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.