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.

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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/

Aging · Anxiety · Christian · Death · Family · Health · Heaven · Relationships · sad · Short story · Summer

Grief Gauntlet

Free stock photo of night, dark, halloween, horror

Today marks the end of my annual grief gauntlet.

It starts subtly enough with the passing of summer, my favorite season. The weather gets cooler and the days shorter. Then I know it’s time to get my game face on. On September 29th five years ago, my sister passed away from ovarian cancer at the age of 49. October 13th grandma passed away from Congestive Heart Failure. October 20th is my sister’s birthday. October 22nd is my deceased brother’s birthday. October 26th 2014 my mum passed away from a massive heart attack.

So it is that the end of September feels like diving into murky turbulent waters and that I have to wait till the end of October to exhale. I experience a profusion of emotions, some at the same time. They vary from a punch-in-the-gut breathlessness to exhilarating hope, and a million in between.

I thank God for His ministry of comfort to me without which I would be a wreck. It continues to blow my mind that the Holy Spirit is called our Comforter. He personally attends to healing our broken hearts. He prepares us, buffers us, and endows us with grace to endure the pain. In John 14:27 Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” He then continues to shield and teach us about our hope in eternity. This is not a wishful thought but a certain expectation that we will see our loved ones again, whole and restored. We will also see our beloved Jesus face to face.

Death is our final enemy 1 Cor 15:26. And it is a formidable enemy indeed. He strikes a terrible blow. But after we have overcome that, if we know and loved Jesus, we will never die again and pass from death to life.

Receiving news of a family members death is surreal to say the least. If you’ve never had to endure it, let me tell you that nothing can prepare you. It sucks like crazy. But One stands with you. That’s the best you can hope for. If you are in the thick of it, He stands with you still. In many, many, many days it will get a little better. Then a little more. The sun will shine again.

To read through mum’s medical report on her final day, I am further saddened that we as a family had not made the necessary steps to protect her in the even of flat-lining. I thank God for the crash team that rushed to her side to help her. Yet they were at it far too long and I hate to think of her beholding her Savior yet being surrounded by experts attempting to jolt her back to life. Not necessary. We, especially as believers, must take steps towards believing that we have a fabulous place we are going and to do what we can to eradicate unnecessary medical heroics. Though she’d had a rough last year and we were devastated by the thought of letting her go, so we didn’t plan on what the end would look like. Please take the time to talk with those you love about what you’d like and what they’d like. Better yet, write it down.

So I look outside at this fantastical fall we are having and feel ready to exhale. I thank my spiritual family for their priceless support through prayer and other gestures of love. I’m so honored to walk this road with you and can’t wait to be finally home forever.

Mum, Irene, Mick… plus all others who have gone before us, we’ll see you all very soon.

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

photo retrieved from https://www.pexels.com/photo/night-dark-halloween-horror-782/ on 10/26/2017

Anxiety · Christian · culture · Family · Kids · mothers · Musings · Parenting · Relationships · sad · Single mother · Single parenting · Spiritual

I Don’t Need You

Image result for LOVE public domain

“How do you do it?” her new friend gasped incredulously. My kid sister Jackie was at a children’s birthday party and had just shared that she was a single mum.

She got this reaction almost every time.

This time an extraordinary sense of ownership welled inside her. “I do it just fine with the Lord.” She knew this wasn’t a fashionable statement but it slipped right out of her mouth before she could stop it. She felt strangely galvanized inside and her chest puffed out slightly.

Kayla was seven now. She was the hardest yet the best thing that had ever happened to Jackie. Kayla’s dad walked out on them when she was about two. To be honest, Jackie can’t imagine what life would be like with him around. My heart warms every time I observe these two for any length of time and I marvel at what a fool he was to have walked out on this.

I love the amazing and simple life they’ve created for themselves. Jackie works a few days a week as a therapist. She walks Kayla to school in the mornings and they chat about wanting a cat, the naughty boys at school, anxiety about going to the doctor for shots, and everything in between.

Especially earlier on, Jackie’s life was peppered with regrets wishing life had played out differently. She’d known all along he wasn’t great marriage material but had mercurial hopes of some future together. News of Kayla’s very presence in the universe had rocked Jackie’s world and filled her with dread. This was not her plan. She could terminate the pregnancy and continue her life like nothing had ever happened. No one would ever need to know.

I distinctly remember her phone call to me shortly after she found out. I was crestfallen and lost for words to respond to her announcement. We had an unspoken pact that we’d save ourselves for marriage. I couldn’t imagine the angst this was causing her. She was the youngest of  seven siblings and with humility, boldness, and dignity, she called every member of our family to tell them. She called her pastor and told him. She went before her church and told them. She was embraced with the associated grief and swallowed up with love and acceptance. She was overwhelmed with the love of God’s family. I couldn’t have been more proud of her, worlds away. It tore me up that I couldn’t even hug her or hold her beautiful face.

I ate up pictures she sent of herself as her bump progressed. She was gorgeous. And afraid. And sad. And excited. And oh, so remorseful. This was not what she wanted…

The first year was a blur. She had a horrendous birthing experience. Then Kayla had to go to her dad’s house for visits every other weekend. How Jackie dreaded that. She sent her off with instructions to him. And clothes. And food. “Here’s some pain medicine, she’s teething so she needs it every 3 hours. And don’t forget to use the barrier cream. She had a terrible rash last time.”

He was a man of very few words but was he even listening? She paced her house the whole time her baby was gone. She cried herself to sleep and awoke ten times before morning dawned. Why wasn’t he answering his phone? Was he with his drinking buddies again? She was ready to pull her hair.

Jackie would sob with relief when they finally got back. She kissed her chubby cheeks with a million teary kisses and held her close, thinking her heart would burst. She hated that, subconsciously, she would start the dreaded countdown till Kayla would leave again. Within a few months Kayla would actually cry for him when he dropped her off. Jackie didn’t know what to do with that. Fortunately, she was easy to redirect. Still, with consternation, she would open the diaper bag and find that things she’d carefully packed away and given instructions on, were untouched. It made her want to shake him.

And then one day he fell off the face of the earth. No call, no words, no goodbye. She heard that he had left the country and wasn’t coming back. She wanted to dance with glee. Then a new grief hit her: the loss of a dream. That can strangle one as mercilessly as the death of a loved one.

She ploughed through the banal experience of child-raising. It was peppered with constant reminders that she was alone. There were more blatant aspects like buying a piece of property and building a home: every signing appointment, every minute detail regarding the home – from qualifying for a loan to choosing counter tops, roofing, doorknobs, lighting, flooring. It would have been so helpful to have someone to run decisions by.

They talked about him now and again. Kayla asked where he was and when he’d be coming back. She asked if it was anything she had done. She wondered if he thought of them. “Will I be the only girl in the world without a daddy?” She would sob and disconsolately throw herself on her bed. Jackie answered her questions gently, thoughtfully, honestly.

She perpetually found herself having to explain, in one circle or another, that he wasn’t in the picture. Always, an awkward silence ensued along with an attempt on her part or the other person’s to recover some semblance of dignity.

Jackie snapped back to attention as the herd of screaming party goers stampeded into the room to open presents and sing Happy Birthday. She smiled through the whole affair as, almost beholding on a screen, she reviewed how good God had been to her despite immense hardships. He had seen her through. And that beautifully!

He HAD met her every need. He had helped her overcome the poignancy of her wants that He didn’t fulfill. He had housed them, healed them, provided for them. He had protected them, comforted them, delighted them. God had done more than Kayla’s dad could ever have done had he stayed in the picture. Of course she longed for a physical consort, a life partner. Someone to laugh with and encourage her. Someone to help her discipline and train this handful of a child.

But she solidly learned that she had all that and more. All her fountains were in Him, Psalm 87:7. He was a fountain of constant cleansing; a fountain of refreshment that slaked her every thirst; He astounded her when He thundered like the Niagara with power in her life; He delighted her when He filled her and her daughter with levity and delight in life.

She determined that she would raise her daughter to know that she had a Father who loved her more than anything. She had an identity and a family. She was whole and lovable, incredibly made, wanted and chosen before she was delicately knit together in her mother’s womb. She was pursued and desired, cared for, and delighted in just as she is.

Always. Tenaciously. Unconditionally. Loyally.

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

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.

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“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.

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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/

Family · mothers · Musings · sad · sons

Even Ever!

My sweet Paul was very articulate at a young age. When he was three, Nana took him to her house for a weekend. He loved her cabin in the woods and came home full of stories of his imaginary friend, Ima McGack. He also had frequent encounters with his pet zebra and the zebra’s dolphin friend who lived in the woods by Nana’s house.

He was smitten with Thomas the Tank Engine and we had inherited a fabulous wooden set with many of the trains. Every day, he spent hours with Thomas and friends in our sun-room constructing intricate railroad designs. He chatted happily with the various engines and laughed at their funny responses; he’d raise his pitch when he talked to Emily and growl deeply at Diesel #10. His tracks went up and over, in and under, round and round. He had been working on the current elaborate design for several days before he left for Nana’s.

Dust bunnies had accumulated around the set and I took the opportunity to clean up while he was away. As I tore up the set and put it in the clear plastic bin, I felt a tinge of guilt knowing how much time he’d spend putting it together. I justified it with the fact that we had agreed he would clean up all the tracks and trains every night before he went to bed.

First forward to Sunday afternoon. He came home and gave me a cursory halo.  I was standing at the kitchen counter prepping dinner. My eyes widened and I bit my lip nervously anticipating his reaction as he walked past me and bee-lined for the sun-room. He walked into the room and I peeked around the corner. He’d stopped short in his tracks and was inspecting the room, aghast. He turned around and marched back towards the kitchen, huge-eyed. I jerked my head back and pretended to keep chopping vegetables.

“Mum,” he swallowed hard and gasped, “Did you put Thomas away?”

“I did,” I said nonchalantly, staring wide-eyed at the cabbage.

“Mum.” He was quiet. His little heart was breaking.

“Don’t-ever-do-dat-again.” His bottom lip was quivering as he thrust his chubby index finger at the floor, accentuating each word. His little chest was rising and falling pathetically.

He turned on his heels and approached the sun-room as a lone survivor approaches a killing field. Shaking his head like his father, he threw his hands up in the air in frustration and defeat. The tears wouldn’t come.

I was devastated and my heart sank. I heard his little feet heading back for the kitchen and hastened back to my vehement chopping.

“Never ever!” He stated as he strode towards the TV room, the tears finally coming. “Even ever!”

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/fast-forward/

Christian · culture · Humor · Relationships · sad · travel

Dive Bomber (Reblogged)

I love hummingbirds. All facts about them astound me. I once sat stunned under a feeder as one buzzed the top of my head repeatedly. My wincing face portrayed my certainty that the pointed beak  at the end of those deafening wing-beats was going to bore holes in my irises!

There is one hummingbird I am not crazy about. I call him Dive Bomber. I buy the sugar, I pay for the water, and I clean and refill the feeders every couple days. HE drinks the syrup then stands guard beside it and dive bombs any other birds that mistakenly think I refilled the feeder for just any ole’ hummingbird.

I’m camping at a KOA in the desert. It’s 90 degrees out and there’s a pool, so my new friend Mary and I take the kids out for  a swim. The kind owners of the campground have provided 2 large canopies for patrons to enjoy by the pool. They are the only shade. One of them covers a large laughing family. The other shades 4 lounge chairs covered with towels. Dive Bomber is lounging in the sun beside the canopy, flexing his bulging, tattooed muscles and frequently dousing himself in sunscreen.

Mary and I grab chairs across the pool and head for the vacant canopy. Mary greets him cheerfully and courteously asks if we can shade up under this cover. He says, “We actually came here early so we could use one of these. You just can’t mosey over here when people are already here. That’s pretty rude.” He flexed his pects and returned to next months edition of Self Magazine.

He probably has never conceived the thought that he consumes less than 1% of the contents of the feeder. Nor that if he dared to leave his post he would be stunned to find a world of wonders:  fuschias,   butterfly bushes,  columbine, honeysuckle, new friendships… the list is endless. For hours and hours, his family used the canopy for less than an hour total, but, don’t touch my feeder, that’s pretty rude!

Father, please open my eyes to my Dive Bomber tendencies.

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