“Would it be okay to bring supper over for you and Mary Ann?”  I was sitting by the phone and answered quickly.  Maybe it was a premonition.  Not really.  That is not part of my understanding of reality.  It was however a very pleasing phone conversation.

Then at about 5pm, the phone rang again: “Just a heads up, we are on our way.”  Shari and Martin are among the most thoughtful and generous people I know.  I would be hard pressed to name all the people between them they have helped out in one way or another.  They help with their time and attention.  They accommodate their busy schedules, they are both professionals working full time, to the schedules of those they help whenever possible.  I have no idea how they do it, but we are greatful at our house that they do it.

It was not just any food.  Shari checked one of the last church cookbooks to find recipes Mary Ann had provided when the book was produced.  That way she was sure Mary Ann and I would like what she and Martin brought.  Mary Ann loved it and ate more voraciously than has been her recent norm.  Catalina Chicken (Mary Ann’s recipe), baked potatoes, corn, a freshly baked loaf of bread, a hot rhubarb pie (Mary Ann’s recipe), and vanilla ice cream to have with the pie.  All of it was piping hot (except for the ice cream) and ready to eat.

That makes twice in three days, since Edie and Daughter Gretchen brought over part of the midday meal they had prepared on Saturday, a very tasty Taco Salad with wonderful and creative toppings.  They stopped by to show Mary Ann some quilts that Edie’s Sister had made.  It was a treat for Mary Ann to look at the fabrics used and the patterns and the stitching and the colors.  Norma likes best piecing the quilt tops.  Mary Ann also enjoyed that the most in the process of making quilts.  I remembered enough of the jargon from those years to recall out loud some of her experiences.  There was the first quilt, a Sampler Quilt, hand quilted over the span of two years.  There were the six baby quilts Mary Ann brought out and put in front of Becky when she was pregnant with our first Grandchild, Chloe (who, by the way, is also Son Micah and Becky’s Daughter — you Grandparents catch my drift).  Mary Ann clearly moved back to those days as she examined and handled the quilts, even if there were few words.  The quilts were strikingly beautiful.  The quilts, lunch and a pot of flowers, Gretchen had put together provided us with a very bright day in spite of the lingering fog outside.

Tamara came over tonight to spend time with Mary Ann.  She had been sick a number of weeks ago and had not been able to visit in a long time.  Mary Ann had a refreshing break from me, and I was able to get done some things in my office that demanded uninterrupted attention.  Not only that, but two more people have taken slots in the next two weeks to allow me to connect with others and give Mary Ann the stimulation of communicating with people outside of our little, confined world.

Mary Ann has been doing reasonably well in the past couple of days.  Saturday night was not the best for sleep, and tonight she just said the raccoons have returned.  I told her that there has been not trace of them in many weeks outside.  The snow would have immediately revealed evidence of their presence.  She was not convinced.  On the contrary, she simply said, “Well, two raccoons have returned!”  That does not bode well for tonight’s hope for very many hours of uninterrupted sleep.

Well, I had best get to bed.  Tomorrow will be an early day, since the Bath Aide was off for Martin Luther King Day.  I will need to get Mary Ann’s hair washed in the morning before her Tuesday morning group at church.  She was not up to going last week.  I hope she goes tomorrow.  She really enjoys that group of good friends.  They have a love and concern for her that warms my heart.

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The phone rang this afternoon while Mary Ann was napping.  It was a former parishioner who was in trouble.  She and her husband were struggling with what to do.  They had eaten all they could of the wonderfully decadent chocolate dessert and were at a loss as to what to do with the last two pieces.  Could they bring themselves to throw them away???

When she finished describing their distressing situation, I made a remarkably generous offer.  You may not believe the level of my generosity, but here is what I offered.  I just blurted it out without even thinking.  Isn’t that the way heroes often describe their heroic acts — “I just did it without thinking.”  I told her that Mary Ann and I would eat those two pieces of dessert for her!!

She was so grateful, she and her husband brought them to our house.  It just feels good to do something to help other people when they are in need.

Last week I left the house on Tuesday evening to spend some quiet time away while a Volunteer spent time with Mary Ann.  There was one garden tomato left from a number that had been given to us.  By the time I returned that evening, there were thirteen with the a call promising more the next day, raising the total to twenty-one.  There were zucchini, a squash, a melon that had been delivered with the tomatoes that evening.  The next day the promised tomatoes came, plus some additional ones from a Volunteer who just brought some with her.  I have already eaten most of the tomatoes, and another ten came on Sunday.

Monday evening of this week after being out for a while, I came home to find a warm cobbler fresh from the oven that a former parishioner had delivered, along with a small vase filled to overflowing with brightly colored blossoms.

Today I was treated to lunch out while a Volunteer spent time with Mary Ann.  That is a monthly treat.

In the last fifteen days there has been at least one Volunteer at some time during the day on eleven of those days.  While schedules don’t usually allow Volunteers to come quite that often, it is overwhelming to think about how many people break open their busy days to make room for time at our home.  It is quite humbling to see just how thoughtful and generous people are.  The hours that Volunteer Coordinator Mary spends just scheduling all those people is a testament to that generosity.

It is hard not to feel guilty in the face of so many people in circumstances like ours, often in much more difficult circumstances, who don’t have a cadre of Volunteers and a Mary to schedule them. There are so many who are trapped in their own homes most of the time because one or both is suffering from chronic illness.  Those days when there are no Volunteers, or Mary Ann is having a bad day that keeps us in, or I have gotten sick, we have a taste of that kind of confinement and the loneliness it brings, the sensation of helplessness. As difficult as it is even with all the Volunteers, the thoughtful and generous people that surround us — as difficult as it is to manage full time caregiving, it is hard to imagine the challenge of that caregiving without support.

If you know someone in circumstances like ours, give him/her a call and ask, “What can I do to help?”  If they can’t think of anything when you call, offer to come over and help them make a list of answers to give people when they ask that question.  Then offer to check around, contact some folks who might be willing to help, ask them what on the list they would be willing to do, and schedule the doing of that task.

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.

She is in bed watching the Chiefs play a pre-season football game.  They have not been doing well tonight, but they just scored a touchdown.  After the variety of problems reported in the last two evenings’ posts, today has been a better day for Mary Ann. 

She slept through the night with the usual few trips to the commode.  She got up at 9am.  The hallucinations seem to have subsided some for the moment.  She has been up all day, and went to bed to watch the rest of the game at about 8:30pm.  Of course there is no telling whether she will get to sleep or have a restless night after the game. 

There was a point this morning when she began to shut down some, but I offered to wash her hair.  She appreciates getting that done, so she chose to stay up.  After that we got in the car, ate a good lunch at Boss Hawg’s BBQ, ran errands that lasted long enough that we could justify getting a treat at G’s Frozen Custard.  There was a visit to the Library included.  We rounded out the errands with a trip to the grocery store. 

By that time it was late enough in the afternoon that we could watch the news and have a late supper.  I am, of course, hoping that keeping moving all day will help her sleep well tonight. 

As an update on the fainting problem, the Orthostatic Hypotension (the inability of the body to adjust the blood pressure after standing up), Mary Ann has returned to a more manageable pattern.  There is still some fainting, but not so much as to keep us homebound.  The episodes are fewer and generally milder.   The timing of the improvement seems to suggest that it just took the increase in dosage of Midodrine (blood pressure raising medicine) a few days to work.  Gratefully, the semi-annual Echocardiogram (and carotid artery ultrasound) is coming in about a month.  That will help us see how her heart is holding up to the raised blood pressure.  I have some concern that when I checked her BP the previous two days it was pretty low.  That might suggest that the Midodrine dosage is not adequate.  What encourages me is that the fainting spells have not increased.  I suspect it is too risky to raise the dosage of the Midodrine any more. 

One bit of good news on the periphery of our struggle is that the Black Walnut end table that my Dad made has been fixed and returned.  That is the one that broke one of the times Mary Ann fainted last month and fell on it.  (She was not hurt!)  Some good folks from the congregation, Myron and Orvin, worked on it and made it stronger than before by reinforcing it underneath.  They also  added a beautiful and protective new finish to it. 

The Chief’s lost, but it is only the first pre-season game.  Time will tell.

Today was a better day.  How tonight will go remains to be seen.  Then tomorrow is another day.   We will see what comes!

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.