A journal of healing

Posts tagged ‘family’

What would Mom think?

Today is Mother’s Day. I have been thinking a lot about my Mom the last weeks. She died when I was 23. My relationship with her was not very good most of my life. I often wonder what her take was on our relationship. I also wonder why she was the way she was. Through pictures and letters I discovered a different history and that has helped me to understand a bit where she was coming from and with the way she was.

Mom was the older of two girls. I know so little about my Grandparents. We were told my Grandfather died when Mom was very young. This turned out to be not true. After my Mom died, I got her steamer truck full of things from her life. In it was a box of letters from her father to her. He left the family when she was 15 and moved back to the family homestead in West Virginia. Mom told us that he died from being gassed in WWI. Well, he was gassed, but he died in a sanitarium from chronic alcohol abuse.

My mother must have been so embarrassed that she hid all this from everyone. I wonder if my father knew. I can understand why she did.

My father’s family was very wealthy and upper class living on Long Island. His father was an ambassador from Spain and I am not sure what else he did. He died when my father was three in a tragic accident. He was crossing a rail road and was stuck and got hit by a train. My uncle was also in the car and died. My father’s mother was pregnant with my aunt. Again, not much was ever shared with us about the past. My aunt wrote us all a lovely little book when my father died about growing up. They were well to do and privileged.

My mother married into a dream. She came from Detroit and I am sure there was not much money as her mother worked. The only proof I have the early years of their marriage are pictures of Mom in very lovely evening dresses and at dinner on cruise ships. They had a nice house with domestic help and my brothers and sister grew up attending sailing classes at the Yacht club where my parents were members. Being the youngest, I had a much different upbringing as by the time I came along, the money was gone and my father lost his business.

My Mom kept up pretenses all my life. My Nana, her mother-in-law, was a lovely woman but the truest snob I have ever met. We were not close. I am sure my mother was worried her whole life that she, the little girl from Detroit with hillbilly relatives, would not measure up. I am sure she worried about her pedigree. Hence, she did not speak about it. But she played the role of the grand dame right up to the end of her life.

Her gift to me was to give me some class. I grew up learning about etiquette and an appreciation for the finer things. Our house growing up was filled with silver, crystal and fine linens. We always had a proper dinner and I learned the use and procedures for setting a formal table. All this of course is now useless, which I think is sad. And now, I have what remains of the silver and crystal and never use it. I think my mother would be disappointed if she was still alive. She gave me traditions, some I still hold on to. But my sibling’s relationships are disconnected so the traditions have morphed into my family’s own.

My Mom was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer in July of 1978 and was gone the next January. She did not want to talk about her illness. I think about that time and I wonder how she felt when she heard the diagnosis. Knowing my Father, I am sure she held back her feelings even from him. I was newly married but I spent the last two weeks of her life with her. She was in the hospital dying. They did not have hospice services like they do now. Even then, she did not share much. She did not complain about her pain other than to ask me to rub her back. As she slipped further and further away, we would sit in silence. She was the first person in my life to die and I had no concept of death.

I was the one who received the call that she had passed away. I now wish I had been there with her, but I was unaware that she was that close to death when I left that afternoon. I had to tell my father she was gone and that was only the second time I ever saw him cry. Emotional demonstrations were not allowed in my family. This is a remnant of their upper class behavior. “Stiff upper lip and all.” I never fit in that category and was constantly chided for being so emotional.

It has been almost forty years since she passed. I do not remember the sound of her voice. I only remember her face by pictures. She was the rock and glue of the family and when she passed, the family broke apart. I ended up having to take care of my father for 13 years, which was a huge strain on me. I am still close to my oldest brother, but he practices the same emotional restraint my mother had.

I look around my house and see pieces of her in my decorating. She loved flowers and taught me well about gardening. I have multitude of houseplants, much like she did. I have her love for sterling even though I hate to polish it. There is not much left compared to what we had growing up. My father sold off a lot of it and I remember being furious when he did. I felt like he was selling of pieces of my Mom.

I do not use all the china I have and now I am looking to get rid of it. I know that sounds callous but my nephews have their own or they don’t want it. There is no one to pass it on to. I have Waterford crystal that sits in boxes and other stem wear in a china cabinet. I have linens boxed and collecting dust and mold. No one wants these things anymore. My husband is content with paper plates and vinyl tablecloths.

There are other reminders of my Mom every day. She loved cardinals. I always have had a cardinal family living in my back yard. One time or another they have flown into the house. I took it as a symbol of my mother’s approval of this house.

Even being as old as I am, I do miss her, especially now. I want to ask her how she felt when she was diagnosed. I am facing my own diagnosis of Chronic Kidney Disease, Stage four, which has its own path to death. I want to know her truth. I want to know about her early years. She was only 58 when she passed. I would have liked to share old age with her. I wish she had shared more about who she was instead fulfilling some role she felt obligated to be. There were a few  glimpses of the real Mom in my late teens when my father was traveling and she would literally let her hair down.

But most of all, I would like to know what she thinks of how I turned out. And did she love me.

 

 

Insurance Assurance

When you get to a certain age, you have to think insurance in a whole new light. Insurance can mean your health insurance, it can mean life insurance but mostly it means being assured that the next part of your life being what it should. My biggest fear is to die before I can reap the bounty of my years of work.

I started when I was 11 years old working summers, every weekend and even some school nights taking care of other people’s children. I was in high demand and was told by my parents that I will work. By the time I was 15, I worked in a department store on a work permit. I was still in school but weekends and summers were not mine. Then like people of my generation, you worked, went to college or went into the military. I went to college and worked. I continued that pattern for most of my adult life.

Now I am reaching a time that I will not have to work. I planned, scrimped and saved, and bought insurance in the form of an annuity and pensions. It feels like climbing a mountain and getting to the top and saying “Now what?”

If you do not know, the slope is very slippery. When you turn 65, you have to apply for Medicare. You don’t have to take it if you have some other form of insurance, but you paid for it all your working years. Why not take it?  My biggest advice is to find an insurance broker and work with them. It is the most confusing mess I have ever seen. One part D covers this but not that. You need a supplemental if you have these kinds of problems. And eye care and dental coverage varies greatly. Working with an independent broker is great because they will take all your information and calculate what is best for you for free. Then once you decide based on their information, they will sign you up. Our broker will call us  to come in and redo this so annually we will have the best coverage for the price. For my husband, she eliminated a premium and lowered co pays but found better drug coverage.

My next step is to find an honest financial planner. This has been a quest for me for four years. It is not like we have a ton of money, but what I have I want safe. I had originally invested some money in the stock market. We found this person who at first seemed great. He charged a flat fee and was going to help us plan our retirement. He took the money, invested it and it lost a ton. I was devastated. He offered no help, did not come true to our planning process and we basically were screwed. I waited it out until the money we lost came back and we were at our original amount and pulled it out. Of course now, the market is through the roof. But I could not take the fear of losing everything.

Financial planning is important because too much money and you are screwed, not enough and it’s even worse. Our biggest issues is we both have high drug costs. Currently we cannot subscribe to any of the help out there because we make too much. If we were only $1.00 over, we would still be out of luck. Epic is a drug plan for people with high drugs costs but only for New York State. So we have to wait until I have a lower income to be able to get that help. We have to plan what pensions and other income we take in so we can get this support. Seems counter intuitive but that’s the game.

Here is another guessing game: when to retire. It is all a gamble. Say you wait until you are 66 to retire to get your full benefit. But you die when you are 76. So you only collect your Social Security for ten years and all of those dollars go back to the state. But if you look at the fact that if you take the lesser monthly benefit at an early age, you will get it for a longer period of time and it evens out. Losing $200.00 a month may seem drastic right now, and that is what they want you to think. But if you wait and die sooner, you lose that money.

Here is something else people do not realize. This is real life experience. My mother-in-law was placed in a nursing home. She was private pay. You would think she would have had the best of everything. That was not at all true. She was side by side with all the people who were on Medicaid. They got exactly the same care or lack of care that she got. Difference was that the State was paying their way and we were paying for my MIL. All that money they saved went to the nursing home. This really pisses me off because my step daughter also plays this game. She works just enough and no more so she can stay on Medicaid. She has better health coverage than we do. What a scam. But that is a whole other topic.

When we saw an Estate planner, he told us that nursing homes were the biggest rip off. He told us that all funds at a certain point in your life should be protected by trusts and other forms of protection. He said that money can be put aside and protected if you wanted to pass it on and not give it to a nursing home. An Estate planner is essential to protect any assets you may have from being taken by the government. It is also necessary so that what you want in your death is carried on. It gives great peace of mind to have that all in place.

I know that in a year and a half I will stop working full time. There is no doubt about it. I will probably find a part time at home job just to keep busy. It will be a test of time to see if we planned well enough to enjoy what years we have without all the bull and still have a comfortable life. I know too many people who thought they could make it on what they had and had a rude awakening. Trying to find a job at 65 is not easy at all. I hope this information is helpful.

Harassment

This idea for this post came from my Doc friend’s blog. She was talking about harassment and where does the line get drawn. She had a patient who was making passes at her staff in jest, but it was still annoying. Of course it was annoying. It was harassment. And as I wrote back to her, harassment is determined by the person who is receiving it, not the person who is inflicting it. It has nothing to do with the intent. It is all about how something is received.

I also went on to say that for someone who has a traumatic childhood, or was a victim of sexual abuse or other violent acts, the response to someone’s intent to be funny has just the opposite effect. It can cause a major trigger that can put someone into a tailspin for days and weeks. They may not even know what they are reacting to. It could be a word or even the tone of the harasser.

Harassment can come in many forms. Often people think they are doing a good thing. But someone who constantly harasses someone from the concept of improving the person is totally misguided. What makes that person think they have that right? What makes them so superior to be able to comment?

As I thought about this all week, it hit me that parents come from a point of improving their child but when does it become harassment? Isn’t improving a child the role of a parent? Is there a point when the parent should stop trying to improve their child?

What about a spouse or your partner? Is it ok to harass them into doing something, especially when it affects your family or home? It probably is not ok, but it is hard not to do. I speak from experience.

My husband’s 28 year old daughter will not learn to drive. This makes me crazy. She is terrified, she says. She finally got her permit and then took one lesson. This took three years to accomplish. She said the lesson went ok. But she has made no attempt to continue.  Instead, she relies on her father to tote her around like Miss Daisy. I think he enjoys her dependency on him. Did I say this drives me nuts?

I am skilled in motivation interviewing. I teach it matter of fact. I know in my heart that I am not going to move either one of them on this topic, so I resort to harassment- truth be told. My intent to get his daughter to drive is based on the best interests for her. I want her to be independent and not have to rely on US for the rest of her life. We won’t be there. She has no other family and she has no friends. Her mother passed away at the age of 52. She instilled this irrational fear to drive in her daughter as the mother never drove.

The real reason the daughter won’t drive is because then she will be expected to do something with her life. That ain’t happening either. I know this probably irks me more than anything. What a waste.

Does harassing them help? Absolutely not. It only escalates my anger and frustration more. Can I walk away from it? NO. It slaps me in the face every time she calls her father for a favor. There was over twelve years when his daughter was out in California with her mother that she never called or spoke to her father. It hurt him to the core. But when the mother died, it was; “Oh, Daddy.” He can’t see it or chooses not to.

The bottom line is it still harassment, even with the good intent. I know in my heart I want her to have a life and not rot away like her mother did. I am sad that she is wasting her life. She has all the capabilities to do whatever she wants, but she chooses the easy way out. I have no right to her life. But boy, it is hard to keep my mouth shut. I am so helpless on this because she is not even my kid.

The bottom line is harassment is a person attempt to control. It is coming at someone from the viewpoint of superiority, or desiring some effect of change. I lived with harassment my whole life. Although it was sometimes masked in humor, it was my family’s way to control and inflict. Years of harassment left me sensitive to being criticized in any manner.

We cannot change people. We can influence them, we can teach, we can support. But it is impossible to change someone who does not want to. But damn, its hard not to do.

 

Don’t take this personally

“You’re too sensitive.” “I meant this is a good way.” And my favorite: Don’t take this personally.” Everyone time someone says those things; I know it is going to be a dagger in my soul. I am too sensitive. I will take it badly. And I most definitely will take it personally. Because that is the honest intent. Prefacing statements with “honestly” or to “tell the truth” does not excuse the fact that you are about to be mean. “It’s for your own good” never really is. It’s about you feeling superior to me.

Being an empath is not a pleasure. I see right through most people’s crap in a heartbeat. It does not mean that I can shield myself from the hurt. I never learned that part of survival. Because of that, I am very vulnerable to insults, even if they are shrouded in good intentions. They never really are good intentions.

When you are a large woman, you are a walking target for these kinds of insults. People feel so justified to say, “You would be so pretty if…..” “or you have a beautiful face….” People tell you how much better your life would be if only you could be more like them with statements like: “you should run with me some morning.” Oh Honey, if you really knew me, you would know I can hardly walk some mornings due to psoriatic arthritis. But you don’t really see me, so thanks but no thanks.

These comments do more than just hurt me. They trigger me. My family never lacked in cruel comments. It was a sport to see how clever someone could insult another. I was an enigma in the sense I was the only woman in my family who was large. I mean I am the tallest by 5 to 7 inches, I wore a much larger size (my Mom was a zero to 3) and I had boobs. I spent my childhood listening to “how much better I would be if I only…” This is emotional abuse by the way. I was deprived of treats, often subjected to ridiculous diets like green beans and Jello and constantly harangued about my shape.

[And this is how just writing about my childhood trigger me to justify it. I realized this when I went back to reread what I wrote:] My mom was in charge of the food in the house and meals were excessively high in carbs and fat. There was always soda and cookies available because the other siblings could gorge on them. They were thin. I was an extremely active child and teen often spending the day swimming or riding a bike for miles. I was not allowed to sit around and watch TV or even read. As a younger woman, I was very active. I only slowed down because of the PsA and if I did not have it, I would still be playing tennis and other activities as much as I could.

My family’s constant barrage of self-improvement comments were actually telling me how I failed. There was little said to counter the demeaning of the words. It successfully made me feel like a failure and that was the intent. I know this now, but it scarred me. So now when people make their veiled comments, I hear the disappointment in my mother and father and it brings me back to that time. When you have PTSD, it does not take much to trigger you.

When you grow up with a sense of failure, you have two choices: over achieve or lie down and whither. I overachieved. My success had not dampened the hurt I feel when someone is critical. I am so sensitive, that a look can set me off. I feel people’s disdain of me even if they think they are hiding it. I read people very clearly. It does not matter who or what the relationship. It does not matter if I love or hate the person. Their intent comes beaming through.

Next time you go to make a comment, try to remember that a large person already knows they are large. Chances are they have spent a lifetime trying to meet other’s expectations and have failed. They may not be strong, and your words will haunt them for days. You have no right to demean someone ever. If you think you are helping them, you are not. Get off your white horse and stop being so pompous. Learn that “right reflexing” (the attempt to take charge of someone else’s change process) does not motivate anyone to change. Understand your motive before you speak. Send love, not hurt.

 

Who rescued who

  It is no secret that I love animals. These two came to us after they picked us. When visiting the home where they were being fostered, Cookie crawled into my lap and Browny nestled in on my side. We were sealed forever as a family.   After my Heart Dog (one who owns your heart) Bishop passed away, I did not think I would ever feel the same. And I did not when we got the pair. It is different, but it still is love.

 Miss Cookie selected me to be her favorite, although she loves her Dadder. Browny bonded more with him. Browny comes to the Mommer especially when he needs hugs and reassurance, which is often. Mommer also gives him energy massages which he loves.

At first, they would not sleep in our bed. It took a lot for her especially to trust us. They had clearly been abuse as they cringed when someone raised their hand  or held a stick up. There was no tossing sticks for them and it took a long time for them to run after balls, being fearful of the toss. They ran when I had the broom out. It took time and love.

Their personalities are very different. He is hyper and demands a lot of attention. But he is a sweetie.  She now likes to be in my lap as much as possible and has a quirky funny disposition. She is a love.

 She loves to roll in the snow, but hates the rain. She likes to be with someone, especially me.  We spend hours together in the garden. She comes for me promptly at 9:00pm to go to bed.   She is silly and possessive and devoted. We cannot figure out why anyone would hurt these two. Browny has suffered two seizures, booth mild. Other than that they are healthy, active and our loves.

   We do not know their true history and never will. We do know Cookie is slightly older than Browny, maybe. We have had them four years. We figure she maybe around nine if she was really five when we got them. They both have slowed down unless there are squirrels in their yard.

  This morning I woke up to Cookie throwing up on my foot. She has been itching a lot. She has seasonal allergies which have reared every year about this time. There is little we can do except give her low dosage Benadryl and lots of love. She hates the itching and so do I. This morning, she seemed to be very off and I pray there is nothing more wrong. I do not know if I can stand to lose her in such short amount of time and I certainly do not want her to suffer. It was then I realized how much I adore these two. And so, who rescued who?

By the time I finished writing this blog, after I fed them, Miss Cookie seems to be feeling much better.

Making it count

shipwreck

Every year we live is a good year and I am grateful for it. My parents both had short lives, especially my mother who passed at 57.  I have lived longer than she did. I often think of how scared she must have been at the end when she knew there was no future. She was diagnosed with end stage lung cancer and there was nothing they could do for her. She died six months after being diagnosed.

My father had Factor V Leiden which he inherited from his mother’s side of the family. She too had issues with phlebitis but was never diagnosed. I remember by the time my father was 45, having to have his legs wrapped in warm washcloths to help with what was probably a DVT ( blood clot). I remember as a teen borrowing his compression socks to wear as knee socks. I had no understanding of what he was going through. When he was 53 he had to have his leg amputated. I thought he was so old. He spent his remaining years in and out of the hospitals with bypass surgeries and other complications and passed with a heart failure at 71. In reflection, I am amazed at how he managed to get through it all. He made my life hell with his demands after my mother passed, which made it hard to have compassion for him at the time.

Both my grandmothers lived healthy way into their 90’s. My Nana never worked a day in her life. She was a gracious woman from a bygone era. Her husband was a very young man when he died. He never heard the train that he drove in front of. My uncle, who was three, also perished in the accident. It was never spoken of other than that bit of information. My Gram was well taken care of by my aunt and she too had lost two husbands. The first one, my mother’s father, was so changed from fighting in WWII that he returned to the states a broken man. He died in a sanitarium several years later after leaving my Gram when my mother was 15. Again, we never spoke of this. I found letters and clippings in my mother’s trunk of stuff after she passed.

My father’s remaining sister lived very well. My uncle, her husband, however died of ALS. I cannot imagine how terrible that had to have been. Uncle Bob was a vibrant man. My Aunt Louise also did not work in the sense of a  9-5 job. However, when she was in her fifties, she became the Mayor of her town on Long Island. She remarried and traveled with her second husband until she was stricken with bone cancer.

My other aunt lived also into her nineties. She died of a broken heart. Her beloved husband literally fell over in their living room of their vacation condo after driving from Michigan to Texas. He was 90. They were devoted to each other and my aunt never recovered from his death. She just gave up living. She could have done anything as they were multimillionaires. But for her, life without my Uncle Larry was not worth living.

Why the morbid litany of my family history? Because the last year has been the unhealthiest one I have ever had. Truth be told, I am not sure of what the outcome is going to be for me. None of us really do. I have been very scared. I finally went to my PCP, who blew off my symptoms as just being fat, even though lab worked showed some major changes. I went to my rheumatologist who thought completely otherwise. Last week I went to see a Cardiologist. They did an EKG but then refused to give me much of an explanation of what they saw. I am scheduled for a series of tests next week to see what is going on with me.

I had to fight for anyone to listen to me. I know something is not right. It is not that I am wishing for there to be something wrong. Oh no, just the opposite. But I know how I feel and it is not right. I do not have a lot of faith in the cardiologist who actually never saw me until the end of the visit. He had another very young impatient MD do the exam. She said something about my T waves being inverted, when I questioned her and that was it. The head cardiologist never looked at anything because he recommended I take a statin. My cholesterol is below 100 consistently.

I have been taken off of everything. I cannot even take Advil, which really was messing me up, but dampening the pain. OTC drugs can be very dangerous. I had taken 1800mg of Advil for months back thirteen years ago before they put me on a biologic and I was diagnosed with PsA. I was taking under 1000 for the last couple of months just to be able to move and sleep. It was making me very sick.

I will admit that I have had thoughts this past month that I was going to croak. I have never felt so consistently awful. This made me think of what my relatives must have gone through when they knew they were facing horrible futures racked with disease without hope. I am afraid of dying. No lie there. But more important, I do not feel I am done with whatever I am supposed to do with my life. There is something so profoundly sad as thinking you have wasted your life. Not that I think my life is a total waste….but that I want to do something more with whatever time I have left.

I just do not know what that is or how to accomplish it. I hope I will figure it out.

I wish everyone a blessed New Year.

 

 

On the horizon

moon-super-1

Thanksgiving has passed and now we are on to the “Holiday Season.” Ever since I was a kid I was bedazzled by the light displays. I think the spirit of Christmas is different from when I was growing up. There was religion still involved. I do not remember being bombarded with all the shopping stuff. Santa was important, but it still revolved around the celebration of Christ and traditional values. We learned about charity and giving in other ways than just presents.

The holidays now are  not about traditional values and the religious components. It makes me sad, even though I have severed my relationship with a formal church. I did that many years ago when I decided that the lies and propaganda that was being said at services was counter to my foundational principals of faith. There was too much political bias and discrimination being offered up as acceptable practice.

Let me be clear that I am not without faith. I have a strong spiritual belief which does not require me going to a church to practice.

No one can truly predict the future but from my view, I see Christmas becoming a completely different holiday and morphing to something that is not pleasant. I see it eventually disappearing. It will become so obnoxious that people will not celebrate it. The pressure to shop and get everything correct will become such a burden that it will be eliminated. I see it happening now where people do not want to bother because it is such a bother. My generation is getting too old to fuss and the next generations have not had the same exposure we did because parents are too tired and are working all the time. It’s now about the loot under the tree.

My youngest nephew sent me a text asking that I keep a look out for a specific gift for his daughter that she HAS to have. I was thrilled until I found it and saw the price tag. She is going to be seven. The toy is a stuffed fur ball that has a computer in it that makes it giggle and other things. It was $150.00. No way was I going to spend that much on one toy for a seven year old. I have seen pictures from their Christmas fall out of unwrapping gifts. That would be one of many toys for her. What was he thinking? What does this teach her? And in all honesty, they cannot afford spending money like that on toys that will be broken or not wanted in two months. But I know it all has to do with pressure and acceptance and nothing to do with Christmas.

Even my oldest brother does not want to exchange gifts anymore. There was a tradition that was attached which included spending the day and a luncheon together. But the last two years, the town they live in turns into a Dickens Christmas and is wall-to –wall people in every restaurant and store. They are in their 70’s and as my brother said, they do not need anything. It has always been a challenge to find something for them, but I spend the year doing it. It keeps them in my thoughts. I have not acquiesced to his desire to give up the practice yet, as I already had somethings purchased. I hope we will still get together but this has created some hard feelings.

What I see on the horizon about losing the tradition of Christmas is very sad but I am powerless to change it. Things will be different and a new set of traditions will be formed for the younger set. As my family gets older and we are separated by long distances, things will change. I can keep my traditions alive in my home and that’s about it. But as my strength and energy fails, I find even my normal over the top decorating of my house, my baking and candy making will not be over the top. But I know in my heart the spirit will be there.

 

Thanksgiving

writing spot 2014

It is Thanksgiving week. Many people travel at this time back to their family homes to gather to give thanks. I am sitting at my spot at the kitchen table thinking how wonderful and blessed I am and grateful. Many times I will sit here or in my chair and look around my home and think how lucky I am and how much I love this place. I did from the moment I moved in.

I saw the house in a whirlwind of viewings of places when I needed to move and get out of the house I was in. I was in the process of a crappy divorce and did not want to remain in that house. I had sold it and already successfully secure a mortgage loan. I actually do not remember much of the visit other than I liked it, it was in the village  where I wanted to live and it had a garden and a pool.

Heron Hill 2012  house after renovations and painting

The interior was very dark. They had covered all the windows with heavy drapes. It was early spring and the garden had not quite come to life but I saw potential. I bought it, had it inspected and moved in. Little did I know that the  inspection was a fraud and I discovered many things that needed to be redone, including a very leaky roof.

At that time, my one basset had seizures every so often. She would circle and her face wound cave and her tongue would hand out. She would be like that for hours and sometimes, she would whimper or cry. They were awful. I had her tested and they feel that she had been so abused that there was traumatic brain injury. My friend took her and Bishop for the day. They came over with them after the move was done. She walked into the house like she owned it. She pranced around the back yard. At night, she walked down to our bedroom, pulled the blanket on her bed over her as she always did and slept. She did not have another seizure until four years later, which was actually a stroke and she lost her life to it.

side after

There is an old style enclosed back porch with large screened windows that was my spot in the summer. I would sit out there for hours. In the winter, the downstairs room became the TV room and I filled it with overstuffed comfortable furniture. That was the only new thing I bought for years as I have too much furniture and need to get rid of some. There are many hand-me-downs and antiques and furniture I got in my first marriage. There is one room I call the museum which has a lot of crystal and fine things that were given to me by relatives. I wish I had a relative to pass it on, but sadly, there is no one who wants or even gets what they mean.

I have made improvement through the years. The interior has been redone with bright paint and papers. I had the bathroom and kitchen refurbished and the lower level area redone to include a man cave for my husband.  The exterior was painted the colors of the blue heron. We call the house now Heron Hill as there are over a dozen heron garden features all over. I had the old pool removed and the garden completely re-landscaped. I had the driveway widened and redone along with some new retaining walls.

The house was built in the same year I was born. We have aged and have creaks and groans but are still functioning. People comment on how comfortable the house is and often say it has a warm special feel to it. No one will ever say it is glamourous or worry about spilling something. It is a place to relax and recoup. I have one person who stays here to watch the dogs while we are away who absolutely loves the place and calls it her vacation spot.

Waiting for Santa Paws

I am sitting here this morning gazing at the snow falling. The house has an abundance of windows including a bank of almost  floor to ceiling ones in the front. They are old and drafty and I will soon cover them to keep the warmth in. But that’s ok because I have many plants inside and they have white lights in them to keep a festive feel even after I take down the Christmas stuff sometime in MARCH!!!! ( wish I was kidding)

Christmas 2014 1

On Thursday, my husband and his daughter will sit down to a meal which we all helped to prepare. I insist we say at least one thing we are grateful for. I practice every night thinking of things I am grateful for before I sleep. Even when the pain of my Psoriatic arthritis is pulsing through me, I find peace and solitude in my humble abode.

 

 

Death is not for sissies.

fogfalls

Death is not for sissies. This past week was an experience I would not want to repeat. There were moments of beauty and love that will be in my heart forever. But watching someone die is not something I want to do again. Now I know that I will not partake in Hospice work as a volunteer, even though I am trained to do so.

My mother in law (MIL) spent over a week in the hospital. The family dynamics made it a difficult situation. The oldest son wanted control of his parent’s estate and health proxy, but it was given to my sister in law (SIL). My hubby is the middle child and always on the outside looking in. There were arguments that were nothing but my BIL and SIL battling for control.

My MIL was admitted for aspirated pneumonia. She had dementia. She has spent the last couple of years in and out of the hospital and was placed into a nursing home. The place she was in was depressing and ugly. It was close and convenient for my SIL to go to. Mom was kept pretty much in a wheelchair when not in a tiny half room. My SIL moved her out of her private room and told no one. After my father in law passed last September, the family splintered as the SIL was totally in charge of the estate and money and what happened to Mom.

From the moment Mom was in ED, my SIL thought there was hope she would recover completely. She took measures to keep her alive that she should not have. The Wednesday after she was admitted, the charge nurse on the floor pleaded with her to allow her to go into comfort care and be released from her illness. They were suctioning her, giving her nebulizer treatments and she was sustained on high power oxygen. She could not eat. They were giving her mega doses of potassium IV and antibiotics. Her infection stopped spreading, but it did not get better.

Finally, on day six, my SIL agreed to comfort care. BUT….she did not want them giving my MIL any morphine. She felt that was what killed my father in law. Long story but the bottom line is my SIL is very selfish and undereducated and once she gets an idea in her head, there is no changing it. She named the one insistent nurse: Nurse Kevorkian. And she was very upset with the fact that Mom got a variety of nurses, care technicians and PA’s. She hated the PA’s and was quite rude to them. The MD assigned to Mom said she would not make it from day one, but agreed to let my SIL decide when to go to comfort care. Then she liked him.

Finally on day six, she signed Mom over to comfort care, they wanted to immediately removed the IV. My SIL almost changed her mind accept that it was explained to her that it was painful and not doing anything. It took another day for her to agree to have the line removed. She did not want the O2 turned down or changed to normal. The staff, fortunately, have to followed protocol and when we left at night they took her off the high pressure and put her on a very low dose of 02. Mom hated the cannula and pulled it off her face. SIL kept fighting with her to put it back on. When I felt it, I told her there was barely anything coming through and I said to her, “Let’s leave it off for a while.”

But the hardest thing for SIL to understand was the course of medications they give the dying. She kept saying no to anything but they did medicate her. They told her the morphine (they used the name of the drug and not the word morphine in front of her) they were giving her was helping her breath, so she let them administer it. Mom became very agitated and they wanted to give her Ativan to calm her. They tried to give her a pill which of course she could not swallow. But when they came back to give her the Ativan sublingually, SIL had a fit. That made no sense because she was OK with the pill of the same drug. For three hours Mom thrashed about.

But she did drink a sip of water when they tried to give her the pill. My SIL went off the deep end and said she could finally eat and ordered food. They brought trays up of pureed foods which of course she did not eat. But she offered to her son when he was visiting.

Mom spent the next couple of days in and out of it. She would call for Clara. She would smile at me when I leaned over. She knew us. And then the last day, she was totally out of it. She was talking to whoever she saw in her “sleep”. She made hand gestures that indicated that there were people in the room for her. We could not understand her because she often switched to French, which is her native tongue. She would hold out her arm, her fingers grasping for someone. At one point she made the gesture of “you and me” and then smiled. But there were many moments of anguish and pain as her face contorted in a painful grimace. Her body would become rigid and she tried to sit up. She had longer pauses between breaths (apnea) and then would shutter and take the next breath. Her toes were a curled mess. She suffered the indignity of being rolled in the bed to get cleaned up and left for hours in uncomfortable positions when she slipped in the bed. Before they put her on comfort care, she would moan. I never understood how my SIL was not bothered by that.

I was angry at my SIL for allowing my MIL to suffer. The nursing staff was very nice and they would talk to me instead of my SIL because she was so rude to them. They knew not to say anything about drugs in front of her. They would tell me her stats and were very upfront with me. After being there from 9 am on Wednesday, I asked the nurse if she would make it through the night and she felt she would. Although her O2 level was fluctuating, it was rebounding back to 90. We left, my BIL left and then at 9, my SIL left to go home for the night. Mom was sleeping quietly and we all thought she would be there the next day. At 10:15pm, all alone, she crossed over. Eight days and nights of being by her bed and she still died alone. I think she knew my SIL would have freaked.

The next phased of drama is the service and funeral. We talked about the planning of it front of my MIL every day prior to her death. My SIL was going through menus and calling places. One night, she and my hubby wrote the obit and talked about it very loudly in front of my MIL. Then, the next day, she said no more talking like that in front of Mom. She had Googled it and said she found out Mom could hear. I told her that from day one, but what did I know? No matter what anyone said, my SIL wanted what she wanted and that is what would happen. I do not care as I do not believe in big elaborate funerals. Spend the time and money when the person is alive. But at the end of the month, there will be a memorial service and funeral.

Now, the real battle starts as the accounting of the estate will take place and my SIL is going to have a lot of explaining to do. Can’t wait.

 

 

 

 

Imminent death

Cubid

Last Tuesday, we got a frantic call from my sister-in-law (SIL) that my Mother in law (MIL) was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. She was in the ED and not doing well. My MIL is 91. My husband and I left work and headed over there.

The poor woman was in terrible shape. She could not breath, was very agitated, had a fever and was dehydrated. My MIL had been in hospice once before, but now was under comfort care, which my SIL had agreed to. Under comfort care, they do not do anything to prevent death, other than make someone comfortable. In the ED, my SIL did a 180 and had them do whatever they could for my MIL in the hospital. She was even agreeing to intubation if needed.

My in laws both had very well written advance directives and MOLST saying they did not want any intervention that would mechanically support their lives. My FIL had actually signed himself into hospice when he knew the end was near.

The issue is that my SIL has total control. She is her health proxy. This has been a source of consternation for her oldest brother who wants total control of everything. Over the death of their father, the wound widened and I do not think it will be ever resolved between the two of them.

Meanwhile, my MIL is on high pressure oxygen, nothing by mouth, and is hooked up to IV’s. We were told on Wednesday night to consider comfort care as her time was short. My SIL refused. They continued with nebulizer treatments and suction up until Friday when they said they would no longer provide suction other than in her mouth. They had been shoving tubes down her to help her clear out. She has dementia and is incoherent most of the time. Thursday, she was out of it all day. My SIL said she was just sleeping, but no one could get her to “wake up.” The staff was pleaded with her to change her level and release her. My SIL kept saying “what did they know?”

Yesterday was the day she had agreed to sign her over. We all went to the hospital, including two grandchildren. We spent the morning at the funeral home planning her funeral. When we got to her room, she was more coherent and was telling all of us to enjoy our lives. She told us to take vacations and be happy. It was hard to understand her so her granddaughter decided to be translator. I believe she was embellishing her comments a bit. We had a priest come in and do last rites. After that, she seemed calmer and would come and go. She kept looking for her husband and brother, both passed.

However, my SIL reneged on her agreement and said she was not going to put her in comfort care. She said she likened it to putting a dog down. The MD stopped by and said that he did not think she was in pain and another 24 hours would not make a difference. She took those words as to she was getting better.

They have been very clear to all of us that Mom will never come off the high pressure O2. She is at the highest setting. Since she is on that, she will never eat through her mouth. She is wasting away. I am waiting for my SIL to agree to a feeding tube and then all hell will break out. Her potassium was so low, her toes were a curled knot. I have had toes cramps and they hurt badly. They are passing mega doses of potassium via IV and they said they cannot keep doing that, either. She has aspirated pneumonia which means she choked on something. They also discovered she had a heart attack, possibly when she choked. Her infection has not improved, but also has not gotten worse, which my SIL is taking as sign of recovery. She is so weak and is wasting away.

I love my mother in law. I have only known her for thirteen years. When she started with the dementia, they moved here from Florida. At family gatherings, she was often quiet or nasty. She would change when I was alone with her and was always sweet, even when she repeated herself over and over. My SIL never stayed with her over night for all the times we needed it when my FIL was sick. I did. Even now, she smiles at me when she is awake. Yesterday was weird because she did not know my BIL’s wife even though they have been married for almost thirty years. They, my MIL and other SIL,  have not gotten along for many years, stemming from issues my  SIL caused. However, yesterday she knew me and was asking for me. That did not help with the hard feelings.

It has been a long week. I am spending my days and evenings with my SIL and MIL. They restrained her as she keeps trying to pull everything off of her. I take that as her way of saying “let me go!” The only time they would allow her off of them is if my SIL and I are both in the room. They put them back on when it is just my SIL. I have been doing touch therapy and it helps to calm her down. My SIL is rude to the care team. I am not and I am asking the right questions. A couple of them know who I am as they have worked with me at URMHC. In my own world, I am way past due for my Humira for my PSA and I cannot take it and go to the hospital. It lowers my immune system and that would be like an invitation for me to get sick. So my own pain level is through the roof and I am gimping pretty badly. But I get to go home at night and my MIL will never, so I buck up.

I understand the decision my SIL has to make is hard. But she is disregarding what Mom wanted completely. This has pissed off my brother-in- law and his wife to no end. It is very uncomfortable when they are around which has not been too often. Somehow, they are pissed at my husband and I as we are trying to not get into the fray and keep our mouths shut. My poor husband has been an family outcast most of his life, partially his doing and partially because he is so neutral when it comes to family issues. They love drama.

I put my Mom into Hospice when she had cancer and made preparations to bring her home to die. She died that night. I was 23 years old. It is a long story why the decision was mine. My other SIL had to do the same thing for her mother a few years ago. It was not an easy decision for either one of us to make, but in the best interests of our mothers, we made it. I get that there is always the concern about such a decision; the what if?

I am hoping today my SIL will do the right thing. They will give her morphine and turn down the O2. I honestly think it will be quick and I hope not too dramatic. When we left yesterday, my SIL said, “I wish she would just fall asleep and go.” She does not equate the high pressure O2 as what is keeping her alive. But, my SIL is not the brightest bulb I have discovered.

My BIL said something so cruel that I was stunned the other day. He said, “Mom chose her to take care of her and so now she is getting exactly what she deserves.” Nice! No one deserves to die like this.