Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Is it a race to the finish line?

My dad is in the hospital now with problems breathing.  He has had COPD for a couple of decades and the stress of taking care of my mother has exacerbated his illness.  He isn't resting the way he should, isn't eating well and doesn't sleep at night.  Plus he's on the go all the time back and forth from the nursing home to home for a breathing treatment and a quick nap, then back to the nursing home.  He has already said he won't be vented so...

I haven't heard much about Mom's condition beyond that her dementia is getting worse.  She had an episode yesterday when she thought she had lost my niece's daughter, whom she used to baby sit.  My older sister called me this morning to let me know but her schedule is a bit crazy right now with funerals and congregants needing attention so she can't just pick up and go.  My poor younger sister and her daughter (the niece with the daughter Mom thought she lost) are picking up the slack but my younger sister has had a horrendous bout of flu to deal with and only now is feeling like standing up.

Just talked to her and Mom's white count is lower but she didn't know how much lower.  Mom still has the cancer to deal with though.  My dad is feeling a bit better but he also had a problem with his bladder (he has chronic bladder cancer) and needed better catheterization and hourly flushing so he's unable to come home, which is good.  He needs to stay in the hospital.  But knowing how worried he was about the expenses they are racking up, I can't help but feel for him.

Weather here is terrible.  We've had high winds today with snow drifting heavily across the roads.  We saw two accidents on our way and back from town.  A car had flipped on its back in a field and another instance was a semi jacknifed in someone's yard.  I'm a bit concerned because Tom has the truck today which is crap on snow and it's snowing right now.  We had only expected an inch so he took the truck today but with all the blowing there is 3 inches or so across the road in spots.  And they've upped the estimate to 4 inches by tomorrow evening.  I'm staying dressed in case I need to go pick him up.

It's hard to concentrate on knitting right now.  I've been working on the shawl...just garter stitch and yarn overs but even then I've had to rip back a few times.  There's nothing much I can do for my family back there so it's frustrating.  I hadn't thought when I left that I might have been saying good bye to my father as well.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Never enough sleep to make me feel rested

I didn't sleep much last week.  I wonder if the dog was making me pay for leaving him for the weekend as he woke me up no less than 5 times a night.  I tried to make up for it by going to bed early but he would wake me up and it would take me hours to get back to sleep.  Last night I went to bed at 7:30 and was asleep by 8:30.  I got up twice with him but went right back to sleep.  I didn't get up until 9:30-ish so I got 13 hours of sleep.  During the morning I felt fine although not terribly energetic but by afternoon I was ready to go back to bed.  I really hate the fatigue aspect of this illness. 

I had errands to run today:  bills, library and some shopping I forgot.  Got the library and shopping done although I didn't realize we were out of hamburger so I've got to go back this week for that.  But I forgot to pay the bills.  I never even thought about them.  One was due today but they don't get pissy about it being  a day late.  I can pay it tomorrow.  The other one isn't due until Friday.  I can't believe I forgot them.

I finished up the pink socks and am working on the pink shawl but I'm bored and the achyness from the fibromyalgia is limiting my knitting right now.  I've got to start some more socks for my sister and niece but nothing is urgent.  I would like the shawl to be done before my mother decides to come home from the hospital.  I'm not positive but I think she will only come home when it's time to stop the treatment and just come home to hospice.  We're not talking long term.  It will be within weeks or a few months, depending on the growth of the cancer or the growth of the infection.  Neither one is going to go away.

I'm going to bed early again tonight.  Zach is going to fix grilled cheese, his specialty and I'm going to sleep.  Tom was sick over the weekend, slept a lot and got over it...I hope.  He was running a fever and woke up in a sweat and saw steam rising from his arm when he took it out from under the covers.  He keeps his room even colder than we do downstairs.  He likes to sleep in about 40F temps.  I prefer 50F.  He does warm the room up a bit before he goes to bed but likes it when he's warm and cuddly under the covers and it's cold outside of them.

Zach started coughing and sneezing this morning so he took some echinacea.  Tom had taken some over the weekend which is probably why his cleared up so quickly.  I don't have any of those symptoms.  Just my usual achy, fatigue crap.

And so, off to bed.

Friday, February 22, 2013

I don't handle stress well

Talked to my mother today but she was tired from dialysis and rehab and very confused.  She kept holding the phone upside down and when Daddy did get her to hold it upright, she wasn't holding it near her ear so she didn't hear what I was saying.  I was shouting but she kept responding to a question I didn't ask.  The dementia is so hard on everyone, but my dad in particular.  He thinks he has to get her to realize that she's got it wrong.  When I was a nurses' aide we were told to correct a dementia patient once and if they didn't accept it, to go along with their delusion as long as it didn't cause problems because the agitation they experience isn't worth it.  My poor mother.

At least it looks like she will be able to stay in the nursing home though.  One of the doctors indicated on her insurance forms that she was ambulatory and able to take care of herself.  She's not so her family doctor is apparently getting it all straightened out.  I haven't heard anything more about the infection or the tumor so I don't know where she is on those conditions.  I just know that once either of those situations takes over, the dialysis stops and it's a matter of days.

I'm still working on the shawl but I have a pattern for a cape sitting on the desk that I keep looking at, longing to start, but until I finish up the pink sock and the pink shawl, I don't dare start something else.  Except maybe pairs of socks for my sister and her daughter for all the work they've been doing taking care of Mom.  I made progress on the sock last night but I'm so tired that I only knit for an hour or so before turning the lights out and going to sleep.  Last night I fell asleep before 8 and woke up around 10.  I stayed awake until around 2 a.m. and then got up at least 4 times with Professor before just staying up at 9.  It snowed last night so we've got about 4 inches with a couple more predicted.  The neighbors, bless them, have taken care of the driveway apron and the sidewalk.  We still have the driveway proper to do and the private sidewalk but Zach will take care of that.  I'll do well to fix supper:  gravy and biscuits tonight.  It's easy and I'm so tired.  I think the stress is causing it all.  Poor Tom is working unbelievable hours so I feel bad for not having the energy to just clean the house.

I think I might just stay in bed over the weekend except for cooking suppers.  Maybe that's what I needed to do instead of trying to push through the fatigue.  The pain hasn't been too bad lately although yesterday and today the cold has gotten to me and I feel very achy.  I was in bed most of the afternoon.  I just got up to fix supper and then back to bed.

Hope I get more knitting done soon.  I'm just too tired to do much these days.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Playing phone tag

...with my mother.  Daddy was going to call this morning so I could talk to her but obviously something changed and he didn't call until this afternoon but I was at the store so I missed her call.  We have more snow coming in and with Tom working 12 hours a day right now and working this Saturday, I won't have a chance to get to the store.  The truck is absolute crap in snow but as the roads are good right now we took the opportunity to take it and get home before the front lands on our doorstep.  I wanted to get more sidewalk salt but everyone is out.  And I just have a little bit in a bag.  That will have to do, I suppose.

Still working on the shawl.  Mom sounded much stronger on voice mail today so I think she might make her goal of going home ahead of hospice.  But my dad sounded completely worn out and I worry about him.

I've turned the heel on the pink sock and am on the homestretch working the foot.  I should be done by Monday and I can just stick in a manila envelop and send it off.  After I find the address.  I've got 4 more skeins of yarn and apparently I can get a pair out of each skein so I don't know who's going to get those socks.  If my Mom keeps going the way she is, she'll get a pair, too.  I'm not kidding myself.  We're not talking months and months.  We're talking weeks and maybe a month or two but still...she loves those socks and would love another pair.  This time in purple.

I think my younger sister and my niece deserve pairs for the hours they put in visiting and helping out.  I would love to reward them with some socks.  I gave both sisters some earrings I no longer wear.  Nice earrings, but I rarely ever take my hoops out so I thought they would like them. 

Well, I'm still battling enormous fatigue so I think I'm going to crash with my knitting and the dvr inventory.  I went to bed early last night but woke up a couple of hours later in pain and it took a while for that to settle down so I was awake when Tom got in at 1:30 a.m.  I woke up at 8 a.m. for some reason and couldn't get back to sleep.  Since we're having fish & chips tonight, I'm going to bed and Zach can put them in the oven. 

The sun's not even down yet but it's getting dark because the snow is coming so I'm going to pretend it's later than it is.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


All that energy it took to be upbeat back home left me me in a rush yesterday and I crashed.  Today isn't any better.  Suffering from pain and fatigue isn't ever easy but when you have that burst of borrowed energy for emergencies or times of need, it has to be paid back.  And apparently it charges interest.

I've been getting to bed early but waking up way too early, taking a nap in the afternoon but not feeling refreshed by it.  I had to rush to the store this morning because Tom needed the car this afternoon; we had a blizzard the day before and the roads were still crap.  End of the season I guess there's no money to get out there and salt the roads anymore.  Or beet juice them.  Or whatever.  So I got what I needed and raced home.  When he left I fixed myself some lunch and then crashed.  I had done 2 loads of clothes but they're still in the basement.  Well washed 2 loads, only dried one.  They'll be just fine down there until tomorrow.

And tomorrow night we're expecting another snow storm.  There is solid ice under all this snow.  I discovered this when I tried to set my groceries into a snow mound next to the driveway and they slid off.  Only a dusting of snow on top of that ice.  The roads are similar.

I managed to burn my hand last night fixing supper.  The plastic spoon got edged into a burner and when I picked it up, the plastic melted into my hand.  I put ice on it right away and when I took my shower later (and ow! did that hot water feel good on it then) the plastic finally washed off.  Back to more ice and this morning, no redness and two teeny, tiny spots that look like they could have been blisters.  No real pain unless I bump it.

I managed to get some knitting done on the pink sock but I'm still on the heel flap.  I did get some more done on Mom's shawl, even though I don't know if it will get done in time.  I talked to my dad and she's doing pretty well with her therapy but her confusion is still bad.  He's worried about the insurance kicking them out of the nursing home soon because they will have used up all their benefits.  Don't get me started on Republicans right now, with them wanting to cut Medicaid, Medicare and other funding for the poor and elderly.  When my dad has to worry about the cost of medical care for my mother to continue to live, I'm inclined to use foul language toward anyone who wants to talk about how much it's costing the fat cats with their subsidized billion dollar pay checks. 

Okay...I'm better now.  Not really but I will move on.

Anyway, I'm so tired right now I think I'm going to crawl back into bed.  I slept 2 hours this afternoon and will probably fall asleep again at 8 or 9, like I did last night.  I know it's the letdown to having pushed myself all weekend.  And even earlier this week.  So...I might get some knitting done tonight but sleep really means more to me.  I have sandwiches in the freezer for Tom's supper and Zach wants grilled cheese so he can fix that himself.  I've got a pizza I can heat up in the toaster oven if I get hungry.  Otherwise, I'm not cooking.  I'm resting.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

I'm back

Actually I got back Sunday night but yesterday was full of errands and  mental/emotional processing.  I still haven't accomplished the latter.  My mother is still fighting for every sliver of life she feels entitled to.  And she is entitled to every single one of them.  They moved her to the nursing home Sunday for rehab so she can get her legs back and be able to go home again.  I don't know if that is a reasonable goal or not but giving her a goal is what's important, in my opinion.

She had a steady stream of visitors the whole time we were there.  My younger sister had a previous commitment and wasn't around much, aside from a hand-off at the hospital early Saturday morning.  (Yes, early...sometimes I do get up before noon.)  My aunt (Mom's baby sister) was there with my dad.  Mom was up and alert and even walking to the bathroom with some assistance.  It wasn't as emotionally painful as I thought it would be to see her but it was still hard.  The entire weekend, however, was one of being on edge and walking on eggshells.

Daddy was uncommunicative, speaking in short answers and abrupt with me.  We've always had a difficult relationship so it wasn't surprising, but still a bit painful.  Okay a lot painful.  When we left he finally spoke to me about Mom and was warm.  I talked to him last night on the phone and he was full of conversation and affection.  I know he's in pain right now; the woman he has been married to for 62 years is fading away.  That has to hurt.  Plus he has COPD and is in need of a caregiver himself from time to time, which he won't accept right now.  He's pushing himself, taking care of Mom.

I handed off one pair of socks to my aunt and showed her the pink pair. She loves them.  I told her about the shawl I was making my mother, which I now realize probably won't be done before she leaves us but Aunt J told me to make it a priority and not worry about the last sock.  I still work on it when I'm reading or online because I don't have to think while knitting it, but I still want to finish up the sock.  What is painful is to look at the sock yarn I bought for my mother's socks.  I know I'll never knit those socks for her.

Mom had a box of yarn for me and was insistent that I pick them up while I was there so I went over to the house and got them.  Inside the box was a pair of her winter socks, needing repair.  I had told her to send them to me if they got holes as I still had the yarn and could re-knit the feet.  I told her I got them and she said she'd like me to fix them for her.  I had to fight back tears because I don't think I'll be able to finish them for her.

Today will be a day of mundane tasks and a monumental mountain of laundry.  Right now I'm awake ahead of everyone else and battling an anxiety attack that woke me up much earlier.  I'm almost back to breathing normally again.  They have chosen to take it one day at a time, knowing that the infection that is raging inside her will eventually start causing a fever or that the cancer in her kidney will start causing her pain and then the dialysis will end and she'll slip into a coma and drift away from us.  But today she's still alive.  We don't worry about tomorrow.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Time to take that trip

After talking with my sisters and thinking very hard about my reasoning, I've decided to head down to Southern Indiana and see my mother one last time.  They know this is the only trip I can make unless there are some months in between this trip and a funeral.  It sounds callous to talk about it in terms of absolutes but she's fading, has renal cancer, most likely, and is too weak for any kind of treatment.  It's possible there will come a time when she stops dialysis and goes into hospice.  I think we're talking days or weeks rather than months.  So I won't make the funeral but it's more important that my mother and I have one last visit together.  I told my younger sister yesterday that I miss my phone calls with Mom.  We used to just talk for an hour or so about everything.  She's been too weak for that lately.

I'm taking the socks I've been working on.  I'm on the last pink sock, heading toward the heel flap which I will most likely finish tonight.  I can turn the heel on the way down and finish up the foot, hopefully, before I come back home on Sunday.  My aunt is down there now, being my mother's baby sister, so I can just give them to her.  I'll try to get pictures before I go down there but doubt that I will be able to post them as I have laundry to finish up, bills to pay and the car to pack up before tomorrow morning.

I'll be offline until Sunday evening so don't expect me back here before Monday.  This is still a bit unreal although I knew that some day I would get "that phone call."  It's just that we always expected it to be our dad since he's had COPD for over 20 years.  Mom was always the strong one and fully expected to outlive Daddy. Now Daddy is the strong one, taking care of her.

Now it's time to get things packed up.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Hair today, gone today

It's been an exhausting day.  I had to get up at least 5 times last night to let Professor out.  I wonder if the pouring rain made his bladder work harder.  Something like not having to go to the bathroom until someone is in there running the shower.  So I woke up tired anyway. 

I cut my hair last night. Pretty short.  I think I cut at least 11 inches off; it's about 3 inches below my ears.  Depending on which side you look at.  There's at least an eighth of an inch difference there.  I'll worry about that later.  But I wasn't going to cut Zach's hair by myself so we went to the salon to get that done.  I have 10 inches of braid in my purse waiting for an address to send it off to Locks of Love.  I'll look that up later, too.  At the salon it was first-come/first-served and we were third in line so it took about a half hour to get in the chair.  The only two available waiting chairs were taken up by a teen girl and her mother, who got there after us and grabbed the seats when they became available.  There was a bench outside the shop but it was taken by a guy and all his groceries.  So we stood.  Wasn't even a place to lean.  By the time we got done I had to find a bench somewhere before we did the shopping.  My back really hurts.

So Zach's hair is cut, too.  About 5 inches below his ears, which is what I was shooting for with my hair but when it was cut it sprung up to 3 inches below.  Still wispy but at least not as disorderly.  I look better with it shorter.  Hated to give it up but at least I don't get tangled up at night anymore.

Zach also shaved off his beard.  He's going with stubble because it's easier on his skin.  He looks pretty darned good right now.  Although I loved his long hair.

The brown socks are done and I started the other pink sock.  I had to relearn the pattern but it didn't take long at all.  I don't know how much I'll get done tonight since I really just want to finish up my sandwich and go to bed.  And take a tramadol or two.  Did I mention that my back hurts?

I bought something today that I shouldn't have but I couldn't resist it.  I think Tom is mad at me about it but this was an opportunity I couldn't pass up.  A leather bound edition of the Hobbit for $15.  It's a pocket edition.  My copy is the 50th anniversary edition in paperback, of which the cover is falling off.  I read these books a lot.  I figure it's the cost of a haircut, which I did myself so I saved that much.  He'll get over it.  I don't buy stuff that often.

But now, time to finish eating and crawl into bed.

Did I mention my backache?

Friday, February 8, 2013


My mom is doing better although she's terribly weak and won't be able to come home.  So she'll be moved to a nursing home next week.  She's very unhappy about it so I'm trying to come up with things to send her weekly to keep her spirits up.  I got some butterscotch hard candy to send as she's limited on fluids due to her dialysis.  I can make her cards, notepaper and of course, knit her some socks.  She loves my socks.  Sadly what I send has to be somewhat unimportant as property tends to disappear in nursing homes.  Mostly it's other visitors that take things.  Sometimes another resident will have sticky fingers and rarely someone on staff.  Mostly other visitors.

So I can't send her a portable dvd player and some dvds or a prepaid cell phone.  I won't be able to call her anymore because she won't have a phone in her room and unless someone visits her with a phone and calls me, it will have to be letters and notes.  I hope we can maintain contact that way.  I'm sure she will call occasionally.  My dad will be there to visit with her every day and my younger sister will probably be there nearly every day, vacations being the exception, of course.

I don't feel guilty for not going down.  I know she's not out of the woods yet as she has a mass on remaining semi-functional kidney.  We'll just have to take each day as it comes and not borrow trouble from tomorrow.  Or some such words of wisdom.  I suspect there will be other crises in the future and I can't run down there for each one.  Not to mention my father's health is terrible also.  He has had COPD for decades and wasn't supposed to live this long.  But he's someone who enjoys life immensely and I think that has provided the impetus to keep on keeping on.

I'm nearly done with the brown socks.  On the homestretch, nearing the toe.  It looks like I might have enough yarn so I'll have plenty to make my mother another pair of the brown.  Even if I don't have enough, I can mix it with the brown or purple or use all three.  I can come up with at least 3 pair of socks if one pair is the footie kind.  She loves that kind so that's an option.

But last night was rough on me with a bout of nausea in the middle of the night.  The dog was under the covers between me and the edge of the bed so all I could manage was the wastebasket.  It has a bin liner to it so it's easy to just pull out and throw in the trash but I thought I was never going to stop throwing up.  That was 5:30 a.m.  I dozed off again and got a phone call from the dr's office reminding me of an upcoming visit.  Then my older son called after I dozed off again.  Then my sister called.  I took the hint and just got up out of bed.  I thought it was just acid reflux although I hadn't eaten much last night but I'm still queasy and have had diarrhea all day so I think I've got whatever bug is out there.  I had some errands to run today but I'm home now and fixing to go to bed with ginger ale and crackers.  Zach is fixing spaghetti tonight.  He doesn't know that yet.

So I'm off to grab a hot water bottle, Shogun and my knitting.  I've got Once upon a Time to watch not to mention all the Supernatural and Angel eps I have dvr'd.  I don't think I can concentrate on any murder mysteries right now.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

It's not whining if you're stating the facts with update

Update:  Just talked to my sister and mom is breathing a bit better but she's 80 years old and things can turn on a dime.  I don't know what changed but my sister seems now to be very understanding about our circumstances.  Maybe it was our conversation last week or maybe my dad said something.  I don't know.  I just know that now is not the time for tearing each other apart.  Now is the time to work together. 

Unfortunately my mother was a bit incomprehensible when I was talking to her.  Part of it is fatigue, I'm sure, and part of it is her dementia.  Still, I got to hear her voice even if it was weak and rambling.

My mother isn't doing well and her health has occupied a great deal of my thoughts lately.  She's in the hospital with pneumonia; the first round of antibiotics did nothing to help.  My dad called today to talk about end of life measures.  They found a mass on her kidney, the only remaining one that had any function, albeit not enough to rid her body of toxic wastes.  She's on dialysis 3 days a week which makes her miserable.  The quality of her life has dropped measurably over the past year.  She has trouble walking now as well.

The situation is that we can't go down there.  My instinct is to jump in the car and race down there to see her but doing so would put our family deeper in the shit hole we call debt.  And we are deep in that hole, believe me.  Fortunately my father understands even if my sisters don't.  They use guilt to manipulate me to do what they have the means to do.  I just can't do it.  I'm not sure how we're going to pay our property taxes next year and we run the risk of losing the meager savings we have just to pay bills so popping down to Southern Indiana isn't an option right now.

I'll be honest.  I panic at the thought of a funeral, too.  If that is what is in the near future, I don't know how on earth we can afford that trip either.  Things are that dire.  Yes, I could and probably will put it on the credit cards but they are nearly maxed out, thanks to gall bladder surgery 15 years ago without insurance that cost us $25,000...just because they could charge us that much.  Followed by cancer treatment with medicine that cost upward of $1300 a month, which the insurance company would pay us back months later, at which time we were paying interest rates on the medicine and the payments kept going up.  Then Tom's pay cut a few years ago while Zach was in college during which time we had to use the cards a lot to make ends meet.  I don't think I've had a moment to breathe freely in the past 15 years.

And Tom is just years away from retirement.  Which we will never be able to afford, by the way.  If I try to explain to my sisters our situation, I get responses telling us to just find another job.  Or how much my mother would love to see me so why can't I just come down?  People who are comfortable just don't understand weighing every penny.  We are doing without things they would never consider.  I keep the heat at 55F during the day, 50F at night.  We don't even enjoy our dollar menu meals out anymore, nor do we go to town more than once a week if we can help it.  Meals are plainer.  Hell, they already were pretty plain anyway.  Tom is giving up fishing trips up north with his brother...trips that didn't break the bank but that we can no longer afford.  We wear our tennis shoes until they fall apart because we all have wide widths and can't get them from Walmart. Zach in particular has to get his from more expensive stores.

But my sisters look down on me as if I were the wayward sister, the prodigal child. They've even talked about me behind my back (and I know this because one sister cc'd me an email that had the conversation on it) in a way that demonstrated how little regard they had for my situation.  They decided what I could or could not afford to do. Yes, I've had a difficult relationship with my parents, but I love them.  It's not whining to state facts.  I'm not bitching about what's fair or unfair.  I'm just relating the circumstances.  Don't try to use guilt to make me feel worse than I already do.

 Plus I have responsibilities up here.  I'm a stay-at-home mom, yes, but I do have things that have to be done as I take care of all the bills, run all the errands and do all the shopping.  Plus I have a dr appointment coming up, which I might cancel because gas is nearly $4 a gallon again and the $25 copay is money I could use elsewhere.  It's not a critical appointment so I can get by with it but I have put off seeing the surgeon for my annual post-cancer check up because of expenses.  Plus the pets need their vaccinations this month and I can only afford the vaccination clinic at the pet store, which is one day a month. And that day is next Tuesday.  I've had something come up every single month so far and haven't been able to get the shots.  Going to a vet is out of the question.  That would be upward of $70 because of office visit and check ups they do before they will give the shots.

So...it's not a question of me being stubborn and just not wanting to go.  It's not that I don't want to see my mother again.  I have resigned myself to the possibility that I might never see either parent again.  Decades ago people weren't so mobile and it was understandable that you couldn't just drop everything and go when there was a serious illness.  Now it's expected of you.

So...I'm not going to apologize for all the rambling.  I'm not asking for pity or help or anything.  I'm just explaining what it's like to not have the choices people have when they are comfortably situated financially.  Just think about it, show compassion to someone who has to make difficult choices based on money and for pete's sake, don't try to inflict guilt on them because they won't do what you can afford to do.