The wilds of October, so far

My Facebook page of Top of JC’s Mind is helpfully reminding me that I haven’t posted in 13 days, and that post was a so-far-unsuccessful plea to get from 99 to 100 likes. My last actual blog post was on October 6, so – deep breath – here is an attempt to catch up a bit.

My mom, known here as Nana, has been under hospice care since summer of 2017 due to congestive heart failure. There have been quite a few ups and downs over that time – and quite a bit of red tape. Re-certification reviews are every two months, so, one finishes and it is time to start on data collection for the next.

As it happened, Nana’s current certification was due to expire on October 15. I was due to be out of town from the third through the ninth and thought that the re-certification decision had been deferred until the tenth; instead, the medical director decided on the fourth that Nana would no longer be covered by hospice as of the sixth. Hospice would continue to “follow” her until another suitable, safe situation could be arranged, but we were not given a date.

The situation was complicated by the fact that Nana had been in residence at Mercy House, which only houses people under the care of our local hospice, since May and could not return to her former home in an apartment with my dad, known here as Paco, at Good Shepherd Village (GSV) because her care needs were too great. Anticipating the possibility that Nana might be decertified, we had her on the waiting list for the skilled nursing unit at GSV for weeks, but they had no availability.

As soon as I returned home, it became obvious that we wouldn’t be able to wait for a room at GSV. On Wednesday, the 10th, my first day back, we were offered a room at GSV’s sister institution in the rehab unit, which we basically had to take.

I will not vex you with the details of the bureaucratic wrangling I needed to do to get the move accomplished by Friday. I will, however, say that I was disappointed that I was caught in the middle of so much red tape when so many people in the official-dom had been assuring me for weeks that transferring between institutions would be smooth and handled by the professionals rather than family.

Mom had her evaluations and was starting in with physical and occupational therapy, when, on the following Tuesday, we got word that space had opened up for her at GSV. So, we packed up her room and, on Wednesday morning, she moved again to what should be her permanent home.

We have her settled in her new room, which has a beautiful view of the valley. There are favorite art pieces, cards, and photos on display and a new sized-for-her recliner lift chair that we bought. She is making progress with her therapy and can walk short distances with a walker and a companion nearby.

I wish I could say that her heart function is improved, but that is not possible. Our goal remains to keep her as active as possible for as long as possible and to keep her pain-free. She is under palliative care protocol, similar to hospice but without the pesky obligation of trying to guess life expectancy.

The best aspect of her new home is that she and Paco are back under the same roof, albeit in separate wings. Paco can hop on his scooter and, using the turtle (3mph) rather than prohibited rabbit (5mph) setting, navigate the apartment building halls, Village Center, elevator, and Health Center halls, and be with Nana in just a few minutes. They have been married 64 and a half years, so the ease of being together is much appreciated.

We are trying to establish some new schedules and routines for Nana and Paco after so many changes in such a short time. If I am lucky, I will be able to work through my backlog and get back to writing and posting a bit more. I know better than to make promises, though. The last few years have taught me over and over to expect the unexpected and I think I may have finally learned that lesson.

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marriage, family, and immigration

Millions and millions of people watched press coverage of the recent wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Meghan, a United States citizen by birth, is now the Duchess of Sussex.

I am very happy for them as they begin their married life in the United Kingdom, but I am sad that British immigration law makes it so much more difficult for other non-citizen spouses to join their British counterparts. The complex immigration laws of the United Kingdom and the United States, both currently in flux under their current governments, are conspiring to keep ABC, my dual-citizen granddaughter, from being with both her parents for the majority of her first two years. She is always very excited to video-visit with her daddy when she is in residence with us and her mom here in the States, but it is, of course, not the same as being there in person.

Still, at least they can see each other and have access to a process that will enable them to be together long-term, unlike the families seeking asylum in the United States who are being subjected to new procedures by the Trump administration. Children as young as one year are being separated from their parent(s) and put into foster care. Unconscionably, some of the parents are being charged with human trafficking of their own children.  Such treatment of asylum seekers is both immoral and illegal under international law. I’m hoping that legal challenges filed on behalf of these families will find justice among federal judges, even though it is the Justice Department in Washington that has implemented these new draconian policies.

Update June 1:  This post gives more information and ways to speak out in defense of children and parents.

64th!

Today is my parents’ (Nana and Paco here at TJCM) sixty-fourth wedding anniversary.

And it is snowing, which is a bit odd for us here in the Northeast US on April 19th.

My parents married on this date for two reasons. It was Easter Monday during a time when Catholic weddings were prohibited during Lent. (While not currently prohibited, they are still discouraged.) It was also Patriots’ Day in Massachusetts where they lived, so it was a day off work for my dad and many other workers. They thought that they would always have their anniversary off work, which they did until the Monday holiday bill was created, moving holidays from their actual dates to a nearby Monday. (Patriots’ Day commemorates the battle of Lexington and Concord which began the Revolutionary War.)

Today’s celebration will be quiet.

[Three days pass.]

I started this post on the 19th. The plan was for me to spend most of the day at home until late afternoon when we would pick up dinner to bring to Nana and Paco. I was hoping to get this post out and do some other catching up and errands, but Paco wasn’t feeling well, so I went up to Nana and Paco’s apartment mid-morning to assess the situation and call the doctor’s office.

Later in the morning, Nana’s hospice volunteer visitor arrived. She brought a pink gerbera daisy with two blossoms as an anniversary gift from her and a gift bag from hospice with a bottle of sparkling apple juice, two glasses, a rose made of cloth, and an angel figurine. It was so sweet of her to visit and lift Nana’s spirits; we were sorry that Paco was napping and not well enough to be with her when she opened their gifts.

When I hadn’t heard back from the doctor by early afternoon, I called again and they decided to fit him into the afternoon schedule. I took him to the office, fortunately nearby to their senior living community, leaving Nana under the care of her aide.  The doctor made some medication changes and Nana and Paco both got afternoon naps.

My husband B and daughter T arrived at about five with food from a favorite local Italian restaurant. We set up their tray tables side by side on the couch with lasagna for Paco and bucatini for Nana. Nana and Paco got to enjoy their 64th anniversary dinner, topped off with sharing carrot cake for dessert.

They got to hold hands.

They reminisced about their honeymoon in New York City, seeing Bob Hope and the Rockettes at an 8 AM show.

And we had the privilege of being there.

I am grateful that they had this anniversary together, one more precious moment in their long life together. The precariousness of the day underscored that the much-discussed “quality time” is a gift that appears in our lives, sometimes planned and created, but more often appearing at an unexpected time or in an unforeseen way.  A cuddle from a toddler who is usually  too busy to stop her activity. An important discussion with a teenager during a routine car ride. A walk in the woods when troubles temporarily recede and clarity and peace return.

A time when holding hands means the world.

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 off 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.

Valentines

Happy Valentine’s Day!

As I write this, I have a dessert treat in the oven for this evening and E and L are sharing a Valentine’s Day tea in London. We are happy that they have a chance to spend Valentine’s Day together in this year of being separated by an ocean most of the time.

It is also the birthday of one of my cousins. His mom, one of my dad’s sisters, always wanted a son born on Valentine’s Day and she got her wish.

Unfortunately, she couldn’t have another child because she was Rh negative and her son was Rh positive. Because she was now sensitized to Rh factors, her antibodies would have attacked the blood of another Rh positive child. If the baby survived, it would have needed an immediate total blood transfusion. Most couples in those circumstances chose not to risk a second pregnancy.

Like my aunt, I am Rh negative, but I was fortunate to be pregnant after the development of RhoGAM. I had one shot during pregnancy and a second after I gave birth to E, who is Rh positive, so that I would not develop antibodies to Rh factors. This enabled me to later have daughter T without risk to her blood.

Valentine’s Day is another day to be thankful for family and for good medical care.

meltdown

“Meltdown” seems to be the word most being used this weekend to describe the Trump campaign and its relationship with leading Republicans.

I admit to being puzzled.

Yes, a lewd recording of Donald Trump from ten years ago is now public, but there have been many other reports and recordings chronicling his horrid behavior and opinions about women readily available for decades. I don’t understand how anyone could be surprised by this new recording.

Supporters were apparently willing to ignore Trump’s sexual behavior and sexist attitudes until now; some still are.

I think that those who are now withdrawing their support are doing so because the recording shows predatory behavior and the attitude that, as a rich man, Trump feels entitled to sexual access to any woman he finds attractive, regardless of her own feelings. I am glad that people are finally standing up for women’s rights to be free from harassment and from being judged solely for their physical attributes. But why were they willing to look the other way for so many months?

Trump’s plan to fight back is apparently to attack Hillary Clinton over her reaction to her husband’s affairs at the debate tonight.

This is a bad idea.

Any spouse who has ever been cheated on will likely be offended by Trump’s attempts to hold Hillary responsible for having a cheating spouse. People who have been faithful to their spouse will not appreciate him denigrating her for staying in her marriage. Trump would also be calling attention to his own divorces, public affairs while still married, repeated treatment of women as trophies or pretty accessories on his arm, repeated mean, dismissive, offensive, and sexist comments, and his apparent inability to take responsibility for his own actions and attitudes.

Many of Trump’s advisers and Republican officeholders are warning him not to attack Hillary over Bill’s behavior, but Trump is not especially inclined to take advice.

I will be watching the debate tonight, although it may make me sick to my stomach.

April 19

As everyone from Massachusetts knows, April 19th is the traditional date of Patriots’ Day. The date should also be familiar to everyone who had to memorize the opening of Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride” as the date of the Battle of Lexington and Concord, which began the American Revolutionary War.

April 19th is also the date of my parents’ wedding anniversary.

This year was their 62nd!

Patriots’ Day was part of the reason they married on April 19th. They thought that my father would always get their anniversary off from work. They had not anticipated the Monday Holiday Bill, which moved many of the holidays from their traditional dates to the closest Monday, giving a long weekend from work, but obscuring the original meaning of the date.

The other reason they married on April 19 was that it was Easter Monday that year. In the Catholic tradition, weddings are not usually celebrated during Lent, so Easter Monday/Patriots’ Day seemed the perfect date to begin their life together.

Of course, given the complexities of life, no marriage could be perfect, but theirs has been a wonderful witness to what a marriage can be when each partner loves and looks out for the other.

Next month, B and I will celebrate our 34th anniversary. I hope and pray that we will be granted the longevity and love that has blessed my parents.

Maybe it will help that I take (mental) notes…