She Won’t Get Any Better

Those were the words spoken by a relative referencing my wife’s condition. A year ago last May she’d suffered two heart attacks and two seizures and our future seemed grim. I think he is a selfish, greedy man. I fear he let his wife go a few years earlier in order to collect a large insurance policy. So I wonder what he is suggesting; turn my back on my wife and give up on her?

My mind drifts back to Barb’s 27 days in a heart hospital. Her survival is touch and go, more so than I realize. Not until I hear her monitor sounding off like an aircraft stall-warning horn do I truly understand how close to death she actually is. “We still have other things we can do,”a nurse says to me as she quickly connects two smaller, brightly colored gas bottles to Barb’s machine. Nothing they do prevents her oxygen level from dropping. It’s now approaching 20%. I don’t know what percentage is acceptable, but I’m certain it should be higher.

I watch Barb while trying to stay out from under foot. Her lips move. Glancing at the nurses I notice they are all four leaning against the wall. Is there nothing more they can do? Are they waiting for her to die?

I move to her bedside and pull her oxygen mask away and ask what she said.

“I can’t take any more of this,” she whispers.

My medical knowledge includes the use of band-aids and administering cough syrup. Little else. However, my gut instinct tells me the words I chose during the next sixty seconds may determine Barb’s future. Putting her oxygen mask back in place, I bend over and whisper in her ear: “Please don’t go. I don’t want to home alone.”

Before the second hand on the wall clock has finished a full rotation her oxygen level moves. It increases. Did I cause that, Or would it have happened anyway, even if I’d been somewhere else? Within an hour the oxygen crisis seems less critical.

Twenty seven days later, fitted her doctor says I can take her home. “bear in mind,” he tells me in the hallway, “She’s been through a lot. Don’t be surprised if some mental issues surface.” Before she leaves her room, a nurse brings a box containing nine medications and an instruction sheet indicating what these meds are and when they are to be administered. The assigned hours are: 7AM, 9AM, NOON, 5PM, 8PM, and BEDTIME.

I’m overwhelmed, not at all certain I’m smart enough to keep my wife alive. But unlike my calloused relative, I don’t throw my hands in the air and leave Barb’s future to Lady Luck.

For several weeks I cook, wash dishes, wash clothes, and keep house, and see to most of her needs while she gazes out the sliding glass door. Eventually, she’s able focus better. We play slow games like Monopoly and Rummy.

I wonder about computer games. For years prior, she has played a Simms game on her iPad. Now she has no interest. None. Her stress level is low, so don’t press it. Instead, I wait and I watch and I hope – keeping the iPad battery charged. One day she asked if I know where she put her iPad.

Seventeen months have passed since she came home from the hospital. During this span of time her health has steadily improved. There have been issues, but she has taken over the domestic chores, but stress is still a constant snag caused by television and radio. Those are easily addressed.

This month she announces she is going to begin embroidering. A week later she’s ready to start a second pillowcase.

My relative becomes more like Scrooge McDuck with each passing year. He was wrong, saying: “She will never get better.”

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My Grandmother’s Hand

I’ve written about her before. She influenced my life as a young, single airman. Perhaps the most important thing she did – whether she realized it or not – was keeping a steady stream of letters coming to my mailbox. And each scribed with a pencil that should have been sharpened.

I keep a daily journal. It’s filled with the trivial things that occur during my day. For years I used only a PaperMate ballpoint, then I switched to a PaperMate SharpWriter. But sometime this past winter a yellow Ticonderoga #2 pencil caught my attention. After switching I began experiencing an intermittent comforting sensation, but nothing I could put my finger on as the cause.

This week – some 35 years after her passing – I’ve discovered that when my pencil lead turns blunt my cursive writing often resembles her hand from so long ago.  

The Things We Learn

Last evening our eldest daughter, Evie, called us. She is now 54 and has her own stories and memories to share. She asked if I remembered her high school, Ronda. I did and she went on to read me an email she’d received. It was uplifting, fresh breath of air, sweet memories from years gone by.

Evie and Ronda became friends because they were both taller than their classmates. They wore the same size shoe.

It was the fad in those days, as I understand it, for girls to wear panty hose and knee socks. It made their legs look tan, she said. Barb said no panty hose. I suppose we thought that was the end of it. Not until last night did we learn that Ronda brought a pair of panty hose for Evie to wear.

Then there were the red shoes. She had explicit instructions about never trading shoes with other people. Little did we know she trading anyway, that is until the night she forgot and wore the red home.

Ronda was a farmer’s daughter and when she was nine Ronda’s father would let the two of them operate the huge combine, harvesting grass seed, while he had his lunch.

The things we learn.

 

Once Upon A Time

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Photo from the Internet

When our kids were growing we took them to the Chambers Street Medical Clinic. The architect of the building had been environmentally conscious of his task and built it without disturbing a stand of oak where a few families of squirrels lived. Over the span of 18 or 20 years several generations of squirrels came and went. But one thing remained the same, the the small pharmacy attached to the clinic always kept a store of peanuts for them. The squirrels had access to this store each time the door was opened. For years I watched the parade. Finally, one day, a squirrel was waiting for someone to open the door. My turn had come. I pushed the door open, but the squirrel didn’t move. He just looked at me. “You’re opening door the wrong way. You have to pull it open,” he pharmacist said from behind the counter. I followed his directions. The squirrel scampered inside, chose a peanut and then then headed for the trees.

Sarah

Sarah, one of our granddaughters, had scared herself silly with a TV spook movie. Then she decided one of these monsters was hiding underneath her bed, waiting.

Her mother’s bird, the African Gray, a parrot having the run of the house, came waddling down the hallway at that moment.

“HELLO!” he shouted from the doorway.

My Fraternal Grandmother

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Many years before blogging came about I began keeping a paper journal. I still do. It is a record of my life. I use a Papermate Sharpwriter or a wooden #2 pencil. Seldom do I use a pen. The thought of writing something that I cannot change when I’m brainstorming goes against the grain with me. Though I seldom make corrections of any sort. I’m more comfortable knowing I can.

This morning was #2 wooden pencil day. And when I began the first line the need for sharpening was apparent. That discovery reminded me of my fraternal grandmother. A former school teacher – long before I came on the scene – probably embedded that habit because fountain pens were the norm in those days.

Though I didn’t realize it, she was my literary partner. From the time I ventured out on my own until she was no longer able to communicate, she wrote letters to me, one every other week. And they were always scribed with a #2 pencil that was in need of sharpening. Sometimes she included a poem. Often it was one of her own. Sometimes it was borrowed with the author’s name at the bottom, also in pencil.

She was always at the ready. Once I asked a question concerning English usage. She answered my question in detail. A few weeks later a well-thumbed copy of the Associated Press Stylebook arrived in my mailbox.

The last letter I recall receiving from her arrived about 51 years ago. I still miss them.

Trump

Each day we draw closer to Trump taking over. I’ve never seen a more in-your-face individual. He is a real live bull in a china closet. He seems bent on tearing this nation apart. Everything he values seems based on the almighty dollar.

During my air force years I watched newly appointed commanding officers occupy the CO’s office and immediately start changing everything within their reach. I can’t recall one who surviving the test of time.

I can turn a blind eye to most of Trump’s antics, let him rant while I go about my day. But I’m deeply concerned about his messing with my wife’s healthcare before he even has the key to the Oval Office door.

Since March 2016 my wife has suffered two heart attacks and two seizures. One day while she was in the hospital for 27 days last March I held her hand and literally talked her back from death’s door after the nurses had given up and waited for her to die.

She takes nine different medications at seven different times each day. Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, and Humana have so far manage to keep the cost of these medications affordable.

Maybe ACA doesn’t work for everyone, but so far I’ve been able to keep my wife of 54 years alive.

I’m not sure Trump is going to let me keep her another year. And there is nothing I can do about it but write this post.

 

A Christmas Collar

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Mr. Black received a Christmas collar last year. He loves to hear it ring. Last year it was stored in one of our daughter’s Christmas decorations, so she mailed to him.

He recognized it and when he saw me approaching with the collar he recognized it and he stretched out his neck so I could put it on him.

If I shake one of the bells he will shake to make them all ring.