Nine and a half hours each way, took me to the family reunion in Northern Illinois and back — one day driving, one day there, one day driving back.  There have been consequences to so much time driving.  I went by myself.  As the Reunion approached, Mary Ann’s increase in frequency and intensity of fainting spells made it seem pretty foolish to try to make a trip to Northern Illinois for the Reunion, then to Kentucky to spend time with the kids there, then back home to Kansas. 

Recognizing how much I wanted to see the family, Daughter Lisa and her family offered to come here and stay with Mary Ann while I drove to the Reunion.  They had a good time.  Son Micah and family came over to join them all at our house.  They had a mini-reunion of their own.  I missed out on it, but Mary Ann was the center of attention for the weekend — a wonderful treat for her.   

Actually she did very well.  Lisa reported that the nights went well.  The night I returned did not go so well.  When I said something about her behaving better at night for Lisa than for me, she simply observed that she knew me longer than Lisa.  She hasn’t lost her dry sense of humor. 

The time in Northern Illinios was well spent.  I arrived just in time for the Friday evening dinner celebrating two siblings and spouses’ fiftieth wedding anniversaries.  We noted that at this point the five siblings have logged 246 years of marriage between them (56, 50, 50, 4 7 and 43).  Add the years our parents were married (59) and the total grows to 305 years for six couples.  As one of the Sons-in-Law noted, that is a pretty good model for those who follow. 

In an album one sibling’s Daughter put together was a picture from our parent’s fiftieth wedding anniversary many years ago.  They were married in 1926.  I remember when looking at that picture of the whole family the first time I saw it in 1976.  Even though by then I was thirty-three years old (married with two children), it was the first time I realized that I was part of an extended family.  I am the youngest sibling by almost seven years.  I felt like an only child.  When I saw that picture, my whole perspective changed.  I became part of a family. 

We enjoyed our time together exchanging the same old family stories, laughing as if it was the first time we had heard them.   Saturday included another, less formal gathering and meal.  There was lots to be discovered about nieces and nephews, great nieces and nephews, great-grand nieces and nephews. 

Saturday also included time with one of Mary Ann’s Sisters-in-Law, renewing the connection with her family.   I would assess Mary Ann to be favorite Aunt Mary in that clan.  Two of her brothers are deceased and the third is estranged.  She has always felt close to her nieces and nephews. 

Later in the day, I got to spend time with one of Mary Ann’s lifelong friends and her husband.  Mary Ann is part of a foursome who became friends around the time they were in the Fifth Grade.  They have been fast friends since.  I, too, consider them (and spouses) to be friends.  However, when the four of them get-together, I head for the hills.  They immediately become four teen-aged girls, laughing uproariously. 

Everyone missed seeing Mary Ann, and I was disappointed for Mary Ann that she didn’t get to be there.  

When I returned Sunday evening, I was very tired, but basically fine.  As the day wore on yesterday (Monday), the consequence of all that driving emerged.  Apparently, some inflammation in my back was pushed over the edge by my return to the routine of assisting Mary Ann getting up and down. 

The pain is located right at the point that seems to serve as the fulcrum for my leveraging her up and down from a sitting position.  I do that many dozens of times in a day.  The level of pain reached a seven or eight on the ten point scale usually used by those assessing pain. 

The pain is problem enough.  What is more troublesome is the prospect of its not getting better, but rather getting worse, since Mary Ann’s need for my help does not diminish as my ability to help lessens. 

At the moment we are walking the line between being able to manage here and not being able to manage here.  Yesterday afternoon, without an appointment, I finally just stopped by the Chiropractor I go to when bone and joint pains come.  I prefer manipulation that targets the pain, to medications that impact the whole body systemically.  I am not averse to pain medications.  I just recognize their limitations and their side effects. 

Ice packs, Ibuprofen, and a second trip to the Chiropractor has brought the level of the pain down from its peak yesterday and this morning.   I have moved more slowly and carefully when helping Mary Ann  up and down, asking her to do more of the work in the process.  I have toyed with the idea of trying to call the church to see if I could get an older female teen or young adult who has pretty good upper body strength to work here at the house for a few hours each of the next couple of days at maybe $10 per hour, just to do the lifting part of the Caregiving task. 

My goal is to move away from the line we are now walking.  The other side of the that line appears to be far less workable than this side of the line.  In fact, it looks pretty frightening.   At the moment, we are in a precarious position, right on the line between doable and not doable.   

My impression is that the pain is lessening and healing is on its way.  Whether that impression will become a reality remains to be seen.  As always, we take one step at a time. 

I certainly celebrate a very comforting and positive relationship with my Brothers and Sisters and their Progeny.  The relationship with Mary Ann’s Sisters-in-Law and their families is also very meaningful.  The connection with Mary Ann’s “girlfriends” is one that is filled with love and laughter.  It is hard to feel down with so many good people who care and about whom we care.

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