I have often written posts about my parents, known here as Nana and Paco. I’m sad to tell you that Nana passed away last week. After months of declining health due to congestive heart failure, she had a few days of rapid decline and died peacefully with my older sister with her and the rest of the family able to gather quickly for some final time together with her.
Over these last few days, my sisters have been staying at Paco’s apartment and taking care of him, while my spouse B and I have been tending to preparations for the funeral, which will take place mid-week.
We are very fortunate that this week is a week off for my son-in-law L, who was able to fly here from London to be with daughter E, granddaughter ABC, and all of us.
I admit that my mind has been richoting from one subject to another. Now that the funeral plans are all in place, I’m hoping I can calm my mind a bit, but it remains to be seen.
With so much happening, I’m not online very much, so I may not be able to keep up with responding to comments. Please know that I appreciate all the thoughts and prayers that you send on behalf of Nana and our family.
Because her heart failure symptoms cause her to be sleepy a lot of the time, it is difficult to predict when she might be alert, so we keep celebrations ad hoc and catch bits of time with her as circumstances allow.
This morning, I picked her a few lilies of the valley from our (rapidly spreading out of control) patch. The original pips came from the yard of my childhood home in Massachusetts and from the yard of B’s home in Vermont, only a few miles apart. Lily of the valley is the birth flower for May and I have often picked some for Nana’s birthday. Our spring this year has been chilly and damp, so they have just begun to bloom with only the very bottom bells open, but I picked some regardless and will bring a few more when they open more fully.
On my way up to the skilled nursing unit of my parents’ senior living community, I swung by Wegman’s grocery store and picked up an individual size fruit tart. Nana would often buy large ones for special occasions, so I thought she might enjoy a little one for her birthday. I was pleased that, though small, there was a nice variety of fresh fruit over the custard, a large halved strawberry, a piece each of pineapple and kiwi, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberry. Nana was quite sleepy this morning, so I put it in the refrigerator with her name on it so she can enjoy it later today, or tomorrow or the next day, depending how she is feeling.
I brought her a card, too, which had bleeding hearts, which are also in bloom now, on the front. She has lots of cards from family and friends, including a packet of cards from people at her church.
A bit later in the morning, my daughters E and T and granddaughter ABC arrived. Despite ABC’s careening about the room, giggles, and squeals, Nana slept a good share of the time that she was there, but there were times that she was awake for kisses and a bit of lunch, some of which she generously shared with Ada. Her lunch tray arrived with a bonus, a large vanilla cupcake with white frosting and decorations. Nana decided to send it home with us instead of eating it herself. After all, she does have a fruit tart waiting for her, as well as some coffee ice cream sent over by a friend. When she is ready for one or the other of them, Paco will hop on his scooter and fetch them from the leisure room refrigerator. Of course, Paco got some kisses from ABC, too.
Both of my sisters called while I was there. My older sister just returned home from a few days of visiting and my younger sister and her family will arrive for a short visit this weekend. The main reason for the trip is my niece’s commencement ceremony in Cortland. She will be a newly minted teacher, with a job as a kindergarten teacher and a master’s program in New York City all lined up. Woo hoo!
B and I made another quick trip up for a visit in the evening, bringing another card that had inadvertently been left at home in the morning and some of Nana’s favorite toiletries.
We were grateful that we were able to celebrate Nana’s 87th birthday with her, or, as Paco says, the beginning of her 88th year. Last year, we celebrated her birthday at our local hospice residence. We didn’t think that we would be granted another whole year with Nana.
On May 4th, my mom, known here at TJCM as Nana, moved to Mercy House, a residence for people under the care of our local hospice. She had been under the care of hospice since last summer, staying with Paco in their independent living apartment with the help of family and aides, first for overnight and later during the day as well. As her symptoms from congestive heart failure worsened and she became weaker, the care needed to keep her safe and comfortable was outstripping what home aides are legally allowed to provide, so, when space became available at Mercy House, we chose to make the move.
Of course, there has been an adjustment period with new caregivers and routines and food, but things are settling in now. The staff all share a calling and commitment to this work, as do the many, many volunteers who make Mercy House such a peaceful, loving place.
My younger sister was here for the first week, helping Nana to settle in and staying overnight with Paco at the apartment. As it happened, on the one week mark at Mercy House, granddaughter S finished her semester at college and came to visit. She used her dorm room decorating skills to hang pictures for Nana and my sister, her husband, and S had an early Mother’s Day/Nana’s birthday lunch brought in from a favorite restaurant.
This second week, someone from my house has been staying overnight and we are developing a rhythm to our days. Nana and Paco each do their early morning routine in their places of residence and then, mid-morning, we bring Paco to Mercy House for the day. Like hospice, Mercy House’s mission reaches beyond care of the individual to care of the family, so the volunteers and staff help Paco, too. There is always food available in the common room and Nana and Paco eat supper together at the dining room table, which is special after so many months of eating on a tray table in the apartment living room.
At the moment, Nana is the only resident who is able to be that mobile, so Nana and Paco usually have the dining table to themselves, but it also means that we were able to have two dinners this week that my spouse B, daughter T, and I shared, too. On Monday, we brought Swedish meatballs, made with the recipe that Nana used which had come to her from her Swedish landlady 55 years ago, for a belated Mother’s Day dinner. Last night, we brought in Italian food and an apple-blackberry pie that B had baked to celebrate Nana’s 86th birthday. The volunteers had decorated the table with a centerpiece, special napkins, and a birthday hat for Nana!
Next week, my older sister will arrive for a week. We are all grateful to have so much love and support surrounding us.
Thank you also, dear readers, for the thoughts and prayers that you have been sending and for your patience with my increasingly haphazard postings. I truly appreciate your visits and comments here.
And, while I do try to write about the most salient things that are at the top of my mind, I am finding myself too overwhelmed to find words to express how I feel. Maybe, eventually, I’ll be able to. Perhaps in poetry. Perhaps years from now. Perhaps not.
In practical/physical terms, a large share of the last week has revolved around dealing with some changes in Nana’s condition. The edema from the congestive heart failure had accelerated but increasing the diuretics to address it lowered her already low blood pressure even more. We are trying to walk a very fine line to balance the two and, with her usual hospice nurse and aide unavailable for a few days, I have been trying to keep a closer eye on things and inform all the different private aides about the changes and new things we have to watch out for.
Amidst all this, it was wonderful to be able to celebrate Easter together. Daughter T and I attended Easter Vigil at church last night, which was a comforting blend of the familiar and the unique, with the once-a-year rituals of blessing the Paschal candle and welcoming new adult members to the church.
I had my pyx with me to carry the Eucharist to give to Nana today. T, Nana, and I prayed together before T gave communion to her grandmother.
We brought Easter dinner to share with Nana and Paco and Mary who is the Sunday daytime aide. My husband B made Swedish meatballs from a recipe that came to us through the Swedish landlady of my family when I was a toddler. For dessert, he made cherry pistachio biscotti and shortbreads, the latter from a recipe from his family. Not exactly traditional Easter foods, but delicious and special for us this year.
I wish there were a fast and easy way to get thoughts from my head into a post to send out to you all, but I’m afraid instead you will have to continue to put up with haphazard posts with various gaps that I may not even recognize in time to fill them. I hope to back up and write about a few things, like my second whirlwind trip to Northampton last month, as time and brainpower allow, but I know better than to make promises these days.
So far, I have written posts here and here about my recent trip to Northampton to sing Brahms Requiem at Smith. There will be a couple more short posts about that weekend, but now I interrupt with breaking news.
Nine-month-old granddaughter ABC is dealing with her first cold.
She is very, very stuffy and her nose is running. Despite that, she is being generally good-natured – except when we need to wipe her nose, which she does not enjoy at all.
She has slowed her activity level a bit. While before she wanted to walk with someone holding her hands, although sometimes only one hand and every once in a while taking a couple of steps on her own, she is allowing people to sit with her. She even will nap sitting astride my tummy, either leaning back against my legs or forward against my chest. Bonus: being on an incline makes it easier for her to breathe.
We are hoping she will recover quickly so that she can visit with Nana and Paco again soon. ABC and her mom leave on March 20 for a three-month visit in London with daddy/spouse L. Maybe we will do a skype call with Nana and Paco tomorrow as a practice run for the months she will be “across the pond.”
Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is “so far.” Join us! Find out how here: https://lindaghill.com/2018/03/09/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-march-10-18/
I had diligently posted every day for Just Jot It January and briefly considered continuing to post every day, but life intervened.
In other words, back to normal…
Or not. The word normal and my life do not belong in the same sentence.
Last week included a daughter coming down with a stomach bug, another daughter recovering from surgery to remove what we thought was a swollen lymph node but turned out to be a cyst, my spouse’s second cataract surgery, and an almost eight-month-old granddaughter that needed tending.
Sadly, last week also included the realization that we needed to upgrade the level of care for my mom, known here on Top of JC’s Mind as Nana. She has been under the care of hospice for seven months and is still in her apartment with my dad. She has had overnight aides, but we are now transitioning to daytime aides in addition. We have made some medication changes in hopes that she will have a bit of symptom relief from the increasing congestive heart failure. CHF is not a very predictable condition. There have been a number of dips with partial improvement following over the months, but you can never tell in the midst of a dip when or if improvement will come.
My family is having a surgery a week lately. Last week, daughter E had a stubbornly swollen lymph node removed. Although screening tests seemed to suggest that it was benign, I decided not to mention it until the pathology came back. We now have confirmation, which was a relief.
It is a bit tricky with the recovery, in that E is not supposed to do heavy lifting. While ABC is not huge for a seven-month-old, she is definitely over the ten pound lifting limit, so B, T, and I have been trying to do most of the ABC lifting, especially getting her out of her crib and giving her baths.