Ready for Baby

While staying at Zana and Dons these past several weeks, spending time with Saylor, soon to be two, and newborn Opal, it brings up memories of having my baby at 22, and a conversation I had with a girlfriend. Her son had just had his first baby six months after Zana had her first, and as we sat talking she said in reference to her son and daughter-in-law, “I don’t know if they’re ready.”

I reminded her then that our kids are 37. If they are having babies, now’s the time. And I couldn’t help but laugh at her worry, because if anyone wasn’t ready to have babies it was us!

When I became a mother I was unprepared in every way. I knew nothing about babies. I spent one night in hospital after her delivery and then went back to my parents house where my partner, Zana’s father Dennis, and I were staying until he finished fixing up our rented home; a tiny two room miners cabin with a big oil cook stove, set in a laneway in downtown Nanaimo. And before she was one month old we moved into it. It was the winter of 1980.

I remember the health nurse coming by to check on me and my baby, but it was so minimal a visit. I had no idea if I was producing enough milk. No coaching. I knew nothing about milk “coming in” or “good latching.” The nurse said she would be back the following week, but she never came. Dennis was a musician and away on the road, so I was on my own much of the time. I had no circle of girlfriends, and I guess my family thought I was doing fine.

I kept breastfeeding, and carried her around the cabin in a “snuggly” because she would fuss a bit. Then I took her to our family doctor for a check up. He took one look at her and he said, ‘this baby is starving,’ and gave me the name of a brand of soy based formula. I obviously wasn’t producing enough milk. I went to the pharmacy straight away, bought it, and fed her as soon we got home. Within days it seemed she ballooned into a rolly polly healthy baby.

We were on welfare for short time. I had no vehicle. We carried our laundry to and from the laundry mat downtown. The majority of Zana’s clothes were from second hand or discount stores. Her stroller was salvaged from the roadside. Her toys were minimal. I went to work at an art gallery in my downtown when she was six months old, taking her with me in her stroller. Luckily she was a very content and happy baby!  When she was three her father and I separated. Zana and I moved a lot during her childhood, and being a working single mother brought its own complications and hardships.

I was ignorant and extremely naive, though I somehow held it together.

Today Zana, now 38, is strong, compassionate and caring, and fearless in the face of challenges. She has always worked. A self-taught talented pastry cook and caterer. She has travelled abroad alone. When she became pregnant she had a Dula and a Midwife, she had a nursery room ready and waiting with everything the baby would need, a closet stocked with baby clothes, a car seat, crib, stroller, all the things all in a beautiful  home. When the baby came she had consulted a nursing coach. Zana knew what to do, and if she didn’t, she knew where to find the information. Her children were brought into a loving, stable and secure home life.

Then there’s my girlfriend’s son, also 38. She was 17 when she gave birth to him. She separated from his father when her son was four, leaving him in the fathers custody, and embarked on a long arduous path of waitressing, and education, and long periods of absence. The dad and her son lived in a small, cedar shingled A-Frame cabin in a rural, rustic area. The house was under heavy renovation construction, with a makeshift ladder to get upstairs to the bedroom, a make shift toilet and a two by four construct that served as the kitchen.

Her son today, lives in Vancouver, works for Apple overseeing several outlets, owns a condo. He’s a talented musician, he and three of his band members have been playing musically since the age of thirteen. They’ve cut three albums. He has been with his current partner since the age of 19, they married 6 years ago. His wife works at a daycare. They had their first baby 15 months ago and he is an amazing, fully engaged father and loving, attentive husband.

The contrast of parenting experience is stark between myself and my daughter and my friend and her son. We were not ready. And still our kids came out winning, in spite of all our unpreparedness, hardships and chaos.

Yes, girlfriend, they are so ready. With soul, heart and mind. And I’ll add one quote, in light of their upbringing, from a Chuck Berry song:

“C’est la vie”, say the old folks, it goes to show you never can tell.”

 

Welcome Opal

Opal comes home, and the midwife Ariel coming by to check on things.

I want to quickly share the news that my daughter Zana just brought her new baby girl home yesterday! She and hubby Don already have 22 month old Saylor who has become a big sister overnight!  I intended on staying with them a short time at their home in Salmon Arm to help out  just until things got settled in, then head home, but Zana wound up needing a C-Section five hours into her heavy contractions! No one saw that one coming. All went well thankfully, but it was an excruciating labour for her.

She stayed only one night in hospital too because the bed was sooo uncomfortably hard and the room dreary (which it was). Now she’s faced with 6 weeks convalescence with absolutely no lifting, like 30lb toddlers!  And as we all know, toddlers are spastic balls of energy, and Saylor is no exception.

So, it looks like I may be staying on with them a little longer unless plans change, we’ll see. So far I’ve been taking care of the cooking (which I enjoy!) and keeping things tidy while helping out with Saylor during Zana’s final pregnancy stages, so i’ll just carry on. Typical Mother/Mother-in-law/ Grandmother protocol.

I’m happy to be in a position to help out. Fortunately I retired early so have no pressing time line I have to adhere to. There’s Bob of course, back on the island, but he understands fully. And he is only 5 hours away.

We’ll see how things pan out~

 

 

Mother/Daughter

My girls, Beacon Hill Park, Victoria B.C.

I call Victoria B.C my soul city even though I had only lived there a mere five years, during my mid twenties; a struggling single parent with a four year old daughter. Even though it was during the more difficult time in my life, young, directionless, and floundering in a relationship with a rock guitarist.

Yet still. I think it is where I grew. And though the growth had its hardships, and in truth don’t the two go hand in hand, these times and places where growth happens always leave an indelible mark. For better or worse.

I was in fact quite happy in those five Victoria years despite the obvious chaos and confusion I had going on then. Ok – my entire 20’s decade was chaos and confusion- but, I grew up. A bit.

Within that five year period while there I worked at a five star Bed and Breakfast as the breakfast chef, which I absolutely loved, then later left the B&B to train and work as a Care Aid. The money was union money and benefits, so it was a strategic employment choice.

Even so, it was when my daughter and I were evicted from our James Bay apartment that eventually determined our move back up island to affordable Nanaimo.

Reason for eviction being the building we were living in was unfortunately slated for demolition. Being built in its place a luxury adult oriented condo high rise. Thus all of us were given notice. And leaving Victoria, reason being that I couldn’t afford to rent a house, and to find an apartment that allowed children was nearly impossible to come by at the time. I looked hard, searching through the listings in the Times-Colonist in every effort to remain in Victoria. The thought of leaving was, I didn’t want to think about leaving. But, time was running out and nothing was coming up.

Except for a two bedroom house my sister-in-law’s parents had coming available in Nanaimo just as my daughter and I would be exiting the Victoria apartment.

But that last Victoria residence, our apartment, was where our fondest memories are kept. It was full of single parents and low income families. We were happy there, neighbours helping each other with child care, and bonding together as a tight community. It was across the street from Beacon Hill Park. My daughter and I could walk out our door, cross the street, and have all of Beacon Hill Park and that great stretch of waterfront at our fingertips. Or we could take a walk down streets lined with great old trees and character homes and be downtown in the heart of the harbour in ten minutes. My daughter’s school was a three minute walk away.

And although I have lived in Nanaimo for most of my adult life, from the age of eighteen, whenever I go to Victoria  – it’s only a one and half hour drive away- I feel as if I’m being embraced by the dearest of an old favourite aunt. It feels like I’m coming home.

This feeling is the same for my daughter.

Recently she visited from her home in Kimberley, located in the Rockies of B.C., with her one and half year old daughter, my first grand baby. A visit to Victoria is on the list of things she wants to do.

Spending the day walking through the park, my baby with her baby, seeing these two together, I could see my daughter once again as the little girl she was with me, remembering our life here, my own youth, my young daughter at my side where together we once had spent so much time, climbing the rocky shoreline over looking the ocean and out towards Port Angeles in the United States.

A little melancholic, our past Victoria life flickered briefly before me as I watched my daughter with her daughter, for those few years when it was just she and I.

 

Becoming Grandparent

Seeing my daughter’s belly grow awakens memories of her and I when we were both young. When I was 22 and she was newborn, when we were beginning the early years of our development. New mother, new baby. Sharp learning curve. If only I knew then what I know now. Then, I didn’t fully grasp the trajectory of my role as mother, I only knew I was a young single woman with a child. We were a pair, her and I, with a close bond.

But I was ill prepared for what I was embarking on. I worked to keep us off welfare. And it’s true in hind site only do I recognize I struggled in keeping us housed, clothed and fed without really identifying with the fact I was struggling, because I suppose I was ignorant, which perhaps I misinterpreted as being happy. A false sense of bliss? No, I believe I was happy. And things seemed to work out in a slip shod way. God looks after children and fools.

It was a bumpy ride. No doubt about that.

I do wish I had slowed down and savored that era a bit more deeply.  A regret that chafes. To have fully understood and embraced my role as mother. I do wish I had had the steely determination to have focused on a career too. To be fair I did attempt, but was met with financial limitations. I just wish I had been a stronger woman, stronger mother.

But that was then and we survived. More than survived, we have thrived.

This is now. I’m going to be a grandmother in a couple of months. I’m getting used to those words, those good words, although I still feel like a twenty-something in my head. I am taking what I didn’t know then but knowing full well now to appreciate what the significance this new role, this new era of my life, will hold. I see my daughter in a different place than where I was at 22.

Maybe because she’s 36. She has a mid-wife, and a Doula, a home with a partner. More prepared than I ever was. Like a grown up. She’s a strong woman, she’ll be an excellent mother.

And I wonder is this what becoming a grandparent gifts us with? I have to say it’s not without some bittersweetness. What I would give to do over again. These saturated feelings of anticipation, excitement, joy, awareness, of bringing a human into the world. But now it’s her turn, my daughter. And I vicariously get that second chance.

I think this is what becoming a grandparent gifts us with.

 

 

 

Summer Time and the Living is Busy- and Fun

The crashing aftermath of an empty, quiet house since our July company departed resonates with a small shush. Bob and I reclaim our space like water spreading back into cracks and crevices. A tiny empty nest sensation pervades, but more the satisfaction of time well spent with these family members from Ontario over the last twenty days. Ten days with my brother-in-law Dan, then a three day turn around before my step daughter Crystal and her cousin Melanie arrived for ten days. We packed on the kilometres showing all of them our beautiful west coast island home.

We covered as much as we could cram in to make their trip memorable, driving out to Long Beach on the Pacific Rim, walking across the Kinsol Trestle,in Shawnigan, Sail boating on our little Auklet, backyard BBQ’s. We did Alpine walks in Paradise Meadows at Mount Washington along with a ride up that mountain on the ski lift. We swam in the Nanaimo river, took in the Sand Sculptures in Parksville, and the weekend blast of our cities Bathtub Race. We took them on the tiny Mill Bay ferry over to Buchart’s Garden in Brentwood Bay on the Saanich Peninsula and a tour through the capital city Victoria.

Ah, Victoria yes, walking the historic downtown with Bob and his brother Dan, pointing out the architecture, when what I thought was a gush of water from an overhead flower box -Victoria is known for its flowers-was in fact the faecal bombing of a passing seagull. Oh yes, the splat landing square on top of my head. Feel the seeping into the hair if you will. In all my years living along the ocean with  seagulls wheeling overhead have I ever had such a magnificent soaking. This prompted an immediate return to our motel, driving with all windows down because the high piercing reek of rotten fish permeating the car, and a jump into the shower.

I handled it well. Laughed, didn’t lose my cool. I took it as an omen of good fortune. Ya. (wait it has to be a bald eagle I think…)

Then there was the exhilarating drive following the dictates of our Google Maps when searching for the quickest route back from the Saanich Peninsula to Mill Bay, rather than taking the tiny ferry back across  the inlet or driving back through Victoria and over the Malahat. Google guided us around Mount Finlayson on its thin roads with hairpin turns until at last depositing us down into Goldstream Provincial Park . Close enough.

We were good hosts and ambassadors to our guests and had a ton of fun being tourists ourselves in our own backyard.  Bob and I promising ourselves  we need to continue exploring this big island for ourselves instead of waiting for company to come.

Signage at the top of Mt. Washington, a Whiskey Jack on top of top of the world. These birds are ridiculously, fearlessly social. Put a hand out and they will land on it. Have food in your hand and they are your new best friend.

 

The view dropping over the edge of the top of Mt Washington riding the ski lift.

 

The reaction of a flat lander when the earth drops from under you on the way down from the top of Mt. Washington. It’s OK she was fine the rest of the way.

 

Day at the Kinsol Trestle in Shawnigan.

 

Choosing a route at Paradise Meadows in the Sub-Alpine.

 

Open Meadows of the sub- alpine.

 

The Buchart’s Gardens, well a small section of it. It’s huge, took 31/2 hours to walk its entirety.

 

Swimming in our local river, a first ever river swim for our guests. It was splendid.

 

A must-stop at Ellis River en route to Tofino and Long Beach.

 

Long Beach at sunset. A young woman heading for the surf. One day by gum I’m gonna do that.

 

Dan at Long Beach, contemplating leaving Ontario winters and moving West perhaps.

 

One of several Sand Sculptures at Parksville.

 

Our famous, and this year most treacherous in sixty years due to extreme conditions, Nanaimo Bathtub Race!

 

Warrants two photo spots in my blog. Bone crushing for both tubber and their escort boat. 33 tubs entered and only 4 finished. Last one taking 5 hours to come in. Thanks to a local -unknown to me- photographer for these shots I pulled from our little island community fb page.

 

Another day closed, but we head into town for some music from my sons new band playing at a local pocket cocktail bar called The Nanaimo Bar with Crystal and Melanie ~

 

Kootenay Dogs Life

Into my second week in Kimberley which means I am now dog sitting daughter Roo’s two Rugnuts, a.k.a. her Chihuahuas Dexter and the younger Jackson, (or should it be Jackson the Younger?) while she and CJ take their Babymoon in Puerto Vallarta and while she can still comfortably fly and stand the heat, or at this time of year in Mexico the humidity, which as she texted me yesterday is muggy, muggy, muggy!

The pooches have been very well-behaved contrary to what we were expecting. We braced for LOTS of barking from 2-year-old Jackson being that last year when we were here Bob couldn’t so much as shift in his chair, let alone stand up without Jackson going Baaallistic. Ear splitting barks. The worst kind. Dexter is 8 and has mellowed well. When Roo got him as a pup while working up in Northern Manitoba (not the usual place to find a desert breed!) he was bundled and packed off everywhere she went no matter the weather. He’d be swaddled up warm in a back pack with his head sticking out the top when she went snowshoeing or in a sweater and off leash on spring back country hikes. Turned him into a pretty cool little guy. Jackson still needs work.

We (dogs and I) get out for one long walk or two shorter walks (morning/afternoon) each day on one of the many great walking/hiking trials that are part of the extensive trail system weaving  and winding all over the Kimberley- Marysville mountain area and, oh so conveniently, there is one such trail just outside this door. We only need to walk a few steps that puts us on a wooded path leading into a not too dense pine forest with well-marked trails.

There is also the Trickle Creek Golf Course adjacent to these woods and directly behind the condos and some of these wooded trails meet up with some of the paved paths on the course. The course is closed at the moment so it’s all right to walk it with the dogs, and so many times we’ll start out in through the woods and segue onto the golf course, a great work-out walk by the way due to the very hilly terrain, It’s in the mountains after all! The dogs love it, they get all that nervous energy out of their system. Mostly applies to Jackson.

As a consequence of  the daily hikes, and puffing up the long inclines, I’ve noticed a drastic improvement in my stamina in just this short time. When I first arrived just last week and went on a long walk I was very noticeably winded very quickly, now I notice my breathing isn’t nearly as labored and my legs keep a nice steady gait even up those slopes! Bob says it might be the altitude that was making me winded, and while ascending to  3,670 feet in Kimberley from Vancouvers 269 feet, there may be some affecting circumstances but I would venture isn’t the only reason, being out of shape is. Bless his heart anyway.

Dexter, Let’s go!

Oh and  I should clarify, Jackson is actually a Chihuaweenie or is it Chaweenie? Anyway part Chihuahua, Dachshund and Alarm system.

Quarantine

There are always two sides to every decision, pro’s and con’s, and when my 91 year old mom had to move into a full care facility last summer it was no different. In her new place she would be cared for 24 hours a day and my sister and I could feel a little less concerned about her being alone on her own at night, the upside to group residential care. All of the stress we all went through over the last few years with our mom was greatly lessened, although it was difficult to see her lose her independence. But mom did adapt to her new surroundings with her sense of humor intact, and some of her personal belongings to make her room quite homey.

With the winter season all residents got a flu shot and even still 12 folks came down with the virus, my mom one of them. The procedure for that is lock down. Fortunately my mom has a cell phone so at least we could keep in daily communication with her while she’s confined to her room.  She greatly misses our thrice weekly drives and lunch outings and my sisters evening visits, but she knows it’s a matter of time to get over it and soon enough would no longer be in her words Hog Tied. It’s into the third week.

Now today we get news that the doctor took a swab from my mom to check on her persistent cough and although she feels good and has energy they tell us she has  HA-MRSA, a.k.a. the super bug. She has been fighting urinary tract infections for several years in which antibiotics were frequently prescribed and then with this last flu outbreak was given more antibiotics. Is it any wonder?

Enter the down side of group residential care. It’s a virulent soup for the prone. When she lived on her own she was never sick.

So now it’s serious lock down but only for her. The other residents are free to come out of their rooms. She is highly contagious, the nurses must “suite up” to care for her we’re told. We’re told it will be one month before they can lift her quarantine, even if the new antibiotics seems to work. The only way to visit her is to stand outside her window and have our conversations over our cell phones.

But that is better than not seeing her at all.

 

 

 

Reflection

fullsizeoutput_1757So we soon close another year. It has been one hell of a time, and I wish that meant it had been so great, but this isn’t the case. There feels to be a shredded wake stretching out behind me.

Seeing 2016 close means leaving the year that I was last in the company of my brother, the year I was with him, talking to him, spending time with him, before dying of cancer. He won’t be in this new year.

It has been a year rife with friends passing in early mid-life from cancers, a co-worker who died in her sleep with what was thought to be a simple virus, another young chef co-worker suffering a coronary, spending a month in a coma and now re-learning how to make toast. His memory of his small children nearly wiped out. Another musician friend struck with the same type of attack while working in Edinburgh.

It was a year of watching and being with my mom in the hospital for three months go through some terrible heart wrenching episodes, of moving her out of her own place of independence, then moving her twice more and finally into a full care facility.

Then the seemingly endless string of beloved celebrities that left us.

I seem to recall a feeling of trepidation on the threshold of 2016, something ominous about to happen. It seems my premonitions were correct. As a final salty rub in the wound, the looming political horizon.

I am not a doomsday, pessimistic personality. I don’t look for tragedy or drama. Yet there is no mistake the reality of the last 12 months. These events happened and it was painful. And I have no desire to gloss over. To see the cheery side. It was a dark year.

So I am reflecting, which is what we do at this time, but not without also offering gratitude. And I do. But I can’t yet put into words what for.

For witnessing the strength of the spirit in all who were struck down and in those left standing whose hearts were pierced? For presence? Yes I think so, I think that comes close. Maybe sometimes presence is enough. Mind-full presence.

So I am embracing the hardship of 2016 as a mother tightly holds a fitful angry child until the fight leaves him. Then releasing with unconditional love and hope for a brilliant new sunrise.

 

 

 

A deep breath and carry on

Ok it’s been an emotional time, beginning many months back. While attending our mother through her hospital ordeal and her moving etc. over the last year, my brother was quietly attending to a tumor that took possession of his liver. It won on September 8th. He would’ve been 65 in November.

This culminated in some deep introspection with the grief of mourning my second brother to be taken by cancer. My father too in 2003.

It brought up feelings about family, about fulfilling a life, and brought home what it means to say Life Is Too Short. Because it is.

But with this reality there also must come license to do the thing, go to the places, be your best self, blossom, because there is an end here; the one certain thing for all of us. Grief has given me a greater appreciation for my time here and the people who are still here with me.

So head up, eyes clear, heart full, it’s time to get back on the horse  ~

 

 

During this time ~

During this time~ my husband and I crossed a milestone of 25 years of marriage. Our original wedding rings were silver native art works, and over time the engravings of Salmon and Raven had etched away and my husbands ring was so thin it split. So new Native Art bands of gold to carry us another 25 years were quietly exchanged ~

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During this time ~ my brother succumbed to liver cancer and passed away on the morning of September 8th.

Carry on

Well, that was a hiatus-unintentional, but somehow I think my mind decided it needed some time away from transcribing events for a bit. The “mom/elder care” stuff had to sift down and settle into a nice, neat pillow of contentment and ease, which it has since she has moved into extended care a month ago. I think I was bracing for more turmoil due to the move and so couldn’t relax to write; waiting for the next upheaval, upset, or meltdown. But it didn’t come and shows no signs of pending.

And  while it is heart wrenching when she asks about where her home is, and why can’t she go there and asking us, is this where I am going to live? For how long? She has gently come to understand that this is how it is now.

We have gotten her another iPhone too, since hers had gotten tampered with and broken while she was in the hospital two months ago. We didn’t feel we should replace it then because she really wasn’t doing well, and figured she wouldn’t remember how to use it anymore. But since leaving the hospital she’s back to her old self (well, she is 90), and had asked where her phone was.

My sister then resurrected her i4 and gave it to her. This lasted a couple of weeks before it was put through the laundry by housekeeping (who would think to look in a 90 year olds pocket for an iPhone?) so I brought my i3 out of the drawer and handed it over to my brother-in-law who installed a new SIM card and she’s back in business. My sister also bought a strap-on holder to go on the arm of moms wheelchair. No more wash-day mishaps.

We all still do continue to visit her as before and go on outings, but it does feel good to be able to call her when I’m not traveling up to visit, and she doesn’t feel disconnected from us knowing she can call anytime. It also carries with it some autonomy for her, and something to tinker with during the day.

My shoulders have lowered into their relaxed state and I’m breathing deeper ~

 

 

Round About

We’ve come full circle and as life is certainly a beautiful thing it is also ironic.

In our effort to have our mom moved from up island down to mid island so to be closer to us, her children, we in six months:

Searched out and found new mid-island accommodations in an Assisted Living complex right next door to my sister, prepared her mentally for her relocation, organized the move, garage sales, packing, putting things in storage, sold her car, set up her new apartment, helped her settle in and become acquainted and comfortable with her new surroundings. One month later-boom-in the hospital for moderate complications, which then developed into more complex issues, 3 falls, 2 behavioral melt downs, my sister, brother and I taking shifts to be with her every day for what became a three month hospital stay, advocating for her care, meeting with hospital liaisons, watching her status change from Assisted Living to Full Care in what seemed like no time, then having to move all her things out of the Assisted Living apartment she had recently moved into and put her household back again into storage, then waited for her placement in a full care facility, up Island.

What just happened?

She could afford the private assisted living at $3,000 a month but wouldn’t be able to afford private full care at $7,000 a month, if she could then she would’ve stayed at the complex she was at, she would’ve picked wherever she wanted, but she must take subsidized care for a nominal cost and go where ever the health authority says there is room. And that room was back up island.

The day of the move to Trillium Lodge my brother, sister and her husband and I were with her the entire day till dinner time. She was teary at times, and scared, but the staff were rallying, encouraging and welcoming. We took her outside to tour the grounds, the gorgeous out-door courtyards and gardens that are secured and easily accessed with automatic sliding doors- a big deal for my mom, to feel she can go outside when she likes, especially now that she can scoot herself along in her wheelchair using her feet.

There was a woman playing piano as coffee and homemade cookies were served. We had called a friend of moms who lives nearby and she and her husband came and sat with us, putting mom so much more at ease.

This facility, the lodge, although it is back up in the town she initially moved from, is certainly far better than others that could have been presented. We do have the option, after two months, to ask for a different facility again that is back down mid island, but no, we don’t think so. We’ve done our best and all we could, to have her live close by us, to lessen the constant commuting; to see that she wasn’t alone. We have been committed to looking after her welfare and life quality. That will never change. But we’ve done enough. Because the last thing she needs now is yet another move. And some things are just meant to be. So we’ll let it be.

Truth is she’s in a good place, one that’s familiar to both my sister and I because we worked in nursing in this very same facility 25 years ago. We know the level of care is sincere and attentive even still. And when I called the Lodge the following day to ask how she did for her first night they reported that she slept well through the night, happily ate her breakfast, was cheery and chatted with her table companion and is still, as the day had progressed, doing just fine. No tears. So far so good.

They have a full calendar of events, a great activity staff and tons of outings, and her two room mates are engaging and social. Commuting of course will again be put back on the agenda for all of us, but we can feel all right about spacing them out a bit between my sister, brother and me. Not to be too concerned that she is left alone if one of us doesn’t make it up.

We can all relax a bit now, take some time for ourselves, not worry so much. She’ll make new friends, be busy, in good hands. In good hearts.

What a journey back to where we began.

 

Interloper

Dementia came in and brought its suitcase today. It brought its furniture and all its curios and closed the door on the outside world.

Sheathed in the skin of its host it shone through her eyes with vehement curses, it raised an arm and pushed sincerity and love from its post. Banished all that was once welcome and noble.

It filled in the recesses left there with doubt and defense, with anger. It hissed of betrayals and mocked the heart.

It pulled the shade and allowed no bid farewell.

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Ok. It was a hard day today. Hardest. A cruel appointment with this condition that I have yet witnessed. I am reeling as I sit here having come home from the hospital 2 hours ago. I am alone, but I’m all right that my husband is away working. Even though he would be holding me right now with tears in his eyes saying sincere consoling things, I need to be alone. To process. To write. This helps me sift it all through.

What started as a pleasant day devolved into banishment. All of it directed at me, all of her loses because of me. I am the villain. Hearing her speak of me as she did, turn her face away, but it was her taken over by this is what took the breath out of my lungs.

I won’t take it personally, that is ego and it has no place here, because it’s not her, it’s  not me it’s the disease. But still. It was like a hammer.

I lost her today. But maybe tomorrow she’ll be back and I’ll be reinstated to her heart.

 

 

In Care

DK Brint
DK Brint. Taken from the front entrance of  the hospital ~

Half of my days are spent at the hospital where my mother is still residing. She is still waiting to be placed. Yesterday she was moved back upstairs from the Transitions area of the hospital to the hospital’s 4th floor due to concerns over her breathing. Checked over aside from her A-Fib that was acting up they have decided to keep her there.

Better for her, while down in Transitions she experienced two falls in the last week; other patients had alerted the Care Aid that she had fallen- everyone was too busy. Luckily nothing was broken. A few days later after dinner I brought mom out of the lounge and in front of the nursing station so she could be easier watched. I talked with her Care Attendant telling her the reasons and to please keep an eye on her and I left. Between that time and when my sister arrived in the evening she found she had been put in her room, which was a private room at the far end of the hall, because she was crying too much.  The RN said to my sister that she was too busy to attend her, (what about the Care Attendant?) so moved her to her room until she could get to her. The lights were off, she was sobbing uncontrollably in her wheel chair and at risk of attempting to get up on her own- which is why the previous two falls happened.

The floor was continually short-staffed, that’s my polite version anyway. We (siblings) attend her everyday, like a tag team my brother, sister and I are with her from before lunch to the time she goes to bed. We help by monitoring her meals and feeding her- something she now needs done-by assisting her in the bathroom, by taking her outside into the courtyard for fresh air and sun. It’s very boring in a hospital, we keep her company.

Yes we admit to hovering. We are her family, she is our responsibility. And I stress that it’s important to keep vigilant, to be attentive to how the care is going. Or not going as we kept finding.

My sister and I have been Care Aides in our past, working in Extended Care Facilities. We know how it is. We’ve seen parents essentially abandoned. We are present but we don’t interfere in the normal scheduled care or attention from the staff. But will confront and inquire if there are gaps in this. We are her advocates, we know her better, we are in her corner.

 

Placement

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Leaving for the interior of BC for 2 weeks with Bob on one of his work related trips so I can visit my daughter in Kimberly meant leaving my mom in the hospital where she has spent the last 8 weeks. It meant that as she was being assessed for Extended Care and put “On the List” that there could be changes happening while I was away, that when I returned possibly she will have been moved into a Facility, and will need to brace for that emotional impact.

Mom had gone into the hospital 8 weeks ago because her pulse was racing and erratic and blood pressure was very high (we keep a BP device at her place) so my sister had called the ambulance. They got these under control after a few days and then the plan was to get her back home after she gets her strength back.

She was doing well, moving from the “Hospital” ward down to “Transitions,” a place in the hospital where they prepare you to go home, or to a “Home” if your condition changes. All was proceeding well towards mom returning to her apartment we had just moved her into in March.

Then things began to change.

The last three weeks or so she had been weaving stories about her life, a new thing she had begun to do, all pleasant but we knew them to be fantasies, like being a teacher for two years or planting the whole garden that graced the hospital courtyard we spent the sunny afternoons in. She lately began to say she was hired to look after the hospital floor she was staying on. We would tell her that she’s retired now and doesn’t have to work anymore, but she felt under obligation somehow, and we knew better than try and convince her otherwise. She would come back to “reality” and then chuckle over what she had just fantasied.

Regardless of what narrative she was outlining for herself over the previous weeks she was always cheery,  laughed, and could easily be humored. She always went with the flow.

But because of this new fantasy behavior they felt she needed to be reassessed for Complex Care and give up her Assisted Living apartment. We had to agree, so she was put on The List. Because Private Complex care is financially out of reach for her, upwards of $6,000  a month, we would have to wait for an available subsidized bed in a facility- hopefully in our town.

I should clarify that what having subsidized extended care means in Canada is that the government withdraws 80% of ones monthly income, whatever amount that may be, for the Care Facility and its amenities and that you are also bound to accepting the first bed offered – no matter where it is in a 40 kilometer radius. If the found bed is not accepted the elder is put back at the bottom of the wait list and must be re accessed again, the whole procedure taking many weeks to months. But once in a subsidized bed we do have a choice then, but only after two months in the found facility and if one is unhappy with it, to then pick another bed in the desired facility and wait until it comes available.

But that first found bed must be taken to qualify.

While I’m in Kimberley my sister was notified that a 4 bed ward room had been found in our town for mom, and my sister went to see it. Her heart sank when she saw the conditions, and asked if there could at least be a two bed room for her instead, they got back to her a few days later and said they had one.

This was better news and my sister prepared to move mom in, having 48 hours to do this-as per regulation, but sudden behavioral changes that seemed to possess my mom have been nothing short of Jekyll and Hyde. So dark, so fast. Two weeks ago Bob and I visited her the day before our departure and we walked (strolled) around the grounds had some ice cream and left her after a few hours smiling and calm.

 

And because of this new change in mom we had to forfeit the chosen bed as they have now decided she now needs to be re-evaluated, re-assessed for a placement for Aggressive Residents. I know dementia can progress alarmingly, but this was so sudden.  3 weeks ago she was pleasant, co-operative, and social. Her usual self.

I remain suspect of perhaps medications that were conflicting or wanting to blame the other two women who are fully in Alzheimer condition that shared moms room who were always devious and manipulative and at times aggressive, or even an UTI ( urinary tract infection). I still have a difficult time hearing about and accepting my moms condition.

Thinking that not much would transpire in a 2 week absence, that we would still just be waiting for a bed, turns out I had left town during the most emotionally trying time. My sister keeping me informed via texts and phone calls and shouldering the weight of the turmoil, my brothers helping her where they could, and me fretting on the other end. Mom has now been moved into a private room and will stay in the hospital until they can stabilize her behavior and until another placement can be found.

Bob and I will be home in a few days, and although I have tried to stay focused and enjoy the time with my daughter and all the activities we’ve done, I’ve been mentally preparing myself for a return to a changed parent, and the following stages of a long goodbye~

 

 

 

 

Being There

Sunset over Vancouver Isalnd 2016 D.K Brint
Sunset over Vancouver Isalnd 2016 D.K Brint

If you’re not up on the current stream of my life a large part of it is involved in the care for my 90-year-old mother who presently is in the hospital because of strong chest pains, blood pressure and pulse through the roof. Five days in now and those vitals have leveled out, so good.

10 years ago I never would have thought that caring for an elderly parent would be so all-consuming. 5 years ago I got a clearer picture.

Always thinking of her well-being, is she depressed and sad, does she seem more confused, the ongoing aches and pains and how to alleviate them, finding a suitable residence, the adjustment and settling (or not) in, will she ever feel comfortable in her new place, is she sleeping through the night and if not is she safe, taking care of her finances and ensuring she can live where we have moved her, how are the nursing staff doing with her, is everything getting done, getting to appointments with the doctor, making sure she is getting enough physical exercise, it goes on.

And because I have a tremendously involved sister it is a shared responsibility which is a good thing.

There is little room it seems for anything else.  My husband is working hard too and soon will be away for work for a period of time, and making space for us has been a struggle at times. He has been so supportive and understanding and accompanies me when he can when I do go to mom’s; he enjoys her and loves to see her, but also confesses that if he wants to spend time with me he needs to come along.

I am not complaining, I need to write it out. And it’s my life right now. I do try to fit in some quiet personal time where I can find it – I recognize better now when I’m reaching saturation point, and take steps to defuse.

And I know this sounds corny and high horse but I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

 

Hello out there

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Ok, it’s been a stressful and very busy time in my world lately moving mom into an assisted living complex, cleaning out her former home and having her garage sale over the last weekend, and concentrating on how she is settling in- which has been a little bumpy, but we’re optimistic she’ll come to accept her new apartment…hopefully… soon. That was a long sentence.

To be honest? At this point I want 2 weeks in Maui.

Please.

 

 

New Digs

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Making the decision on behalf of another that will directly affect them is not easy. This is an intersection I and my siblings have approached last year (and the year before) when we thought we had better initiate the call of finding a place for our mom to move into that would put her in closer proximity to us and where she can continue receiving care. Now it is come down to definite action. 

So. Here we are – two weeks after I initially began writing this post- and I’m very happy, and relieved, to say my mom has moved!

She is in a fantastic Assisted Living facility with her own private apartment with a patio, with the added advantage that she is also two blocks from my sister and her husband.

We had looked at Assisted Living Private Care versus Government Subsidized, we crunched numbers to a pulp to ensure that her finances would be sufficient to go with Private Care for the time being because this option would give her a one bedroom, one bathroom suite with kitchenette rather than the fully subsidized suite option of a studio suite- which is just a room with a bed and a bathroom.

We asked questions about enlisting a care aide to escort mom to and from the dining room due to her onset of dementia, and an aide to assist her in her morning and evening care and with her bathing -yes, yes, all her personal care can be arranged through the Health Authority Subsidy with that cost at $21.a day.

So this means mom pays a full rent for her own suite that includes all utilities and great meals in the dining room augmented with Government Subsidized Care for her personal needs.

– insert a sigh here –

We began all this in early February and this last two weeks has been nothing short of hectic and emotionally draining, which is why I haven’t had the gumption or time to write a post. Until 4:30 this morning.

Now it’s 6 am and feeling like I could sleep a bit, do I crawl back to bed for another hour or so? There is still so much to do in the next two weeks to prepare the townhome for listing, garage sales, to settle mom in and help her get accustomed to the new surroundings-will my mind be quite enough for me to sleep?

But my husband has come downstairs and begins to make coffee, and the birds are up too, singing to a rising sun~

If we were having coffee (#Weekend Coffee Share)

If we were having coffee you too would have stopped mid-sip and we would lock eyes because we just heard that today is National Sword Swallowing Day as was just announced on the CBC radio program I am listening to this morning.

Apparently it’s a tradition on the wane.

Well, who knew.

So anyway, today I will be jumping in my boat and heading to town soon to my mom’s place up island. She will be meeting with the people who will be moving her to her new sweet suite in the next few days. Can I get a Hallelujah?

This service is supplied by the Assisted Living Village and once the move date is set the action begins. They pack and unpack, AND hang all art work etc. all in one day- and that is fantastic.

The move is a big transition for all concerned, of course, but will have so many benefits for all concerned too, finally having her in our neck of the woods. No more long drives up and back.

Mom and Bob 2016

Seems many my age have stories of “moving a parent.” I see and hear them everywhere. Stands to reason, there are sooo many Boomers out there doing exactly what I’m doing right at this time too.  A zeitgeist perhaps?

It’s the opposite end of the spectrum of a young parent meeting other young parents with small children. Kind of. You share experiences good and bad and talk of challenges rife with concerns, worries, and conflicts.

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SO I’ll let you go cause it is the weekend and I know you have a lot to do, getting outside to make the most of this (almost) spring day. Here on the West coast we have some sun and the birds have come back from winter, a welcome sound!

Enjoy your day~ 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Lifted

12744234_10153783486180733_3552159732958383054_nJust polishing the family silver Daahhlink.

My husband brought these pieces home a few years ago after his parents passed away. Heavily tarnished and dark I put them away up in a cupboard and forgot about them.

Then one day I pulled them out thinking we might as well use the sugar bowl at least- you know what they say, don’t save the good china for only special occasions- silver in my case, you may die with regret otherwise.

I took out a cleaning solution I had under the kitchen sink and began rubbing the surface and it brightened beautifully. I came around the other side of the bowl and realized there was an inscription there so faint under the tarnish. I scrubbed to reveal the following, “Groot Hotel Berg en Dal.”

Intriguing.

I went to the computer and began searching for this place and literally spent the entire afternoon trying to find any information on this Hotel. All the articles were not in English which didn’t help. Eventually I did find a photo on Ebay, and discovered that it was in the Netherlands. Bob seemed to think, from stories his dad told, that this might have been the place where the service men were sent for time off from the fight; a place to relax and rest up before going back to the front again, but reading up on a few mere scant articles that were in English written by war vets recounting their times, this Hotel seemed to be in the area that was in the thick of the fighting. So either my father-in-law was there and swept through the hotel and took a souvenir or someone else did and gave it to him later.

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So as I again just recently gave these pieces a spruce up with a rag and cleaner I thought I’d share their story. I then also found when I turned them over to see if in fact they were silver, I discovered they are not. They are a good quality silver plate.

The company B.Bohrmann was founded in 1871 and according to the article I found the numbers on the right is the year it was made, the numbers on the left are unknown. So I can ascertain that the sugar bowl and creamer are from 1906.

So that’s the great story of our family silver (plate)!

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It Takes a Village

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Because I live on a rock that I share with about 300 others, you get to know its people. Many I’ve known for over 20 years, others more recent. For me this is the longest duration in one community in my entire life – in California we moved several times: Garden Grove, Tustin, Santa Ana, Huntington Beach, and this continued when we relocated to Vancouver Island.

Landing here on this tiny Gulf Island I remember saying to my new husband (that would be Bob) that I have no intention of leaving. Of course this was after experiencing the grunting work of loading cars and boats with my things and barging across the waters to off load, then reload onto a truck to the final destination of Bobs house. Then off load. I ain’t doing that again, I think is what I mumbled under my breath. Little did it sink in then that this in fact would be a constant way of life. Hauling things. But I’m good with it now.

So this is home and I am surrounded by people who know me. They know my children. Our story.

And I know some of theirs, when someone gets married, when there is a new baby, when someone falls on hard luck, the fundraiser events. But because I’ve been working so much out of the home for many years these events have been more on the periphery of my scope. Acknowledgement, appreciation, yes – but also a little taken for granted.

Until now. Living in this community the more I am awakened to the profundity of it, the depths it reaches into what it means to know your neighbour, to be a part of this tiny part of humanity.

She was a gardener, taking care of others’ plants and flowers, she and her partner working together on landscaping jobs for about 15 years here and she passed away. She was in her 50’s and died of Lung Cancer a few days ago. And when I mentioned this one evening to a friend how many neighbours have passed my friend said, It’s our age. She said, there were three people in my condo on my floor that had died within a few years of each other.

I thought about what she said, but it wasn’t the same.

It was then that I realized what it is I am a part of here.  At that moment I came to fully understand the connectedness that resides here, what it means to be a supportive community, to BE IN a community. I realized how far on the sidelines I have dwelled.

It was an epiphany.

Because when I see Anne I can remember her husband, and see Liz and remember her husband, and see Pat and remember her husband, and see Veronica and remember her husband,  and see Keith and remember his wife, and see Shannon and remember her daughter, and when I see Dan I can remember his partner. And because I can see my neighbours navigating catastrophic life changes and doing the wrenching work of carrying on, of salving wounds. Of finding a new normal everyday.

I have newfound respect and even a reverence that wasn’t so present before as a resident here. Of what Home means, and Connection.