry. I laid out all of them on the grass and hollered at Dad working in his shop.
“Hey, come look what I just found.”
He moseyed out, grinned when he saw the bounty.
“Well, those are inedible but I kind of hate that you pulled them off the vines.”
“Why?” I asked.
“I was saving them for seeds,” he said.
There’s a jungle in the strawberries now. Dad always kept the grass out. I try to rehab them but I got a late start this spring. I fail miserably at weeding when the humidity rises, but I keep on keeping on. My fingers get stiff and I wear a brace on my left hand. My hands are broad like Dad’s. I remember how those hands grew too stiff to weed when scleroderma attacked, so he hoed rather than pull.
Scleroderma is an ugly disease. Dad progressed to severe stomach problems and legs so unreliable he fell about once a week. His esophagus hardened into a long tube with no muscle action. He lived on protein drinks. He fell several times outside. Somebody always seemed near to help him up–one of us, a neighbor, the garbage truck driver, or the mail lady.
A couple years ago, a rheumatologist diagnosed my sudden inability to walk as an attack of polymyalgia. Usually polymyalgia symptoms disappear with a few days of a low dose of prednisone. I was immobile for only four or five days, but it took the lingering symptoms several weeks to abate and then with increased dosages of the corticosteroid.
Dr. Lyons told me that I had some form of inflammatory arthritis but that I did not screen for the rheumatoid variety. I hadn’t heard of such a condition, but I followed her treatment protocols and I feel okay most of the time. She also told me it was not unusual that I would turn up with these symptoms given that Dad had scleroderma. Dave says I have LupusLight.
In my file cabinet, I have several files labeled “Keepsakes.” If I allowed someone to look into those files, they’d find letters, special greeting cards, kids’ report cards and immunization records, college admissions paperwork, my own transcripts, a few torn out magazine articles, and jokes I’ve loved. In my desk, you’d find a gazillion business cards if I hadn’t pulled them out a few weeks ago.
It seems I’ve kept a lot of Dad, some inherited, some channeling I suppose. There’s the gardening thing, small hoarding issues and stiff joints, business cards, things I can’t part with because I might need them sometime, and things I want to always remember.
I pulled everything out of Dad’s “Things I’ve Kept” box and sorted it into giveaways, throwaways, and “Keep.” I kept a card from 2001 labeling Dad Chairman of the Smith County Democratic Party for some meeting at Legislative Plaza and a couple of campaign pins. I also kept an index card printed by Dad’s hand on one side and cursive writing on the other.
Side 1: Living according to God’s law enables us to live as God made us to live, taking our place in the created order with eyes opened to God’s glory. Side 2: 1-24-2010. Psalm 19 reminds us that we are a part of a big world. The author invites us to look beyond our small selves to discover how God is at work.
Dad always allowed the freedom to translate anything he said in order to apply it to our own lives. I know I’m going to read Psalm 19 to see how it speaks to me.
We always knew someone in The Compound would fall in the ravine. Lord knows Dad tried. He decided in 2010 he would cut brush and clean up the vines on the bank; you know, “clear the land.” He devised the perfect way to enter and exit the big ditch. He routinely lowered a tall ladder (a really, really tall one) over the edge of the bank and propped it against a tree on the steep side of the ravine. Before descending, he’d throw all the tools he might need somewhere near the ladder. When he finished with a tool, he reared back and threw the tool onto level ground.
You haven’t really lived–or maybe come so close to dying–as feeling a hatchet whiz by your head while peacefully attending the weeds in the lower garden.
I yelled as soon as I heard the whoosh of the ax. “Dad! You almost got me!”
He shinnied up the ladder, and when he finally saw me, said, “But I didn’t.”
Dad stopped his forays into the ravine a few years ago. I admit I was a bit relieved. He warned me, “Don’t get too close to that ravine. That ground is soft. You don’t want to fall in.”
The vines returned; Virginia Creeper, Japanese honeysuckle, wintercreeper, and a few muscadines. Brush re-established; same old non-native privet, pokeweed, winterberry, and thistles. We keep them controlled for about two feet off the back yard, what we can easily reach. We’ve also seen a fair assortment of plants whose roots or bulbs Dad tossed over the edge including Rose-of-Sharon, iris, cannas, and a couple berry briars.
This past May, I noticed a bunch of one- to two-foot Royal Pawlonia sprouts in the area where we’d taken down the tree several years ago. We’ve watched the grounds carefully since the removal of the offender, so I was surprised to see the scary little crop with the pretty purple flowers. Royal Pawlonia, or Princess Tree, is wildly invasive and spews out millions–no, really, I mean millions–of seeds every year. If you want to find out how bad it really is, just look it up in your Wikipedia.
“Dave,” I said, “you’re going to have to spray those little purple trees or we’re going to have hundreds of them full-grown before we know it.”
He chose to fertilize the roses and eradicate the Pawlonia shoots on a Sunday about 1:30. I knew he was tending to roses, but I did not know he’d loaded up a sprayer to kill the tiny trees.
I put on what I call my painting clothes, dug weeds, and had just gone upstairs to Mom and Dad’s apartment to tend to some needs of our old folks when I heard the special tune on the phone.
“Hello, I know it’s you,” I said to Dave.
He answered, “Help, I’ve fallen into the ravine and I can’t get out.”
“What do you want?” I asked my usual first question when he starts with some (lame) humor.
“I want you to come get me out of the ravine.”
“So what are you doing in the ravine?” I chuckled a little.
“I was spraying those purple things.” He blew out hard.
“You’re joking, right?”
His voice gained decibels. “No, I’m not joking. You have to come help me.”
“Well, I’m not…” I started to tell him no way was I going to go in with him. “No, wait, are you hurt?”
“Yes, I’m hurt,” he said.
“I’ll be right there.” I stuck my phone in my pocket and called to Mom in the kitchen, “He’s not kidding. He fell in the ravine.”
I hurried down the steps of the apartment and ran over to the edge of our beloved big ditch. He was lying on the bank in a mostly-vertical position, the spectre enhanced by a bush with little white flowers wreathed around his head. I saw blood.
“Where are you hurt?” I called.
“I don’t know.”
“Do you think you’ve broken anything? A leg? Arm? Shoulder?” I asked.
“I don’t think so, but I can’t get up the bank.”
“Okay, let me just…” I tested three places on the ground above him. All were soft.
“I think we better call 911. I can’t get down there,” I said.
“No, don’t call them. Go get Don.”
I called our next-door neighbor, hoping he’d be home.
When he answered, I asked, “Don, are you at home?”
“Dave has fallen in the ravine. We need help.”
All the other times I call him, Dave is headed his way with soup or ham or pie. He could have been disappointed, but he was there in what seemed like two seconds.
“See that stump?” I asked. “He’s just to this side of the stump.”
Don called down to Dave to check his condition. I whispered, “I think he landed on his face. There’s a lot of blood on his face.”
“Have you got a long pole?” he asked. I don’t know what I gave him, but he told Dave he was lowering the pole. “You grab on and I’ll pull you out.”
Dave struggled to hold to the pole, and when he finally got it in two hands, his feet gave way to the slippery slope.
Don turned to me. “I’m going down.”
“No, don’t do that,” I said. “Then I’d just have two of you down there. Dad used to go up and down on a tall ladder. Maybe we should try that.”
“That’s right. Where’s the ladder?” he asked.
“Propped against the side of the garage over there.” I pointed. “I’ll help you.”
“I don’t need any help. I can get it,” Don said, but I still followed a few steps behind him. He picked up the ladder. We stopped at the edge and looked down. “I don’t see anything to prop it against.”
“What’s wrong with that stump he just face-planted?” I asked.
“Dave, I’m lowering the ladder right next to you. Do you think you can get on it if I prop it on that stump?” Don asked.
“Maybe,” Dave answered.
After two unsuccessful attempts Don said, “He can’t get his feet on the ladder.”
“I’ll go down on the ladder and pull him onto it,” I said.
Don was quick to stop me. “No, then I’d just have the two of YOU down there. I’ll go down.”
“I’m on the ladder,” Dave yelled.
“Did you get on it? Can you climb it?” Don asked.
At the top of the ravine, Don grabbed Dave and pulled him up.
“Thanks, Don. Dave, honey, come on, get in the van. We’re headed for the ER.”
He staggered after me in the garage. I threw a towel in the passenger seat for him to sit on.
Southern Hills Hospital is a mile and a half from us. We were there bloody, muddy, and generally nasty but triaged and in a bay in no time.
I looked at my watch. 4:30. My friend Peggy and I had a Lyft scheduled at 6:00 to take us to Schermerhorn Symphony Center to see PostModern Jukebox. This was the second time I’d bought tickets to PMJ. The first time I was ill and, even though I tried, no one used the tickets. The current set of tickets was a birthday gift to my friend and I had already reneged on another trip (another story) so I was determined. (I’m trying to pre-explain why I did what I did later.)
I messaged Peggy. Dave is in the ER. Fell in ravine.
Peggy: Is he hurt?
Me: I don’t think it’s too bad. I mean, he’s bloody and all that, but the doctor ordered x-rays and CT. They just came and took him to x-ray. He’s got a big gash on his face.
She asked more questions about his condition and then finished with No way we can get to the Schermerhorn on time.
I was quick. We’re going to see PostModern Jukebox.
Peggy: I’m dressed. I’ll wait until you tell me to leave home. The drive from Readyville to our house is about forty-five minutes.
After the CT scan, I was relieved to know that all Dave needed was a few stitches across one side of his face–the side that hit the stump. (He’d already started planning a story about how he got the scar in a bar, his favorite tale, something about defending my honor.)
I messaged Peggy. We’re going to go to the concert.
Peggy: But you’re not dressed. Didn’t you say you had to get in the shower?
Me: I can make do. I’ll hurry. I’m going to call Darrin (Dave’s son–mine, too). I should have already called him.
I messaged the whole story to Darrin and Dana, ending with, “So can you come and pick up Dave and take him home? They’re about to sew up his face and I’ve got tickets to PMJ.” I knew Darrin the Drummer would understand.
I turned to Dave. “Honey, do you think it would be okay for me to go home, get dressed, and go to the concert?”
“Sure,” he said, “but you’ll need to bring me a vehicle so I can drive home. Maybe Peggy could bring me the van while you get dressed.” He really hadn’t thought that she’d need to get back to our house somehow.
Peggy answered my earlier text. I don’t see how.
Me: Come on, we’ll figure it out.
I received a return message from Dana. Darrin is on a plane. (He travels for work.) Do you think it would be okay for me to bring Evan with me? Evan is their very active three-year-old.
I wouldn’t, I answered. What if you just came and picked him up? He can call you when he’s ready.
“Is that okay, honey?” I asked Dave.
“Sure,” he said.
She called. “I can pick him up. Tell him to call me and Evan and I will come and get him. I’ll stay with him for a while to make sure he’s okay.”
I told her I needed to leave like, right now, and to text me when she got Dave home. She told me to go on and have a good time.
At home, I threw off my filthy pants and shirt, washed my face and reapplied deodorant, sprayed some dry-cleaner on my hair followed by a some fluffing, and found some clothes decent enough to wear. At least I think they were decent enough.
Peggy yelled “I’m here” when she came in the door.
I was still in the bathroom. “You have to take Dave’s wallet to him.” I rushed to the bureau where he kept his wallet.
“To the emergency room?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said, handing it to her.
While she was gone, I had plenty of time to smear some makeup around and grab earrings. It wasn’t my regular routine, but I declared it finished.
In the Lyft vehicle, I looked down to see that my feet looked like they were still in the dirt. I had two wipes in my purse and used both of them. My feet weren’t perfect but they were “better than they were,” one of Dave’s favorite sayings.
We arrived at the Schermerhorn just in time.
I checked messages every few minutes. No word from Dana. Finally, I texted her to ask how things went. She thought she had already messaged me. She said things went fine except… Oh my god Diana he looked like an ax murderer.
What a show, what a show! PMJ was all I thought they should be and more. At one point, I gave thanks for Dad’s ravine trips up and down the ladder, for Dave’s willingness to allow me to abandon him in his hour of need (he really wasn’t that bad off, okay?), for Dana’s pickup and delivery, but especially for my man’s survival with less-than-could-have-been injuries.
So, maybe the thanksgiving was after the concert when I got home to see him sitting in his recliner watching one of his favorite shows.
“I got all but about two of those little purple things,” he said.
For Dad, it’s Alive Hospice, Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
The Nashville facility was full and the admissions nurse so determined that Dad needed to be there that she sent him to the Murfreesboro campus at midnight Friday.
Daddy rests in a large room halfway between the nurse’s desk and a family room containing comfortable chairs, recliners, and couches that flip into beds. There are several family rooms here, one with a dining area in front of a wall full of windows. The light streams in as if on cue.
In Dad’s room, we keep the lights dim. The room is quiet and peaceful; so is Dad.
He only stayed at the skilled nursing facility less than two days. We knew it was not the place for him, and when his kidneys began to fail Friday, the attending nurse practitioner recommended an immediate move.
With the help of the SNF’s social workers and nurses, Alive Hospice Nurse Gail ordered an ambulance for 11:00 P.M. They arrived at 11:45, two youngsters in ball caps reading Medic One.
“I’ll be riding in the back with him,” the smaller one said. “I see his diagnosis here is dementia. Has he ever become combative or kicked or punched a nurse or tech?”
I hesitated. “Yes, he did at the hospital, but that was when he was in complete psychosis. He’s not doing that now.”
“Well, I just wanted to let you know that if that happens….”
Big Guy butted in. “No, no,” he told his sidekick. “If something happens, you just let me know and I’ll pull over to the side of the road and come back there to help you get him calmed. We want to be very soft…soft.”
I could actually imagine a scene like that.
I left before the ambulance. The ramp to I-440 was closed, probably because of a fatal accident earlier in the day, but when I turned around to go the opposite direction, there were cars making left turns onto the interstate so I followed them.
I met Shirley, the night charge nurse, the techs, and the front door security guard. Shirley went over the care plan, medications that they’d be using, and ways they operate. She said the doctor would see me on Saturday. I told her it was already Saturday.
A nurse stuck her head in the room. “I am wondering what is taking that transport so long. Did you leave a long time before they did?”
“No, I was right in front of them, but I bet they got to that closed ramp and found another route.”
Turns out, that’s exactly what happened. They were automatically re-routed.
Dad was awake. Shirley explained what was happening.
“Ernie, we’re going to give you some pain medication and then we’ll give you a bath first thing and get you all freshened up.”
Two techs and two nurses busied themselves over him. He talked to them in slurred speech and from an altered state, but they caught about every third sentence.
“You are a handsome man,” one said. Another asked him about his 72-year marriage. “What’s the secret?” she asked.
“Let each other be free to grow and develop” is what we think we heard. I confirmed that he might have said that.
Then came the washing of the private parts.
“Ernie, we are going to have to wash you down there. Normally, we’d just let you do it, but you have some leftover bm there and we want you to be clean, okay?”
“Ah, you girls just want to look at me,” he said. “All the time.”
We all laughed at him.
“No, we don’t, but I’m going to raise your gown and clean you up and then we’ll put a fresh pad and gown on you.”
He picked up a towel a tech had left beside him. “Then I’m just going to put this over my face,” he said, and hid his whole head from the offending eyes.
We laughed some more, but they got him cleaned up and bundled up in his new bed.
Dad now gets a pretty stiff cocktail of haldol, morphine, and a valium-like drug. The dosage is small but repeatable. If he is not calm twenty minutes after the last offering, the nurse starts the routine again, or she slightly increases the morphine.
He lies quiet in the bed most of the time but when the meds start to wear off, he twists, grimaces, and mumbles.
The grandsons and families came to visit yesterday, including Jaxton and Savannah, ages 5 and 3. Neither was upset by Grandpa’s condition. Savvy said hi to him several times, anxious to get an answer from him. Mom was glad to see the little ones.
I stayed last night. I played music to him and sang to him, hoping something might connect. In the middle of the night, I heard him say, “Diana.” I wasn’t sure of that until I sat up and waited for him to call me again. It’s like what happens when you try to say my name without being able to move the tongue.
“Lie-ah-uh,” it sounds like.
“What, Dad? What do you need?”
He grasps my hand. I kiss him on his old bald head.
My daddy hovers, sometimes thrashes, naked, his mind somewhere along an invisible jagged line between his tiny spot of time and space on earth and the ultimate reality of Infinity.
His heart beats so fast sometimes that we fear stroke. Doctors get his heart rate down and his blood pressure goes up. Get the blood pressure down too low and some other wheel falls off the old bus.
He fell in his bedroom sometime very early a week ago Tuesday morning. Before we found him on the floor with a bloody gash on his head, he’d pulled shirts, belts, and a bootjack from his closet. He told us he’d ducked into a shed for shelter from the rain and realized he’d stepped into some man’s corn crib. Then he couldn’t get out of the field and had crawled through rough straw for miles.
Dad did not get confused because he fell; he fell because he was already confused in the night and hallucinating. We’ve seen a slow slide toward dementia for about three years, but since last Christmas the disease has tracked him like a cat, consistently and with increasing speed. We’ve watched a wretched auto-immune disease rob him of the ability to enjoy food and then to swallow well. His legs grew weaker and weaker, so often he could not stand, even with his walker.
In the emergency room after the fall, he fought with three cats, two black and one black and white, that kept pouncing on the bed. Every time he kicked them off, they came back. I shooed them away. He re-told the corn crib story with variations and repeated an earlier adventure stripping tobacco with two youngsters who would not talk to him. He was pretty sure they could talk, they just wouldn’t. The ER physician called a hospitalist to provide overnight observation.
Once in the room on the fifth floor tests began, including an ultra-sound on his legs. The technician came in Wednesday morning, made it through the scan of one leg and then Dad refused. He kicked at the machine operator. She dodged and moved the equipment. He kicked some more. When nurses arrived to rescue the tech, he doubled his fists and slapped at them.
I said, “I don’t think you’re going to get that next one.”
She smiled and said, “I’m pretty sure of that.”
Within a few hours, the a-fib grew worse and Dad grew so wild and combative I wished for restraints. They came quickly. He did not sleep–not one wink-– for four days. One night, I bent over to pick something up just under the edge of his bed and even though his hands were tied, he grabbed my hair. It took a few minutes to pry his hand loose.
My dad’s wild mind fashioned a scary story with escalating horror. He gave me the base plot as he dressed me down. I was trying to kill him, leading a band of nurses are my followers. He kept saying that he can’t believe I would do this for money. “Greed. Evil. You are no daughter of mine.” I stood stark still, as if at attention, stung and disoriented. The words might have attached themselves to a deep sorrow if I hadn’t heard a voice. “This is not your dad.”
For several hours, there was a huge farm machine loose on his farm. We–the nurses, Jade, John, and I–had already destroyed the farm with this wrecker/excavator. We knocked down trees and ran through the shallow creek, breaking the flat limestone into small pieces. We were going to let it run over him, and then it was somehow above him and we were preparing to let it fall to crush him. One hour we were setting him afire. Another time, we were trying to poison him.
He disowned me, then started yelling again. I tried to slip a dry mouth lozenge in his mouth but I wasn’t quick enough. He can’t bite since he has no teeth but he clamped his jaws shut, turtle tight. Then he said to the air on his left, “Jameson, look at your mother. This is the kind of mama you have.” Jameson is my grandson, not my grandson, and he is safe at home in his own bed.
Dad got back to serious yelling. “Where is Mom [my mother]? She’s the only good person around here.”
The student nurse asked, “Does he like music?”
“Yes!” I said. “I can’t believe I haven’t thought of that. I should have brought in a player. There’s no music channel on the TV.”
Wait, I thought. I could stream from my laptop.
I grabbed my almost-dead HP from my bag and began the frustrating process of hooking up to the hospital free-for-visitors wi-fi. It’s a finicky network. I spent twenty minutes and then gave up.
Dad changed the venue. “Help! Come on, we’re down here in the bottom by the creek. They’re trying to crucify us all.”
The last time he had mentioned crucifixion, the nurses were attaching restraints. I watched him pull at the cords and thought of rodeos and roped calves. I remembered a pig bound and hung for slaughter at my grandfather’s farm, and of holding my dog Murphy for an injection.
That night, I left him praying. The words were plain and the sentences cohesive. “Lord, thank you for this life I’ve been given. And if you want me to die now, I’ll come. I ask you to forgive Diana and all these evil persons who are doing this to me. They know not what they do. Take care of their little children.” I walked out of the room, on down the long hall to the parking garage.
The next time, he was on the hill at the farm in Smith County. He called for his mother. “Mama, come on here. I’m up on the hill. They’re about to kill your last son. Don’t you see the smoke?”
He did not remember that seventy-two years ago on the same day, Halloween, he and my mother took a long taxi ride to Georgia and married. He was seventeen, she “fourteen-almost-fifteen,” they said.
My mom waits at home, not really worrying, just pondering. She is dressed in blue matching pants and top, her curly hair neatly combed back, and her ensemble accessorized with the usual rings, earrings, bracelet, and necklace.
After two days and several doses of psychiatric drugs, the restraints were removed. He was still agitated but not trying to hurt anyone. He rolled his sheet and blanket into a wad and tossed them to the floor. He pulled his arms through his gown, easing the heart monitor through a sleeve. The gown and a couple Chux pads found the floor. I heard a pop, pop, pop as he removed the leads to the heart monitor. He seemed pleased that he had wires to untwist. He repeated the process several times.
He slid down the bed and pounded the foot rail in a surprisingly steady rhythm. He called for my mother, yelling louder than he’s been able to in years.
I told him, “Dad, Mom is not here.”
Sometimes, for a minute or two, he believed me when I told him, “You’re in the hospital, Dad.”
“In the hospital? What am I doing here?”
I told him, “You have to stay for a while until you get better, and you are getting better.”
“Am I in South Carthage?”
“No, Dad, you’re in Nashville. At St. Thomas.”
At times, it connected and he said, “Oh-h-h-h-h-h.” Another time he added, nodding his head, “So that’s the problem!”
One afternoon, he asked, “Did you know the cats are back?”
“No,” I said. “What are they doing?”
“Oh, they’re just lying around down there at the foot of the bed.”
I said, “But you’re not trying to kick them off.”
“No, I got used to them.”
From time to time, the psychiatrist Dr. Le Coguic stuck her head in the room to ask a few questions with telling answers.
She: What year is it, Mr. Blair? He: 2017. She: When were you born? He: Five, twenty-nine, no. Five, nine, no. Twenty-five. She: That’s good enough! Now who’s the President? He: Truman. She: Hmmmmm.
I snuck in a word there. “He really knows. I asked him myself yesterday and he said Truman and I said, ‘No, it’s Trump, Dad,’ and he said, ‘Yes, that’s who I mean so just pretend I’m saying Trump when I say Truman.'”
Dr. Le Coguic laughs out loud. “Good enough!” she said.
The next time she asked him, he said, “Oh, that damn Trump. Truman.”
The morning of November 7, I walked into the room where a soft-spoken chaplain introduced herself to me as Gail. She was asking Dad if he was a spiritual person. She didn’t understand him, but he answered her, “I suppose so. I’ve got a Master’s of Divinity from seminary.” I translated a few sentences to her until Dr. Chris MacMurdro from the Palliative Care Department stepped in. Because Dad was still talking with Gail, Dr. Mac asked if we might step down the hall to talk.
“Call me Dr. Mac or Chris,” she said and explained her specialty. After several minutes of discussion about what I might expect or anticipate or decide, Dr. Mac told me with his refusal to eat or drink, Dad would likely be gone in two weeks. It’s too early for hospice, she said, but you will need them. If Dad goes to a skilled nursing facility, he might get a few days.
Just as Dr. Mac and I were ending our conversation, Gail approaches us from the doorway of the family waiting room. “Your dad,” she said, and placed her hand over her heart. “Oh my. And thank you for helping me understand what he was saying. I could understand him after that.”
“Good,” I said.
“This is the first time a patient has prayed over me,” she said.
“He did?” I asked.
She teared up. “I asked him if he would like me to pray with him, and he took my hands and said, ‘I’ll pray for you.'”
“And he did?” I said.
“Yes, and now I have to go sit down somewhere and cry.”
Later that day, when I told Dr. Mac the evening Zyprexa seemed to make Dad more agitated instead of less as it was supposed to do, she wanted to revisit his history of hallucinations and his increasingly weak legs. “Let me go back and look at his chart again,” she said. “I’ll call you back.”
“Dad,” I said, “would you drink one of your protein shakes? I have a cooler over here with three drinks in it. Which one–chocolate or vanilla?”
His eyes lit up a little. “Chocolate!”
I rolled the bed up and offered him the straw in the bottle. He tried to take the bottle.
“I want to drink it. Myself.”
“Well, okay.” I grabbed some Chux pads and tucked one around the top half of his body. I helped him hold the drink, with him struggling to wrest it from me, until I knew he’d had enough that he wouldn’t immediately pour the stuff all over himself.
He drank almost all of the eight ounces. He drank almost ALL of the EIGHT OUNCES, the most food of any kind he’d had since more than a week ago.
Dr. Mac called. “Diana, this is not Alzheimer’s. I’m thinking more like Parkinson’s with Lewy bodies. That would explain the reaction to the Zyprexa. Do you know much about Parkinson’s?”
“Enough. A lot,” I said.
She said he wanted to confer with the hospitalist, Dr. Meadors, about switching him over to something like Valium, which would be much more effective if we were treating Parkinson’s.
Sure enough, the Valium (or whatever it was) helped calm him. Dr. Mac called to say that Dad appeared now to qualify for in-patient hospice, and she had arranged a meeting with Rosie from Alive Hospice downtown. She explained her wish for inpatient hospice.
“The Parkinson’s thought changes everything. His medications seem to be headed in the right direction. He could use the meds management at inpatient to get them all tweaked to the point that you could manage him at home with the help of home hospice.” She fears for my ability to physically manage him at home right now and for my mother’s emotional health as she watches Dad decline.
I made her promise that she will always work toward our goal of getting him home. She repeats to me all the information I’ve given her, including the DNR and comfort care directives.
End of day, Wednesday, November 7. Dad slept peacefully almost all night.
Yesterday morning, he knew me when I arrived. He smiled and said, “Hello, honey.” Dr. Mac called to discuss the latest strategy since he has improved enough that he probably does not qualify for inpatient hospice. “We’re thinking we can send him over to the rehab facility.”
Dad and I sat in quiet most of the day yesterday. He was tired. He thought he might want sausage and eggs. I tried. He drank a bit of milk shake. I tried again. I massaged his aching hands with cream, swabbed his gums and washed out his mouth.
“You’re going to make me bald,” he said when I rubbed his head. That’s a little joke we have. Not long after that, we both dozed at the same time.
When I told him I was leaving for the day, he said, “Be careful driving home. Is it still raining?”
I said, “No.” It did not rain all day yesterday.
Just as I started to exit the room, he called softly but firmly, “You are going to call Red Blair to help you get that big machine off the hill, aren’t you?”
Murphy lay on the floor and barked. I felt myself shaking a little. I held out my hand to see if the shaking was outside or in-. In, I decided.
The veterinary technician was familiar and I like her, but I could not come up with her name. Maybe it’s Chrissy. Dave might know, but he wasn’t there. He was Murphy’s primary caretaker, spent more time with her than anyone else. No way my husband could do this. I could, so I did.
Chrissy told me how sorry she was, tears in her eyes.
“I have a couple of things to go over with you,” she said. “There are three options. With the first one, you’d take her home with you.” When she offered the second option, I said, “Yes, that’s what we want,” a communal cremation where the crematorium scattered her ashes in a private wooded area.
Chrissy went on to the procedure. I stopped her and said I’d already discussed with Mel, the long-term receptionist, when I booked the appointment.
“Do you want me to put her on the table?” I asked.
She said yes, so I hefted our puppy’s almost 15 pounds on top of the exam table. I still called her our puppy. Dave laughed at me and says “She’s hardly a puppy,” but her little Shih-tzu face still looked like a puppy to me.
Chrissy asked me to check and initial the preferred option and then sign permission. The initials ran off the line and I found it difficult to write my last name. Revell came out more like Reiwelll.
Dr. O’Neill eased the door open. She said she knew this was a difficult decision, and that we’d gone the extra mile for Murphy. “Do you want your friend to come in?”
“No,” I said and wrapped my arms around Murphy. The tech held her bottom half.
“Okay, sweet girl,” Dr. O’Neill said as she did the first injection, “you’ll sleep in a few minutes.” She stroked Murphy’s head. In sync, our hands touched. I instantly glanced at Dr. O’Neill, but she had already averted her eyes.
I held our Murphy Sweet Punkin while she drifted off to sleep. I knew she was asleep when she started to snore. She grew heavier and the tip of her tongue protruded. I smiled.
“I think she’s asleep,” Dr. O’Neill said.
I lifted Murphy’s back leg and let it fall–gently. “She is.”
The second injection of clear deep pink solution struck me as a good color. I’d always told groomers “She’s partial to hot pink” when they asked if they could put bows on her ears.
It took three tries for Dr. O’Neill to get a good vein. They were all small and kept collapsing. When the needle found the third vein, it seemed that my little old dog’s heart stopped beating within a couple of minutes. I held her tight and wept, happy to see a tissue box at the end of the table.
“Okay,” I said, “I’m going to leave her with you.” I kissed her head and said something like “Sleep, no more pain now.” I moved her gently from my arms to the table.
I know Dr. O’Neill and Chrissy said something. I don’t know what they said.
When I reached the waiting room, I nodded to my friend Peggy, who had driven me to Animal Care Center. At the counter, I said, “Do I need to sign…..”
“No,” the young woman at the desk said, “we’re good. I’m so sorry.”
I turned to Peggy. “Okay,” I said. She followed me out the door.
Past the beautiful statue of St. Francis and the animals, I remembered to pick up the bag of poop I’d left on the short wall around the clinic front patio. We didn’t see a trash receptacle so I put it on the floor of the van, along with the pink harness and leash.
When we got home, I gathered my purse, my water bottle, and the leash. “Oh, let me get the poop,” I said.
Peggy answered, “Whew, I’m glad you said that. It’s pretty ripe.” We both laughed a little.
“You mean you could smell it?” I asked.
“Lord, yes,” she said. “But I knew you couldn’t smell anything.”
I laughed. Peggy knew my sense of smell left with years of inhalers and other medications for asthma.
We hugged and I told her thank you, couldn’t say much more. I had to get inside to Dave and his grief combined with mine.
When I walked onto the porch and threw the bag of poop in the trash, I realized I never looked at Murphy’s face. No way I could look at that little face. But I’ll always remember it.
I have this card (or maybe I had this card) that says something like, “Roses are red, Violets are blue, I’ll always be…[open the card] younger than you!” I can’t find it.
Mrs. Grillo and I became forever friends in seventh grade, some fifty-six years ago. My family had only been in California six months, living in Mill Valley where my dad was a seminary student. We moved to Pittsburg when Dad was called as Pastor of Temple Baptist Church.
It was the start of the second semester at Hillview Jr. High. When the gym teacher said “Raise your hand if you do not yet have a locker,” I replied something to the effect of, “My locker has done been possessed.” My Southern accent combined with the funny way I said it inspired a great roar of laughter from every girl in the room, including the teacher.
I didn’t mind. I had been miserable at the Mill Valley school where I started seventh grade. When the kids laughed at me there, I knew they laughed at me, my hillbilly-ness, my inferiority. I knew this because one of the teachers told me. But that first day at Hillview was very different. It was as if I made them laugh and that was great! Maura Jean Snyder laughed, too, and she’s laughed at me ever since. Lots of times, she’s cried with me.
By the time we hit Pittsburg High School, we were the ultimate teenyboppers. We adopted nicknames. She was Ja, with one of those long vowel lines over the a, I was Dee. We were wild about the Beatles, our fashion choices inspired by the British Invasion. We sewed military-style wool jackets. Mine was camel, hers was grey. We loved Motown and soul, handed to us on a platter in the diversity of our town. We could jerk and we could twine. We wore wheat-colored jeans and short-sleeved sweatshirts out of class, the dress code for young women denying pants of any kind in school. Except for dance days, and then a female person could wear pants and huge plastic hair rollers. I never caught on to the hair-roller thing.
When my father graduated from seminary and accepted an appointment with the Home Mission Board to Lewistown, Montana, I stayed with Ja’s family to complete my senior year.
We danced. Jean was much better than I, a seasoned champion roller-skater. Really. She was a U.S. champ. I danced anyway. Ja and I choreographed a mournful dance to a Barbra Streisand song about loss wearing wide-legged jumpsuits we made ourselves. Hers was olive green, mine was a burnt orange. When senior awards were handed out, she got one for Best Dancer, I got one for Most Improved. My boyfriend asked me, “Does that mean you were the worst in the class at the beginning?”
We went to San Jose State together. The second year, I went to Montana to stay with my folks for a year, and Ja pledged a sorority. The third year, Ja came to live with my family in Montana and I went to the University of Montana at Missoula. Ja rode herd on the Wong boys, my three little foster brothers. She loved it.
The fourth year, we didn’t go to any school. We married best friends. Her wedding was at the end of March, mine mid-May. She decided we should enroll in dance classes at a local studio. Ja and her husband became godparents to our first son Jade. We moved to a farm in Norene, Tennessee when Jade was eleven months old. A year later, we went home to Montana for a visit. I was pregnant with John.
Ja and her husband, godparents again, came to Tennessee for the baptism when John was about five months old. Ja and I loved the visit, particularly the times when she and I could be alone with each other, two old friends catching up but not finding much to catch up on. After all, we had the U.S. Mail. We played cards after Jade went to bed, John sitting in Ja’s lap propped between the table and her middle.
She had previously told me that it didn’t look like she would have children. After seeing her easy rapport with Baby John at the card table, I bet her $5 that she would be pregnant in the next six months. Or maybe I bet her she would have a baby within the next year. I don’t really know which it was, although I’m sure she does. Just a few months later, I received an envelope from Montana. The only thing inside was a $5 bill.
There’s so much more–too much more, too many pages. A couple of girlfriends accumulate a lot of stories over fifty-six years. We divorced the best friends, went back to college (she graduated, I didn’t), worked hard (she became a math teacher–and then a math coach!), mourned losses, put kids through school, remarried, got grandbabies, and one day years and years after that first meeting in gym class, realized that we could not just call ourselves best friends.
We had begun to feel when things were going wrong with each another. We fret over each other’s husbands, kids, and grandkids. We research each other’s illnesses. We cry for each other when something’s not right. We give advice, solicited or not. We easily take or reject said advice. We whoop it up when joy arrives. We visit each other across the country whenever we can. There is never a day that either of us don’t think about the other.
Somewhere along the way, we became sisters.
I have called Mrs. Grillo very early every birthday morning. I’ve only missed a few, always for good reason. I missed yesterday. There was a good reason. I remembered at 7:00 Central Time. Years ago, I gave up the 5:00 A.M. call. It was just too early. Yesterday, I decided I would call at 9:00 o’clock, which would be 7:00 o’clock in the Santa Cruz hills of California. But then all hell broke loose, which is fairly routine around these parts, and I was caught up in the fray with my mind diverted.
Mrs. Grillo, the day event went more downhill, so to speak, or I guess Dave went downhill as he fell into the ravine. After the neighbor and I fished his bloody self out, I took him directly to the ER. He’s fine, no worries. He got stitches where he face-planted a stump, and he’s a tad sore all over.
I’ll be on Message+ or the phone later to tell you the rest of the story. I’ll make that happen before this day is over. It may actually come in another blog post.
I love you, Sis, and hope you had good stuff at Little Italy–Is that the name of that restaurant? No, I think it might be Little Napoli. Now I know you had some cold bubbly, and I toasted you with some Jack and Coke. Did you feel it?
When I was in my first year of college at San Jose State, three little brothers came to live with my parents in Montana. One of those little boys, Jimmy Lee Wong, died yesterday mid-day.
Jimmy Lee Wong was the oldest of the three, eleven months older than Jerry Lee, who was eleven months older than Johnny Lee. Two of the boys were mentally challenged as was their mother. Their father, Lee Wong, was very old and had died only a couple of months before. The boys had already been in three foster homes. Lee Wong was Chinese, thirty-five years older than Lucille Deserley of the Pembina Band of Chippewa under the leadership of Chief Thomas Little Shell. Lucille, a beautiful young woman in the one photo I’ve seen, died in childbirth when the boys were just toddlers.
It was a couple of days before my Christmas break when Dad drove the boys from the Social Services office in Great Falls to our home in Lewistown. When I arrived home from a long drive home from the Billings airport, Mom called them from their basement “suite.” They bounded up the stairs whispering to each other, hands over mouths, and lined up in the kitchen. I guessed which name went with which boy. What I remember most is their eyes. Against their copper/olive skin, their eyes were big, round, and almost black.
Everything the boys brought with them, all their worldly goods, the entirety of their belongings, fit in two cardboard boxes and one Chinese trunk. The trunk was almost empty except for an envelope of ten pictures, a couple of books, and a ginger jar they gave to Mom. The boxes contained a few pieces of clothing each and some old pots and pans. No coats. It was December in Montana and there were no coats.
Mom issued a “please help” to the ladies of the church. Those women blessed us and gathered good coats, jeans, shirts, and shoes. Mom sent me on a run to the five and dime (Woolworth’s, I think) for underwear. When the manager saw my pile of whitey tidies, tee shirts, and insulated pieces, he asked me who on earth I was shopping for. When I told him, he sighed and said, “I think we can afford a donation here.”
Those three didn’t talk much at first. I coaxed them, and then they turned loose. Well, Jerry and Johnny became quite the conversationalists; Jimmy, not so much. For all the years the Wongs were in the Blair home, Jimmy’s main communication consisted of “Good, Mom,” which he said after every meal, every snack, and “Mom, Mom, somebody farted.” Those two statements are etched into our family’s culture. We still quote Jimmy.
The years were good–and bad–to the Wong boys. Jerry and Johnny wound up in Tennessee when Mom and Dad moved back home. In his late teens, Jimmy developed schizophrenia in addition to his other challenges, and since the boys were unadoptable and wards of the State of Montana, he was moved by the State of California to Billings. He has been under the supervision of a caseworker as part of what we used to call sheltered workshops. It was a lucky move for Jimmy. He thrived there, always had some kind of job, and was eventually allowed his own apartment where he was found in the floor yesterday.
For the past several years, Jimmy came to Tennessee for Thanksgiving or Christmas. We always bought him DVD’s to add to his immense movie collection. As an older adult, all of the words he never said when he was a kid came out, constantly and with frequent repetition. He laughed loud–at anything and everything. He was excitable when talking about problems he may have had on his job or with some other member of the center. Almost every year, he wound up in the ER with an asthma attack.
The word from his caseworker is he died of a rupture in his esophagus where it meets the stomach, caused by Barrett’s Esophagus Disease and the cancer that followed. We had never heard that he had the disease nor the cancer. We just knew he had a lot of reflux issues, asthma, and heart problems.
He was visiting a friend in his apartment building yesterday morning and didn’t stay long. The friend said he’d make some coffee. Jimmy didn’t want coffee. He said he just wanted to go home. It wasn’t long until his best friend George went to check on him and found him in the floor. He was already gone.
Last night, after talking with Jerry several times, I emailed a scanned copy of written permission to the funeral home in Billings to perform the cremation. I explained that I have no legal right to do it, and that I was doing it at Jerry’s request. The woman said, “That’s okay, we just need a signature from a family member.” I didn’t offer anything else.
Jimmy Wong, you came to this earth for hard times, but it seems you finished well–with friends and family and helpers who loved you. In your voice, I’m saying, “Good Jimmy.”
I knew it was coming someday, and it was my own fault. She was already in bed, curled up, occupying the space that would hold my feet if that little Punkin’ wasn’t there. I bent down at the foot of the bed to kiss her on the head and she didn’t feel me coming. Bless her, she can’t see, hear nor smell very well, but most of the time she senses me present. She didn’t hurt me and didn’t growl. It was as close as she could get to biting without biting.
We’ll celebrate Murphy’s fourteenth birthday April 22.
Jameson Blair Graham, the oldest grandson, will turn fourteen on May 17. Our little black and white fuzzball Murphy Sweet Punkin’ has been plagued with medical problems, including an autoimmune disease, and has already lived past the average age of demise for a Shih-tzu. In contrast, Jameson is leaned in and fast approaching adulthood. He’s left all pre-teen notions behind and is a bonafide, full-fledged teenager. He still loves his young cousin, and they think he’s wonderful. He’ll be driving on a learner’s permit in a little over a year.
Yeah, we know what’s coming, and we know it’s coming soon.
We bought a lift chair for Dad yesterday. It is a pretty chair, just the right size for his space, chocolate brown faux suede. Dad turns eighty-nine in September. He’s fallen several times since Christmas, the time when his scleroderma started acting out as if on a mission. Some days, he’s needed help to get out of his old favorite recliner–or actually any chair he sits in. His legs won’t hold him up without his Rollator, and several times a day, he can’t even move his feet holding to the walker.
After Sunday Dinner this week, Dave and I made the decision to set the table at the apartment from now on. Mom always writes Sunday Dinner with the two capitals, I think because it’s one of their favorite times at our house. We set the table with the good silverware and glasses, and we always use cloth napkins–unless we’re eating pasta with red sauce or pork barbecue. Dad was too weak to eat Sunday. It was exhausting to walk those one hundred steps or so to the table, impossible for him to navigate to a chair in the den, and futile to think he could get out of his at-my-house favorite, an old red chenille recliner.
Murphy loved Old Red in her younger years. It’s been a long time since she could jump on and off a chair.
Monday morning, he was in the bedroom trying to play Merle Haggard on his new boombox (generously donated on Sunday afternoon by fellow book-clubber Susan) when he fell, punching out the cane back of his sturdy wooden chair. I hurried next door when Mom called. Dave was away from home, but I knew I could call on neighbor Don to help me get him up if necessary. I found Dad on all fours, trying to crawl across the bedroom to the bathroom. He knew he needed to clean up and change some clothes. With Mom’s help, I convinced him to get his chest against his punched-out chair. It took three tries, but I got him up–and he helped. His voice was so weak I could barely hear him.
Once in the bathroom, he cleaned up as much as he could, holding himself upright by pressing against the clothes dryer. I “polished him off” and then scrubbed down the place, paying particular attention to the washer and dryer that acted as his props. I was reminded to find Mom a dryer since hers quit that very morning. Later that afternoon, I bought a new dryer at Lowe’s and drove a few miles to Franklin to pick up my newly repaired sewing machine.
The dryer arrived on Tuesday morning.
We moved Dad’s old leather recliner downstairs to his study, a place nobody goes anymore except to water overwintering plants. We got another wooden armchair for Dad’s bedroom and started looking for a sturdy chair for the den, one that might be described as “easy in, easy out.” Then we put Old Red up for sale, even though it really was the most comfortable seat in the house. It doesn’t match the den colors anyway.
So we’re prepared. We know what’s coming, but we don’t know how soon.
Dave saw them first and was so excited he stuttered a little. “Two…two f-f-foxes just r-r-ran into the ravine!”
I was too slow that time, but just a couple minutes later, he said, “They’re crossing that big log! Come quick!”
That time I made it to the dining room window in time to spot the two white-tipped bushy tails as they chased up and down the far side of the ravine. They looked like they were playing.
“They must be yearlings,” I said.
“No,” Dave answered, “They’re full grown, just small.”
We haven’t seen foxes in a few years now. The first spring we lived here on the ravine, two mamas had two bunches of little ones. We loved watching them play and grow. And then they were gone. Maybe it was the mange that ran through the skulk, or maybe it was Grandpa clearing brush from the banks of the big ditch. We miss them.
Like my friend Maybelle, I think fox sightings are a sign. I’m going to say that seeing two foxes running through the back yard and down into the ravine is an omen of good to come in this new year.
2017 was a rough year. I thought it was better not to even attempt resolutions because, at The Compound, not only do they not come when you build it, but they don’t cooperate when you plan it too well.
Sounds like Maybelle is a bit weary of resolutions, too, and Maybelle definitely doesn’t want to be a bada**. Check her out. Maybelle says she plans to do the best she can. I can’t fault her for that. In fact, I think I’ll follow her lead.
Maybelle, guess what! We saw foxes in the ravine again. We saw two of them; one for you, and one for me. Happy New Year, Everybody!
Mom, now 85, developed an infection in her artificial right knee a couple months ago. Her orthopedist confirmed and scheduled surgery to clean it out, sort of a “flushing” procedure, in a late Tuesday night emergency surgery. Her orthopedist and her infectious disease doctor told us there is a 10-15% chance the infection would return–or never leave. And when that happens, the artificial joint must be removed, and another installed.
She spent almost three weeks in a rehab facility right after the surgery, and came home to me playing infusion therapist and several home care specialists visiting during the week.
The pain never stopped. It got worse. I called the orthopedist’s office and we went in last Monday. Dr. Shell drew enough fluid off the knee to send it to the lab. He called today to say that test results showed an elevated white blood cell count, the indication of an infection. That, coupled with the worsening pain, was enough to make a case for removing the knee, inserting a space for a couple months, and making a replacement in a second surgery. He said he felt we should do the surgery sooner rather than later, like Tuesday.
Some doctors know what a great comfort it is when they speak to patients frankly, with compassion, and with the focus on the fellow human they’re talking to. William Shell is such a doctor, such a man. At the end of our conversation, I told him I hated to ask for more of his time, but would he please call Mom and go through the whole thing with her?
“Of course, I’d love to. I’ll do it right now. I like to talk to Ethel.”
I started to give him her cell phone number. I got as far as 615-330. I added an 8. And then I could NOT remember. I stammered.
“Hey, he asked, is it 8442?” he asked. “I see that’s showing as her cell phone number, and your number is her home number.”
“Yes, yes, that’s it.”
“Well, good. Sometimes computers work to our advantage.”
I didn’t cry. I called my brother in Nevada; actually, I talked to his wife. Sometimes, I’d rather let her relay news, especially when I’m afraid I might cry.
Then I sat at my desk, the best place I know, and tried to come up with what I was feeling. Sad, scared, those were the top two. I answered the phone on the first chime. It was Mom. I could tell she was scared, but she was resolved and she was loving on Dr. Shell. And then she asked me if I would tell Dad.
“Where is he?”
“Downstairs, somewhere. He’s probably outside. No, wait, I hear the lift. He’s coming up.”
“Okay, I’ll go catch him.”
I hurried out the door of The Cellar and caught Dad stopped midway up the lift.
“What are you doing?” I asked. “Is the lift not working right?”
“I’m trying to fix something. There was this big hole between the lift and the floor upstairs and I saw one of the women get her heel caught in it, so I put a big board there and now it’s shifted and it’s blocking the lift from getting all the way up.”
“Can you fix it?”
“Yes, I just have to move the board.”
“Well, come back down here, I have to talk to you.”
“What about? What’s wrong?” He pushed the down button before I had time to answer.
I sat in one of the chairs at his round library table. He sat facing me in a rocker.
“Dad, Mom is going to have to have another surgery. She’s going in the hospital Tuesday.”
“I was afraid of that. I just told her this morning that something is wrong and somebody needs to fix it. How did they find out about the surgery?”
“You mean what made Dr. Shell think she needed another surgery?”
He nodded. He moved his tongue back and forth in his mouth. He always does that before he tears up.
“Remember he drew fluid off her knee Monday? Well, when the lab tested it, it had lots of white blood cells in it and that usually means there’s infection.” I went on. “Here’s what they’ll do. He’ll take her knee out, and then he’ll put what he calls a spacer in there. And while that’s in there, she won’t be able to walk on it, so she’ll be in a wheelchair. And then, when they’re sure the infection is cleared up, he’ll go back in and give her a new knee.”
He wiped his mouth and I hurried on. “Now, listen, you are going to have to behave yourself. You can’t be crying and carrying on around Mom. Every time you get upset and get to crying and get all depressed, it’s not good for her. SHE’s the one having surgery, and she’s the one we have to think about. So you’ve just got to get hold of yourself. You got to buck up and show her encouragement.”
“I will, I will.”
“Now I know you’re upset right now and you probably need to stay down here until you’re sure you can do okay upstairs.” (I did say that very kindly.)
“Yeah. I won’t go up right now. I have to fix this lift.”
“And I have to try to get all this stuff arranged,” I said.
I patted his shoulder before I left his office. I knew if I hugged him, he really WOULD start crying.
By the time I walked across the patio to The Cellar, Mom was calling.
“Yes, I told him,” I said. “He’ll be fine.”
“Well, where is he?” she asked.
“He’s fixing the lift.”
“You know what I keep thinking about? Remember, Faye [her cousin], laid there in that bed at the nursing home with no knees…..”
“Yes, but you’re not Faye. You have a lot going for you. You have the best doctor, the best hospital, the best home environment, and you have us to take care of you.”