Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hospice

Really, I have to say that I am quite impressed with the hospice nurses that come to see my mom. They minister to the whole family really. I had a question tonight, and called. Much to my surprise, I received a call back almost immediately, even though it was after hours. She'd was anxious to speak with me, she said.

You know, it's a hard time. No matter how you slice it, it's just a difficult and painful time for everyone. It helps to have a calm, soothing voice on the other end of the phone who can answer your questions and address your concerns. It is a terrific organization, with a well trained staff.

That's all really.

Monday, August 29, 2011

In the Dark


My mother and I have spent long years not being close, and there is a lot that I don't know about her. Sitting in the dark by her hospital bed, I learned that she likes to sleep with her arms thrown up over her head when she sleeps on her back. I do that. Tim always thought that it was cute, like a baby sleeps. I know now that I get that from my mother.

When she sleeps on her side, she uses two pillows. I knew without asking how to arrange them. I use two pillows myself. She tucks her hand beneath her cheek. I do too.

Even though I look like my father, I know that my blue eyes are her eyes, that my thin hair is her thin hair, and that my low self esteem is her low self esteem. We probably have other things in common, but I will never know what they are. Not now. I sit in the dark of her bedroom, and I count her respirations by her moan on the exhale. I touch her cold hands. I watch the clock, unable to tear my eyes from it, watching the minutes tick past, one at a time.

I remember a soap she used to watch. A somber voice would tell us "Like sand through an hour glass, these are the days of our lives." I sit in the dark thinking.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

This road we travel

It's a busy time. The house moves forward. I started school yesterday. I'm trying to fit everything in, to have these last days with my mother.

We're have not been close. We have spent our lives circling each other. Sometimes our paths intersect, and we connect for a time, but then our paths take us away from each other once again. After all these years, I've accepted that thing and there is no bitterness about it. It is what it is.

At this time, our paths have intersected again, and there is nothing to be done but to remind her that her life has made a difference in my life, to think of small things that bring her great pleasure. I took her two perfect tomatoes to have sliced, with a little salt.

It's all I know to do, really. I don't try to grasp or to cling, because I understand that this is just for a time, and then that our paths will diverge once again. This time, however, there is the knowledge that our paths will not cross again in this life. It will be done.




Sunday, August 21, 2011

Valuable life lesson

So, we're painting the downstairs. Tim was trying to decide what color to paint the library. It's a fairly dark room, so he was looking for a lighter color. We carefully looked through the colors. You've got to be careful with Tim, because the man loves orange. After a long discussion before painting a rental, a discussion in which I said, "Tim, really, for a rental, the colors should be a neutral color, something that will blend with virtually any tenant's color scheme." I mean the last thing people want to do is get a rental, and then have to reaccessorize their home to match the apartment, right?

Armed with those admonitions, Tim went out and got the paint for the rental. The next time I saw it, it had a orange kitchen. I kid you not. Orange. Bright, bright orange. An 'MY EYES! MY EYES!' sort of orange.

So anyways, we're discussing colors for the library, and I'm not leaving anything to chance. We're already painting this kitchen yellow. You know fiesta ware yellow? That's what color we're painting the kitchen. Tim picked this color at Perkins Pancake house. He was eating his steak, and staring at his plate in the strangest way. Finally he picked it up and said that he wanted to paint the kitchen the color of his plate. It actually looks pretty nice, despite my initial misgivings. This morning in bed, he said, "You know, wouldn't a blue ceiling be cool? Like the sky?" This is the kind of man he is. Would you leave anything to chance, paint wise? Anyways, we had all these color papers, and we're trying to find something that matches the leather sofa and chairs that will be in the library, and something that is light enough to brighten the room up. I looked at all those papers, and I said, "Light copper is nice." It matched with the furniture, and Tim said, "Yes. I think you are right." And so we spent $31+ on a gallon of light copper paint.

Tim began painting. I forget what I was doing. I walked in to the library to see the progress, which was considerable. Light copper? Heck. This was pastel apricot, thank you very much. I HATE pastels. Long pause. I hated to say anything. After all, it was me that had chosen the color.

"Tim?" I asked. "What do you think of the color?"

"I think it will darken up as it dries," he said. I could tell he was hoping.

I wandered back in and out a couple more times. The more he painted, the worse it looked. He finally admitted that he did not like the color. AT ALL.

Did I mention $31+ for the gallon of apricot paint? This left us in a real quandry. We did not want to throw the money away. "Do you suppose they could darken it a little?" I asked. Tim climbed down the ladder and tapped the lid back on the can. "That's what we need to find out," he said, and he was gone.

I went on doing whatever I was doing. I think by then, I was painting the stairwell between the first and second floor. Soon he's back, and he heads off for the library. I give him like five minutes, and I put my own paintbrush down. I walk in there and he's surveying a wide swath of DARK APRICOT across the fireplace. It looked VERY orange.

We both looked at each other and exclaimed, "NO!!!!" at exactly the same moment. We decided that the library will remain the color that it already is.

When we walked in to get more paint today, the paint lady laughed at our misadventure. She suggested that next time we wanted to try a color, we should get a pint of it first.

Good advice, $31 too late.

So anyone want a can of paint? Because if I don't get rid of this somehow, Mr. Sensible will paint a room somewhere with the hideous color. I'm sorry. I cannot take that chance.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Today at the Tractor Supply

So a customer walks into the store, an elderly lady with smeared eye make up. She stands at the front of the store yelling, "Can someone help me?" A little surprised (mostly because I'm standing right there) I say, "What are you looking for today?" She tells me that she needs a small one pound propane tank for a weed burner that her daughter sent her from California. I tell her that I will get her one. I go back and grab one from our welding section, neglecting to note that it is a 14.1 oz instead of the full 16 oz. She tells me this is not correct. Bob grabs her a 16 oz tank from up front. It is a two pack. She picks it up and studies it. "This weighs more than this," she complains, holding the two tank package up in one hand and the single 14.1 oz that I brought up first in the other hand.

Bob and I look at each other. "Yes, it does," I explain. "Because there are two 16 oz. bottles in this package and one 14.1 oz. in the other. "Well, it's too heavy," she complains. "Even one of those bottles will be too heavy."

Bob and I look at each other again. 16 oz. is a pound, no matter how you slice it. 16 oz is still going to weigh a pound. Impatient that we were not advising her, she snapped, "Are you sure this will fit?" I explain that if she needs a one pound bottle, the screw is universal, so the bottle will fit anything that takes a one pound bottle. She tells me that the handle is from California and that things are different there.

Bob and I look at each other.

She then heaves a aggravated sigh. She needs salt to pour down her well, the kind of salt that sinks to the bottom. I tell her that we have water softener salt but I've never heard of a salt that you poured into the well itself. She started to get angry because she had a paper from the EPA that told her about this product, and she 'couldn't believe that we didn't sell it.' I said, "I'm not saying we don't sell it. I'm saying that I've never heard of a product labeled for that use, and I'm loathe to sell you something that might be harmful to your well and your pump. Salt is corrosive." She explains to me again that EPA sent her some information. I said, "Well, I'd need to see the paper because I don't know what you're looking for." She begins to be quite angry. "I've TOLD you what I need..." she began, "...the EPA sent me information..." I said, "Ma'am, I know what you are looking for, but I do not know how to advise you. We have nothing in the store labeled for that purpose." Just to be on the safe side, I discussed it with Bob. Bob looked confused. "I've never heard of that," he said. "Seems like the salt would be rough on your pump."

In any case, she bought the propane tanks and something else, and she snatches her bag and marches out the store muttering angrily "I can't believe they don't carry salt."

I watched her go, with an unspoken but relieved 'Whew!'

I wait on a few more customers, and much to my surprise, she is back. She is also mad. She's holding the 2-pack of 1 lb propane cans. "These are green," she snaps. "I called my daughter, and she says that she uses propane in a gray container. I say, "But ma'am, propane is propane, no matter what color the container is. If you need a one pound propane tank, this will work." She tells me that she need a COLEMAN l lb propane tank. I tell her that we don't sell Coleman, just the Worthington brand. She got quite agitated. She knew that we sold what she needed, and if I would not help her, she'd find it herself. She slapped her receipt on the counter and demanded a refund.

I did the return and handed her $6.35 back. Angrily she tells me that I've shortchanged her. She paid more than that when she bought them just seconds before. I'm starting to get frustrated. I take a deep breath and I show her on her original receipt that she'd only paid $5.99 plus tax.

She says, "I gave you $18. I said, "Ma'am, I'm sorry, but you did not." She then pulls out her wallet, and empties it on my counter. She knows how much she had when this started. She begins counting the money in her wallet. The customer behind her stood there with a 40 lb bag of dog food on his shoulder, looking just as astonished as I was. "Why don't I help you at the other register?" I said, and I stepped over and began ringing up customers there.

The woman decided (apparently) that I had not shortchanged her. She began to walk up and down the aisles looking for the product she needed.

She's back. She's mad. We have the exact same handle that her daughter sent her from California. It says right on it that it takes a 20 lb tank. "Yes, ours take a 20 lb tank," I said, "but you told us that you needed a 16 oz propane tank. I did not know what kind of a gadget YOU had...I was just giving you what you asked for. I didn't question you." She was furious then. I should have known she needed a 20 lb tank. Moreover, I probably had the salt she needed too. She went out the door, and she was even madder.

I watched her go, and once again, I thought, 'Whew!'

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Sound of my own Thinking.

The 'things unbloggable' have taken over my life. I've been mugged by them, actually. Brianna and William are home for a time, and holding a baby is a precious counterbalance to the unbloggable fact that my mother is quite ill again. I know how these things work, but I didn't expect them to hit all at once.

Life at its beginning captured in a baby's eyes before he has words, life at its end and old eyes watch you, too tired for words. I wonder what I can do to make things easier, and I am caught in the middle of those two points with my own questions and wonderings.

As always, I comfort myself by looking closely at life, by paying attention to the details of it.

When I drove home the other day, following a tractor trailer, the wind whipped the weeds at the side of the road, and they swirled crazily, dancing. For some reason, just watching them as I clicked off the miles was a pleasant thing. I know that I've noticed the upturned leaves that signify that rain is coming, but the dancing weeds? I don't believe that I've noticed it before.

This morning was freight day. I walked into the store with Pete, a white haired farmer, whip thin and strong. It was 5 AM and the moon lit up the clouds. I said, "Isn't the sky beautiful?" and Pete said, "It always is this time of the morning." I looked at him. That's the difference between him and I. He knows this thing, this secret of the world.

That cat came back. It came into the open door of the new house and stared at Tim. Tim is not a pet people, and so he looked at the cat. "Go on," he said, and the cat studied him for a moment and then went back out the door to the mysterious place that he melts off to when I do not see him.

I listened to the thunder last night, and as always, I enjoyed the approach of the storm. I stood watching the wind and the rain when the storm hit, and I listened to the sound of thunder growing farther and farther away. That's life, isn't it? The storms threaten. Sometimes they hit. Always they move on.

Do not wonder if I am gone for a time. I'll be back.


Monday, August 15, 2011

I wish I could make it different...

I was over at Bush Babe's. In Australia, people are wearing red to commemorate Daniel Morcombe, a young man who disappeared eight years ago, while waiting for a bus to take him Christmas shopping for his family. After eight long years, a man has been arrested in the case. The family is hopeful that finally they will finally be able to have their son's remains brought home for a proper burial.

I cannot imagine not knowing what happened to your child. To be able to guess, but not to know. To not be sure. How do you stand such pain as that?

Half a world away, I clicked on the links BB provided and I was shocked to see one you tube video after another, all of them memorializing a child who had been killed, or had disappeared.

I am not a foolish woman, and I know that these terrible things happen, but somehow, seeing the faces, hearing the stories behind these little faces...my God. Oh my God. How can someone look into the eyes of those children and do them harm?

I heard a story about guerrillas in Africa who went into a village and lopped the right arm off of each child in the town. Because they could. Because they meant to instill fear so deep that there would be no resistance to rise up against them.

Perhaps it is because I've been so busy. Perhaps it is because I've held my little grandbaby William close many times this week. I don't know. It just strikes me that this world is an ugly, ugly world, and it makes me sad.

I sit here, and off in the distance, thunder rumbles. It reminds me that there is a great deal that happens in this world that I have no control over. I sit in my livingroom and I brood about these things, and pray for a way to make a difference.

I just need to make a difference.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Yippee!

I'm finished with my online Abnormal Psychology course. It was the first online course I'd ever taken and I was worried about it, but I'm pretty sure that I got an A on it, which is a relief.

My PET scan was canceled, due to insurance issues. Things are being worked out, and the appointment will be scheduled once the insurance is sorted out. I don't mind the wait. Just the fact that they will be following up on things makes me feel better. It is hard to be having symptoms, trying to ignore symptoms, and yet feeling nervous, as if maybe the symptoms should not be ignored at all. I can't explain it. Not really. It's just been a struggle for me.

Surprisingly, the parents of the young couple interested in the house stopped by the store today. I'm such a blabber. I blabbed away to the mother for some time. The father walked up and said, "So, is your house sold?" I gaped a little, because I did not know who they were. They laughed at my confusion, but told me how excited this young couple is over the house. I was glad to hear that. I want someone to love this house as much as we love our new one.

To bed, to bed. I'm still reading 'Emma'.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Water Street

Today, we met a couple at our efficiency apartment. We're giving it to them for a period of upheaval in their life. We all feel blessed as we wait to see what God does next. I walked from that house down to the house that we are currently rehabbing.

It's kind of neat walking along the brick street. In two blocks, I counted at least a half dozen big renovations going on, in addition to our project. It's like the whole street is getting a face lift.

A woman called out to me, and I answered her. I talked to a little boy on a skateboard.

I heard a helicopter flying low, and I watched carefully. Yes, I could see the tank and spray extensions. It's dropping liquid Bti on the river, to treat black fly. I stood with my hands shielding my my eyes against the sun, watching it circle around to come back. Probably my old boss Rick was on board. Suddenly, I missed my old job, I missed my old life. I wanted what I could not have.

I took a deep breath and put my hand down from my eyes. I am lucky. I know this. Nobody gets everything they want. I'm lucky.

Across the street, two contracters were moving a ladder. A tall black man with a sing song voice that hinted of tropical breezes called out, "The helicopter? It look for him (gesturing at the man on the other end of the ladder). America Most Wanted right there," and I laughed out loud as the man at the other end of the ladder said, "Don't you pay attention to a thing that one tells you!" In the mood for a good laugh, I said, "I don't know. I think he's got a very trustable face," and I made a frightened face and made like I was about to run for my life." Our laughter raised up and joined together, and danced a bit in the middle of the street.

They went back to work, and I finished walking to the new house.

The second floor is nearly painted, and Tim has done a beautiful job.

Today, I began scrubbing the walls to the third floor and I daydreamed of my plans for William's playroom as I scrubbed, dreaming of a Hickory Dickory Dock bookcase here (I have a plan in my head...) and a small boat for him to play pretend in, right over here, and a toy box. A comfortable chair for reading, and a bed for when he's older. I thought of Winnie the Pooh, and nursery rhymes, and little babies past and present. The open windows let in the breeze and I scrub listening absentmindedly to the town sounds, cheerful voices and a stray laugh or two, the leaves rustling in the big old maple trees out back.

I really am beginning to think that I will enjoy living on this street where everyone greets you and waves.

And no, Bill. I did not see the cat.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Just Checking In

It's been quite a busy time here, filled chock-a-block with stuff that I cannot blog. (And you thought that I told you everything......)

Cara's party was nice. About 30 people showed up. I have pictures. I've tried to upload them to my blog, but cannot, for whatever reason. I'll get to it, I'll get to it.

Snippets of conversation from the party:

I heard screaming from the livingroom and came out to find three year old Rachel clinging to her chair for dear life as her cousin, Konnor, tried to push her off. Intervening, I told Konnor, "No! We do not fight here. Here's a chair for you" ~ indicating another wooden chair...a chair that was identical to the one Rachel was sitting in. (Makes sense since they were all from the same dining set.) Konnor gave me a very cross look, kicked the chair away, and ran off to his mother. Rachel sat there holding on to her chair with both hands, her little face red from screaming, tears still wet on her chubby cheeks. Her little pigtails bobbed up and down as she explained to me with her wideopen brown eyes. "There's a vewy tewwible pewson hewe. Vewy tewwible. Vewwy, vewwwwy tewwible. And his name is Konnor. He is ebil." I burst out laughing at her earnestness, and she turned to Rosalind and began to explain, again. "Thewe's a vewy, vewy tewwible pewson hewe. Vewy tewwible...." Oh my gosh. She was adorable.

James and Rosalind got married. The honeymoon included a stay at a romantic hotel with a jacuzzi. They learned first hand that one does not add bubble bath to a jacuzzi.

I was sharing how horrifying it was to hear Cara's 'on her way home' phone calls. From college: "Mom, they've woken us all up and told us to go, go now." (Flooding and mudslides were limiting ground travel.) And then from the bus station: "Mom, the taxi was in an accident, but I made it. The buses are canceled for right now. I'm not sure what's going on." From the airport: "Mom, I may or may not have just sucker punched a Korean bus driver..." You get the drift. It was terrifying waiting for the next installment in the unfolding saga. My sister laughed. She remembered when her son was leaving Korea. "Mom," he said, obviously intoxicated. "I love you mom! I just wanted you to know I looooooooooooove you guys...." We rolled our eyes and laughed at these grown children of ours.

There was plenty of food and plenty of laughter, and people in and out. It was fun to see everyone, and like always, we wondered why we don't do this more often. We should. We always have a good time.

Both Cara and I have lost all financial aid for the year. Ack. But we'll make it. It will be tight, but we'll make it. Still it was quite a shocking discovery.

Had a nice day with Mary. It felt good to get away from all the chaos. We spent the day in Erie. I had the appointment at the Big City Cancer Center. It's going to be a big switch. They seem to take the stand that there is plenty that can be done. First is to rule out a cancer recurrence. PET scan on Friday. After that, they've got a lot of suggestions on what to do next. I find myself feeling optimistic.





Saturday, August 6, 2011

Dancing with Smoke

Have you ever had to deal with a liar before? Someone who lies continually? About nothing?

I listened to one and the thing is, I knew he was lying. From previous experience, I know that there is absolutely no sense in trying to broach the issue with him. It just causes outraged tears and denials, and one little detail will be added to the story already told, and the detail is supposed to present the thing in a whole new light, and all the lies are supposed to become truth, and...but...it doesn't...it's just the same sad bullshit with another detail.

So I listened as he went on and on, telling his story, weaving in little details. I tried to listen and tell myself, "What does it matter?" because really, the story was inconsequential, as most of his stories are. But he talked on, and waited for our responses. "Awwwwwww!!!!" we were supposed to say. We were supposed to giggle at the right places. We were supposed to be charmed and think he was witty and cute. But he was telling a lie, and the longer he talked, the more difficult it was to listen.

What do you do? If you say anything, it will cause a huge emotional outburst, and like I said, one little detail will be added and he will look at you defying you to tell him that the story has not become completely true and believable. It's like dancing with smoke, the way the story shapechanges and grows, filling every corner of the room until you cannot breathe and your eyes begin to burn.

I hate it.

Friday, August 5, 2011

It's morning here. I did manage to sleep. Now I'm up and the house is quiet. I have a few moments before everyone begins to get up.

Last night I worked. It was a quiet night. I came home and it wasn't long before Cara pulled in, with her friend Jamie. I went to bed to read for a while (Emma ~ it's been a long time since I read that, and I am enjoying it.) Brianna and little William came in, and everyone sat downstairs watching a video. It made me glad to hear pieces of their quiet conversation floating up stairs.

It looks increasingly as if our current house will sell, which means we will be into the new house sooner than we had planned, but, either way, we're in a good place. Which means, if it doesn't sell, we'll stay here for the winter, and we're good with one more winter in the old place. If it does sell, well, the prospect of a Christmas in the new house is exciting. (Yes. I already know where I want to put the tree.)

I've decided to be monitored in the big city, and I have my first appointment on Monday. I'd been wavering for a long time, but I guess what underscored it for me was simply being in constant pain. I'd gone for my regular appointment, and once again, I'm asked to rank my pain. I commented that it was very bad, and the nurse looked at me and said, "but it's just the normal pain, right?" I guess that's it, really, in the nutshell. I'm in pain. I don't see it as normal at all. The only answer they have is to try different pain medications. I can't. The queen of side effects does not have time to be sampling at the great salad bar of prescription medications. I need to finish my courses. I need to drive to get there. I need to be clear headed. I am more interested in knowing what is causing the pain, and making the decision from there.

In the meantime, Dr. Scholls' sneakers are helpful.

So, let me get up and get moving. I've got to get the house squared away, and make the party food. Cara is making bebimbop for supper tonight. I am making marinated venison steaks for those who prefer not to eat spicy Korean food.

It's a busy time, and I love it.

No Time for Insomnia

It's been (what else?) busy here. Cara is home, and she is glad for that. Her lost baggage was found, and two heavy bags were delivered to our doorstep. It turned out to be so convenient that she has vowed to lose her luggage every time that she travels.

We have had company every night, and we've got a houseful coming for a party this weekend. Guests will begin arriving tomorrow, including Dylan and Brittani from Allentown.

I cannot tell you why I'm still awake. This is not a time to become an insomniac, to be sure. Let me try to hit the hay once again.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cute

The Promised Pictures

James and Rosalind.


William has his first experience with helium balloons


When he kicked, those balloons bobbled around.
He kicked a lot.

He also squealed a lot, but I couldn't get pictures of that, and it was too bad, really, because it was cute.


When he pulled the strings, the balloons came in close, close enought to bat. That was some exciting stuff there, and the squealing hit a crescendo at about that time. It was awesome.

It was a great wedding, Mr and Mrs. James S.

Everyone had fun, right down to the littlest peanuts.

Hi.

Coming up for air.

Yes. I got Cara. It was supposed to take one hour and 49 minutes. It took me two and a half hours. Gees. The road markers signs are verrrrrrrrrrrry far apart. I'd driven so far I thought I made a mistake. I hadn't. I got there.

I picked up Cara, sans luggage, just a few minutes early. I'd allowed myself an extra hour because I was traveling with a baby. William traveled well. Good as gold.

Until we came home. He took a fit like none other. We took an hour break until he fell asleep and got back on the road again.

Cara was exhausted. I was exhausted. William was exhausted. Two of this group got some good sleep on the way home. You may guess which two.

We ran into terrible weather. The windshield wiper broke. I tried to call Tim. No answer. You may guess who started to get a little weepy at that point. (Hint: William was still sound asleep.)

I went to bed late, and have to be at work by five am for freight day.

Oh. Sunday night, I got new sneakers. Dr. Scholls. Yeah. I'm gellin'. They force you to walk different, and you do not come down on your heel. They are wierd to wear, but despite my doubts, they seem to help the leg and foot pain. This morning will be the test.

Yeah. I know. I need to post pictures.

It's going to be a busy week. Party on Saturday, housefull of people coming in. I'm not sure when I'll actually get to it, but I will try.