Daughter E and granddaughter ABC have been back with us for a month. ABC is currently snoozing in her grandpa’s arms. While we are sad that her daddy is so far away right now, we know it is necessary so that E can get a spousal visa to join him next year when the three of them will be together full-time at last.
ABC just reached thirteen months of age and is going through one of those time periods when she is especially attached to her mommy and very suspicious of strangers. Observing that and knowing how important it is for her to be surrounded by love and stability makes the ongoing crisis of the current US border policy all the more appalling. It is unconscionable that the current administration has taken children away from their parents or guardians and then lost track of them.
While the courts have ordered that families be reunited soon, the government has asked for more time. Meanwhile, the damage to these children’s health continues, as well as the heartbreak of their parents and of millions of Americans who cannot belief that such cruelty has been done in our name.
Many people have come forward to assist the children and their family members, giving money, legal services, transportation, housing, and other assistance to reunite the children with their loved ones as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, we cannot undo the trauma these families have experienced.
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.
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.
Today, the United States celebrates Thanksgiving. We are celebrating with a traditional turkey dinner with two kinds of stuffing, mashed potatoes, rutabaga, baked squash and apples, spiced cranberry-orange relish, and apple and pumpkin pies.
We are doing most of the cooking at our house and bringing everything up to Nana and Paco’s apartment for dinner. In past years, we either hosted them here at our house or joined them for dinner in the dining room at their senior living community, but Nana doesn’t have the energy to be out of the apartment, so we are bringing Thanksgiving to her.
We are very grateful to have Nana and Paco with us for another year of celebration and, for the first time, to have baby ABC with us! She is too young to eat any of the Thanksgiving dishes, but she will certainly bring many smiles to our day.
B and I are also very thankful to have both of our daughters with us. Given that E and ABC will be moving to the UK, possibly in the spring, we are unlikely to have them here at Thanksgiving time again for a long time, if ever. We are hoping that T will find a job in her field that is within driving distance, so we may be able to have her join us for the holiday on a regular basis, but, like everything in the future, it is a bit of a mystery.
But this Thanksgiving, six for dinner – with a baby being bounced on knees and cradled in our arms and playing on her floor quilt – is the perfect number, for which we are all filled with gratitude.
My dad, known here at Top of JC’s Mind as Paco, bought a new vehicle this week, his first indoor scooter.
With Nana (my mom) under hospice care at their apartment, Paco has been walking down to the dining room and offices of the retirement community several times a day to get menus and pick up food. (The community center is in an adjacent building to the apartments connected by a passageway with lots of windows to take in the view.)
Although Paco is 92, he still walks well without the support of a cane or walker, but he does sometimes get pain in his hip from bursitis. Lately, his hip was bothering him on his evening trip to pick up supper, so he looked into getting a scooter.
I brought him to the medical supply store on Thursday to look at the floor models. He chose a simple three-wheeled design that is compact enough to fit beside the little table between the kitchen and living room, close to an electrical outlet.
It won’t need to be plugged in very often because it can go five miles on a single charge!
The scooter was delivered yesterday and spouse B, daughter T, and I went up yesterday evening to watch him take it on its inaugural trip through the hallways. It’s easy to control and has a tight turning radius, as well as a reverse setting, so he should be all set for the dinner run tonight.
He is looking forward to surprising his friends with his new ride!
I haven’t meant to keep you in the dark about life here. I just haven’t been able to wrap my head around posting much lately.
We have made a lot of progress with care for Nana. We now have her nurse/case manager from hospice on board and have been able to pass off prescription management to her. The number of medications needed has dropped because a number of them are no longer needed. For example, she doesn’t take a statin anymore because her cholesterol level is irrelevant at this point. It makes it easier to keep track of her meds, especially because hospice has taken over the ordering of refills.
Hospice is also handling medical equipment, such as oxygen and a wheelchair. They are good at solving problems, like providing cushions to protect her ears from the oxygen tubing. Simple things like that make a big difference.
It is nice to have just one number to call. If there are any questions, we just call hospice and they contact whichever doctor or service is needed. There is always someone on duty, even in the middle of the night, to address concerns or problems.
Meanwhile, ABC is already five weeks old! She had a checkup and is now almost two pounds (0.9 kg) heavier and 2 1/2 inches (6 cm) longer than when she was born. She has outgrown her preemie clothes and can wear regular newborn sizes. She is starting to focus on her surroundings. She is playing with some of her toys and is getting more tolerant of diaper changes, baths, and getting in and out of her carseat/carrier.
She is fascinated by her reflection in the mirror.
It is a blessing to have her here with E and L, watching them become a little family and assisting with baby care and general household tasks. Most advanced economies give parents paid time off for this life stage, although, sadly, the United States does not. We are grateful that E and L are able to have this important time to bond, especially because L will have to return to the UK in mid-August. We will miss watching his tender care of her, especially when he sits at the piano with her, cradling her in one arm and singing to her, accompanying himself with his free hand.
We are also blessed to be able to bring ABC to visit Nana and Paco. Unlike the earliest weeks, ABC now stays awake for part of the visit, so Nana and Paco get to see her deep blue eyes.
Tomorrow, L’s mom arrives from the UK and our younger daughter T arrives from Missouri. We are gathering for ABC’s baptism on Sunday.
ABC will wear a tiny white dress, first worn by my older sister, followed by me and our younger sister, twenty-some years later by my daughters, and twenty-some more years later by my granddaughter.
I retrieved it from the bottom of Nana’s cedar chest last week and we will return it there next week, in case another precious baby girl arrives in our family to wear it.
The last time I was around a newborn extensively was twenty-seven years ago when T was born.
E, L, B and I are all learning to read ABC’s signs.
It seems that every cry, squeak, whimper, wiggle, look, stretch and facial expression is trying to tell us something, if only we could discern its meaning correctly.
So far, ABC is doing well, despite her petite size. She had a bit of jaundice, but we were able to do light therapy at home. Her bilirubin count went down so well that we were able to return the unit yesterday.
It is a joy watching our daughter and son-in-law be such wonderful parents in these early days. It is a privilege to be a first-time grandparent with the baby living in our home for her first few months.