As Bath Aide Zandra was leaving this morning, I caught out of the corner of my eye that she gave Daughter Lisa a lingering hug.  When she left, Lisa said that she was in tears.  Mary Ann has such a presence that it doesn’t take long for her have impact on people.  Zandra has come to help Mary Ann with her shower, wash her hair and get her dressed in the morning twice a week for maybe four years now.  Zandra was absolutely shocked when she came last Wednesday and saw how much Mary Ann had declined in just a week.

It is probably good that I didn’t see it.  I am beginning to feel as if my intentional denial is only a thin veneer.  I am not ready to allow the dull pain to break open.  I suspect that the illusion that I actually have anything much to say about when and where it breaks is only that, an illusion.  Enough of that!

Then there is Freda’s food.  Lisa was putting some clothes in the dryer.  As she walked out of the laundry room, I was standing in the doorway to the kitchen.  The door to the garage was between us.  As I was standing there, I was eating some of the Chicken Tetrazzini that Tamara had brought the other day.  I said to Lisa, “You know, I think we are running out of food.  I need to get to the store and pick up something.”  Lisa said that she certainly could cook something.

Seconds after Lisa finished that sentence, the door to the garage opened between us, and Lisa’s Husband, Denis, who had been sweeping out the garage, said, someone is here with food.  Neighbor Freda walked in with a bucket of beef and noodles, a package of salad, a loaf of bread and a freshly baked chocolate cake, announcing, “I brought supper.”  It’s all in the timing.

Today there was resolution to some minor annoyances that in our circumstances have seemed like adding insult to injury.

On Friday, I got the summons from the County Courthouse to jury duty.  Today, I picked up the note from the doctor excusing me from serving and got the form and the letter ready to put in the mail tomorrow.

There had been a leak at our gas meter we had reported a couple of weeks ago.  I called today to check on when they would come to repair it.  The truck came this afternoon, dug up a section of our new landscaping, and put in a new meter.

Yesterday, the waterfall stopped running.  Today, Brad came, pulled out the pump, covered with calcium deposits, took it with him, and later returned with a new one.  He had to talk long and hard to convince the vendor to honor the three year warranty.  Since Brad’s Dad has also been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, he has always been very good to us.  Actually, what he told the vendor was that he could not bring himself to charge this customer for a new pump and if he had to he would pay for it himself. Brad said he would come back in two or three weeks to add some stone to cover places where the liner is exposed.  He also will search from some bird friendly chemical to keep the calcium from building up again.

Today my mind has wandered a variety of places.  First of all, my gut keeps reminding me just how much I do not like what is happening to Mary Ann.  I won’t try to describe that feeling.  It is too big for words.

As I was driving out to run some errands a couple of thoughts wandered through.  One is how much of a relief it is not to be dealing with decisions on medications, how much to give and when, what to give and what to remove.  There was always the sense of responsibility for Mary Ann’s survival weighing on me, as if that depended on my making the right decisions.  I know I did not have that much power, but it did make a difference what we did and when.  There were good choices and bad choices to be made.  Those choices are no longer mine to make.  In that regard, it feels as if a heavy weight has been lifted from my shoulders, only to be replaced by a heavy pain in my gut.

Then, just for a moment, as I was driving from the Wild Bird place where I got some more peanuts in the shell for the birds favorite feeder to the Barnes and Noble to look for a reading light so that I could be in the bedroom with Mary Ann reading without having to turn on a light that might disturb here — just for a moment, I had a flash of being out running an errand by myself, without have Mary Ann at home to return to.  It was almost more than I could tolerate.  Have I mentioned how much I don’t like this???

On a more positive note, it continues to be a marvel how many people here and in other places are praying for us.  One of the images used by some of the New Testament writers, is that of myriads of people cheering from the stands.  The imagery comes from the sporting events of the time.  We feel as if there are many people cheering us on as we are in the home stretch, winded and in pain, buoyed by the good will of so many.

Mary Ann has seemed very comfortable today.  We were concerned about the possibility of sores starting, but there were only a couple of red spots.  Bath Aide Zandra confirmed that her skin looked very good.  Nurse Emily came by and confirmed that Mary Ann is still not in need of changing to the special bed and mattress.  She also said that Mary Ann is probably much more comfortable in her own bed than she would be in a hospital bed if one was brought in.  We can get one within a couple of hours if it is needed.

Hospice Chaplain Ed came over for a while.  Again, that is more just a chance for two pastors to chew the fat, as they say, than anything else.

Mary Ann did not eat anything today, but she did drink some water.  She has had her eyes closed almost all day.  One eye opened for a bit when the girls (our 5 and 7 year old Granddaughters) sat on my bed next to Mary Ann and read her some books.  Mary Ann said “okay,” when Nurse Emily told her she would be back tomorrow.  When we changed Mary Ann tonight, there was very little redness in a couple of places.

It felt good to see her comfortable today.  Somehow that helps make dull pain more bearable.

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The oxygen is now running.  It took the oxygen and only one very small dose of Morphine to relieve the heart pain this morning.  Since then Mary Ann has been in bed 100% of th time.  She did not want to sit up any of the times we asked her today. She seldom moves at all, but just lies still, with her eyes open most of the time.

Daughter Lisa and I changed her while she remained lying in bed.  At this point it is not so much how difficult it is to help her in the bathroom but how hard it is on her for us to drag her around that has led us to that approach.  Each thing in its time.  We now have briefs that tape on the sides.

Mary Ann did take some sips of water at various times.  Earlier today, she ate a single serving container of tapioca.  That has been the sum and substance of her nourishment today.

Words are few and far between and barely audible when they come.  We have given up trying to give her any medicine.  She just can’t/won’t take it.

Daughter Lisa was due to leave tomorrow.  She has decided to stay longer.  Our Son-in-Law Denis will be arriving tomorrow evening.  He will stay a day and then take the girls with him back to Louisville, KY.  Gratefully, he has a huge, very close family there, with lots of Sisters and Nieces waiting in line to help with the girls while he is at work.

Needless to say, I am relieved that she will be here at least for a while as this new reality sets in.  Lisa has been a Certified Nurses’ Assistant [CNA] and later an Administrator of a large multi-level Senior Care complex.  She is checking carefully for any red spots that could develop into pressure sores, making sure her Mom is shifted regularly.

Son Micah opted to come for the day today. He dropped out of a BBQ contest in which he was enrolled to spend the day here.  This is hard on both of the kids.  We are all helpless to do anything about this, so we just hang out together, staying close to Mary Ann.  This could go on for some weeks.  The kids will have the challenge of determining when to be here and when to be taking care of their primary responsibility to their respective families (who are wonderful and understanding).

I was planning on attending a wedding this evening and offering the mealtime prayer at the reception.  In fact, that was one of the reasons Daughter Lisa had planned on returning home on Sunday rather than Saturday, so that she could stay with her Mom, allowing me to be away from the house for the wedding.  When all those plans were made, none of us had a clue about what would be happening.

We  have seen a Guiding Hand in the way things have been playing out.  Mary Ann’s decline came on suddenly only days before Lisa’s scheduled visit.  The girls were scheduled for a sleepover with friends, so they were not here last night to be disturbed by the Hospice Nurse and the oxygen delivery.  When there are huge things that are out of control, it is not unusual to notice little gifts that come along the way.  They are signs that we are not alone in this journey.

Tonight’s wedding was the wedding of Christine and James.  Chrissy will soon be an ordained Pastor.  I have enjoyed watching her grow in her commitment to that service.  On occasion when she was in town, as she began and continued her training, we would talk over coffee.  Those conversations always stretched me intellectually and Spiritually.  She has been in Africa a couple of times trying to make a difference for good.  She has a view of humanity that is not limited by national boundaries or ethnicity.

I didn’t like missing the wedding, but, just as I mentioned in an earlier post when I had to miss Katie and Jacob’s wedding, while they spoke their vows I was doing what they were promising.

Time for some rest.

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We may or may not use them since the pain has now subsided.  Mary Ann had some heart pain tonight.  At first, one nitro pill seemed to take care of it.  Daughter Lisa was with her while I had a couple of hour break at a church event.  When I returned, Mary Ann said her chest still hurt.  We used two consecutive nitro pills about ten minutes apart.  She still said she had the pain.

At that point, I phoned the Hospice Nurse.  She suggested trying a third nitro pill.  She also said she would call the Medical Director.  She thought he would probably suggest the oxygen and Morphine.  The third nitro pill seemed to work, but the wheels are now in motion for us to receive the oxygen and Morphine tonight.  It is about 11:30pm as I am writing this.

Today had some tough times and some good times with Mary Ann.  The first activity this morning was at least a half hour of intense physical exertion in the bathroom.  It exceeded the terrible Saturday morning bout a couple of weeks ago.  There was a lot of production this morning when on the toilet stool (a good thing), but the fainting and form of seizure that results in her stretching out and stiffening all combined to make it harder than ever to handle.  I was dripping in sweat by the time it was over.  I did not call Daughter Lisa for help since I wanted to determine whether I would be able to do it by myself — probably not much longer.  I will need to figure out a way to take care of those tasks while she is still in bed.

The good times included a thorough cleaning by the Hospice Aide.  It was a bed bath with the addition of hair washed with shampoo and water in an inflatable basin for that purpose that I bought at the Munn’s Medical yesterday.  Sonya got her dressed and brought her out in the transfer chair.  She had the best hour or so we have had in many days.  She greeted Lisa and Granddaughters Abigail and Ashlyn.  She drank Cranberry juice, she ate tapioca and yogurt, drank water.  Then we rolled her outside to join Lisa in watching the girls use the little slippery-slide Lisa got at Target yesterday.

Neighbor Carol came by and spent time with Mary Ann, as well as Lisa and the girls.  After a while, Mary Ann needed to lie down again.  Friend Jeanne came by for a few minutes to see Mary Ann, as well as Lisa and the girls.  Mary Ann stayed in bed either resting with her eyes sometimes open, sometimes closed for the rest of the day.

At one point in the afternoon, she seemed to want to sit up, so Lisa helped her get up on the side of the bed.  Shortly, she fainted and shifted into the stiff as a board mode.  We got her back lying down.  Later, just before I left for the Youth Fundraiser, Lisa and I took her to the bathroom.  It went reasonably well, but ended with the stiff as a board mode.

…It is now about 12:30am.  The oxygen is here.  Hospice Nurse Lisa brought the Morphine and explained how and when to use it.  Her vitals are so good (other than the blood pressure) including the oxygen saturation percentage, that it seems unnecessary to use the oxygen right now.  If the chest pain returns, I will start it.  That is in accord with Nurse Lisa’s counsel.  The same is so with the Morphine.  I will give the lowest dose if she gets agitated, has trouble breathing, or the chest pain returns.

It was quite a flurry of activity, maybe not actually necessary at this moment since the pain subsided.  It is comforting to have helpful options available for the time that those options are needed.  Things seem to be moving both up and down pretty quickly.  Knowing Mary Ann, I will make no predictions on how things will proceed from here.  I am just along for the ride.

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“…and there was light.”  This afternoon twelve feet of light flooded into our little townhome.  It seems as if not only have we added a six foot by nine foot area to our living space, but a deck, waterfall, and back yard filled with trees.  By contrast to the closed in feel of the interior living space in our little townhome, it now feels expansive and open. 

Sometimes it surprises me just how powerful the living, growing outdoors filled with birds and little beasts and thriving greenery can be for me.  I do not share the theology of Avatar, but I share the awe and wonder and respect for the healing influence of the creation. 

On this project, we are using the Design/Build approach.  I think that means something like flying by the seat of our pants as each question/option/decision comes up.  Gratefully, the contractor and carpenters have had very many years of experience doing this sort of project. 

“Would you like the ceiliing raised?  How about a ceiling fan?  If so, what size, color, style of lights?  Is the wall paper staying or going?  How many and where should the outlets go?  Do you want a railing on the short section by the stairs on the south side, a railing on the east side, a railing on the west side, anything on the north side?  How high should the posts be on the east side and what sort of blind will you get for it?  How wide should the steps be?  How wide and thick should the interior support post be?  Where should the switches for the ceiling fan, its light, and the outdoor spots go?  What should be used to transition from cork floor to carpet?  Do you want the sliding glass door to open in the middle or on the side, what side?  What about blinds for all that glass? Verticle? What style? Color? Fabric? Vinyl?

So far it looks even better than I had hoped.  Mary Ann has been skeptical about the project, but when the walls came down today, she seemed to like it very much. 

The noise has been deafening.  We had hung out in the kitchen at the little ice cream table most of the time.  When Mary Ann has been napping in the bedroom, she has seemed completely oblivious to the machine-gun rattle of the drills and pneumatic tools.  At some level, the sounds of construction are music to my ears as the project takes shape.

The last two days have gone pretty well for Mary Ann.  She attended he Tuesday morning group and was fairly alert there.  We ate out at Perkins so that she could have pancakes.  She let me feed them to her.  She consumed about 80% of three buttermilk pancakes and all of two pieces of bacon.  She had eaten a good breakfast and had a couple of cookies at her Bible study.   She ate a small but adequate supper, with a couple of scoops of ice cream to finish it off. 

The Hospice Nurse came by for a while to check in and ask her routine questions about how MA is doing.  She is, of course, interested especially in any changes.  Mary Ann’s blood pressure was high again, 208/100.  It is reassuring just to have someone who listens and writes down what is going on.  It takes a little of the pressure off that sense that I have to be on top of everything and catch problems on my own.  It has seemed a little overwhelming sometimes to feel as if I need to be able to figure out what is going on with Mary Ann and when what is going on warrants an intervention of some sort. 

Stacey came by to show us some more options for verticle blinds to provide privacy with all that glass opening into our living space.  She also brought some more paint samples since Mary Ann had mentioned some ideas for colors to use in repainting the main upstairs interior walls.  I was pretty excited that we came up with what we want to use, and Mary Ann had significant input. 

Last evening Volunteer Patrice spent time with Mary Ann, while I served as an interview Guinea Pig for a Doctoral Student, Gretchen, Daughter of Don and Edie, whom I have mentioned in earlier posts.  That interview was done at PT’s, so I got some time away from the house, and Mary Ann got a break from me.  It is always good to have something different and disengage from the role at home for a while. 

Last night she slept well.  I was grateful, since the time change conbined with late nights writing posts caught up with me, and I headed to bed without writing last night. 

Today has gone very well.  Mary Ann sat in view of the monitor this morning without getting up, so that I could remain with the Spiritual Formation Group downstairs most of the time.

Bath Aide Zandra has struggled with fainting issues interfering with a safe shower experience.  Last Monday, Mary Ann had not yet taken her meds by the time Zandra arrived.  She had no problems with her and enjoyed that she was able to converse with Mary Ann.  For the last couple of weeks, Mary Ann has been very tired and unresponsive as well as fainting often while showering and dressing. 

This morning, I purposely waited and did not give her the morning meds before Zandra came.  Again, she did very well.  Mary Ann did not faint and was conversant with Zandra.  I have been convinced that most often the fainting has come when the morning meds started kicking in.  Many of the meds have the side effect of lowering blood pressure.  This week’s experience seems to confirm that the meds are a triggering element.  I am going to try to remember to hold off on meds until after her shower on those days.  She still has Orthostatic Hypotension, but maybe we can at least minimize the risk of it acting up during her shower. 

Friend and Volunteer Coordinator Mary came by this afternoon to spend time with Mary Ann while I ran some errands related to the remodel project.  She broght some flowers, always very much appreciated by both Mary Ann and me.  Flowers brighten our sometimes stale environment. 

Mary Ann ate a fairly light supper, and then a bit ago she got up from bed to eat a half sandwich.  I hope a full stomach will help her sleep well.  There are, of coruse no guarantees about that.  We have some company from Kansas City tomorrow, a visit we are both very much looking forward to.  We have been friends with the crew that is coming for more than 35 years.

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.