Trying hard to leave.

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.”


Still a small smile.

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?”

“I sure will,” I promised.







Murphy Sweet Punkin’



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 nodded.

“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.



Happy Birthday, Mrs. Grillo!

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.BirthdaycardJ

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?BDcard


Jimmy Lee Wong 1955 – 2018

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.”


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Murphy bit my nose.

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.

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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. LIFT chairDad 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.Murphy3

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.


The Foxes Are Back!

Dave saw them first and was so excited he stuttered a little.  Foxes “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!

Lord, help us.

Sometimes, what you fear most is what you get.

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.”

“You’re right. I do. All of the above.”



Goodbye, Wichita Lineman

Glen Campbell died on my birthday.

Driving home after birthday greetings, giggles, jokes, and toasts with my writing tribe, I thought how there was never a time I didn’t like Glen. He wasn’t anything like a heartthrob; he was just the consummate performer and he, or somebody working for him, knew how to pick a song.

When I heard Wichita Lineman for the first time, I had just finished my first year at San Jose State and decided to set out my sophomore year in Lewistown, Montana. The California college system had decided I was an out-of-state student, even though I hadn’t left California when Dad took a church and teaching position in Montana during my senior year at Pittsburg High School. I had to pay out-of-state tuition–in arrears–before they’d give me my grades.

I’d broken an engagement. I was emotionally adrift in a place as foreign to me as the moon. Mom and Dad did their best to take care of me. Dad and I decided to drive to California in his brown Dodge station wagon to move my “things.”

I don’t recall what we moved but I remember the car was full from the rear door to the front seats. We drove straight through Nevada, with only occasional stops for meals and a few naps.

We stopped for breakfast in the little town of Blackfoot, Idaho. We’d been on the road for about twelve hours, just about two-thirds of the way home. I know it was Blackfoot because we started talking about the Blackfoot Native American tribe before we hit the city limits. Mom and Dad had taken three little boys from Great Falls as foster children at Christmas time and they were “half-American Indian and half Chinese.” At that time, there was no information about their tribal heritage; we could only speculate.

“Is it possible the boys might be Blackfoot?” I asked.

“I suppose so,” Dad said. “Your guess is as good as mine. I’ve heard Cree, Creek, Blackfoot, Lakota. I don’t think anybody really knows.”

When Dad pulled in the gravel parking lot a little before 6:00 o’clock, we noted on the sign outside that the place was open from 6:00 a.m. one day until 3:00 a.m. the next. Our waitress, also one of the owners, brought coffee to the table before we sat down. She said their long hours gave them the after-bar business, and it was the only early-morning breakfast spot within a good radius. She and her husband took turns sleeping for more than the three-hour break, allowing for one of them to always be onsite. She seemed happy–and proud.

“Whatcha gonna eat this morning?” she asked.

Dad sighed. “Whatever you want to cook. I’m more interested in this coffee.”

“How about some bacon and eggs–or would you rather have ham–our ham is good–or I’ve got some good kielbasa, and how do you want those eggs?”

I answered this time. “Bacon and eggs, scrambled, and toast.”

“I’ll try some of that kielbasa,” Dad said. He didn’t say how he wanted his eggs and she didn’t ask.

“I’m gonna bring you a pot of coffee,” she said, on her way to the kitchen window.  She didn’t hang her order on the clothes pin line, just handed it through the window to her husband and whispered.

She turned toward the jukebox against the front wall of windows and fished some coins from her apron. “We need some music. I won’t play anything too rowdy.” Then she picked up a pitcher thermos from behind the counter and set it on our table.

“I like him,” she said. “Glen Campbell. By the Time I Get to Phoenix.”

I nodded. “I like him, too.”

“He can sure play that guitar,” Dad said.

When she left, I said, “Funny how he sings traveling songs.”

“All of them?” Dad asked.

“Well, Gentle On My Mind is about a guy jumping trains. And this one is he’s on his way to Phoenix.”

“Hadn’t thought about that.”

By the time the steaming plates arrived, we’d all moved on from Glen Campbell. I don’t remember what else played. The man stepped out of the kitchen, reached behind the jukebox, and turned the volume down.

While we were eating, the place filled up with working men and two more waitresses tied on aprons over white polyester dresses. There were no other women except for me. I felt obligated as the new target of ogling and sat up straight in my chair. A new waitress removed our dishes and we poured the last of the coffee.

“Are we rested enough to get on the road?” I asked. “I’ll drive.”

“Yeah. Let me finish this cup of coffee. We better hit the restrooms before we leave.”

About that time, a burly bald-headed guy at a table yelled, “Hey, Jack, turn that up.”

“Jack” stepped out of the kitchen again, wiping his hands. “I’m busy back here,” he said. But he turned up the music and we heard, “And the Wichita lineman is still on the line.”

“Make it play over,” Mr. Burly said. “That song’s about me.”

Somebody across the room said, “This ain’t Wichita,” but Jack pulled the plug on the machine. “Somebody needs to get over here and feed it some dimes. I’m busy back there.”

Our waitress sat her coffee pot on the top of the jukebox and fished out some more coins. “Alright, I’m paying,” she said, “but somebody needs to get over here and pick out.”

Burly obliged, pulling up his Duckheads as he punched numbers.

Dad reached in his pocket and laid some bills on the table. “We better get going.”

“Shhhh, shhhh,” I said, “that’s Glen Campbell. That’s his new song.”

Go ahead. Play Wichita Lineman.

I got up and headed for the ladies’ room when I heard, “…and I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time.” I didn’t cry until I got in a stall.

I feel the same way about Glen Campbell that I remember feeling when John Denver died. I didn’t know how much I’d miss him until he was gone. Wichita Lineman ranks right up there with the best songs ever written and, without doubt, Jimmy Webb, its penman, in the top ten songwriters, maybe five. He lucked out, or maybe he was just smart, when he chose Glen Campbell to interpret his songs.

Trish Yearwood sings a Hugh Prestwood song called The Song Remembers When. The song testifies to the way that music can instantly–and intensely–give rise a memory that hasn’t shown itself in years. Funny, the woman in the lyrics says she was “standing at the counter, waiting for some change” when it happened:

Still I guess some things we bury
Are just bound to rise again
For even if the whole world has forgotten
The song remembers when
Yeah, and even if the whole world has forgotten
The song remembers when.

I know what she means.





Dad Without Mom

Mom knows she’s not allowed to die before Dad.

One Tuesday evening a few weeks back, Mom had some urgent medical care for an infection in her right (artificial) knee. An infection in one of these man-made joints is a serious situation. She went to surgery about 5:00 o’clock. It took about an hour for Dr. Shell to open the knee and clean it out. After a really rough night Tuesday night and changing her pain medications Wednesday morning, she rallied. By Thursday afternoon, her three doctors–orthopedist, hospitalist, and infectious disease specialist–released her to Woodcrest at the Blakeford, her favorite rehab facility.

We told Dad early Thursday that we would be moving her to Woodcrest. He was sitting in his chair.

“I was afraid of that,” he said.

“Why do you say ‘afraid?'”

He shook his head slowly. “How long is she going to stay?” he asked, glancing over to the glider-rocker where Mom sits to watch TV, crochet, color….well, just about everything except to iron. She sits at the kitchen table to iron.

I answered him, “Probably three or four weeks.”

He looked over his glasses. “That’s a long time.”

“Would you like to go to see her tomorrow morning?”

“No, I’ll go to see her on Sunday. You’ll be going on Sunday, won’t you?”

“I’m sure I will. Hey, let’s put your hearing aids in.”

He cupped his hands over his ears. “No, no, I don’t want them.”

“We’ll try again later.”

“Mom always puts them in.”


He stayed in all day on Friday, said he just wasn’t feeling as well as he wanted. He had been sick to his stomach during the night. I went over to the apartment to check on him about 4:30.

“What did you eat?” I asked from the door to the den.

“Cookies. And I think I drank too much coffee.” Dad’s early morning pre-breakfast meal is a choice of Little Debbie honey bun or oatmeal cake and a pot of decaffeinated coffee. Or he might opt for two cookies instead of the Little Debbies, either chocolate marshmallow or Nutter Butter.

“How about if I fry you some eggs?” I asked.

“Don’t want any eggs. Don’t want anything.”

Some mornings he eats breakfast after Mom has had her coffee, sometime around 9:00. Sometimes he doesn’t eat until 10:30 or 11. That meal might be bologna or souse and crackers, leftover pork roast if there is any, or turnip greens if Mom gets them on early enough. We try to make sure he has a good mid-day meal.

I walked in front of him to Mom’s chair and sat down. “What else did you have? Did you eat lunch?”

“I don’t eat much, just don’t want it,” he said.

“I know that, but you have to eat. You can’t be working a garden if you don’t have food. That’s your fuel.”


Saturday, he worked a little in his garden, a huge plot with rows of cabbage, green beans, peppers, strawberries, and onions, all ready to harvest. I went over to Woodcrest to see Mom mid-day.

When I got home, I checked in. “I pulled up some cabbage,” he told me.

“Why did you do that?” (Mom continually warns him about pulling up plants. If he doesn’t think the yield is as good as it should be, if he sees brown leaves, or if he notices anything else that disturbs him about the way things are growing, he pulls it up. The major problem here is that he doesn’t see well.)

He answered me. “It needed it. It was too big and spread out.”

I have to say I don’t know what that means, but his little red wagon was full of cabbage heads and I started parceling them out to the neighbors.

Dave took him a drink, his typical Evan Williams and Diet Coke, about 4:30. I was in the kitchen when he returned.

“Your dad says he wants to see you.”

“Oh. I wonder what that’s about.”

“He says he wants to have a meeting.”

I headed next door again with pen and paper.

“Hey, Dad, what’s up?”

“Well, I got out my calendar here and I want to make sure I put some dates on it.”

“Okay.” I paused and pointed to the TV. “Dad, I can hardly hear you.  If you would wear your hearing aids, you wouldn’t have to turn the TV up so loud.”


I repeated myself.

“It’s too late in the day to put in my hearing aids,” he said.

“Which dates do you need?”

He swiveled his chair toward me. “Is today the 20th?”

“No, it’s the 18th.”

“Oh, well, if Mom stays down there twenty-one days, she should be home on the 6th of July.”

“Okay,” I answered. “How do you know it will be twenty-one days?”

“Because Medicare pays for twenty-one days and I know she won’t stay any longer than that.”

“You and Mom have Blue Cross Advantage Care. It may be different.”


“Any other dates?”

“If you go to see her tomorrow, I want to go, too.”

“Yes, that would be good,” I said. “She’d like that.”

I put a load of clothes in the washer and sat back down. “I’m going to wash up all the clothes,” I said.

“We wash all our clothes on Monday.”

“I know. But I’m just going to have to do laundry whenever I can.”

He swiveled around to the TV tray where he writes. “Alright. Alright.  May as well change my calendar.”

“Dad, you’re not going to have to do all this stuff yourself.”

“Well, I can fold my clothes.” He paused. “I’m going to need some things from the store.”

“Okay, you just tell me what you need and I’ll go get it.”

He lifted his head. “I’ll make a list.”

“Okay, that’s a great idea. And I’ve been meaning to ask, ‘Were you sick again last night?'”

“Yes, and I threw up.” He sounded pitiful.

“On your bed?”


“I’ll change the sheets.” I got up and started down the short hall that joins the den and Dad’s sleeping room. He had already made the bed. He and Mom both make their beds every morning before leaving the room. I stripped the bed and told myself, “There’s no mattress pad on there. I could have sworn I put a mattress pad on this bed.” I made a mental note to add mattress pad to his shopping list.


“How are you this morning?” I asked as I sat in Mom’s chair with a cup of coffee.

“Oh, I guess the usual,” was the answer.

“You’re missing Mom,” I said.

He looked over at me and nodded toward the chair. “I’m just so used to seeing her in that chair. She doesn’t have to be doing anything, just as long as she’s there.”

For lack of any better answer, I said, “You’re going to see her today.” I leaned over to tap his leg.

He didn’t buy it. “It’s already too long.”

“Let’s leave here about 10:30, okay?”

“Whatever you say. But you have to fix my medicine. Mom always fixes our medicine on Saturdays. I don’t know what to do with it. I looked at it but I just don’t know. I never do it.”

“Yes, I will put all your pills in your boxes before I leave.”


We were finally on our way to Woodcrest.

“Oh, shoot, Dad, I meant to put your hearing aids in,” I said as we headed down Blackman Drive.

“I don’t want them.”

“You’re going to wear those hearing-aids,” I said.

“The truth of the matter is I don’t have to have those hearing aids. I can hear more than you think I can.”

“Oh, really?” I asked. I turned my head toward the window and asked, “Can you hear me?”

He didn’t answer.

“You’re going to wear those hearing aids,” I mumbled.


At Woodcrest, he seemed timid and out of sorts.

“Where are your hearing aids?” Mom asked.


“I said, ‘Where   are    your    hearing-aids?'”

“Diana doesn’t know how to put them in.”

“Well, she can learn. You’re going to wear those hearing-aids!”

“I need my chair closer to you,” he said.

I dragged one of two really nice visitor chairs across the room and directly in front of Mom.

She looked up at me. “What time are we having lunch? Isn’t it past time?”

Dad leaned forward and looked around me toward Mom. “Are we going out?”

“Are we going out? I thought you were eating here with me,” she asked in my direction.

“Dad, don’t you remember, I told you we were going to eat with Mom today?”


The chef (yes, they have a chef) brought in a Sunday dinner. I had ordered prime rib for Dad and, just in case he couldn’t or didn’t want to eat that, crab cakes for myself that I could exchange for his plate. He ate three bites of the meat. I asked, “Can you chew that?” and he said, “No.”

I was quite pleased with myself. “Well, lookee here what I happen to have–crab cakes!”

“Oh, boy,” he said. I put the crab cakes on his plate and took the remaining meat.

He ate two bites of the crab cakes and not much else. My old sweet tooth daddy didn’t even like the dessert.

“I’m ready to go when you are, Sis,” he said.

“Well, okay, let’s get going then.”

On the way out the door, he said, “Let’s not eat here next Sunday.”

And, in the car, “I’m more worried about your mother than ever.”

I jerked my head around. “Why?”

“She looks so old. This is the first time I thought she looked old.”

“Maybe you’re not seeing so well. [He doesn’t.] She doesn’t look old. She might look a little tired.”

“I hope so. Maybe you see better than I do.”


On Tuesday morning, after being sick all night, he had a little TIA right in front of Dave and me. We looked at each other and almost at the same time said, “ER.”

They checked him from stem to stern with lots of diagnostics. Dave called to pronounce, “It’s not his head and it’s not his heart.”

“So he’s coming home?” I asked.

“Yes, with some medicine for the upset stomach.”

I gave him Zofran right after he got home. It was 7:00 o’clock, a long day in the ER.

The next morning, he was almost cheerful. Almost.

“I’ve been up for a while,” he said. “Man oh man, I slept last night. Whatever that pill is you gave me, that one that goes under my tongue, it works.” He reached over to his TV tray. “Here’s the list,” he said. “Here’s what I need from the grocery store.”

1 lb. Beef Bolana
Loft of Wheat Bread
Pack of Butterfaner Candy
Cottage Chees
One pack of Milky Ways

He never was a speller despite his multiple post-college degrees. I knew exactly what he wanted. And I knew I wanted to put his list in my file labeled “Keepers – Dad.”
















Things can be going well and, then….”

Two days ago, Mom was scheduled to come home on Monday! Yesterday, when I talked to her on the phone, she had this deep chest cough.

I was going in for a visit this morning, and Dad wanted to go with me. Dave said he had just gone next door and found him sound asleep in his chair. Thinking that he might be awake, I checked on him a few minutes later. He was completely zonked, snoring.

He seemed really tired when I first saw him outside early this morning. I handed him the seeds he had requested, horticultural (October) beans, and told him I had left Mom a message and she hadn’t yet called me back. I wanted to make sure she’d be in her room when we chose to visit, told  him I’d let him know what time we’d go to visit as soon as she called.

I gathered the cherry tomatoes and checked the half-runner green beans, which I will have to pick this afternoon. Then I went back inside and tried to call Mom again. No answer.

I got a voice mail alert on my phone and listened to the message. “This is Henrietta Haygood, the nurse practitioner at Woodcrest at The Blakeford. [I made up that name.] I wanted to let you know that there was a mistake made regarding Mrs. Blair’s PICC line, the IV tube that delivers the antibiotics. Someone looked at the date to pull the line and thought it said June 29 when, in reality, she will need the IV through July 29. So we sent her over to the hospital this morning about 9:30 to have that PICC line re-inserted. She isn’t back yet, but she will be back here before the day is over. And this was our mistake….”  She said more and ended with, “If you have any questions, please give me a call. Or you can speak with Joy, the nurse on her floor today.”

I was quietly seething at my desk when Dave walked in. “Your dad says something’s wrong with the elevator.”

“Well, guess what? They pulled her tube/port thing that delivers her antibiotic for the infection in her knee. They thought it was supposed to stop June 29–instead of July 29, so they took her to the hospital at 9:30 to have that PICC line re-done.”

“And nobody called?”

“No, nobody called. And I’ve called Mom three times and she hasn’t called me back. Either she is feeling bad or she left her phone at the center. I am livid. I mean, I knew the date was July 29. Surely to God somebody there should have realized that.”

“Well, I told your dad to let one of us know when he wants to go back upstairs and we’ll go over to the apartment to make sure he gets back up on the lift. It must be that switch inside the elevator that’s not working right. You know, the switch you hold down.”

“So what good is it going to do for one of us to stand at the door of the lift in the apartment if he gets stuck?”

“Because the switch inside the apartment works. You can bring the lift back up with that switch.”

I nodded but didn’t say anything.

“Well, you better get dressed. You’re going somewhere in the next hour, whether it’s to the hospital or to Woodcrest. Which hospital did they take her to?”

“It better be St. Thomas.”

I called Henrietta [not her real name]. No, she wasn’t at her desk. She called back a few minutes later. We had a calm, if strained, conversation.

I learned that Henrietta had started Mom on a Z-pack for her “cold.” I did not ask if Mom is still coming home on Monday.




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