Everybody’s Got Something

I thought it was Gilda Radner who said, “Everybody’s got something,” but after a quick look at Google, I discovered that this saying is the title of Robin Roberts’s latest memoir.

“Regardless of how much money you have, your race, where you live, what religion you follow, you are going through something. Or you already have or you will. As momma always said, “Everybody’s got something.” ~Robin Roberts

Robin Roberts’s momma, Lucimarian Roberts, was right, and she was a wise woman. None of us is immune to the trials of being human.

If your life is going swimmingly and you feel on top of the world, rest assured, that will change eventually. You may have to deal with the loss of someone dear to you, depression, financial struggles, job insecurities, substance abuse, after-effects of trauma, a shattered relationship…the list is endless. But the converse is also true: if you are going through a really awful period in your life right now, tie a knot and hang on tight: things will eventually change.

I am taking time to reflect on some experiences I’ve gone through in the past couple of years. When I look back at my private journals, I see evidence of God’s fingerprints all over my life. I have journaled about prayer concerns. Many of them have been resolved, some in ways I would not have chosen, but they have turned out okay. I keep a card in my daily devotional magazine that I received from the alumni director at my dad’s college when I wrote her to inform her of his death. It says,

“God is our REFUGE and strength,

an ever-present

help in trouble.”

~Psalm 46:1 (NIV)

I have found that to be true.

I am also reminded of some verses I read in the Gospel of Mark (chapter 9) just this morning, in a passage where a man brings his son to Jesus.  He says, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid.” (Sounds like symptoms of epilepsy to me.) I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

To which Jesus replies, with a hint of exasperation in his voice, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

Scripture records that “they” brought the boy to Jesus. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at he mouth.

Jesus, I sense speaking with compassion, asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

The father replies, “Since childhood. It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. but if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

“IF I can?” Jesus responds. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

The father instantly exclaims, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:17-24)

I will leave it to you to read the rest of this story. Yesterday in a Skype session with an author who is writing a book for us, the author pointed to this scripture passage as one that spoke to him deeply as a teenager. Maybe that’s a prayer we all need to pray:
“Lord, I believe. Help the parts of me that don’t believe.”

Here are some situations I’ve been praying about in the past 3 months. God has answered some of my prayers; other situations remain the same. As I’ve heard it said, waiting is the hardest part. But it’s also encouraging to see how many prayers were answered.

January 13

Friend of a friend–Cousin’s child was having seizures and was life-flighted to Vanderbilt. (Update 2/15: Friend reported the child had recovered.)

Same friend’s mom and dad–Both are having serious health problems. The mom was diagnosed with several new health conditions, including diabetes, and the doctor said there was basically nothing he/she could do for her. The dad had much pain in his spine and arthritis in his lower back. Pain management and epidural shots weren’t working. A bad knee was preventing him from driving. As of the first week of March, he has improved and is more mobile. The mom’s situation is not good and probably won’t ever be.

Prayers for my friend as she provides care for her mom and dad. She has had to quit her job, and she has three children. Also dealing with a relative with a brain injury who is undergoing occupational therapy for life skills. I pray for strength for this friend. She gets overwhelmed at times but keeps her faith. Once a week she is able to get out and go to a Bible study.

Prayers for my husband as he awaits surgery on Jan. 20 (and as the doctor’s office ran into snags trying to get his surgery approved by insurance). Update: The surgery was approved, and John came through it well.

February 15

God, help John to continue to heal from his surgery. Thanks for the progress he’s made so far.

Lord, help my high school friend who has a rare form of skin cancer. She’s miserable. Give her some relief and reassurance of your presence.

Prayers for safe travels and comfort as my yoga teacher and her boyfriend travel to Indiana for her boyfriend’s cousins funeral.

Prayers for safe travels for us and all family members going to Weber City, VA, for my uncle’s 95th birthday celebration. Thanks for his long life and how he has touched others!

Special comfort for a dear friend who has just lost her mother…be present with her during visitation with family and friends and as her mother is buried tomorrow. Prayers for her comfort and a sense of your love and peace surrounding her.

February 22

Lord, be with our next-door neighbors. He was just diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, and doctor said he has about 5 years to live. She has a 99-year-old mom who is still in good health and lives alone, but that situation weighs on her. She also has a tough relationship with her brother and is caring for two grandkids. God, please sustain this woman and give her encouragement. Show us how we can help.

Other next-door neighbor: We’ve had a difficult relationship with her over the years. Help us to be sweet and kind to her when we see her. She must be lonely.

A young couple on our street who have a new baby.

One of my friend’s sister’s family…her sister had a baby in January who was born with retinal cancer. Praying for successful treatment for this tiny baby who is already on chemo. What a tough way to start out in life. God, surround her parents with peace, strength, and love.

Our children–help them make wise decisions about their love lives, finances, close friendships, and jobs.

John–Continued healing. Please help his pain. Give us discernment about what to do regarding retirement and building apartments on our house. Help me to be cooperative with him and refrain from criticism.

Our country. Show me how to respectfully resist when the current president seems bent on destroying US relationships with other countries, bans immigrants from particular countries, when some cabinet members and other agency heads seem to directly oppose the areas/agencies which they are responsible (education, environment, for example). And healthcare. Oy vey. We need divine intervention there. The current Affordable Healthcare Act has many problems, but what I hear about the replacement plan/repeal sounds even worse. God help President Trump. I could start by praying that you’d give him a heart. (Guess I’m being critical here. Help me to live with heart.)

February 27

Prayers for my friend Jim as he heals from a recent procedure that left him very weak. He is having a liver biopsy on Mon., March 13.

Prayer of the name: I lift up to you Donald J. Trump.

Prayers for my high school friend’s son, who has serious GI problems. Help them to find relief. He is only 21 and is unable to work or go to school because of this condition.

March 15

President Trump is coming to Nashville today. Prayers for our city. Prayers for safety for all involved in the Trump rally and for the protesters (my son included) who show up to peacefully demonstrate.

March 17

Prayers for my friends Kent & Penny

My friend Linda (3/16 birthday) and her daddy, who has cancer

Praise you, God, for Jim’s good report from his liver biopsy. Praise you for his 80th birthday and the celebration we are having tonight. Continue to sustain him & his family as they live with his wife’s dementia.

Healing prayers for my friend Marti’s partner, who broke her ankle recently and has broken her back and compressed vertebrae several times. They are going on vacation next week. May this be a time of rest and healing for all involved…and give them patience with teenage twins!

Doug, that he will be happy with new job.

Doug and his partner Frank…and all the gay couples I know. Legislation is before the Tennessee assembly to ban same-sex marriage, or at least not recognize it as valid marriage. The legislation defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. Lord, I don’t understand why we are revisiting this territory after the Supreme Court ruling a couple of years ago.

Prayers for those affected by the U.S. House Resolution on education, especially its implication for special education and the many areas where we will go backwards…I pray this bill will not pass. Show me how I can respond effectively. Jim Cooper, our representative from the 5th district, will vote against it.

Well, those are just a few of my prayer concerns from the past 3 months. I believe in the saying “Take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there.” I also believe in putting feet to my prayers, so I ask God to show me how he would have me respond to various situations. Still pondering a lot of this.

I am going on a silent retreat (overnight) next week. I hope to gain clarity and hear God’s voice about several situations in my life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Journey No One Wants to Take

The Journey No One Wants to Take

Since my dad died in October 2016, I have been reminded that I am on a journey. Grief is a journey that we don’t want to take, but everyone has to embark on it at one time or another, if he or she lives long enough.

Now that my second parent has died, I feel adrift, as if if my moorings have come loose. Sometimes my grief expresses itself in not being able to concentrate. At other times, I feel impatience and rage as I’ve never felt them before. For instance, I have recently gotten really angry at people who do stupid stuff in traffic—like the pedestrian who jaywalks in front of me at dusk and yells at me (to which my response was to roll down my window and yell back, “I couldn’t SEE you!”—also wanting to say, “You moron!). Or the driver who sees a traffic accident that just happened and stops his car in front of me rather than using his turn signal and pulling over to the side of the street (or at least turning on his hazard lights). I got uncharacteristically angry at such an incident earlier this week, and I thought about yelling at the STUPID person who DARED to stop his car without warning … and then I remembered, “Wait, he is wanting to help. But what an IDIOT! How does he expect me to read his mind? Not to mention that it’s dark, and the other two lanes of traffic were already blocked by the accident, and now he’s blocking my way home, and I am driving in my new (to me) car and could have hit him, and all these other cars are slowing down…and…

Something deeper is going on inside. I am raging because I miss my dad. And my mom. And the family we used to be. Sure, my mom died way back in 1991 when I was 32, but the death of my dad has stirred up that old grief that never completely healed.

I am doing strange things.First is the absent-mindedness. I have misplaced several items, such as my prescription sunglasses (which went missing for nearly 2 weeks), my water bottle (I left it in a bathroom at church), and most recently my Starbucks gold card, which unfortunately tI just reloaded this week. It’s maddening to have to retrace my steps and figure out where I might have left something.

I’ve been reading booklets on grief, which I never thought I would do, but they make me feel better because they reassure me I am not going crazy. I haven’t dreamed about my dad since he died. That is different from the way I experienced grief over my mom’s death. I have been having dreams about being left somewhere by someone dear to me. Maybe that’s a sign I feel abandoned.

Sometimes in choir I will sing a line of a hymn or an anthem, and the words get to me. A wave of grief washes over me, and I think I will drown. Tears spring to my eyes.

Not long ago I found the obituary I’d written for my dad, and I rewrote it. Now what good is that going to do, more than 4 months after his death? I was so dissatisfied with the obituary I’d written. It reported just the facts and didn’t give a sense of the kind and loving person my dad was. Here is some information that I left out of the obituary: My dad was an avid gardener. My mother always called him “p-tic” (meaning particular), and he was indeed a stickler for details. He had trouble fixing things, and I think it frustrated him to no end.

He was careful, but  not miserly, with his money. He was generous with his love and attention, and he generously shared his time, talents, and love to help others. Daddy served as volunteer treasurer of the Clinch Valley Baptist Association  for more than 22 years. He was a member of the Canton (NC) Civitan Club and was  their treasurer for a few years after he moved there in 1994 at age 71.

He was a night owl. As a teenager, I loved sitting up with him at night at our kitchen table as I did my homework and he paid bills and balanced his checkbook (to the penny). Whenever I entered a room where he was (at home, at the hospital, or at his assisted living and later nursing home), he lit up and smiled at me as if I had just made his day by my mere presence with him.

A week or two ago, I started sleeping with a teddy bear that belonged to my daughter when she was young. Somehow having this small symbol of love at my back while I sleep helps me feel a little better. On nights that I have trouble sleeping, I just hug that little green bear and think about my dad.

My dad always had my back. Last week I listened to a voicemail he’d left on my phone in June 2016. Daddy had called to see how I was feeling because I’d missed work the day before. That is so characteristic of him.

Today I was reading a meditation on grief titled “Death Never Takes a Holiday.”* One of our Upper Room Books authors, Richard L. Morgan, mailed me the book when he found out about my dad. It’s been sitting on my desk for months, and I finally opened the book. “Grief is awkward and uncomfortable,” I read. Yep. “The word grief means ‘heavy.’ It may well be the heaviest weight a person must bear. Death is the unwelcome intruder that stole your loved one and robbed you of love and joy. Life will never be the same.” Yes, that’s certainly true.

The meditation ends with a prayer: “Lord Jesus, you were acquainted with grief. You wept aloud when your friend Lazarus died. We feel so bereft and alone without our loved one, but you have a part in this sorrow that tears our heart.”

In another booklet titled Experiencing Grief (this one a gift from my church), I found this wisdom: “In a sense, grieving is actually  a show of faith. We are trusting God to hold us in our most vulnerable time, when our feelings are raw, our life is in pieces, and our strength is gone. If that isn’t faith, I’m not sure what is.”**

Whew. It’s okay for me to feel this bereft, even though I know in my heart that my dad is with God. It is comforting to know that Jesus understands how I feel. Jesus knows what it means to feel bereft and alone. I can make it through this journey of grief if I lean on him.

 

*Richard L. Morgan, Meditations for the Grieving, Copyright 2005Wipf & Stock.

**Kenneth C. Haugk, Experiencing Grief, Book 2 in the Journeying Through Grief series. Copyright 2004 by Stephen Ministries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sooo tired

I know that most of us can relate to the title of this post. And today is Sunday, when I customarily take a nap.

I have taken a lot of naps lately. Mostly on the couch at night while my husband and I are watching a TV show. Even on shows that I’m interested in, I find myself “resting my eyes.” John laughs and says, “Yeah, right.” I have been so tired that I sleep through parts of my favorite shows.

Yesterday we went to see “The Wall,” a movie that’s a fantasy about The Great Wall of China; it stars Matt Damon. As soon as we got to the theater, I sensed I was in trouble. We watched the previews, and I struggled to stay engaged. Then the movie began, and … I slept. Even with a hyper 10-11-year-old sitting beside me. He and his friend kept talking and I started to tell them to shush, but suddenly I didn’t care. I fell asleep.

I woke up about 20 or so minutes into the movie. I hadn’t figured out that Matt Demon was in the movie, and I didn’t recognize him until someone told him and his companion to go clean up, that they smelled like animals. Boy, I must have been out of it, because normally he is one of my favorite actors.

So today I took a cherished Sunday afternoon nap. I wasn’t feeling well, and I conked out. About an hour later, I heard quick footsteps walking around upstairs. I looked over and John was still in bed, so I woke him (not smart) and said, “Who’s that upstairs?” It was our daughter. She had come by our house to get her computer today, even though she came by yesterday afternoon for the same reason (and forgot what she came for).

I came upstairs bleary-eyed and said, “Well, hi, what are you doing here?”

I think that part of why I am napping so much lately is that I haven’t been sleeping well at night. I have an autoimmune disorder that causes my feet to swell and skin to itch…and just general joint discomfort. On a good night, I wake up only once, go to the bathroom about 3:00 a.m., and catch about 2.5 hours more of sleep. On a bad night, I wake up multiple times or I don’t fall back asleep. One day a couple of weeks ago, it got so bad  in the midafternoon at work that I took out my yoga blanket, folded it up like a pillow, got down on the floor under my desk, and napped for about 10 minutes. I was able to focus after that. (This is the first time in my 37 years of working that I’ve actually given in and taken a nap at work.)

I think my mind and body are tired from my weird diseases but mostly from grieving over my dad. I started sleeping with my daughter’s teddy bear about 2 weeks ago, and it feels good to have it to hug. Maybe I’m grieving the empty nest (though I longed for it to get here, it hit about the same time as my dad’s decline) and my dad at the same time. Who knows. I am grateful to be able to get up every day and walk. Keep on walking; keep on moving; take a nap when your body tells you you need to. (I can always put my head down and say, “Amen” and maybe people will think I’m praying. :D) That’s my theme.

 

Monday, Monday

“Monday, Monday, can’t trust that day,” sang the Mamas and the Papas. Today I’m feeling really good about Monday because I decided to take the day off after our trip to southwest Virginia over the weekend to celebrate my uncle’s 95th birthday.

Facebook just reminded me that just 5 years ago we traveled 1,800 miles in a few days. First we headed to Jackson, MS for our daughter’s junior recital (that’s a 7-hour drive from Nashville, in the opposite direction of our ultimate destination, my uncle Paul’s 90th birthday celebration in Weber City, VA). I believe we left Nashville on Thursday,  but that was 5 years ago, so I can’t trust my memory. The FB post also said that my dad made it to my uncle’s birthday celebration. I got kind of a lump in my throat as I recalled that my cousins Joe and Catherine drove to Canton, NC to pick up Daddy and drive him here for Uncle Paul’s celebration.

Daddy didn’t make it until his 94th birthday; he died one month and one day before, on October 28, 2016. I’m sure he would have enjoyed Uncle Paul’s 95th birthday celebration had he been able to attend.

Anyway, today I am glad that I decided to take off work. I am getting much more aware of the need to take a break from work every now and then. Last year most of the days I took off were to care for John (when he had back surgery in May) or for my dad when he was in the hospital for 5 days in August. John and I didn’t go anywhere all year except for one weekend trip to Beersheba Springs, the site of our annual all-church retreat, about 2 hours east of Nashville. I remember being worried about traveling then; it was at the end of September, and I was afraid my dad would die while we were gone.

When we drove out of town December 26 for a couple of days, I felt like a bird freed from its cage. I don’t like staying in town all year. Every now and then I feel the need to fly the coop and hit the road. It’s just good to get away from the humdrum dailiness of life, relax a little, enjoy the sights of nature somewhere else, and forget about normal life for a while.

Last year was a stark contrast to 2015, when we traveled to Spain to see Julie (and had a lovely two weeks traveling around the country…this only served to whet my appetite for further trips to Spain and other places abroad). We went in March, which turned out to be a pretty chilly time to visit Spain. The weather was cold and damp for most of the time we were there (in the 50s and rainy several days). The last few days, when we were in Madrid, the temps got up into the 70s, and we finally felt like spring had arrived.

In June 2016 we traveled to Williamsburg, VA to visit my cousin Joe (and Catherine) and celebrate his birthday. We turned that trip into a minivacation, did some sightseeing around Jamestown and Williamsburg, and met a college friend and her husband for dinner.

Now, after our latest trip to see family, I am beginning to get the travel itch. Julie has spring break coming up in March, and we had talked about heading to North Carolina to visit family there, but alas, they are all busy. So Julie and I may go canoeing or do something at least one day of her spring break. She’s thinking about driving to Mississippi to see some college friends, so I may take a day off and kidnap John from his work and go somewhere.

John is recovering from neck surgery in January. He said to me sadly over the weekend, “I guess I can’t canoe anymore.” We haven’t canoed in several years, since our kids were teenagers. I’d like to get back to canoeing occasionally and horseback riding (which I’ve done only occasionally). I may have to find some friends to do that with and find tamer fare for me and John. I do have a Bucket List of places I’d like for us to visit. The trick will be lassoing him long enough to go somewhere. After all, he owns a pool and spa maintenance business, and he stays pretty busy most of the year. This may be the year I talk him into semiretirement. He turns 70 this September. Time’s a-wasting…we have miles to go and promises to keep (and lots of road trips or at least plane/rental car trips) to go on.

So this Monday is a super fine day to be off work. The temperature is supposed to get into the 70s. I have laundry to do, housework to catch up on (ah, who am I kidding? I will probably spend an hour at the most doing housework), junk to sort through and take to Goodwill, and a friend to meet for happy hour. I am glad I didn’t have to go to the office. I got up at 5:30, drank my first cup of coffee and had my morning devotion, then I felt sleepiness overtake me, and I wound up on the couch with the kitteh for about 30 minutes. Soon I headed downstairs and went to bed. I awoke at 9:30. Now, in my opinion, that’s a great way to start a Monday!

So today’s theme (in case you wondered after all my rambling) is RECHARGING. That’s what I’m doing. I think I’ll be a nicer person to be around after this lovely day off.

 

P.S. Stay tuned. One of these days I will learn how to send photos from my phone to my blog. I get impatient about wanting to post pictures immediately, and heck, who has time to try to figure out new technological things on a precious day off?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hallelujah! I Remembered My Password

Well, now. I know you have wondered, if you have ever read my blog, if my blog just dropped off the face of the earth. The truth is this:

  1. I now consider 2016 the Year of the Blur. My dad died on October 28, and most of the year was consumed with managing his care, along with my “normal” life.
  2. When I was ready to write again, I couldn’t log into WordPress. It had been so long that I had forgotten my password. I tried and tried, and then decided “The hell with this. I’ll try again later.”
  3. I have been doing a lot of mental processing and writing in my journal instead of blogging.
  4. I have decided that I will take my time to grieve the loss of my dad. It was an immense loss to me. I told my husband before Daddy died, “I may not cry too much at the funeral. But rest assured, I will be hurting. I will always remember him. I will always grieve his loss, even if I put on a happy face.

So here we are, in February 2017. Much has happened since the last time I blogged (on my weird autoimmune disorders. See The Queen of Weird Diseases if you want to know more. If you would rather skip over that, I understand. Do what you wanna do.).

As  I write this, I have tears in my eyes just thinking about my dad. It was so obvious that he needed to go. I gave him permission to die; I told him on Tuesday, October 25, “Daddy, it’s okay if you go. I’ll be all right.” That was the last time I saw him conscious. He was in bad shape after a cardiac event on August 18. He spent 5 days in the hospital, and then we moved him to rehab at a nursing home about 2 miles from our house.

When we moved him to rehab, I thought, “This is only temporary. He’ll have physical therapy, and he’ll get better.” Now, I must tell you that I am the eternal optimist. My dad was 93, almost 94 (he would have been 94 on November 29), and his health had been declining for years.

Daddy’s cardiac event (in which he was short of breath; the night nurse at his assisted living called an ambulance and Daddy was taken to the ER) resulted in his being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure, and COPD. I had seen the latter two diagnoses on some of his medical records, but it seems that no one ever really treated his symptoms. I feel bad now that when he complained that he was having trouble breathing, I minimized his symptoms, thinking he was just anxious. After all, the nurses at his assisted living place had said every time they checked his oxygen levels when he complained of shortness of breath, his numbers were in the 90s, and that was good. But when his numbers dropped to the 80s, the night nurse, Pierre, took Daddy seriously and called the ambulance).

During Daddy’s hospital stay, he was completely out of his mind. Nothing he said made much sense. He asked funny questions, and uncharacteristically, he talked nonstop from the time I got to the hospital the morning of Aug. 19 until about 1:30 p.m. on Aug. 20, when he finally fell asleep just as the medical staff were wheeling him away for a cardio-something-or-other. It’s all a blur. The social worker who came to Daddy’s room the second day of his hospitalization was someone who used to babysit my children. What a surprise! She was so kind as she pulled a list of possible places for Daddy to go for rehab. Clearly he would not be able to return to Morningside, his assisted living residence.

So there we were at Bethany Health & Rehab. Daddy started physical, occupational, and speech therapy. For a few days he made progress. Then he contracted 3 urinary tract infections in a row (he was catheterized while in the hospital), and things just went downhill from there. In one of the few times I saw him on his feet, assisted by two med techs, he said, “I’m going back to Morningside, and I’m going to start participating in more activities!” I had nagged him when he was at Morningside about getting to know people and the need for him to participate in activities there. He never was much interested in making the effort to get to know people. My dad is pretty shy, and I think he knew he didn’t have long to live when he moved to Morningside in August 2015…although I was unwilling to accept the idea of his death at that point.

I spent most of my visits with Daddy just holding his hand, talking to him about my day, things the kids (my adult children) were doing, the weather, what John was up to as manager of a pool & spa maintenance business. Some days his face would brighten up when I walked into his room. Some days he just lay there, looking at me with a tortured expression, like “How long do I have to endure this?” Many days he was sound asleep by the time I managed to get across town in rush hour traffic, and I hesitated to wake him, because he often was not comfortable while awake.

Toward the end (about the third week of September), the nurse from Bethany called me one day and said, “You know, your dad can’t seem to get a break. He is not making any progress in his therapy, although he tries hard. I think it may be time to focus on palliative care.” Sadly, I agreed. I met with the palliative care nurse one week, and a week later, she told me she thought Daddy was ready for hospice care. Again, I agreed. I felt better about hospice care because I thought Daddy would appreciate the spiritual aspect of it. I never got to talk to the primary chaplain on duty, but one chaplain who visited said his face lit up when she said the name of Jesus. That made me feel better.

During this time, when I normally would have sung hymns to Daddy, I had a bad cold that I couldn’t seem to shake. It affected my voice, and there were a couple of days I had laryngitis. So when music would have been a comfort to both me and Daddy, I was voiceless. Therefore, all I could do was sit beside his bed, hold his hand, rub his shoulder, and occasionally talk. Most of the time I was just quiet. He slept a lot. I played Words with Friends and chatted with everyone who came into Daddy’s room. Got to know some of the med techs and nurses quite well. One sweet med tech discovered after talking to me that Daddy didn’t normally have a mustache. She had shaved him and left a mustache, and I just thought it looked so funny on him. Almost Hitler-esque but it curved down around the corners of his mouth. After I told her that he didn’t usually have a mustache, she always shaved his face completely.

So then we came to the week that he died. I was there the night before he died. He was coughing and it was like waves every time he coughed…no productive cough. I was afraid he was going to choke. The nurse kept running into his room and giving him atropine drops to try to dry up some of his congestion. He was already dry from being on oxygen. The nurse had met me that night and told me Daddy’s baseline had changed drastically that day. He asked if there was anyone I needed to contact who might want to see him. He and I both knew that Daddy wouldn’t last much longer. After I was there for about an hour and a half, I decided to go home and try to rest a bit. I managed to sleep that night, and I went to work the next day. I got the phone call from the nursing home at 10:30 telling me that Daddy had just died.

It was the saddest day of my life. Even sadder than when my mom died on February 10, 1991 and I wasn’t there with her.

I am at peace with my dad’s death. He is no longer suffering. But oh, how I miss him. The other day I pulled out his billfold and looked at his driver’s license, renewed when he was 92, just before he came to Nashville to live with us for 13 months while undergoing treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia. I saw his picture and I cried. I find notes that he wrote (when he could write), and I cry. I refuse to get rid of some of his clothes, because I just want to wear them and remember Daddy. I know he is with Jesus. That thought consoles me. But oh, how my heart grieves.

Time will lessen my pain. I will get through this. But right now all I want to do is grieve, and I will let myself do that.

The Queen of Weird Diseases

The Queen of Weird Diseases

This week I have spent time at home recovering from a cryo ablation to my heart on Monday (for atrial fibrillation). Actually, it’s not been as bad as I thought it might be. As a Linda Ronstadt song says, “The waiting is the hardest part.”

Back in July I had a brilliant idea to schedule a bunch of doctor’s appointments, my 56,000 mile tuneup, as I called it. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I scheduled a visit with my cardiologist (whom I had not visited in two years) and finally got around to calling a colorectal surgeon to take care of an embarrassing little problem I’ve had for a couple of years. My GI doctor had referred me to this surgeon on my last visit to him (nearly a couple of years ago). He said she could give me Botox injections to “fluff up” my butthole. Lovely. The thought of that daunted me and did not motivate me want to go see her.

However, I had an appointment and I went. She recommended that I see a physical therapist. I thought, “Okay, whatever” and went to Results Physiotherapy to see a pelvic floor specialist. Oh my gosh. Never knew that a doctor’s visit would be so intimate. I thought I was familiar with that after having been to an obstretician/gynecologist over the past 30 years, but no, this was even more intimate. I discovered I have a prolapsed bladder, and I had to do several exercises like Kegels, clamshells, and leg raises to work my gluteus medius. And all that was before I even got to work on the real problem, which, as I mentioned, is personal and embarrassing. At this point I am ready to deal with it through exercises so I don’t have to have yet another surgery.

Meanwhile, my visit to the cardiologist resulted in my wearing a heart monitor for a month, because the doctor had no documented cases of atrial fibrillation other than when I had a stress echo (treadmill) test about 9 years ago. I know I have something weird going on with my heart, because my pulse races and pounds in my temples (palpitations), and I get short of breath and lightheaded with mildly strenuous exercise (walking up an incline or doing some poses in yoga).

So I got going with my physical therapy, which turned out to be twice a week, and then I discovered it could take as long as 3 months. I got up in the morning thinking, “What day is it and what time do I have to be at the doctor and which one do I go to?” It wreaked havoc with my work schedule.

All this is in addition to two autoimmune disorders I have: primary biliary cirrhosis, so far kept at bay by medication (since 1989) and CREST syndrome, a disorder I discovered I had about a year ago. That little autoimmune disorder carries with it several interesting complications: calcinosis (calcium deposits, which I have discovered are quite painful and flare up from time to time in my elbows), Reynaud’s phenomenon, esophageal dysfunction, scleroderma (hardening of the skin, both outside and in my connective tissues), and telangio-something (red dots under my skin, which may travel to my face and make me extra attractive in my older years). The chronic diseases are something I deal with all the time, which means that I may be extra fatigued or have a flareup of a calcium deposit (which can land me in the hospital if not caught soon enough), and of course the acid reflux that goes along with my esophagus (I have actually had 2 ablations for Barrett’s esophagus).

While I was wearing the heart monitor, I had a documented episode of atrial fibrillation (heart racing up to 200 beats per minute), which finally convinced my cardiologist to refer me to an electrophysiologist for evaluation for a possible ablation. Hence I had the ablation, and I must say it’s the easiest surgery I’ve had to date. All that hurt after the surgery were my elbows from lying on the calcium deposits for so long. So I’ve been resting up this week.

All that is to say, it’s important to stay on top of all the symptoms of my weird diseases, though I may not be brave enough to schedule another tuneup where I do a blitz of several doctors at once. My rheumatologist told me that I am tough, which he likes. That was enough to get me through the next several months. Yes, I can be tough, but it helps for a medical professional to recognize that. His assessment gave me enough oomph to get through all the needles and the courage to face the unknown with my ablation. Hopefully this is the last of my medical drama for a good while!

Wake Me Up When September Ends

It’s only mid-August, but it seems like the summer has flown by. I feel a little wistful every year about this time. It’s as if another summer has passed me by, and I didn’t get to swim nearly as many times as I would’ve liked. Okay, I’ll quit whining. I did get to do quite a few things.

One highlight of our summer was a trip to see my cousins Joe and Catherine back at the end of June. The occasion was Joe’s birthday, but it was combined with a visit from Catherine’s siblings and their wives (she has 4 brothers), as well as my cousin Sue and my uncle Paul (who is 93 years young and still gets around quite well without a cane). The extended weekend was fun. We sat around and chatted a lot, celebrated Joe’s birthday on Saturday, finally got to meet little Stella, Joe’s 18-month-old granddaughter who is absolutely delightful, went to Busch Gardens and rode several rides (I, however, didn’t participate in the roller coaster rides with younger cousins Nick and Stephanie. There just comes a point in one’s adult life when you realize that maybe slinging around in a roller coaster and having your heart come to the top of your throat just before you go sailing down a steep incline and get jerked around side to side may not be the best thing for your body). Joe and I road the Log Flume, and I wish I had bought the picture of us at the top of the hill just before we went sailing down to come to a nice splashy end. I screamed for all I was worth! It was good to see family and friends who have become family that weekend. Mona and Craig made the trek from Louisiana via Michigan and were on their way back home with Mona’s parents…what a long trip! John and I had a fun weekend then.

We got back home barely in time to prepare for Julie, our 24-year-old daughter’s, arrival back home from 2 years in Madrid. It is interesting (on both sides) to get used to living with a young adult and trying not to revert to old patterns. So far I haven’t done as well as I’d hoped, because Julie reminds me that I nag her constantly. Oh well. Guess it’s in the mom jeans, I mean genes, but that doesn’t mean I have to voice every thought. And a funny thing I’ve noticed is my tendency (our tendency) to blame misplaced objects on Julie rather than ourselves. I told John we needed to stop jumping to conclusions…we may be the ones who are putting things in weird places, and in many cases “the enemy” was us! I will say I am quite proud of Julie for not sitting around on her duff and waiting for jobs to come to her. The first week she was home, jet lag notwithstanding, she applied for 20 jobs. She had a job before she had been home 2 weeks. It’s not one she wants to be working at very long, but she felt the need to make some money and get on the way to supporting herself, and I say Bravo! to that. She is trying to figure out the next chapter of her life, but meanwhile she is hostessing, waiting tables, doing whatever is needed at Coco’s Italian Restaurant, a popular restaurant in Nashville. She is working hard, and we’re somewhat like two ships passing in the night, because our schedules rarely jibe. But maybe that’s for the best, because it may mean less conflict.

And then there’s my dad. John and I moved him to an assisted living facility in Canton, NC back at the end of December after he’d lived with us for 13 months while undergoing treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Turns out he wasn’t exactly in assisted living but in an apartment that provided some services (like assistance with bathing and administering his medications, plus 3 meals a day, and housecleaning once a week) he needed. He experienced several falls (none of them major, thank God…just mostly slips from his bed and one fall as he was backing into the bathroom, holding onto his walker and he lost his balance and fell back toward the commode). John and I went to NC the first week of August (left on a Saturday; returned on Monday) and were checking on him. While John was trying to arrange a primary number for the service my dad has been paying for in which he wears a pendant around his neck that he can push if he falls, the head nurse came by his apartment and told us that a spot had opened up at the assisted living facility just across the street (there are several buildings in this facility), and she thought Daddy would get a better level of care there. While I was trying to absorb all this, I asked if we could go take a look at the room, and we put Daddy in his transport chair and took him over there. The huge downside is that he did not have a bathroom in his room but had to walk down the hall a short distance (and share a bathroom with all the residents on his hall). There are 4 bathrooms for about 26 residents, not an ideal situation. When you’re 92, you don’t need to try to remember to gather supplies to go to the bathroom like you did in college … plus, it’s just hard to go down the hall to a bathroom. I didn’t take in this information at the time (being under a little duress, with our having planned to leave by 2:00 p.m. so we could get home to Nashville at a reasonable time to prepare for going back to work the next day), but there was no sink in Daddy’s room.

So back John and I went to Canton/Waynesville the following weekend, and in the meantime Daddy had a rough week trying to adjust to his new home. He has expressed dissatisfaction, saying he feels like he’s in prison. I didn’t know exactly what to say. I usually try to put a positive spin on things, but there was not much positive to emphasize in this situation. About that time my stepsister and her daughter and son-in-law came over to visit Daddy, and I quickly went outside to call an assisted living place in Nashville that we’d looked at and nearly signed papers to admit Daddy back in December, when we got the e-mail from the assisted living place (we thought it was assisted living, but according to NC law, it’s a multihousing unit, and it’s private pay only…and they do have a dining room and one CNA on staff, and the nurse comes by every day to check on the residents, but they are pretty much on their own) where Daddy had decided he wanted to go, and they had a vacancy. I talked with him about it, and I wanted to let him be part of the decision. Of course, he chose to return to NC because he was quite homesick for Canton, and he had felt pretty isolated here in Nashville. His main activity was going to the doctor’s office, getting treatment, and occasionally getting out to the drugstore or to Kroger or Costco, and often that was with John. He went to church with us a few times, but staying for both Sunday school and the worship service was too taxing/stressful for him.

So I let Daddy make that decision, and it has not worked out great for either him or us. Not to mention placing a burden on my stepsister and stepbrother, who have to take him to doctor appointments and get constant calls about supplies he needs from Wal-mart.

After he moved on August 5 to the “new” (really old, more than 100 years old) assisted living facility with the bathrooms down the hall from his room, John and I decided that we just needed to suck it up, admit we’d made a bad decision, and find a place for Daddy in Nashville. Sometimes you just have to say, “I am sorry, I was wrong.” That certainly applies in this situation. I also say, “I made the best decision I could with the information I had available at the time.” So be it.

We got back home late Monday night (around 10:15 p.m. Eastern, 9:15 Central time), and we both prepared to go to work on Tuesday. We had an appointment with an assisted living place here at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday. I was a little bothered (well, a lot bothered) by the distance Daddy would have to walk to get from his apartment there to the dining room. There’s a shortcut across the courtyard, but that wouldn’t work very well in bad weather, and the walk around the facility to the dining room was even longer than the distance he’d had to walk from his apartment to the dining room at his first “assisted living” residence, and that was challenging enough for him.

So back to the drawing board. John called another facility that I’d already taken a look at in December, and he made an appointment for after work a couple of days later. We toured it, and even though it is a “high-rise” residence (8 floors), there is an apartment available very close to the elevator, and Daddy will have a short distance to walk to get to the dining room. He will also get the assistance he needs to find his way around, and the RN/sales manager said that they would train him in fall prevention and there were physical therapists available who can work with him to do some strengthening exercises. Daddy is really good about doing PT exercises; he’s been practicing almost daily since he had home health care with PT just before moving to Nashville.

So the next thing is getting him moved here, and we are preparing for that. Oh, I forgot to mention one other minor thing. I am having heart surgery sometime around the first of September. It’s for atrial fibrillation and sounds like it’s not too major (an ablation), except for any time you have general anesthesia and are cut on, it’s “major surgery,” in my opinion. So there goes the rest of the summer…and I am praying for strength and sanity to get through all these changes…and the patience to explain it all to Daddy and perhaps take over his finances and then just do what I need to do for him to help him get settled. I am so thankful that John is by my side to look out for me and his father-in-law, and I’m glad Julie and Daniel are around to visit their granddad as their work schedules permit. Together we’ll get through it all, moving Daddy and having my surgery, and just adjusting to a new season of life.

So yeah, I’m a little sad about summer’s end and the usual crazy schedule of fall as we return to a busier schedule. This fall will be different. I will have to be mindful of my physical limitations. Somehow it will all turn out for the best. I know a certain person to whom I pray and place my trust in…that Person watches over me and my dad and cares about what happens to both of us. Oh, and by the way, God cares for all people, so we wouldn’t be anything special, except for the fact that the Bible tells us (and I get the strong sense from attending my church) that even the hairs on our heads are numbered, and we do not need to worry…that God’s got us covered.