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October 3, 2011

A Year...Already?

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It's a weird contradiction in perception as I look back on the blur of the past twelve months and, one the one hand, feel as if I was just pregnant yesterday, while on the other...it seems as if we've filled that time with more events than are logistically possible.

Nathan was born and my parents visited. That was October.
November was figuring out how to keep the baby alive while somehow finishing my Master's project. We made Trip 1 to Columbus with all four kids in tow for Thanksgiving. I think I tried running for the first time in there somewhere. That didn't work.
I officially graduated in December with somewhat less than my best effort, but my committee apparently decided that my heart was in the right place. I took my first post-baby freelance assignment and Christmas happened.
I took Trip 1 to Richmond in January for two weeks to try and gauge how things were going there with my mom. While a worry, things were still at a point where it seemed okay to let her stay in her condo. My memories of this visit are actually a little foggy.
February. I guess the inconsistent sleep was starting to take more of a toll at this point. Aside from a vague impression of a lot of snow, I don't remember February. I do believe though that this is when the fire in my mom's condo happened. We spent a couple of frantic days trying to wean Nathan so I could fly out to Virginia and drive my mom to Ohio, but the sick baby was having none of that, so in the end, he came with....Trips 2 to Richmond and then to Columbus with my Aunt Erin as co-pilot.
March brought Spring Break in Florida, which was a lovely break from reality. We returned to face the fact the Columbus wasn't working and made Trip 3 to Columbus to get my mom and her dog. I guess we drove. Apparently, I have no memory of this trip. (addendum...we listened to a Hank Aaron biography audio-book. such a relief to remember something)
April, May and June...basically a juggling act. Baby, Mom, photo/video assignment, Baby, Mom, photo/video assignment... I think this is when I started squeezing in some running again too. Geez, I impress myself. Good thing there are photos, because again, I really don't remember too much in the way of details.
By July, taking care of Mom was starting to get more time intensive and I started accepting fewer freelance assignments. Nathan was still not sleeping more than a couple of hours at a time. We took Trip 3 to Columbus for my mom's birthday and Nathan and I took the opportunity to sneak off to New York for a delicious few days in the city. A couple of weeks later in August, we made Columbus Trip 4 for my grandma's birthday. The older kids headed back to school and we had a concurrent wave of colds and birthdays in September...and then the month ended in grief.

So, that was the year. I have a fancy new academic credential and am gainfully employed making a couple of hundred dollars a month. I'm running slower than I have in years, but I'm back to weighing what I did when I was at my fastest. That tiny baby is getting close to standing up on his own two feet, while my smart, independent and capable mother has become more and more reliant on my help to do almost everything.

Life on a day-to-day basis is not unhappy, but I do feel the strain of all the obligations and the isolation out here, so far from my closest friends. It's hard on both Jack and me and in terms of our relationship, it often feels like we're hunkered down, weathering a hurricane and just hoping that once the winds lighten, we'll still have the resources to fix the holes in the roof and all of the broken windows.

With an eye to that future calm, my mom and I visited an assisted living facility today that offers short-term stay options. While she didn't express any positive sentiments about the place after our visit, she also didn't seem upset by what she saw there. I thought it was nice and cheerful and would serve our needs quite well. And while I wasn't even going to worry about what it might cost, the daily rate for respite care is actually super reasonable. Jack and I would really like to get away - just us and Nathan - sometime this fall, so this gives us another option besides possibly driving to Columbus first and then flying out from there. I guess it will depend upon the timing of when we travel and how that fits in with my brother's visit from Romania after Thanksgiving.

So apologies for anyone who didn't really need to suffer through a summary of my past year, but I think I just needed to pause and glance back at it while I've had a couple of quite hours by myself here. I've only been running about once a week lately, so for my next entry I'm anticipating a photo-related topic.

October 15, 2011

Gourd-ous Weather

pumpkins-1.jpgOuch, yeah, but puns are supposed to make you cringe. Or since this was a small pun, would it be a pun...kin? Anyhoo, I was going to make this post a thoughtful one about personal photography, but that will have to wait since it simply requires way too many brain cells to compose.

Anyhoo, I'm just going to do a quick run-down of the past week to keep all interested parties up to date. I've really been remarkably lucky that Nathan made it through his first year without getting an ear infection, but that luck ran out this week so we've had a lot of tears and a bunch of sleepless nights. He's on Amoxicillan now though, so he's feeling much better.

Monday, we went back to that nearby assisted living place to have lunch and do the official patient intake evaluation with the residence's medical director. I hadn't really been worried about how my mom would do on that, since aside from the dementia, she's in such good health, but it really made it clear how much she has come to rely upon me. Even for the most basic of questions (Like her last name and birthday) she looked over at me for assistance in answering. At lunch, I really tried to back off and let her order her own meal, but she ended up getting the spaghetti, making it necessary for me to tell the kitchen staff that she would need it cut up in small pieces. It arrived in uncut form, so again, I sat back to see if she would ask again. She is so amenable to everything and so unwilling to be a bother, I already knew that she wouldn't. I finally jumped in somewhere around the point where she had a large handful of spaghetti and sauce dripping into her lap.

My contact at the facility called me back and said that while they did have some reservations about my mom's abilities to communicate her day-to-day needs, they would be willing to work with us, and at the very least, we should go ahead with our plans to try out the respite care option. I've spent this week trying to get all the necessary forms filled out to make that happen, but the more I read the paperwork about expectations for residents there, the more anxious I am about whether this is really enough support for her. The whole point of "assisted" living is that they assist you with your daily tasks, but the flip side of that is that you are able to "assist" in these tasks as well. With every day, I feel like she is becoming more and more passive in our activities and I'm only able to intuit her wants and needs based on weeks and weeks of experience. And even I find myself becoming frustrated in trying to understand what she does and doesn't want.

So for the moment, I'm going to keep going ahead with the respite care plan, but I think we're going to have to arrange for a one or two day "test run," so that if it all falls apart, I'll be close at hand. While we were at lunch there, my mom did tell another resident that she would be coming there because, "my daughter is leaving me." That's exactly how I feel and it's frustrating, since rationally, I know that it's in everybody's best interest that I find some kind of alternate workable option.

Jack and son#2 are out of town camping, so it's been a quiet weekend for our little threesome. Oops, make that foursome. The Rudy-dog had some pretty intensive dental surgery on Friday, so he's been wandering in and out in a dopey opiate haze. He seemed to be doing okay this afternoon though, so I snuck out with the human portion of the household for a little pumpkin peeping. We've had day after day of impossibly beautiful autumn weather, so it was nice to finally sit outside for a bit, sipping wine while Nathan examined the grass.

I think that's most of the catching up I needed to do. Time to go find out how much sleep the boy will allow me tonight...

October 28, 2011

Everythings Relative

So after a brief quiet spell where I was actually able to start running again and enjoy the suburban normalacy of a children's Halloween parade the winds shifted and we're back to dealing with our usual crisis-a-minute.
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For the photo kids out there, this image ended up being one of my frequent regretful afterthoughts as my mother was standing just to the left of those children, looking just as lost and out-of-place as little Nathan there. That would have been a nice catch for my personal photo project, but it's typical that I "see" these storytelling pictures somewhat after the fact.

Anyway, I guess I'll just catch my readers up on recent events in a laundry-list sort of way.

My 89-year-old grandmother had some health issues last week that landed her in the hospital, but it looked like she was going to bounce back pretty quickly. Unfortunately, one day into her stint at the rehab facility, she suffered a serious stroke and ended up back in the same hospital where she started. At that point, it seemed as if the priority would be to get all of the sisters together with their mother for a last visit and a discussion of necessary end-of-life decisions.

With this in mind, I packed up my entourage and flew post haste to Ohio. The days since then have been emotionally rocky, but for the most part, positive. While my aunts went into this situation with pretty strong feelings about not subjecting my grandmother to the discomfort and indignity of a feeding tube, her condition improved so dramatically with each passing day, they had to reevaluate the situation. We're now committed to doing what is necessary to give my grandmother the best shot at a real recovery.

I still have a lot of mixed feelings about all of this because I think my grandmother herself is pretty annoyed that she's still around in her current condition. What can you do though...you try to do the best you can for the people you love.

For the first time in a while, I've actually felt moved to document some of what we're experiencing in photos. The soft light from the grey autumn skies, the gentle compassion of the various health care professionals, the ethereal, chiseled features of my grandmother, the fear/worry/love expressed on the faces of the family around her. It's beautiful and stark and emotionally raw. I need to tread carefully though in terms of what other members of my family are comfortable with, so in the end, there will probably not be very many images created.

My mom has held up reasonably well through all of this. The long day of travel to get here was tough on her and really required about two full days to recover from. It's something to keep in mind as we figure out how long we'll stay this time around and how frequently we can come back. I think the current plan is to stay another week to help my grandmother get settled in the skilled nursing facility that she'll be moving to next and then drive back up here in a few weeks when my brother and his family get here from Romania. Or since we won't be using our tickets for this Monday, maybe get a round-trip to STL and fly back at the end of November...I still need to figure all of this out.

It's been quite the week though. My grandmother's dog was attacked by a vicious poodle (really!), my mom took a tumble down the stairs, Nathan's about to start walking and I dropped my laptop on my phone (at least one of them survived the incident). Speaking of whom, Nathan needs a feed and the World Series is ending in spectacular fashion here, so I'm going to go deal with one or the other of those and then get myself to bed.

October 30, 2011

Basic Update

I went ahead and paid the outrageous change fee that Delta extorts from its customers, so for only $300 extra, we will now be flying back to Saint Louis next Monday instead of tomorrow. This will allow my mother and I to spend significant chunks of time with my grandmother as she adjusts to the rehab nursing center where she will be moving tomorrow from the hospital.

My grandmother is feeling much stronger now that she's getting nutrition through that feeding tube, but she still tires easily. She started today very alert and was even able to communicate in coherent sentences, but by the late afternoon we were straining to hear her and it was impossible to tell what she was trying to say or if it even made any sense. At one point it was just me in the room with my grandmother, my mother and Nathan and they were all vocalizing in their own ways. I couldn't understand a word of it.

I didn't bother bringing my running clothes and now I'm regretting that, since it would be really nice to get out for a few miles on my own. A neighbor with three young sons is available to help me out for a few hours a week and I'd love to use a little of that time to get away from all of this...a little farther away than just the shower anyway. I should check and see if our gym has a location here in Columbus. A pilates class might be just the perfect thing.

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The little guy is still going with the flow here, though seven-hour-days in a little hospital room are a bit much to ask. His schedule is all mixed up, but I'm hoping to be a little more regimented about that this week. He's such a good-natured fellow. I hope all this serves to make him into a flexible human being who can roll with the punches and not simply another neurotic with a collection of sad stories for their therapist.

About October 2011

This page contains all entries posted to Change of Pace in October 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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