Acceptance · Aging · Body image · Caregiving · Dementia · Elderly · Humor · Musings · Scripture · True Story

My Body is a Sagging Tent

odometer

A dear friend, 6 significant years younger than I,  contacted me feeling woebegone.

She’s about to turn forty and she feels lousy. Her eye-sight is suddenly failing, her metabolism is on strike, and her children – all under the age of 8 – think they are smarter than her despite her doctorate degree. She’d envisioned running a research department at a prestigious university by this age, but now she sits in a dingy diner trying to make out the blurry menu and not kick her rugrat crawling around under the table who just said, “those last people had weally good Fwench Fwies.” Sigh.

Since I’m about to turn forty five, I laughed my head off at her. I bought myself the sign above at a fun store in Rockaway Beach. Poor baby. She has no idea that she’s living the best times and that it’s downhill, fast, from there. See dear, we are now officially middle aged! That’s a true fact. Read it again.

It’s funny to me how 60 year-olds think they’re middle aged. Anyone that thinks we are not middle aged, is actually old and in denial about their status unless they think they will live to be 120.  Which is not going to happen. Please scoot your walker forward, you’re knocking on geriatric. If you don’t own a walker yet, you can get one at the local senior center for a $5 donation. Go get it. I said, (a little louder, and with hand motions) go get it. You can thank me later. The only exception is my 100 year old resident who frequently observes, with disdain, other residents who are much younger than she, and says, “I hope I don’t act like that when I’m old.” Ha!

Our conversation called to mind these superb words from Ecclesiastes 12.

Remember your Creator
    in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
    and the years approach when you will say,
    “I find no pleasure in them”—
before the sun and the light
    and the moon and the stars grow dark,
    and the clouds return after the rain;
when the keepers of the house tremble,
    and the strong men stoop,
when the grinders cease because they are few,
    and those looking through the windows grow dim;
when the doors to the street are closed
    and the sound of grinding fades;
when people rise up at the sound of birds,
    but all their songs grow faint;
when people are afraid of heights
    and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms
    and the grasshopper drags itself along
    and desire no longer is stirred.
Then people go to their eternal home
    and mourners go about the streets.

Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
    and the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
    and the wheel broken at the well,
and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
    and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

The “keepers of the house” must be our muscles, “the strong men” our bones. The “grinders” are our teeth. By “fear of heights” the inspired writer means the curb. Be grateful that you can hop right up or down from it today, my dear. A time will come when you will pray that a Boy Scout (who might be a girl- don’t try to understand that) is walking by so it takes you 5 instead of 30 minutes to maneuver getting up or down that curb.

Is the silver cord our hair that will all have fallen off or is it our spinal cord whose reflexes will be calcified. Is the golden bowl our once brilliant PhD brain which will lead us to crawl under the table eating the previous occupants Fwench Fwies? Can you picture carrying a full pitcher and a walker, with shaky hands and a stooped back? Forget about it!

The “wheel… broken at the well” tells you there may be water down there but you ain’t getting it. Just about all you do takes too much effort and creates problems of its own. Or is the spilling, broken pitcher at the spring addressing the deficiencies of our bowel  and bladder functions? Maybe that refers to the female process while the wheel with its defunct rope refers to the male. How annoying to have a bladder full of liquid, move heaven and earth to get to the bathroom, then dribble three drops of urine and be done? That is until you get back to your power recliner and you gotta go, NOW!

But don’t feel bad about this prognosis. There are numerous upsides to the aging process as your youth disappears, the best of which is you can say whatever you darn well please. I can’t remember the rest. But I do remember a brilliant quip some senior citizen came up with that goes something like:

“I can’t walk, I can barely talk, I can’t screw, I can’t poo, I can’t see, and I can’t hear. Good thing I still have my driver’s license!”

So my advice to you is from Ecclesiastes 11.

Light is sweet,
    and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.
However many years anyone may live,
    let them enjoy them all.
But let them remember the days of darkness,
    for there will be many.
    Everything to come is meaningless.

You who are young, be happy while you are young,
    and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart
    and whatever your eyes see,
but know that for all these things
    God will bring you into judgment.
10 So then, banish anxiety from your heart
    and cast off the troubles of your body,
    for youth and vigor are meaningless.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/disappear/

Scripture reference from the New International Version

Caregiving · God's Will · Musings · Prayer · Scripture

Reconciled

2926846-david-hume-quote-the-heart-of-man-is-made-to-reconcile-the-most.jpg

It happens all the time.

Every time they have a medical visit, I send my residents to the doctor with a list of current medications. The physician is to look at the list, reconcile it with their list, sign it, and return it to me with a note on any changes. I then update my list and have it ready for the next visit. This is particularly imperative when the residents see multiple doctors who are unaware of what medications other doctors are prescribing or discontinuing.

As I sat with my tribe’s prayer circle yesterday, I was praying with numerous ladies who are feeling beat up by life or walking through fire. We’d opened the circle with this wonderful invokation:

       ” …We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual     wisdom and understanding.  Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.

 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father.”

As we went around the circle covering each other’s upcoming surgeries, sick relatives and friends, stressful life circumstances, etc., it abruptly came into sharp focus for me that we needed to reconcile our requests with the Word. People are sick, fretting, discouraged, panicked. A bromidic “bless brother Bob” prayer will not do. It is shopworn and threadbare at best.

Instead of agonizing over Meg’s daughter’s decision, and attempting to arm-twist her into what Meg wants for her, why don’t we reconcile it to say, “give Stacy complete knowledge of your will as well as spiritual wisdom and understanding.  Then the way she lives will always honor and please you, Lord, and her life will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, she will grow as she learns to know you better and better.”

In this way we can trust that because we are praying according to God’s will, He who sees what we can’t see (now and in the future), will do whatever is best in ways we can’t anticipate. We can also trust that even if she does wrong, He will use that to grow her in wisdom, understanding, and maturity.

Instead of or in addition to praying, please heal aunt Helen’s cancer, why don’t we reconcile it with the admonition to “have all the endurance and patience she needs, and to be filled with joy and thankfulness?” We can’t go wrong with that, and she probably needs a good dose of it at this tough time.

As the axis who collects the ever changing medication orders for my residents, I most likely have the most current and accurate orders. It’s no slam on the doctors. Unless they are all in one streamlined computerized medical system, they have no other way to keep up.  I have had doctors I had to call back and say, “Dr. Reyes changed the Digoxin dose from 125mcg daily to every 2 days, hold on the 3rd day.”

I have it in writing. I go by the book. If this doctor doesn’t like that order he can change it, or duke it out with Dr. Reyes. It’s my job to make sure our records match. It’s also his job but he only had 7 minutes to see the patient, review her charts, listen to her talk about growing up in Oklahoma, do a physical check of the pain in her gut, and prescribe new meds. Sigh.

  1. We have to constantly update and reconcile orders. If you are not praying scripture for yourself and others, you probably have some orders wrong on your list. Do take a moment today to reconcile them.
  2. What issue can I pray with you about today?

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/abrupt/

image retrieved 5/2/18 from: https://quotefancy.com/quote/1246869/David-Hume-The-heart-of-man-is-made-to-reconcile-the-most-glaring-contradictions

Passage from Colossians 1, New Living Translation.

Caregiving · Health · Humor · Military · Short story

High Butt Pressure

back blast area

My poor sons were raised in an adult foster home so they have some rather peculiar perspectives on life. Yesterday I was taking residents’ blood pressures when one of my boys said, “Did you just say blood pressure? All these years I thought you’ve been saying ‘butt pressure’.”

____________________________________

One of my residents, Judy, was coming off some wicked antibiotics and pain medications that left her terribly constipated. We’d been fastidiously following her BM regimen to try and get her relief but it finally came to the big guns – the enema.

After days of being backed up, she was miserable and ready for anything that would give her relief. I was teaching my caregiver Lora how to administer the enema. Our miserable Judy lay moaning on her bed, facing the wall, obviously a very humiliating and vulnerable position. Lora was on her knees on the floor behind her, quaking with nerves. I was bending beside Lora, soberly walking her through the daunting process. Unfamiliarity,  risk, and pain made them both skittish.

Lora is a luminescent personality. She is Texan and ex-military, meaning she always has a straight-faced badinage that leaves people around her rolling on the floor snorting in hysterics. I was talking in low confident tones and slowly rubbing Judy’s back with my gloved hands to relax her. I started to say, “Lubricate the nozzle and very gently insert…” when Lora poked her head straight up, enema in hand, and interrupted me with, “Now, Judy, in the military, when you’re about to fire a shoulder mounted rocket launcher, you scan behind you to make sure no one is in the danger zone and yell,” –  and she YELLED, “”Back blast area clear!” Then you fire.”

“So I would ap-rciate it if you would give me that there courtesy pr-cautionary proclamation if you feel you are about to expel any hot gases or other dangerous explosives in my general direction seeing as I am in the primary danger zone,” and she bent back down to business, leaned towards me and said quietly, “Pardon me m’am, please continue.”

It’s been two weeks and neither Judy nor I can tell the story without crying.

Image retrieved 4/10/18 from:

http://www.inetres.com/gp/military/infantry/antiarmor/Javelin.html

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/luminescent/

Aging · Caregiving · CPR · Death · Elderly · End of Life Decisions

Decompression

I’ve been trained in First Aid/CPR for over 20 years but never had to use it in an emergency. On a warm Tuesday afternoon, a precious lady beside me suddenly passed out. She was sitting in a tall seat and instantly needed to be supported to avert a fall. Thankfully, there were 3 other people to help me hold her up and manage the salvo of bodily fluids.

When she didn’t come to after a reasonable amount of time I called 911. Her blood pressure was dropping rapidly and her breathing was erratic. The dispatcher had us get her on the floor and start compressions.  I stopped whenever she came to but she’d quickly slip out of consciousness – my cue to resume.

I’m grateful that administering breaths isn’t required any more. Position the heel of one hand partway between the breasts and the  sternum, place the heel of the other hand atop the first, and push straight down to the rhythm of “Staying Alive.” I felt strangely comfortable with the procedure, having practiced it numerous times before.

It was a painful process for her. She winced and jolted whenever I started, but went limp when I stopped.

An officer arrived on the scene first, followed within a minute by a quartet of fire fighters. My work was done and I could sit down and hold her dear hand. She opened her eyes and looked around as though she had just awoken from a nap. “I’ve never really looked at this ceiling,” she quipped.

They ran numerous tests and poked her hand with an enormous needle to start an IV. “Do you hurt?” one of the paramedics asked.

“Yes,” she gasped.

“What hurts?”

“You!” She said emphatically.

She was transported to the emergency department and my cronies and I held each other and debriefed. We’d worked like a well oiled machine in the crisis and were now ready to decompress. I was so grateful they were there to help me with that arduous yet necessary job. The physical and emotional effects of the stress of it lasted a few days for me. It also transported me to my mother’s dying bed. I wasn’t there for that occurence. I’m saddened that she went that way instead of slipping away silently. It’s hard to picture her in this commotion.

It’s been a week and her chest is still hurting terribly whenever she moves. Yesterday she had the hiccups all day. It hurt to watch her, as we tried remedy after remedy.

I’ve since sat with her family and debriefed the situation. They are very grateful she is alive despite sore ribs. Would we do it again in the future? No. It was a great opportunity to discuss end of life issues with her doctor and update her resuscitation orders from 2 years ago.

While she is young at heart and a jovial person, she is at peace with death and would prefer to be allowed to slip away instead of “being punched in the gut repeatedly” as she describes it. We performed CPR for about 8 minutes. My mother had CPR done for 40 minutes. She died anyway. That’s unconscionable. The hospital bill for the code team alone was atrocious.

Share your wishes with loved ones and put them in writing. Keep having the conversations as they serve the purpose of helping your friends and family establish what your values are. These can be more beneficial than a signed piece of paperwork. Discuss various scenarios and what you’d like. It may be difficult to have these conversations but they save a lot of heartache and headache in the long term. Enlist the help of a healthcare professional if some parties are resistant.

Finally, take a first aid/CPR class. In my experience, fire departments offer them for the lowest price and it’s great to get them from people who are constantly using those skills. Hospitals and other agencies offer them as well. A crisis that calls for these skills is incredibly stressful and it’s a tremendous help to have had the necessary training.

Free Image retrieved 4/3/18 from:

cityofls.net/Portals/0/images/main/News%20Releases/CPR%20Logo.jpg?ver=2018-01-26-080502-767

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/explore/

Aging · Caregiving · Dad · Daughters · Elderly · Family · Grief · Relationships · sad · Short story · Tribe

The One You’re With

I’ve heard it said that if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.

The two captivating desires of elderly residents I’ve cared for over the years have been to be in their own home and to have family visit everyday and care for them. They are almost obsessive desires. My job security rests on the fact that these two desires can’t be met. It’s fascinating to me that while they wish their loved ones were caring for them, I too have a secret desire: to be back home caring for my elderly father. Unfortunately today is not the day for that dream to come true.

The ironic flip side of that coin is that while these residents love their family members dearly, the majority of them, when it comes down to it, wouldn’t really want their family taking care of them. I’ve heard the lines: She’s so impatient… She’d rather die than wipe my butt… He’s always been so selfish… She’s so rough…. They are actually grateful that the family isn’t caring for them.

Well, there’s a flip side to my desire too. Dad is difficult. And demanding. And selfish. He has to be the boss and things have to go his way. He is loud and has the worst boundaries in the world. It’s a good thing he has a great sense of humor and can take a good jab when he goes too far.

AND he raised me. I don’t necessarily owe him, seeing as I didn’t ask to be born and raised, but I remember he put himself out repeatedly, faithfully, deeply (did I say loudly?), so that I had the best I possibly could. I remember all  that demonstrated consistently from the time I was knee high to that mountain of a man. He was on time for my appointments, present for my rehearsals and performances, involved in my education, drove me to college hours away so he’d see where I’d be.

And when I boarded a plane to fly across the world, he held me close and told me I was strong, and the Lord was with me, and that he’d be praying for me. And when I graduated he flew 10,000 miles to see for himself the first of his children to receive a university degree. He spent the whole time jet-lagging and trying to work out the cramps in his long legs from the long trip, and finally on the great graduation morning, he landed in the hospital with pneumonia. When he wasn’t kidding with and bossing the nurses, he was apologizing for missing my big day.

Two weeks later he walked me down the aisle and held me close again, and reminded me I was strong, and the Lord was with me, and he’d be praying for me. And that he was ever so proud of me.

We talk on the phone a couple times a month. I call him Daddy Blue. He calls me Mummy Blue. ( See the story behind the Blue https://wordpress.com/post/thukumainen.wordpress.com/3729). Four years later he flew to my grad school graduation and was ever so proud. He wore his favorite blue shirt, strutted like a peacock, spoke louder than normal, and looked so handsome.

IMG_20180312_111121135.jpg

I think I’m his favorite and he doesn’t know he’s my favorite. He’s my first thought when I wake up in the night. I think of him throughout my day. So why am I not there checking his medications as he takes them, slowly massaging his stump, holding his barf bag when he needs it, and sitting in on his doctors appointments? Why am I not there trimming his nails, reading Psalms to him, soaking in his amazing wisdom, and laughing at his fabulous stories?

Why am I here instead, doing your mother’s pretty nails, massaging her stump, hearing her awesome stories for the hundredth time, making her favorite dessert, looking through her picture books, and tucking her in at night with the pink and purple blanket just the way she likes it, with the little pillow over the long pillow angled just so?

I can only pray that the one who’s caring for dad knows he likes the lighter sheet off to the side so he can pull it over him if it gets cold at night and water set close to but not blocking the clock. And that wherever you are, you are taking the time to help the lady get across the street, or telling the kids that little Teddy doesn’t want them pushing his wheelchair any more. Or that you’re checking books out diligently at the library where you work, and teaching class in a fun and engaging way. That you’re being extra humane as you pick up the garbage on your work route, raise your babies at home, and as you do brain surgery on your patients, or fill tanks with gas, do landscaping, or adjudicate cases.

All this while I am with the one who would rather be with you; while I can’t be with the one I would rather be with. That’s the way of the Global Tribe.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/captivating/

Caregiving · Lies

Soggy Diaper

One might think I’m turning into a crusty caregiver, but truth be told, this applies more to the more abled than those I get to care for…

 

no bs

Your China-made faux fur is no American-mink

Attempting a straight-faced most pathetic dupe.

You have me cross-eyed with your doublethink

Don’t tell me you farted when what you did was poop!

 

Your phenomenal performance is a lousy lip sync.

You’re spinning excuses & tall-tales in a loop.

But you’re poor at Herculian attempts to hoodwink,

Don’t tell me you farted when what you did was poop!

 

Why won’t it pass, this horrendous stink?

Someone is shovelling it, scoop after scoop.

Fancy footwork, smooth talk, complete with a wink,

Don’t tell me you farted when what you did was poop!

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/fact/

 

 

Anxiety · Attraction · Battle at Kruger · Buffalo · Caregiving · Dementia · Family · Health · herd · Hormones · Lions · Maturity · Oxytocin · Parenting · Photography · Photos · Prayer · Psychology · Relationships · Self-Regulation · Tattoo · Teepa Snow · Tribe · YouTube

Meant to Belong to a Herd

 

Part I: OXYTOCIN

I took a magnificent Dementia class by fellow occupational therapist Teepa Snow. She taught a contact technique to use on people with dementia. She elaborated that it led to the release of Oxytocin, a hormone produced in mammalian brains.

I call it our herd hormone.

I later learned it controls social recognition among like kinds, and is involved in attraction, orgasm, and bonding. It affects factors like trust, generosity, and eye gaze. “An oxytocin nasal spray caused men in a monogamous relationship, but not single men, to increase the distance between themselves and an attractive woman during a first encounter by 10 to 15 centimeters” (Scheele et al, 2012). Sheep injected with Oxytocin inhibitors did not show maternal behavior towards their young whereas virgin sheep injected with Oxytocin exhibited bonding behavior towards strange lambs (van Leengoed, Kerker, & Swanson, 1987).

Wow!

When I got home from the class that night, a young man delivered medical equipment for a new resident of mine. I shook his hand at the door and commented that he had a great, firm handshake. I have a thing about handshakes and frequently request a redo if I get a limp one.

“Turns out firm handshakes elicit Oxytocin release,” I said to him as we were setting up the equipment, eager to teach him what I had learned.

“Dude!” he exclaimed, “I AM the Oxytocin man!”

“What do you mean?” I asked, taken aback.

“I love Oxytocin so much I have it tattooed on my shoulder!”

“I’ve got to to see it,” I said wide-eyed, leaning in after looking over my shoulder to make sure my husband wasn’t walking in on me gawking at the delivery guy taking his shirt off. I expected pretty calligraphy of the word.

People! The guy had the chemical formula of Oxytocin tattooed down his shoulder and clear across his chest! Mind. Blown!! I squealed in delight and disbelief as I snapped the picture below, quite like a giddy school girl.

Needless to say, I stood transfixed (10-15 centimeters further away) and stared at him in rapt attention as he assembled the equipment and taught me about Oxytocin.

Part II: CO-REGULATION

Fast forward to co-regulation, a term I recently learned. You might be familiar with self-regulation which has to do with self-monitoring so as to control our own emotions and behavior. Self-control requires time, thought, and deliberate decision making (a top-down process.)

Co-regulation, on the other hand, entails herd members influencing each other’s emotions and behavior. It is the “continuous unfolding of individual action that is susceptible to being continuously modified by the continuously changing actions of the partner” (Butler & Randall, 2013). American social worker David Belford says, ““being with“… [emphasis mine] can help co-regulate the other person more quickly because it bypasses our thinking brain (bottom-up processing).”

Co-regulation is fundamental to all human relationships from conception to death. We become stable human beings if we receive healthy regulation from our primary caretakers. If not, “we struggle with our own regulatory challenges and may turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, food or other externals to regulate our anxious or depressed systems. If this goes on long enough, we can find ourselves in addiction. Living in isolation or addiction is self-destructive, while turning to responsive people to soothe our pain is constructive.” (Katehakis, 2017). Katehakis asserts that co-regulation is a main reason why adults are in relationships.

Part III: ADRENALIN

This is an abbreviated version of what is, hands down, my favorite YouTube video in the world. Please take a minute to marvel at it.

This video has over 79 million views! 66 million are mine. What you don’t see is that at one point in the course of the scuffle, the baby buffalo falls into the grateful jaws of a crocodile! Not only is he officially having a bad day, but he doesn’t stand a chance!

Imagine that you, mum, and dad are strolling along at Kruger National Park, enjoying some family time by the river when a pride of lions waylays you. Before you now it, you are squealing for your life as the lions mount, claw, and bite at you. You have no idea what hit you in the watery brawl before you are dragged and pinned helplessly onto shore. Mum and dad are off at record speed and you are dead meat. The lions growl and snarl with drooling, primal pleasure. It’s a wonder you can hear it over your visceral groans. The uproar intensifies as they tear at you despite your failing fighting efforts. You are a sorry match for these killing machines.

Adrenalin floods your heart and the earth thunders to its deafening rhythm. Boom. Boom. Boom! The drumfire should be fading along with your draining life, yet it gets louder and louder, rumbling, stampeding. It’s not just nature’s greedy heartbeat as she gapes her ravenous jaws, it’s the hooves of a hundred irascible kin on a rescue mission. Boom. Boom. Kaboom!

Suddenly, your neck is released and surprised lions are flying in the air. Kicked cats are whimpering and scampering for their lives.

All because your tribe came back for you. It’s a fuming , foaming sea of them. You can’t make out mum or dad for the massive, cranky herd. You’ve never seen so many, never heard such enraged bellowing. It’s dizzying. And it’s all for you. That’s the power of belonging!

It gives me chills EVERY TIME.

I, for one, am just dipping my feet in the warm ocean of these beautiful concepts and can’t wait for an exploratory swim.

Have an Oxytocin rich day!

Video retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XGvj7NxMMMU on 10/20/17

Scheele D., Striepens N., Güntürkün O., Deutschländer S., Maier W., Kendrick K., et al. (2012). Oxytocin Modulates Social Distance Between Males and Females. The Journal of Neuroscience, 32, 46.  PMID 23152592.doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2755-12.2012.

van Leengoed E., Kerker E., & Swanson H. (1987). Inhibition of Post-Partum Maternal Behaviour in the Rat by Injecting an Oxytocin Antagonist into the Cerebral Ventricles. The Journal of Endocrinology, 112(2), 275–282. PMID 3819639.doi:10.1677/joe.0.1120275.

Butler, E. A., & Randall, A. K. (2013). Emotional Coregulation in Close Relationships. Emotion Review, 5(2), 202–210. http://doi.org/10.1177/1754073912451630

Katehakis, A. (2014) Co-Regulation. Mirror of Intimacy, Daily Reflection October 8, 2017 via email.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/release/

Aging · Caregiving · culture · Death · Family · Humor · language · Money · Relationships · sad · Thanksgiving · Work

Burying the Cat II

JD darted from the church and into his car in record time. Drenched in sweat, he felt like he would pass out. After he’d got a grip on himself, he reached into his front pocket of his stiff new Bi-Mart jeans for the infamous phone.

He stilled his shaky hands and flipped the little gadget open, muttering at it the whole time. 6 missed calls in 2 minutes. It was his elderly client Lynn. He pushed call.

She answered immediately. “Halo JD.”

He could tell something was very wrong. “Are you okay? What’s the matter?”

“It’s not good.” She said. He could tell she’d been crying. “Can you come?”

“I’ll be right there.” He started his car. He raced the familiar 25 miles there and let himself into the house, scared stiff. “Lynn!” he called gently.

She sat on a chair facing away from him and he hurried to her. When he got to her, he stepped back in utter dismay. She was cradling a very dead cat!

She started bawling when she saw him. “He was very sick this morning when I woke up. By the time I showered and called the vet, he was dead.” She sobbed helplessly.

He was aghast. He was tempted to say, “Is this why you called me?” but she couldn’t hear anything over the sobs anyhow. She reached out an arm for a hug. He leaned in and tried very hard not to touch the cat. “It’s okay, Lynn. I’m so sorry.”

She held him for a long time. So long his back started to cramp. Then his stomach started growling again. And that cat, he was certain he could feel it squirming, or winking at him. Or something.

Two hours later, he helped her out to a spot where they had decided Gumby would be buried. He set a chair up by the old magnolia and  scraped a perimeter for the hole. Once she approved it he got to work digging  a hole, 2 feet by 2 feet. He gritted his teeth at having to dig with his weekend clothes on, but he couldn’t very well go back home  to change at this point. The rhythmic strike of the shovel followed by the thud of the moist dirt landing was punctuated by Lynn’s soft sobs. Strike, thud, sob. Strike, thud, sob, sniffle.

He pulled his bandana from his pocket, wiped the sweat off his brow, threw the shovel off to the side and jumped out of the three foot deep hole. Lynn had wrapped Gumby in one of her towels and JD slowly reached out to receive it. He was met with a visceral wail and she clutched tightly at her stiff but beloved pet.

JD stood by trying not to the think of the tamales at his house that his friends were probably devouring without him. He didn’t want to deny her this precious moment with Gumby but he had spent all day yesterday preparing them and his cousin cooked them while he was at church.

He cleared his throat and placed his hand on her shoulder after she wiped her nose on the sleeve of her pink polyester robe. “Honey,” she started, “I don’t that’s deep enough. I don’t want coyotes and racoons digging him up. Let’s make it a little deeper.”

He jumped back in and dug first one foot, then two feet deeper. Unfortunately this also meant he had to make it wider than two foot square. He put his foot down when he was chest deep and she mistook his tear for sympathy. “Gumby always loved you so very much,” she said wanly, rocking him back and forth.

_______________________________________________________________

“Donde estas?” yelled his cousin, Pablo trying to make himself heard over the loud music in the background.

“I’m coming from buying tulips and heading to Lynn’s house,” JD replied. “Hide me a bunch of tamales.”

“Tulips? What about the tamales? Estas loco? ” Pablo scratched his head, sure he’d heard wrong.

“Hide me 6 tamales. I’ll be home soon. I think,” and he hung up, exasperated. There was nothing like missing a tamale fiesta at your own house.

She’d decided she needed tulips on the grave so that she had something pretty to enjoy when she sat by the chair she’d had him cement under the magnolia tree. That had taken another hour and a half but she just had to have those tulips. They were Gumby’s favorites, she said. She had him lay them out, first one way then another before settling on  a third configuration. He buried them then set up some rockery that the tulips would adorn.

He pulled into his driveway at 6 p.m. to find folding chairs, dirty dishes, and beer bottles strewn across his front yard and no one in sight. He was the epitomy of mixed emotions as he stood there his eyes going from this mess to the wad of cash Lynn had stuck into his breast pocket “Please take this,” she said as she hugged him goodbye.  “You’re a better son to me than my own. He’d have told me and my cat to go to hell hours ago.”

JD counted it 5 times. Nine hundred and Forty dollars.

tulip2

https://wordpress.com/prompts/deny/

Aging · Caregiving · Death · Health · Relationships · sad · Teasing

Knock Your Ass to the Floor

I’m scraping my left overs into the kitchen-scrap bin for my chickens. I smile sadly as I think of Coach. I wish it was his left-overs I was scraping …

As far as I can tell he has always commanded authority, even though he is the biggest kid on the planet.

I would watch his stooped form hobble into the front room, an iron-grip on his aluminum front wheeled walker. The caregiver has him firmly by the belt. She has finally learned to do it properly. When the caregivers first start, they inevitably pull his belt up as high as they can. Pretty soon his every step is higher and higher, driven by the abominable wedgy, until he is barely walking on tip-toe, then his legs are flailing about, trying to make up with the floor; and the caregiver, blood vessels pulsating on her temples, is about to strain bulging arm muscles from carrying a grown man by the waistline.

“Hi Trouble,” I tease.

He glances at me furtively,  and chuckles. Just a few months ago he would have said, “I’m going to knock your ass to the floor.” I love it! Walking has become arduous now. He keeps shuffling along, as though fearing that he won’t start again if he stops.  With every other step, the left Hush Puppies shoe rhythmically hits against the right one and his left knee buckles slightly.  I watch with bated breath, willing him on.

Sadly, his speech is also failing him lately. I can tell by the gleam in his eye he is trying to tease me back and can’t. My heart breaks. I’m certain it would have been a good one. When he finally sits, exhausted, I bend over to wipe a little rivulet of drool from his dignified chin and plant a playful kiss on his forehead.

“Wow! THIS is the BEST comb-over in the world!” I exclaim and  realign a stray hair. “I don’t care what anybody says.” He looks at me  through brilliant blue eyes and smiles again. He tries hard to say something and then abandons it. Instead, he shakes his head in mock dismay. So I raise my eyebrows and shake my head slowly as I say it for him. “… knock my ass to the floor.”  He smiles, trying to glare at me and settles for a fist.

We used to erupt in laughter at “the fist.” It was the formidable mechanism of knocking asses to the floor. One was liable to get it several times a day for one reason or another. A tear comes to my eye as I realize we are getting the fist less and less any more.

‘I’ll miss that someday,’ I think to myself as I clear his plate after breakfast. He did’t eat much, again. Nothing tastes good any more. I breathe deeply and stare absently out the kitchen window as I scrape the plate’s contents into the kitchen-scrap bin. Bacon, eggs, and rye toast. His favorite.

Today, I’m scraping my left overs… I wipe away another tear. I wish it was his left-overs I was scraping …

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/planet/

Aging · Caregiving · Death · Faith · Family · Health · Nature · Poetry · Relationships · sad · Spiritual

Ash Tuesday

This is a tribute to one of the most dignified people I have ever had the privilege of caring for. He and his family impacted my life deeply for almost 2 years. Some people grow deep roots into our hearts in no time…

Our beloved Gorge flares in a fury of flames and ash

Started by thoughtless fun and games

Fueled by bone dry underbrush,

By cowards who then skinked away and hid. No names.

Blazing,

Devouring,

Devastating.

 

On this Ash Tuesday

Another inferno has ran its course.

“I say what I mean and I mean what I say.”

His was a life lived deliberately

With honor, honesty, & humor. No remorse.

 

Simple and humble, hilarious, approachable.

A diligent, brilliant, outstanding human being

With  warmth blazing through bright blue eyes

Fed by a fire in his belly, seemingly all-seeing.

 

His was a no nonsense, kick your ass to the floor, tell-it-like-it-is kind of warmth.

It was fueled by Polish pride and delivered with New Jersey precision.

Fiery and feisty,

Then glowing,

Smoldering,

Simmering.

Spent…

 

Coach.

The man.

The myth.

The legend.

Forever in our hearts, till we meet again.

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/crescendo/