Another day in the cabin.  I thought we would try the Evening Service at church tonight, but King Colon, a high blood pressure headache, and an unwillingness to tackle the cold and the wheelchair on ice and snow while trying to get into church all combined to change our minds. 

Today was a better day.  One reason was that I made a pot of strong coffee to feed my caffeine addiction.  Yesterday, some stomach discomfort interfered with the coffee intake.  Another reason the day went better was that we had a morning visitation.   It was nothing supernatural, but it was uplifting.  Don, Edie and Daughter Gretchen surprised us with a visit.  They were bearing gifts, Gretchen’s soup (very tasty and very filling), cookies from church (made by the Deacon who preached and his family), and some other cookies, bundt cake and muffins.  The food and the conversation helped stimulate a more positive atmosphere in our cabin. 

The other reason the day was a bit better was that I got outside, shoveled snow and scraped ice, stimulating my brain with endorphins.  Having grown up in Northern Illinois, I am not unfamiliar with such things.  Actually, I have an unpublished goal of having the first completely cleared and dry (down to the cement) driveway in the subdivision.  I was disappointed that I did not find the energy to get it done right away, but the wind and blowing snow made it almost impossible.

The Homes Association had used a bobcat to clear the worst of the snow from the drive, but there was a layer that was packed down by the treads of the bobcat, and then blowing snow added a couple of inches more.   At least looking from my drive, it appeared that no one else was down to cement either yet this morning. 

I began shoveling.  Some of the drifts at the edge of the driveway were pretty tall.  I paced myself as I worked on the drive.  Every time I lost my footing for a bit, I thought about the consequences of my falling and cracking my head.  Then, of course, the thought of all those older men who had heart attacks while shoveling snow came to mind.  When the next door neighbor came out for a moment on the way to her car, she encouraged me to leave the task for the sun to accomplish in coming days.  I assured her that I would be careful.  I told her that if I was foolish enough to over-exert and had a heart attack, my children would summarily finish the job, all the while asking me what I thought I was doing out there shoveling snow.  They are fully aware of the challenge of dealing with their Mom’s illness if anything were to happen to me.  They would not hesitate for a moment to do whatever is necessary, but given their own obligations to spouse and children, it would be a challenge of monumental proportions. 

After shoveling the snow, there was, of course a layer of ice to be dealt with.  I am very proud of my method for dealing with an ice covered driveway.  First, I have an ice scraper just like the one we used regularly when I was growing up in Aurora, Illinois.  It is the perfect tool for loosening the ice so that it can easily be removed.  Second, I have the secret knowledge.  Removing ice has nothing to do with temperature.  It is all about color!  More accurately, it is about dark color.  

Even on a cloudy day, there is a certain amount of sunlight that reaches the surface of the earth.  White repels it.  Dark absorbs it.  My goal is to get rid of as much pure white surface as possible and reveal or add as much dark surface as possible.  The snow is shoveled down to the top of the ice. The ice is dark.  The scraper is used to wherever there is an edge that it can be forced under without too much effort.  Then comes the kitty litter, the cheapest available.  It is sprinkled liberally over any ice remaining on the drive.  The sunlight warms the dark particles and they work their way through the ice.  The sunlight also warms the cement under the ice so that the ice does not stick to it.  Then scraping again and again whatever has been loosened, clears the cement with relatively little effort. 

Some ice remains, but it has kitty litter on it.  The sun and the wind should melt and evaporate what is left tomorrow in short order.  Understand, we have the advantage of the drive being fully exposed to the sun since it faces south and it is not shaded by trees. 

Added advantages to using kitty litter are that when it first goes on, it provides traction, reducing the likelihood of slipping, and it does no harm to the grass when the snow melts (at least I don’t think so).  The one negative is that it clings to shoes and tracks into the house when the shoes come in.  The trade off is worth it. 

I am continuing the online retreat.  Mary Ann napped twice today.  I used the time for the shoveling and scraping, but there was enough to do some more thinking about and recording of childhood experiences and their impact on my formation.  The mental snapshots of various moments in my childhood have elicited strong feelings, some pleasant and some very unsettling.  I witnessed a worker killed by the walls of a sewer repair ditch falling in on him.  There was a murder/suicide across the street.  A kitten was run over as I watched — another put down.  There was talk about our oldest brother who died on Christmas Eve when he was five years old.  His appendix had burst.  I simply could not ignore the concept of death.  My Rheumatic Fever shaped my self image as a buddy played a game of tag with me in which my touching anyone would give them Polio.  I sat out of gym classes and games at recess time. 

Those experiences forced me to come to terms with death fairly early in life.  My faith was powerfully reassuring.  I suppose the Rheumatic Fever experience gave me a certain level of compassion for the sick and those who feel themselves to be on the outside looking in.  A variety of experiences during those years produced feelings of guilt whether deserved or not.  It is a clear understanding of the Grace of God that emerged early on as I processed those experiences.

By the same token, there are wonderful memories of hours spent outside with the bugs and birds and tadpoles and weeds and grass and sunshine and puffy clouds and rain and wind.  There is no doubt that those experiences have programmed me to find peace and joy and satisfaction in the natural world. 

What I learned from those early experiences has certainly helped shape who I have become.  Mary Ann has not really been very forthcoming with stories of her early years.  Most of what I know about those years has come from listening to her talk with her three friends from Fifth Grade on.  I have little doubt the best stories about those years have been told outside of my hearing. 

So far, two days into the online retreat, I am glad to be doing it.  There have been two short Scripture readings so far.  Both have been very instructive in the process.  If you are interested, the following link will take you to the home page.  There can be found a link to the “Online Retreat.” http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/online.html

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.

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Danger! Danger!  Alien attacks again.  This Alien presence from planet Pedometer Prime has had his way with me again.  I was out and walking some time before 7:30am.  I had no idea there was a 7am on Monday.  I didn’t think they started measuring time until at least 9am.

The Alien and Mary Ann were in collusion.  As suspected, sleep did not go quite as well last night after a daytime nap yesterday and earlier to bed than usual.  The consequence was that she woke up at 6:45am in need of food and ready to get up.  Do you see how this played into the Alien’s hands?  After eating a single serving snack of apple sauce, she was willing to lie down again while I went out to walk for twenty minutes or so.  It seemed best not to start meds too early, since the two hour increments of medicine would end to early in the afternoon.  I put the Lifeline pendant around her neck, got water for her, the television remote for the bedroom TV and headed out.

Now, of course, I am feeling energized and positive.  You see how this Alien presence weaves his subversive plot?  Here I am writing this post and, again, it is morning — Monday morning!  I guess to be honest for those of us who are retired, there isn’t a Monday.  In fact we bought a clock from Radio Shack that shows the day of the week so that we would know what day we are in.

As I thought about Mary Ann’s increased ability to walk and the better nights, the domino effect popped into my mind.  The better nights have encouraged a change in my pattern of activity.  It seems more possible to do an exercise walk.  I am more rested and, as a result, more willing to get up in the morning to get in the walk. The walk perks up my metabolism, providing the stamina to write the post earlier in the day.

In addition, by getting up earlier, I am more ready and able to get to bed earlier.  Since I am writing the post earlier in the day, I can use the time in the evening after Mary Ann goes to bed for listening to music, or engaging in a Taizé devotion, following a reading by Fr. Ed Hayes.  The latest readings have come from his book, Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim.

All of the above has been about me, the Caregiver.  For Mary Ann, the good news is that she has seen little of Grumpy Caregiver and more of the patient and helpful Caregiver.  My confidence in her ability to walk has freed her from my constant presence, in her face, asking her to sit back down.  She has fallen on occasion, but still not often by comparison to the past. My confidence in her ability to walk has given me the feeling of being untethered.  That has felt  remarkably freeing.

It fascinates me just how interrelated all these circumstances are.  One domino falls, touches the next.  That one hits another, that one bumps one more.  Sometimes one small change can grow into something far more substantial.

I have no illusions.  Just as the dominoes can fall for good, they can fall for bad.  The hallucinations have begun to return.  Yesterday morning, there was a Raccoon in her bed.  When we drove into the garage after church last evening, Mary Ann in a matter of fact tone, noted that they hadn’t thrown away the quills.  I asked to what she was referring.  She answered, the Porcupine quills.  She saw them distinctly.  When I got out of the car, turned on the lights in the garage and helped her out of the car, she saw that they were gone.  She was, however sure there were some in the house.  When we got in, she went into the bedroom and looked around.  She didn’t comment further on the matter. Hallucinations, of course, can interfere with her sleep and keep her up for hours.

Since she got up early this morning, she may get tired and need a nap.  A nap might impact her ability to sleep.  The domino effect could take us back to more troublesome times.

To try to avoid that path, we have made a commitment to pick up a friend, head out for lunch and a ride.  My hope is that we can keep active until Oprah.  Once that time comes, she generally stays awake until bedtime.

We live on a very narrow margin of functionality.  We can do very well one hour or day or week, and very badly just as easily.  Right now we are on a side of that margin that has been very enjoyable.  Here is hoping for more time on this side!

If you want to write a comment about this or any of the posts on this blog, look to the column on the right side of this page, titled “Recent Posts,”  click on the name of a post and you will find a box at the end of that article in which you can write a comment.  Clicking on the title of the post you are reading will accomplish the same thing.  Comments are appreciated.