Saturday, March 31, 2012

Welcome to the A to Z Challenge 2012

How appropriate that this is my 100th post. It is a milestone in time for a rebirth. You would have thought that I would have so many more entries at this point. But life doesn't work like that. And neither does my writing style.

This is my random blog of random thoughts. Last year when I entered this challenge, I thought it was going to be a way for me to just share fun little tidbits about myself. Instead, it ended up being a therapeutic way for me to deal with the loss of my father. And once he passed away, I found myself shutting down for a while.

I started back up again when I started making my way through a book about losing both of your parents. You can read the entries for They Live On here. As of the time of this posting, I am only about halfway through the book. More posts will come, as I complete the book. I was stopped from writing, again, when we almost lost my mother. I also had a couple of minor accidents.

But Mom is now on the mend. I am healing from my minor injuries. I have also been healing from the hurt of losing my father 10 months ago. To continue that process, I will be dedicated my challenge this year to the memory of my father. I know everyone says this, but father was the love of my life. I adored him more than anyone else in this world. Losing him was like losing a part of myself. But I have been surviving.

So, join me on this month of reflection honoring my father. Good luck to those of you who are participating in this year's challenge. And thank you for stopping by!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

GBE 2: Shenanigans

Why can't I ever have any good injury stories from my shenanigans? Six weeks ago, I got a second degree burn on my right ankle. How in the hell does one manage that? Well, I was getting over a nasty stomach bug. I had been off of work since Wednesday. I finally stopped vomiting on Friday. Saturday night, the man took me out to breakfast for dinner. By Sunday, I was eating even more, but decided to play it safe with soup.

I turned from the stove for just a moment and suddenly the soup was rolling in a boil. I turned off the stove and said to myself, "I don't want to get burned. I am going to put this soup into this large plastic measuring cup with a handle so that it doesn't spill." I had done that several times before. I carry the soup upstairs and sit cross-legged in front of the laptop because I was doing some article research. Somehow the damn soup spilled onto my ankle, anyway. I pulled off the sock while simultaneously somehow moving the laptop out of the way and securing the soup so that it didn't pool in my bed where I was sitting. I went into the bathroom to run my foot under cold water in the tub. The skin came right off. I haven't felt that kind of pain in a long time. After much deliberation and discussion with friends in the medical field, I gave in to going to the ER to have it checked out. I made the man drive me, even though he was still annoyed with me over a stupid disagreement the night before.

Sure enough, second degree burn. Here is some special cream for it. Go ahead and walk on it. Don't worry about skipping work - you will be just fine. Just take Advil for the pain.

HA. I couldn't sleep with just Advil and got something better a couple of days later. Even with that, I was still only averaging about four hours of sleep from the shooting pain in my ankle.

Fast forward a week or two. It's picture make-up day at school. I didn't get it done the first time around because I was white with pain and had raccoon eyes from the lack of sleep. I get the hot Keurig water for my oatmeal and my double cup of coffee. The person coordinating wants me to go get my picture done right then, but my kids are about to walk in the door. I've gotta go. I spin around and hit the door frame. The hot water goes all down my sleeve, onto my hand. Voila. First degree burn on my left hand. The fun part was, it was like stirpes because I was wearing a ribbed sweater. No medical trip this time. A friend who is a nurse, who is married to a doctor, said because I had just been in the ER for a burn, I already knew what to do and had the cream on hand.

Move forward about another week. My hands were really dry and cracking close to my nails. The index finger on my left hand (with the burn) was looking kind of red, but it usually does when it is this dry. Throughout the night, though, it hurt so much at times that it would wake me up. By morning, it was so swollen, I couldn't even bend it. Probable staph infection. Hello, antibiotics. At least I was able to use my Snoopy bandaids that the man's mom had gotten me for Christmas.

That healed over February Break, though it still looks a little sketchy under the nail. Everything seems fine. I get through the Mama Drama (see the story on the Alzheimer's blog). The kids at work are finally in a learning  state of mind. The weather is quickly getting warmer and nicer (like 70 and sunny), which is uncharacteristic for us at this time of year. And then....

It's Tuesday. Half of my class is in the Atrium room. My assistant goes to get them, because it is the end of the morning and time for them to either go home or go to lunch. I collect the morning kids' folders and my left foot finds a wet spot on the floor. My left leg goes straight out. I fall straight down, but only my right leg properly buckles under me. I hear "Snap, Crackle and Pop" like Rice Krispies the whole way down. I realize I can't move.

My kids are awesome and immediately mobilized. Some bring me ice packs. One girl gathers the spilled folders and starts herding the younger kids to circle so that she could dismiss them for me. When my assistant returns, they get her for me, telling her that I had fallen. By this time, I am in tears. A couple of the kids are worried, because they had never seen me cry before. One little boy blamed himself for my fall and kept kissing me on top of my head.

Long story short, a trip to the ER determined that nothing was broken, nor dislocated. I was diagnosed with sprained and pulled joints and muscles. I am supposed to use crutches when moving around, which is almost impossible inside the house. But I can put a little pressure on the left leg. I usually injure the right side, so it is tricky getting used to leading with the right one. And it is already slowly healing. I can almost pull my left leg flush with the right one when limping. And I can sit on chairs and "The Throne" again with much more ease.

The hardest part, I guess, is that the doctor said I have to stay home for the rest of the week. What a pity. It is 70 and sunny here in Upstate NY. Apparently, we even hit 80 yesterday. There is barely a cloud in the sky.  The man brought me some easy groceries, so I can load up carrots, Cheerios and Coke into a plastic bag and carry it outside with my laptop bag and an extension cord. I've never had a tan in March before. So, while it isn't the greatest story, at least my shenanigans worked in my favor for once.G

Thursday, March 1, 2012

They Live On: Just Take Her: Scheduling Death

This chapter of They Live On was one that elicited a lot of emotions. In the first part (the previous post), Patricia talks about the impending death of her mother who has brain cancer. She doesn't want her mother to leave her, but she cannot to prolong her mother's suffering. It is a horrible thing to witness.

One section of her chapter is a journal entry called "Scheduling Death." You spend your whole life being told that you never know when you are going to die. You're aware that some day your parents are going to leave you. But you can never fully fathom when or how that loss is going to happen.

I had a strong sense of my father's end. I had talked to him on April 13th about my arrival Friday night. He told me that there was a good chance he would be in the hospital by the time my sister and I got into town, because he just wasn't feeling well. He had been complaining of headaches since his fall, but refused to go see the doctor. He was not someone who got headaches, whereas my mother and I are notorious for our migraines. I was worried about his headaches. I think he was, too, hence why he didn't want to go to the doctor. As we chatted, I started to get a little flutter of concern in my stomach.

When I got the phone call from relatives on April 14th at 10:30 pm telling me that he been taken to the hospital via ambulance, the hand holding the phone started to involuntarily shake. I could hardly hear what Bob was saying. There was something about a brain bleed and him being moved to the neurological ICU at a different hospital the following morning. And I ended up with a full-blown pit in my stomach.

It took another hour for my hand to stop shaking. I texted a couple of my friends and called my boss to say that I needed to leave first thing on Friday instead of a little early on Friday. She agreed. I even called my ex-boyfriend. We had just broken up a week before, but were going to try to stay friends. He talked me down to the point where I could finally fall asleep.

I talked to my father on April 15th and he seemed in good spirits. He was excited we were coming to town. The doctors had confirmed a brain bleed, but thought surgery could wait. At the very least they may have to drill a small hole in his head to drain it. He told me to watch my football game Saturday morning (Michigan's spring game) and then to come up with my sister in the afternoon.

April 16th the nursing home called my parents' house because there had been an incident with my mother. Dad hadn't put my sister and I on "the list," yet, because this was all still so new to us. I had to call the hospital so that he could call the nursing home and tell them it was okay to speak to us. He didn't answer the phone. The nurse did. She said that Dad was unconscious and had been intubated overnight. That gnawing pit returned to my stomach.

I took notes on my game for a later article. My sister and I also worked on some of Mom's laundry and on cleaning up their place. We headed up to the neuro ICU. The nurse sat and spoke to us and told us that Dad had developed pneumonia and needed to be intubated to help him breathe because of his emphysema. I burst into tears. We were offically on Death's schedule, but I still didn't know exactly when it would arrive.

Dad had his surgery on April 19th, but didn't wake up again. As I have said many times, it was Memorial Day that we met with the doctors and determined that he needed to go to Hospice. His kidneys were shutting down. Instead of processing fluids and food, he was just bloating more and more. We were causing him more pain. It was time to stop the fluids and feeding tubes.

My sister and I were obviously in town. One of my father's sisters was already in town. We had asked her to be there with us for the meeting. His other sister was due to arrive early the next morning. His brother couldn't make it until Thursday. Death was then scheduled.

The nurse told us that she was giving Dad a little bit of fluids whenever she gave him medicine, to keep him a little more hydrated. Her goal was to help him make it until his brother could come to town. She had just gone through a similar situation with her mother a short time before and wanted to help us as much as she could. I cannot remember her name, but I can remember her face and her hugging me as we both cried.

Thursday, June 2nd, my father was moved to Hospice. I knew that morning that he was going to go. I got there by noon and I never left. The whole day I was paranoid that he was going. He woke up a lot and also napped a lot. I kept a close eye on him, making sure he was still breathing. I kept checking his hands and feet for signs that Death was approaching. I learned in 2007 how to watch for signs of death during the week that my great-uncle was there. As I scrutinized every inch of his being, I compared notes with his nurse. She and I agreed that he was going to go that night.

The rest of my family arrived just after dinner, having just picked up my uncle from the airport. We spent a few hours surrounding Dad, sharing memories and laughing. Everyone spent time holding his hand. We all cried over our impending loss. They finally left to go get dinner. As soon as they left, I had an overwhelming feeling that he was going to go while they were gone.

I took a few moments to say my final goodbyes to my beloved father. I changed into my pajamas. The nurses rolled in the cot for me. We were laughing and joking when he gave that final cough. And then he was gone. Just as I had figured.

This is the four siblings over 30 years ago. Dad is the one on the left. The two paintings in the middle (behind his sisters) are his.

This book is also available at Yesterday's Muse.