Three Mother’s Days

Last year, Mother’s Day was subdued. Neither of my daughters was at home. B’s mom had died only a few weeks before. I was blessed to be able to have brunch with my parents, known here as Nana and Paco, although Nana was already dealing with the congestive heart failure which is still a feature of life taking considerable time and energy.

While Nana’s health is still a feature for Mother’s Day today and we will again be joining Nana and Paco for brunch at their senior living community, we have new and exciting happenings this year. Daughter E is in residence and expecting her first child in a few weeks. Baby will be our first grandchild and Nana and Paco’s first great-grandchild. Daughter T has already sent cards to all three generations from her present home in Missouri. Later in the day, my older sister and her husband will arrive for a few days’ visit and, tomorrow, E’s spouse L arrives for three months and my younger sister arrives to get ready for Nana’s birthday on Tuesday.

Next year, what will Mother’s Day bring? I hope that B and I will again be brunching with Nana and Paco.  It is likely E, L, and Baby will be living in London. T’s position in Missouri is supposed to end in December, but it is possible that she will stay a second year or move on to another position who-knows-where. If my sisters visit again from Nana’s birthday, it wouldn’t be in close proximity to Mother’s Day, which is as late a date as it can be this year.

Whatever happens in the next year, I know that next Mother’s Day will be marked by intergenerational love, no matter what circumstances separate us physically.

seeing the unseen

As some readers will recall, older daughter E is currently living with us while her spouse L, a British citizen, is in London with his family. He will be arriving soon for a three month stay to encompass the final weeks of E’s pregnancy, the arrival of Baby, and the early weeks of cuddling, bonding, and diaper/nappy changing. (Have I mentioned lately how dysfunctional and/or in flux the immigration policies of both the US and the UK are?)

In L’s absence, one of my happy duties is to accompany E to the obstetrician’s office. Fortunately, the pregnancy has been progressing smoothly and Baby seems to be thriving and growing according to schedule.

I was pregnant thirty-one and twenty-seven years ago, so a lot has changed in prenatal care. Fetal heart monitors have gotten a lot more compact and easier to use. There is a lot less belly prodding and measuring than when I was expecting. There are more blood tests and standard glucose testing. My daughter received a booster for diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis so that Baby will have stronger resistance at birth to help prevent whooping cough until the infant vaccines can kick in.

The biggest change, though, is the use of ultrasound. I never had an ultrasound when I was pregnant. While they were available, they were not yet routine and there was no diagnostic reason to order one. As women had for millennia, I relied on hope and faith that all was well, bolstered by the experienced hands and measuring tape of my health providers.

It has been a revelation to be there for E’s ultrasound exams. Most of the time, we have been able to have L join us via skype, which has been nice. E and I have been able to watch as the technician measures the length of Baby’s femur and the circumference of the head. I have been amazed to see the the entire backbone, tiny fingers and toes, all the chambers of the heart beating over 150 times a minutes, the stomach, the bladder, and other organs. From the last ultrasound, we know that Baby weighs about 3 pounds, 10 ounces (1.65 kg) at 31 weeks. We could even seen some fringe of hair atop Baby’s head, not surprising given that both E and L were born with thick heads of hair.

This last detail was particularly poignant for me, because the first detail we knew about baby E was that she had hair on her head, a fact conveyed to us by the maternity nurse who first examined me at the hospital after I arrived late on a Friday night in April with ruptured membranes at 36 weeks. I was only a centimeter dilated, but she could feel the hair on E’s head as it nestled down, getting ready to enter the world. It wasn’t until the early hours of Sunday morning that we would know the hair was strawberry blonde and belonged to our little girl.

We didn’t know that morning, as we welcomed our first child into the world, how wonderful, complicated, heart-warming, and heart-rending parenting would be. We didn’t know the depths of fear, joy, and love we would experience.

And we didn’t know that, thirty-one years later, we would be on hand to witness that cycle of family begin anew for her and her husband as parents, for B and me as grandparents, and for Nana and Paco as great-grandparents.

Even though it is the most common story in the world, its power isn’t diminished. Love makes the ordinary extraordinary.

Earth Day and Science March

Happy Earth Day! Sending out good thoughts to all those working in the environmental movement, to the earth itself, and to all its inhabitants. Earth Day this year was chosen as the day for the March for Science, with the main march being in Washington DC, with satellite marches around the country and the world.

It’s sad that we need marches to remind us of the importance of science and of protecting our environment, but there are definitely some people who need reminding. The science march emphasizes the importance of scientific research and advances and of scientific education and literacy in the general public, while celebrating the contributions of science to our world, particularly the contributions of those who have been traditionally underrepresented among scientists, such as women, indigenous people, African-Americans, and Latino/as.

In that spirit, I want to honor two scientists in my family.

First, my older sister who has just retired from decades of work as a research scientist at the National Institutes of Health.  She holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a master’s and doctorate from Indiana University.  After post-doctoral work at the Cleveland Clinic, she came to NIH for the remainder of her career, where she worked on projects to add to our knowledge of how to fight disease and promote wellness. Today, she participates in the Science March in Washington, DC.

Second, my younger daughter T. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University and last year completed a Master’s of Professional Studies in conservation biology of plants at State University of New York – Environmental Science and Forestry. She is passionate about plants and hopes to build her career around restoration ecology. Nothing makes her happier than pulling out invasive species so that native plants can thrive! Right now, she is working in Missouri for their Department of Conservation with a study of the effects of fire on prairie plants. She is marching for science in Springfield, Missouri.

I am proud to have these two women scientists in my immediate family! I appreciate their contributions and that of their colleagues across all scientific fields.

I think today is a good day to reflect on how important science is to our lives. Medical science and biology are important in decisions I make every day. I am especially drawn to environmental science and geology and often use that knowledge in my advocacy on environmental and climate change policy and renewable energy. Computer science makes B’s job possible. The list could go on and on…

There is a Sci/Cli March today in Binghamton, a local mash-up of this weekend’s science march with next weekend’s climate march. I had hoped to attend, but I don’t think I will be able to make it. I’ll be marching with them in spirit, as well as with my sister in DC.

Science rules!

Binghamton Poetry Project – Spring 2017

March was very hectic, but I did manage to attend four of five sessions for the Binghamton Poetry Project. Our reading took place on April first, but I missed it as it was the same afternoon as our University Chorus concert.

I haven’t had a chance to collect my anthology yet, but these three poems are my contribution. The first two were written from prompts during our sessions and the last one I wrote in response to the tongue-in-cheek suggestion of one of the Grapevine Group poets that we each write a snow poem after our big storm.

Enjoy! (And comment if you are so moved…)

Pneumonia

Her breaths are fast and shallow
between coughs.
I untie her sneakers,
work them off,
pull of her socks,
help her out of her shirt and pants,
slip her nightgown on.

She sits on the edge
of the bed,
pivots to lie down,
but needs me to lift
her feet.
I pull up the covers,
close the door,
and wait for the X-ray results.

*****

Two Hearts

Her cardiac rehab is Tuesday and Thursday mornings.

He rides with her in the retirement home van,
helps her navigate into the lift with her walker,
sits with her in the waiting room
until she is called into therapy
where he is not allowed to follow.

He waits.

Her exercises accomplished,
they board the van for the ride
back home to their apartment
where lunch awaits.

After sixty-two years of marriage,
he does not want her to go
alone.

*****

Nor’easter Numbers

The forecast was for an inch overnight
with Five to Eight to follow;
then, One to Three
with Six to Nine.

I rose before the daylight-saving
delayed dawn to find
a foot of snow already down,
consequence of a more westerly
track
plus
a stall.

My strategy,
born of long-ago New England winters,
to clear the overnight
accumulation from the driveway,
then shovel
every few inches,
add in the front walk
and path to the mailbox
as strength allows.

A good plan,
but overly ambitious
for a Five foot One-and-a-half inch
Fifty-six-year-old
alone
with a shovel
contending with the wake
of snowplows
and snow falling at Two
or Three
or Four
inches
an hour,
Twenty-seven inches
by Five o’clock
and still snowing.

Seven bouts of shoveling,
Twelve thousand, ninety-one Fitbit steps,
and Two blessed assists
from the neighbors’ snowblower
yield a driveway cleared to a road
under a county-wide travel ban,
a path to a mailbox that may
be filled with today’s mail
tomorrow,

weather permitting.

Anyone?

[sidles in, switches on the lights, and looks around]
Hello? Anyone still here?

Oh, good! A few of you are still checking in! My apologies for the dearth of posts lately, with just a scattering here and there.

Life has been busy and I wanted to do updates. The most important is regarding my mom, known here as Nana. She spent several days in the hospital last month with pneumonia/congestive heart failure and was sent home to the apartment she shares with my dad, Paco. She was very fatigued and weak, so we have enlisted help. She now has home care coming in several times a week for monitoring and physical therapy. There have been doctor visits, a new medication regimen, and some more tests ordered.

It’s great to have home care in, because it means having a nurse case-manager to oversee and co-ordinate the various health-care providers involved and to serve as the one-phone-call resource for questions and problems. This is especially important for us this week, as B and I leave tomorrow to visit daughter T in Missouri. It brings peace of mind to know that the home care team and the staff at their retirement community are both on duty to watch out for Nana and Paco while we are gone.

I’m hoping that I will have time while we are gone to do some catch-up posts. Music, poetry, travel, and transportation will be likely topics.

Stay tuned.

US health care update

While I write about US political issues sometimes, I haven’t been recently, not because there hasn’t been a lot to write about, but because there has been too much – and not enough time, as I have been dealing with multiple family health issues.

I can’t bring myself to try to elucidate the increasingly alarming tangle of DT’s campaign, transition, and administration with Russian government and oligarchs, Cypriot banks, Turkey, surveillance, investigations, and the firing of justice officials, but I do want to comment on the failure of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal.

The ACA has been an important law that has had a positive effect on my family and on many millions of Americans. We have all benefited from provisions that all insurance cover a suite of important health care provisions without deductible and copayments, that there be no annual or lifetime caps on coverage, and that pre-existing conditions must be covered. While premiums have increased as projected, the rate of increase has been lower than in the years before the ACA and the subsidies based on income have kept pace with the premium increases to keep insurance affordable for most people.

There have been some problems, the biggest being the gap caused when some states chose not to expand Medicaid eligibility as designed in the original legislation, a provision that was overturned by the Supreme Court. This left low-income folks in those states without a path to get subsidies for their insurance.

If Congress had been functional, the ACA would have been amended to deal with the various problems and to enhance the programs for the benefit of the public, as happened with other large programs, such as Social Security.

However, Congress has not been functional for years. The Republican leadership has refused to bring bipartisan legislation up for a vote, deciding that the ACA should be repealed in its entirety. Instead of enacting fixes and enhancements, the House voted dozens of times to repeal the ACA, a meaningless gesture as it would not pass the Senate and be signed by the President.

With DT’s inauguration and the Republicans in the majority in both houses of Congress, many of us feared that the ACA would be repealed and a more expensive and less extensive health care insurance program be put in its place.

The bill that was proposed was even worse than we had feared, with projections that 24 million people would lose insurance coverage, even more than were without coverage before the ACA.

And then it got worse, due to wrangling among the Republicans. Even the essential benefits were put on the chopping block.

The people had not been silent during this whole debate. Congressional offices, which had already been flooded with calls, visits, town hall attendance, emails, letters, faxes, postcards, and the occasional delivery of pizza or baked goods with a message attached, experienced even higher volumes of contact, with pro-ACA messages outnumbering repeal/replace messages by margins of hundreds or thousands to one.

DT got involved, pressuring House members to vote yes. The vote, scheduled for Thursday, which was the seventh anniversary of the signing of the ACA by President Obama, was postponed until Friday morning, then Friday afternoon.

Then, at the time it was supposed to begin the voting process, the announcement came that the bill had been pulled.

There was a huge sigh of relief.

And a cloud of uncertainty.

The best outcome at this point would be for Congressional committees to consult with health care providers and policy experts to craft repairs and enhancements for the ACA to benefit public health and well-being and to pass those amendments into law.

Which many of us have been advocating for years.

Maybe the Republicans will finally cooperate in this process.

We, the people, will continue to demand that they do.

 

triple threat

My mom, known as Nana here at Top of JC’s Mind, has been having some cardiac issues and has been going to rehab twice a week. Last week, she had to miss because of the giant snowstorm and because she seemed to be suffering from a cold.

She had already been to the walk-in medical clinic once for her cough, but on Friday, her condition worsened, so she went back. They were concerned that she might have developed pneumonia so they ordered a chest X-ray from the hospital. The plan had been for her to stay at the hospital until the X-ray was read, but they were so busy, we had to take her home to wait for the results the next morning.

When the X-ray came back positive, we went back to the hospital. We spent the day in the emergency room, while they ran more tests. We were shocked that Nana’s “cold” had actually been type A influenza. The extra-strength flu vaccine that she had received last fall had kept down the usual fever and body aches that one expects from flu.

The other factor involved was some continuing problems with congestive heart failure symptoms. We are hoping to get a better understanding of the cardiac factors involved so we can chart the best possible course going forward.

Nana has been improving steadily with intravenous antibiotics and diuretics. We are hopeful that she will be able to come home in a few days, in time for Paco’s 92nd birthday this weekend.

We would all appreciate any healing thoughts and/or prayers that you might send out on Nana’s behalf.