Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Still Telling Dad Jokes

     We had to get some blood work done today. My dad needs a CT scan with a contrast dye IV and the doctor needs to be sure dad's kidneys function good enough to handle the dye. It is already complicated getting him there due to his mobility issues. Now there are the additional details of making sure we have masks and hand sanitizer with us.
     Today we had to deal with the weather as well, but even the heat and humidity didn't dampen my dad's sense of humor. I handed him his mask before I backed out of the driveway, telling him he could wait to put it on until we got to the hospital lab. He slipped it on a few minutes later and then said. "Who was that masked man?"
     Once we got called back to have his blood drawn, the phlebotomist asked what arm my dad preferred for the draw. He said, "Is it okay if I say someone else's?" She chuckled and told him that was the perfect answer.
     Reminds of the time when I was seven and I wrote a note on the dry erase board by our phone. "My dad thinks he's funny." My parents thought that was so funny that their little kid was such a critic.  
     Forty plus years later, I am so grateful he is still telling dad jokes.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Unexpected Gifts Galore

     One of the things I had to learn this past year is how to ask for help and how to accept help. This whole pull yourself up by your boot straps and work hard to make something of yourself society we live in can be a great motivating force if all is well and you can adhere to those rules, but the minute even one thing goes wrong, you can end up with a cascading crisis of failures.
     One aspect I had to work to change in myself was to NOT see needing help as personal failure or as me not trying my best, putting forth my best efforts. It also helped when I re-framed the help I was receiving or needing to see it as a gift that was being freely given. This helped calm my stressed out emotions and allowed me to embrace the many gifts being showered on me and my family.
     It reminds me of a happy memory from my childhood, when I used to long for gifts, not just at Christmas and my birthday but on other days too. My mother kept a stash of Little Golden Books wrapped in pastel tissue papers in the cupboard. When I would express my need, that I sure wished someone would give me a gift, she would grab a book from the cupboard, and there was hours of happiness. Well, except the one time when I said, "I sure wish somebody would give me a gift, but not a book."
     So, among the many losses for us this year was the closing of the libraries early in the shelter in place. How would we get our cozy mystery reading fix? Well, my sister the librarian to the rescue. She guided me through the process of downloading and setting up HOOPLA and now I can easily access books from our library, as many as fifteen a month.
     So many things became complicated from the start of quarantine. Simple grocery store trips became shopping excursions, to be planned and executed like a complicated searches for archaeological artifacts. It often took half dozen trips to stores to even find half the items on the various household lists for the families I was shopping for. And then when supplies started being more plentiful, the impact of the closures and new production rules, and absent employees due to outbreaks started to show up in rising product costs. 
     The most disappointing one for me is the generic three pound tube of ground hamburger I used to get at stores pre-pandemic-for anywhere from $7.99-$10.99 depending which store I went to, now at the least expensive of our local groceries stores cost $19.99 for the last three pound tube I bought. We had to get a little creative and make choices to make dishes with more beans and less meat.
     But then we got the most unexpected gift from a friend of mine. Her family bought a whole pig. One week she gave us a huge package of apple wood smoked bacon. We got 6 meals so far for our household out of that package. Then she gave us 3 pounds of different types of ground sausage. I made the most fabulous tacos from some of that last night.
     This same friend and her family came to the rescue when we had to do something about our maple tree that died and needed removal. She and her family came over one night after work and in less than 45 minutes we had two trees cut down, loaded in  their trailer, and all the debris cleaned up. It helps that she has two strong. healthy teenagers, and that her husband is so skilled, quick, and efficient with a chainsaw.
     Then there was the day my brother let me know that he ended up buying a huge quantity of flour online, and did we want some? Yes! I was able to make dozens of cookies that I could gift to friends and family; a set of birthday cookies, graduation cookies, and Memorial day cookies.
     Then there was the sweet note from a friend of mine from high school. She had been out at a store and saw a small bottle of hand sanitizer that was called Green Goo and so she bought me some. It reminded her of me since my first picture book that is now in print is called Green Goo. It is an entirely different type of green goo, but this hand sanitizer is a wonderful and appropriate gift right now. My friend bought me a bottle and left it in a bag on our garage door. I now carry it every where with me, stashed in my purse.
     Some days you get stuck in a rut thinking about all the losses, all that is missing, or being weary from worry about needing help, and then other days you realize how many unexpected gifts you receive, that you have gifts galore.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Will It Ever Get Easier?

     It has been almost a year since our lives were upended yet again. I sort of thought that by now I would be used to the different ways we have to function, the changes in priority, the altered focuses of time and attention.
     I have always been a bit squeamish. I shy away from graphic horror stories and prefer not to watch gory films. I never had a desire to work in the medical field, because I just don't have the stomach for it. I also don't think I have the heart for it either. By that I mean that I would spend my whole time weeping for people instead of being of practical use for them. 
     People used to say to me, "You should consider being a nurse or a doctor or something. You have so much experience dealing with illnesses." This was a reference to the fact that my mother has been chronically ill since I was a small child. While those issues helped grow my heart with compassion for others, it never caused me to have a desire to pursue anything in the medical field. Ever. Just no.
     And then my 79 year old father ended up falling down last year on Mother's Day. I was the one to find him on the floor, not able to help him get back up. This necessitated a ride to the hospital via ambulance. There it was discovered that what might have caused the fall was a preexisting severe injury to his right foot. He had an open wound that was deep and had become infected, all the way into the bones. Since he has peripheral artery disease this exacerbated that injury. One mercy of his having PAD was that he could NOT feel the pain in his foot due to nerve damage, but this was probably why his foot got as bad as it did.
     They wanted to amputate his foot or at the very least his toe and a chunk of bone. He was strictly against that idea. I wish I was more of a graphic description type person so you can understand my horror as I stood and sat at the foot of my father's hospital bed for the long hours during that first day. An infection that deep and that bad has its own intense look and odor. I hope to never witness anything like that EVER again.
     It took months of 24 hour a day IV antibiotics, physical therapy, and medical care all while in nursing home care to save his foot. And then it came time for him to be released. It was clear that he could not go back to be at home with my mother, where he had to care for her, since he could no longer safely care for himself. It was also clear that I would need to be able to do wound care, because at the time of his release on July 31, 2019-his foot still had a gaping open would that had to be cleaned, packed, and bandaged every day. 
     I can still feel the horror it brought me and the fear that I would hurt him as I had to prod the wound, scrape it clean, wash it, re-pack it, and carefully bandage it. It sort of got easier as a matter of practice to go through the steps. And it sort of got better as he actually was able to grow new skin and the wound slowly shrank over months and months of care.
     It is now at the point where the skin is whole. There are calluses that constantly try to grow along the old wound areas that I have been instructed to gently file down. There is the constant battle when I don't notice that he has twisted his sock and worn it that way all day while I am at work or walked funny with his slipper and he ends up with a small blister. And then I am crushed by fear, will we have another issue like last year?
     And then there was the day where he was taking a nap. He was SOUND asleep. I figured I had time to take a shower. I was in need of some hot water therapy. By the time I got out, I discovered he woke up, didn't bother knocking on the bathroom door. He tried and sort of succeeded in going to our half bathroom, but that meant he had to go down 3 steps and he had NOT put on his slippers. And then there was the fact that the toilet in there is much lower to the floor. He was stuck. It took me several minutes to help him figure out how to position his legs and to get his walker sort of in there to help him get back up.
     AND then he said the words I fear the most. His foot hurt. We got him to his chair and with shaking hands I took off his sock. And it was okay. There was no broken skin. He probably just hurt because he usually walks around the house with his slippers with the medical inserts in them. This was just a side effect of having no shoes or slippers on. 
     Most days, once I get done working all day, then get home and tend to my dad's feet and legs, and get all our supper, I am just done. I have nothing left. I have such anxiety building up until I get seated with our medical kit and slowly pull off his slipper and then his sock to do his check. Then the relief that usually washes over me, once I again see how his foot is, wipes me out.
     Only once so far has the anxiety given way to crushing fear. A few months ago when I pulled off his sock I saw the blood blister that nearly caused me to vomit on the spot. The guilt and anxiety were overwhelming. We got him in the very next day to his foot doctor and the foot doctor said we did a great job staying on top of the situation, but still it wore me down.
     And now there are so many tumultuous things happening in our country right now. Things I care about very much. If it had been a few years ago, I would be right out there marching in the protests for so many of these concerns. It was only a few years ago when I participated in a peaceful demonstration about the mistreatment of immigrants/migrants and their children. My heart supports so many different causes, but my mind and body just don't have the wherewithal to physically get out there and participate. It really takes all my energy to help my own household mostly successfully navigate getting through each day. 
     I had hoped that by now it would seem more second nature to me, that I wouldn't struggle with fear and anxiety in regards to helping my dad with some of his health issues. I had hoped it would get easier. I suppose in some small ways it has, but there is still much room for improvement for all of us.