Wednesday, December 27, 2017

I survived with a lot of help from these guys plus one...

I had been dreading the holidays as it would bring so many memories of all the years together with Ken.  Somehow no matter where we were on the planet we always spent Christmas together with family.  While our parents were alive, we always managed to be with them.  It helped a lot that they were in the same town and sometimes they came to our house.  It was tamales for Christmas Eve followed by church and ham for Christmas Dinner.  Stockings were hung and brought great fun on Christmas morning regardless of how old the children were.
Well, this Christmas was saved by my son, Chris, and his family.  They kept me busy doing such fun things that I didn't even have time to be sad.  A wonderful Italian dinner out on Christmas Eve with friends followed by a tour of Christmas lights.  And Christmas Day full of surprises from Santa and lots of laughter and gifts galore.  Even Cash, the new puppy fresh out of surgery (you might guess what his Christmas present was) and old Gatsby the Beagle enjoyed the goodies from their stockings.
It was a wonderful day.  I could feel Ken enjoying the scene but it was all okay.
So now I prepare for new beginnings in this coming 2018 and am grateful for my health and that I still seem to have most of my marbles rolling around in the old noggin.
I am blessed, so very blessed!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

You've got a friend in me????

I hate to throw anything negative out during this holiday season but here goes......
A warning to all my elderly vulnerable widow girl friends and maybe even male friends:  there are folks out there who troll the Internet for people like you and me in hopes they may score a target.  Yes, there are risks to being out there on the Internet!  Yes, I know that but not until I broadcast my loss of spouse on Facebook did I experience the impact.

Within a week of Ken's passing I began receiving lots of "friend requests" from males I had never heard of or even with any mutual friends.  I shared this with a male friend and his reaction was "Just tell me who they are.  I'm going to beat them up."  Oh, great!  But months later it is still going on and I'm baffled as to how it can be worth the time of these yo-yos to go phishing for us poor lonely widows.  And what gives our status away?  Is there a software that detects us somehow?  A key word?  And I guess I am an easy target since I have a "public" setting on my Facebook account because I want to have my blog out there.

But here's where it got weird.  I got a text message from an "Edwin Nygard" who claimed to live in Las Vegas, NM and would like to talk with me.  Well, I know folk in Las Vegas so I answered it.  He claimed to be widowed for 4 years, had a son in boarding school, missed his dear wife, Ann, and could we talk on the phone.  I avoided that and then he wanted to know how old I was.  I wrote him , " Older than dirt."  I questioned how he found me and he claimed he had seen my picture.  He then sent the picture and sure enough there I was at a table having lunch with friends about 8 years ago.  He claimed he was Facebook friends with one of the women in the picture.  I checked that out and of course, no such thing.  Then there were a series of daily greetings, comments on the weather followed by another request for my age.  I asked "Why?  Are you trying to sell me insurance?"  I quit responding and the messages got even weirder--he could tell from the picture that I was the one he was looking for-- and I unfriended him.  Gone but how creepy!  I felt I was being stalked and at the same time gullible for even responding at all.

But I am amazed at the research that he had done on me and the information that was available.  How in the world did he get that picture?  Yesterday on The View Dr. Phil was on talking about this very problem and told about a client, a widower, who had been milked out of thousands of dollars by a woman who had taken another woman's identity and began an online relationship.

Yesterday another widow resident showed me on her cell phone a whole string of unanswered phone numbers she said were scams.  It is that time of year, folks, so just be wary.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

It's Christmas time in Texas complete with snow and I welcomed the lift to my spirits.  This holiday without Ken is more difficult than I imagined.  The Christmas music starts and I get all weepy.  But there have been some delightful and joyful moments.  I love to dance and find myself experiencing pure joy dancing for the first time in a long time.  Caregiving has a way of sucking the joy out of life no matter how hard you try to make it happen.  And when joy pops in, it feels so good.

I'm trying to keep myself busy and to participate in the activities offered here at Watercrest and this month is full of them with dinners out, parties and entertainment.  But the most fun of all has been with my son and his family.  My grandson has had a banner month receiving the Eagle Scout award on the 2nd.  It was a beautiful ceremony at his church and uncles and aunts came from far away to be there for him.  I had moments of tears however as Ken had been looking forward to being there for Sam.  Perhaps he was there in spirit...I like to think so.  Ken and his twin brother were Eagle Scouts and I was able to give Sam some of his grandfather's badge cards and sash which were on display along with his uncle's. 

Tuesday night I attended Sam's induction ceremony into the National Honor Society.  So fun to be in the midst of all those smart adorable young people.  I'm a very proud Nana!  I was in the Honor Society and don't remember any kind of ceremony with it...just my name on a list.  It seems that getting into college these days is much tougher than it used to be and all these extracurricular activities make a big difference. 

Today I will go to my son's home to enjoy his big office party and maybe try to corral their puppy, Cash, somewhere.  They are expecting 100 guests which should send Cash into a frenzy.  The weather is beautiful, crisp and clear.  Tomorrow I will join other residents in honoring our management with our potluck dinner.  I have decorated my apartment in an effort to keep some semblance of the holiday around.  I'm in this "fertile void" to quote Katrina Kenison, author of my new favorite book, Magical Journey, where none of the old ways of being and doing some to work anymore. I'm giving my self permission to grieve, to cry and experience loneliness.  It is all about letting go and moving on to new beginnings.  2018 brings new possibilities and hope for more joy and wellness.  I might even learn to tango...does Santa tango?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  May your holidays be filled with joy!  I'm working on it.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Learning how to widow

My bedroom is small, a shift from the larger one we had planned on.  I’m comfortable now sleeping on a twin bed, half of the split king we had shared. The smaller bed leaves room for a desk, a chair, a chest with a TV and even a small armoire...tight but okay. Two large windows look past the well-lighted parking lot toward the hills and are covered by venetian blinds.  I can be fascinated by the light patterns on the ceiling created by the early morning sun.

I wake, glance at the neon numbers on the clock—3:00 am.  I rise slowly and silently not to wake my companion. Laughing at my old habits, I flip on the lamp, walk to the bathroom.  Though I’m chuckling my heart fills with your absence and the challenge of living alone after all these years.  Someone said to me at your memorial service, “Now you are free to do whatever you want.”  What I want is to turn on the damn light when I can’t sleep, to turn on the TV, to eat crackers and peanut butter in bed in the middle of the night.

Those bigger ideas, the bigger wants, the bigger dreams will just have to wait—all the choices are overwhelming right now.  I find myself self-medicating with Facebook, Dancing with the Stars and Blue Bell coffee ice cream.  At the same time aware that I have those choices now, I'm grateful that I can begin to explore options and opportunities I had only dreamed about.  What next?  I am learning how to be a widow.  I've never done this before.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

It would have been 59 years today...

Fifty nine years ago today I made the best decision of my life and married this brilliant, funny kind man.  I've really missed him this week as I watch from afar our friends in Houston try to get their lives back in order following Hurricane Harvey, the worst storm ever to hit the coast. All that loss seemed to trigger my own losses this year.   I find myself glancing over at the recliner next to me looking for comfort from the guy beside old habit that is hard to let go of.  And I miss our wonderful friends of many years and wish I were there to help in some way. This widowhood business just sucks sometimes.  Losing my best friend and all that I lost in the move here makes for some lonely days and evenings.  Now it is up to me to meet the challenge and I'm working on it.

So today I will celebrate our anniversary by getting a new crown in my mouth and be grateful that I can pay for it thanks to that great guy I married.  And grateful that I have found an awesome dentist just down the highway.   The weather is gorgeous with a cool front on its way.
Tonight I'll have a Shiner Bach in your honor.  Happy Anniversary, Ken Cox.  I love you.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Unbelievable catastrophe....

The mess in Houston is just beyond wrapping one's mind around and it ain't over.  My granddaughter is surrounded by water in Conroe but okay, thank God.  My nephew is stranded in a 4th floor loft near downtown Houston surrounded by water but okay.  But friend after friend is reporting in from flooded houses and it is still raining.  So much loss!  It will be years before Houston recovers.  Businesses closed, people can't get out their doors to go anywhere.  Rescue still going on as reservoirs overflow.  Will it ever end???
My heart is on my sleeve and I weep at every picture of people volunteering their boats to rescue, the pictures of firemen carrying women carrying babies.  I weep seeing boats sail past houses flooded for the first time ever with water to their roof tops.  It all touches that spot of my own grief over recent losses.  But then some of the tears I shed in guilty gratitude that I am not there, that I am here at the edge of the hill country with food, electricity, family and friends but wishing I could do more to help.
Please donate to the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the Houston Food Bank.  Thousands have lost everything.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Here comes Harvey...

I watch raindrops gather on the kitchen window as Hurricane Harvey's first band of showers rolls through and I'm overcome with gratitude that I am on the 4th floor of a lovely apartment building in San Antonio and will never have to evacuate again, that I have electricity, food and water, a refrigerator to keep food and drinks chilled and for now air conditioning.  And wine, don't forget the wine.  I still get messages from the City of El Lago with evacuation instructions...a reminder of our life there during Ike and again I am so grateful.  My heart fills as I recall how supportive He-Who was about the selling of our house and the move into Houston away from the water and later the move to San Antonio...this in spite of the Alzheimer's claiming more and more of him.  And even the thought at this point of trying to evacuate with him and get him out the door is just flat terrible...I am not sure I could have done it.  Ike was difficult but a later storm? We both would have been basket cases, angry and frustrated with each other and the whole mess.

The worst of what is left of Harvey is due here  late tonight though the wind has picked up and is strong enough now that it is difficult to open the door to the balcony.  I took the hummingbird feeder down so if the one I call Kenneth is hungry, he will just have to wait.  I am going to go play Mexican Train dominoes with friends this afternoon and follow it with a glass of wine and the community pot luck this evening.

Thank you my dearest for saving us and now me from the agony of hurricanes.  I miss you.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Nothing like a get-away....

Nothing lifts one's spirit like a weekend lakeside in the Texas hill country with family....eating great food, laughing a lot and boating.  Lake LBJ is so pretty but oh my, what a change from my memories of fishing with my dad.  Then it was called Granite Shoals and there were few if any houses on the waterfront.  Now the lakefront is populated with multi-million dollar homes for the rich and famous like Roger Staubach and former astronaut Jim Mitchell.  And lots of jet skis.
Thank you dear son and daughter-in-law for treating me to this lovely weekend.  It even included a couple of hours of puppy hugging...we ran into a pet adoption group at Save the World brewery in Marble Falls who had a litter of 11 puppies up for adoption.  It was hard to walk away from an adorable white little guy with a brown and black face but the challenge of puppy training just doesn't fit for any of us right now.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Lonely on the rocky path...

There are days as a recovering caregiver that I think I may be losing it but these are usually followed by days where I feel on top of things but lately the grief of losing my spouse, my best friend of most of my life has been grabbing me by the shoulders and shaking me.  "looky here, girl.  This is it!  He's gone and left a great big void.  So now what?"
I look around this small apartment and go "what the fuck happened?"  This is not what I thought my life would be at 80.  I'm struggling to come to terms with the reality that this is the last hurrah.  This is where I will be the rest of my life.  My life seems to have become so small.  I know it didn't happen was getting smaller with age and with caregiving, especially with the move into the first retirement community.  And now it seems just plain small.  I've left house, pets, friends, some family behind and even though I'm in a beautiful place with other women sharing the same experiences, life just feels damn small.  I see the same people every day...the same for breakfast and lunch every day.  Not that they aren't wonderful people but it is the same people.  I think a more positive thought is that they are now my family and in many ways are as caring yet dysfunctional as any family but this family is old and facing all the issues of aging that I am.  I suppose that is comforting in a way and I try to think of it that way.

I get out art supplies and try to start something but lose interest or get distracted with the next event or should I empty the dishwasher or check my email.  I can't seem to get anything written even though an occasional line runs through my head. I think of what I used to tell depressed clients: exercise, call a friend and I do those things.  But I miss that creative self that was used to looking at opportunities and saying yes.  People tell me "You are free now to do anything you want."  So where did my motivation go?   My fascination with the unknown?  I guess He-Who had my back for so long that I felt I could do most anything.  Even with Alzheimer's I felt he had my back...a ridiculous thought but still there.  I do recall when a dear friend suddenly lost her husband, she quit painting.  She was an amazing portrait painter!  Now I understand!  I get it!  Perhaps this is the darkness I need to go through to get to the other side.
I've had a wonderful trip recently to visit family who pampered me well and that experience really helped!  It was good to get out in the world for a few days and hang out with some amazing folk in beautiful Colorado.  And more travel is on the horizon, thank goodness.
In the meantime I give myself permission to be sad and lonely, really sad and very lonely and know that this too will pass.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The rest of the trip to San Antonio...

For a while I was alone at Gate 14 with a couple of exceptions.  Finally another elderly woman was wheeled up beside me at the gate.  She was headed to San Antonio but was most distressed because she had lost her cell phone somewhere and wanted to know if there were any old fashioned pay phones anywhere in the airport.  Beats me!  When did I last see a pay phone anywhere?  She needed to be able to call her caregiver who was waiting in the cell phone parking lat at the San Antonio airport for her arrival.  I told her she was welcome to use my phone but she couldn’t remember the number.  We chatted a bit as all the seats around us began to fill and about six families with small children and babies gathered for the pre-boarding to Oklahoma City.  And that doesn’t count the three other wheel chair occupants that had gotten in line.  My next chair neighbor had a metal walker hanging on the side of her chair and she got up to search for a phone asking me to make sure that no one took her wheel chair.  So now I’m a wheelchair monitor who is beginning to get really hungry and wants to pee.  The pre-boards go down followed by columns A and B.  This time a good looking pilot comes and offers to wheel me down.  I told him only if he were going to Cabo and buying the drinks.  “I’m not interested in Oklahoma City.”  My next chair neighbor returns and seems a little less distraught.  The surrounding seats are empty again, it’s an hour til my flight and the gate checker person has gone…a good time to sneak off to the restroom leaving my unwheeled wheelchair by the gate in hopes that it will still be there when I get back.  My next chair buddy was gone again.  I made it to the restroom and even risked a trip to the Starbuck’s kiosk for a skinny vanilla latte and a chocolate croissant.  Geezus, but that was the best coffee and croissant ever.  No gate keeper even knew I had escaped on able and willing legs.  And my chair was still there.  My neighbor returned and even offered to throw away my trash on her next trip away from the gate with her walker as long as I saved her chair.

Finally at 2:05 we began boarding for the flight to San Antonio.  I was gratefully rolled down, assisted into the plane and seated.  A completely full flight as I think they all are these days and we were off.  Oh thank God!  Another adventure coming to a close.  Life is indeed a cosmic joke.

Friday, July 14, 2017

The "old lady" card is played without remorse

I am so tired I can hardly keep my eyes open.  I think every family west of the Mississippi was flying Southwest today going either in or out of Dallas and San Antonio.  Perhaps it should be expected the day after July 4 but what mad houses.  I left the hotel at 10:00 am after being picked up by my daughter and finally dragged my suitcase in my apartment at 4:00.  The actual flight was forty-five minutes.  With little or no indication on the Internet my flight was cancelled and I was put on a later flight which meant at least 4 hours in the airport.  Four hours without a book or anything to write on.  And I couldn’t move!  Why? you may ask.
I have learned to play the “old lady” card at airports and pre-order a wheel chair for transportation.  Well, airport wheel chairs are not regular wheel chairs.  The only wheels are on the bottom.  They are designed to be pushed by an airport employee who does nothing else but push handicapped and old people around the airport.  My past experience has been nothing but pleasant and I have met some interesting immigrants grateful for the job of pushing me to a gate or to baggage claim.  They have asked questions like “Do you want to stop at the restroom?  Do you need to stop for a drink or a bit to eat?”  But not so much on a busy post holiday crowd.  The more chairs pushed, the more money in tips. 
So today I get pushed to the gate with no offers to stop and abandoned there.  It is there I look at my boarding pass and snapped to the fact that I’m not arriving in San Antonio at 1:53.  I’m not even leaving Dallas until 2:05 and on a different flight.   Flight 20 was cancelled due to a thunderstorm somewhere.  So here I am at Gate 14 in a wheel chair without side wheels that I can push forward or backward or anywhere at all..  Hmmm…no breakfast and not much hope for lunch.  If I get up and walk to a kiosk, will I lose my pre-board status?  My wheel chair? Not a pleasant thought on Southwest as boarding is like cattle lined up fighting for a place at the trough.  So I stay.
Passengers are seated all around me and I am in the row of wheel chair residents waiting to board.  Behind us are all the other pre-board folk with various excuses to warrant their position.  To my left is column A holding all those who paid extra to board early.  And by the way, when I called Southwest to get the wheelchair, I was told I didn’t need to pay for early boarding anymore.  The operator also offered to make the wheel chair a permanent arrangement for whenever I wanted to fly Southwest.  Pride made me decline the offer.

An announcement is made that the pilot had finally arrived and they would begin boarding the flight to New Orleans.  The wheel chairs were pushed down the gangway, pre-boarders with kids began pushing strollers toward the plane and the old lady behind me got up to make her way to the plane.  I sat watching the parade.  A column marched forward, followed by B.  A young woman seated behind me leaned over and said, “I will push you to the plane.  They are loading now.”  “No, no,” I explained.  “I’m not going to New Orleans.”  Then a pilot in uniform offers to take me.  I decline the flight explaining that as tempting as a few days drinking on Bourbon St. was tempting, my ticket said I should end up in San Antonio.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Life at the funny farm....

Am I crazy or what?  Okay, today I am pissed but be prepared.  It's a long story.  Don't get me wrong!
 I love my new apartment in Watercrest at the Dominion in San Antonio, small, yes, but it is working.  I love the location.  I'm on the top floor facing the hills and freeway.  Each morning I am able to greet the sunrise coming over the opposite hills and see the clouds turn pink at sunset.  I am close to all kinds of shopping and have found good doctors, some I can drive to myself, others, my kind daughter-in-law steps in to drive me.  And have found the best dentist I have had ever.  I have made some friends in other residents whom I enjoy and we have a lot of laughs.  And I get to hang out with my son and his family.

BUT management here is driving me crazy!  I just can't keep my mouth shut about it.  I'm finding some residents are afraid to speak up...why, I don't know and think it must be a cultural thing.  Right away I discovered there was NO residents association here and that even the suggestion of one had been discouraged at first by the director.  But a group of us got together and formed one anyway.  I helped form the simple by-laws and was elected Vice-President at our first get together.  The purpose of the group is to be a sounding board for residents like a homeowners association and to help mediate complaints, help new residents, suggest wants and desires and sooth ruffled feathers.  As yet we have not had an official meeting as the Residents Council but the board has gotten together to handle some issues that have come up.  According to the by-laws our meetings are every other month, the first one coming up in August.  And we are pleased that several of our requests have been honored by management and we are grateful that we were heard.

We have several resident couples who have a spouse who is unable to totally care for themselves and depend on their spouse as a caregiver.  Had Ken lived we would have been one of them.  Breakfast here is included in our rent...three days a week it is a continental breakfast, Tuesdays and Thursdays bacon and eggs are served.  Several of these couples depend on a family member coming to the dining room to pick up breakfast and take it back to their loved one.  A few weeks ago a caregiver showed up as usual to do just this and was told by kitchen staff absolutely no breakfasts were to be taken out.  No warning, no explanation, just an edict from above.   It seems as though a resident was coming in a filling up a box with enough food to last for several days leaving less food available for other residents.  We agree not a nice thing to do.  The board received letters from three couples regarding this new rule explaining what a hardship it had created for them and that the director was not willing to give a solution at the time.  Some of the affected couples are afraid to speak up so brought the issue to the board after not getting any satisfaction from the director.  The board brought the matter up at a Town Hall meeting led by the director and she apologized for the way it was handled and offered an explanation and a solution...a staff person would fill the box.  So for a week or two it seemed the issue was taken care of but today the rule was in force again much to the distress of several residents who were refused breakfast to go.

But the boss of the boss was on campus today and our president of the RC managed to engage him in conversation over the issue at the lunch table.  He knew nothing about the breakfast issue and left the table with the residents present feeling assured that he felt it ridiculous and would be rectified.

Fast forward to an RC board meeting this afternoon:  We were reporting in on progress and setting the day and time for the first official meeting of the Residents Council , of which all residents are members and welcome.  We set the date and asked the Activity Director to put it on the calendar for August.  She has to clear everything with the director and reported back that we could not have a spot on the printed calendar.  What the +&$%#@?  Why?  The only reason we can come up with is that she is pissed that we discussed the problem with her boss.  What is the fear there?  I'm baffled and pissed that we get no support for these efforts.  Other retirement communities have organized regular meetings of residents by and for residents.  So we will post flyers and put them in mail cubbies which we would do anyway.  But why the opposition?

I've had enough drama in my life the last few months to last me a long time.  I give up and plan to take a back seat for a while. I'm going to bed after watching some totally stupid mindless TV.  New crown on a molar today and teeth cleaning tomorrow.  Oh goody!
Oh what a tangled web we weave!

The new story....

So now the story is about a recovering caregiver and what to do with one's life post care-giving.

The birthday party went off without a hitch or if there was one, I didn't notice.  Sister-in-law Sue and I greeted friends and relatives at my son's beautiful home.  My daughter-in-law Karen had done a great job of arranging for some great barbecue and a gorgeous birthday cake.  It could only have been better if Ken had been there and I think he was in spirit.  My daughters and granddaughter came from Conroe and friends and family came from all over.  My crazy Artist Way sisters came with pink pussy hats, of course.  I felt honored and celebrated beyond my wildest dreams.  But oh so tired!

Before the party I went back to Watercrest to make new plans.  By now I had an idea of what I could afford and needed a one bedroom apartment.  I located a large one on the top floor with a view and a storage room right down the hall and parking nearby.  Then it was  back to Houston with my in-laws.  We had hoped to get a tour in of Watercrest in San Antonio before I left but no one was available to do it.  Back in Houston I fell into bed and slept for a couple of days.  Marylynne of Comfort Moves came back to meet with me and go over the new floor plan.  It was clear there would be more downsizing!  It was all so overwhelming!  Hard to know where to begin.

As my daughter and I went through Ken's papers we discovered that somehow he had saved all the right stuff, the important papers.  Amazing that he condensed them into one box but he did.  Then it was clearing out more stuff.  The hardest was Ken's closet.  I still miss his smell.  I hated letting go of most of his clothes but at our son's request, saved a few favorites for him.  Out went some furniture, some went on the truck to go to the condo in Austin where my granddaughter will live while at UT, the rest to Watercrest at the Dominion, 10 minutes from my son's house.  I left Comfort Moves in charge and left for San Antonio.  The movers came on the 29th of March, the unpackers the following days and I finally slept in my own bed in my new place on the 31rst of March.

Friday, June 2, 2017

How does one say goodbye?

Obviously the event is a game changer.
First agenda:  Postpone the move!  A call to Watercrest and Comfort Moves takes care of that.
2. Thank God son Chris is staying the week and we make plans for the memorial service at Bay Area Unitarian/Universalist Church and set up a meeting with Bruce Beisner, our minister.  Both of us had set up for our bodies to be donated to UTMB which turned out to be a wonderful service.  They picked up his body at the hospital, will cremate it when done and Chris asked that the ashes be returned to him.  So no casket, etc to deal with which makes planning so much easier.  The service is planned for Saturday March 4 at 2:00 pm.  I asked Tom Diegelman to speak about Ken's career at NASA and he agreed and did a wonderful job.  Chris worked hard on creating a eulogy and did an excellent picture of his dad.  I sent by email word of He-Who's passing to the NASA Alumnae League and put memorial info on Facebook.
I thought I was doing pretty well but Wednesday night about midnight I woke Chris up because my heart was racing again.  Damn!  He called 911 and the EMTs came.  They asked if I wanted to go to the hospital and with one look at Chris, I agreed.  He followed in his car and off we went to St. Luke's ER.  After an EKG and a test on my lungs, the doc gave me a Valium which made me pretty loopy but slowed my heart down.  Sinus tachycardia again!  Finally I was sent home with a prescription for Xanax.  Geez...let's just add a little more drama to the week.
The whole week was a blur but at last it was Saturday.  We borrowed a wheel chair for me to use as between the heart stuff and the recent hip surgery I wasn't steady on my feet.  Embarassing but I did it.  The service was just beautiful and the church packed.  So many people came to tell me how much they cared for Ken, the kind things that he had done for them.  He was a humble kind soul and accomplished so much.  Tom talked about the fact that Ken's program design was what brought the Apollo 13 crew back home safely saving the lives of the crew. Astronaut Fred Haise was at the service.  My unsung hero!  And Chris brought forth the tender caring Dad who loved his kids more than anything.  Bruce included a couple of my poems in the service, one about Alzheimers and one on grief.
It all went way too fast.
The church provided a reception and I was in such a fog by then, I barely remember much about it other than an all too brief greeting with my cousins who came from Dallas and Georgetown.  I was astonished they made the trip and wished we had more time together.
And then it was all over and the family took me home.  Chris had to be exhausted.  He had done so much the previous week contacting the insurance company, the Office of Personnel Management, Fidelity, etc.  The decision was made to go ahead with the big birthday party the following weekend and I packed and went home with Chris to San Antonio where I slept for the first three days and rested.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

And this is how the story ends...

Monday morning the doctor calls.  They took He-Who to x-ray to check again for pneumonia and he went into cardiac arrest.  They resusitated him and he is in ICU on a ventilator.  Chris is there, Keith and Sue are there and I'm home throwing up.  I don't see how I can get there.  The doc tells Sue to come and get me sick or no and she did.
At the hospital now are Karen, Nancy, Taylor and her boyfriend, Lance, Chris, Keith and Sue.  They got me a wheel chair and into ICU I go.  It is clear He-Who is unresponsive.  His eyes are closed and he doesn't respond when I squeeze his hand.  I am in can this be?  It is all wrong!  I tell him I love him close to his ear and pray he can hear me.  No deep breaths even with the ventilator.  We say our goodbyes and I leave the room.  The nurse brings me the papers to sign to take him off the ventilator.  It is clear that his quality of life will never be good and it is the right thing to do but so hard.  I lay down for a while in the waiting room, then go back in to say goodbye again.  The daughters say goodbye, Karen adding "Geez, Dad, if you didn't want to move, you coulda just said so."  Chris will stay until the end but sobbing I head out the door.  Keith and Sue take me home.
I don't know how to do this!  I've never been a widow!  What am supposed to do?  I think I am too sick to stay but it is so hard to leave, so hard to say goodbye.  I love you!  I love you!

He-Who not improving! February 25 and 26

I returned to the hospital Saturday morning and find He-Who quite listless.  His color isn't good and he still has the terrible cough.  He doesn't want to converse and I let him rest.  It is obvious he isn't eating much.  I call our son and give him the update and tell him I think he should come.  I am really worried!!!
At noon I try again to get him to eat.  There is shrimp on the menu, a favorite of his but I can only get him to eat a couple.  He seems to have difficulty getting anything down, even swallowing is a challenge.
I decide to go home in the late afternoon and make a brief appearance at the party.  The hospital has my number if needed.
Polly had a lovely good-bye cake for us and friends were most gracious and understanding in their goodbyes.  I am feeling worse and worse physically and crash into bed after another round of medicine.

Today is Karen's birthday.  Chris arrives and takes over for a while as by now I am really sick.  I am just too sick to get to the hospital today and if I have a different bug than He-Who's, I am afraid to expose him.  He doesn't seem any better.  The doc calls and is moving him into ICU to keep a closer eye on him.  I am so worried!  Do the new nurses know he has Alzheimer's and can't respond normally?  That he is hard of hearing and can't see without his glasses?
Pray everyone, pray!

Thursday, February 23 and Friday, February 24

He-Who is no better...has terrible cough and feels warm.  Yep--he has a temp of 101.  So off we go to Park Plaza Hospital's ER  as I feel we may get better service.  This time the ER doc seems concerned.  The decision is made to keep him overnight and get another chest x-ray.  I'm not feeling well but I stayed until he got into a room and made sure he ate some supper.  His appetite seems okay and I am glad he felt well enough to eat something.
Exhausted I headed for home and sleep.

He-Who's brother and wife came to check on He-Who.  Tests came back negative for pneumonia so the doc thinks it's just a severe bronchial infection and put him on antibiotics.
How can sitting in the hospital room all day be so exhausting?  I'm downing Vitamin C and Mucinex but am feeling worse and worse.  Polly is planning a going-away party for us tomorrow night at her house.  We just have to feel better!

Wednesday, February 22

Daughter Karen came to help with packing, etc. but Ken woke up with a terrible cough.  He was dragging yesterday but today very congested.  It is clear he is not well so off to St. Luke's ER we went.  I thing we both have some kind of bug!  Hopefully not the awful one that has been going around Brookdale.  With Alzheimer's it is so hard to tell just how one feels as they lack the sensitivity to their own bodies and are unable to describe what is going on.
The ER doc ordered x-rays and said his lungs looked okay and sent him home with the precaution that if he develops a fever, bring him back.  I fixed him some soup and put him to bed.  Karen cleaned the refrigerator and left hoping she doesn't catch whatever we have.

Thank God for help!

Thank God our daughters came to help go through the kitchen and clean out the pantry.  Anything open, we pitched.  I'm just not sure how much room I will have in the new kitchen.  At least I will have a washer and dryer and a full size refrigerator.
He-Who is beginning to be anxious and asks over and over again when we are leaving.  I'm trying to keep things as normal as possible but not feeling up to snuff...still achy and congested.

In the meantime our daughter-in-law and son are going full steam ahead with birthday party plans at their house.  The invitations are out and lots of friends and family have said they plan to come.  The grandkids are planning to be there...first day of spring break.  The last time we had all the Cox family together was for the twins 85th birthday last year.
I just have to get well...not sleeping well and just can't seem to get my snap back.

February 15 and 16

I'm still not up to speed and only driving to Walgreen's around the corner and the Post Office.  Frequently I wake up at night with hip pain and just can't seem to get my energy back.  And damn!  We are preparing to move!!  I have contacted Comfort Moves and Marylynne.  She and her wonderful crew came and packed up my studio and all the art work.  The dining room is full of boxes.  Nephew Greg came for the coffee table and the big mirror in the bedroom.  That pretty much leaves our clothes and the kitchen.  He-Who has long since given up using his computer and desk so I will use his desk in our new place and give mine to granddaughter Kate.
He-Who seems to be handling it all pretty well and getting a little excited about the move.  As long as he has TV and the newspaper keeps comming and he can get to the dining room table, he's a happy camper.
Comfort Moves will come back on Monday and Tuesday of next week to finish packing.  We will go stay at Keith and Sue's and the movers are scheduled to load on Wednesday, March 1.  Yikes!  Looks like we are finally going to get to San Antonio.  I gave the Post Office our new address so it feels official.

We spent the day getting rid of more stuff and running some pre-move errands.  I played Mexican train dominoes at Polly Clark's as I will not have another opportunity.  He-Who was asleep when I got home.  I'm not feeling well--achy and have some congestion.  Ellen Orsburn wasn't feeling well either and we hops we aren't coming down the the crud that is going around Brookdale.  A couple of people have been hospitalized with it.
It's kinda weird walking around the apartment with all the boxes but it won't be long now.

Just stuff and more stuff

We have downsized once but it is amazing how much stuff one can accumulate in 2 1/2 years...along with stuff we should have left behind in the first move.  He-Who had boxes of papers from his days at NASA.  God love the man!  He caught on the the need to get rid of some of these boxes and has started going through them.  And he loves doing it!  It gives him something to accomplish.  They bring forth the memories of all his days at JSC, the books he has written, etc.  So for 2 or 3 times a week he is spending a couple of hours sorting through his boxes.  Who woulda thunk this possible!  And I am so grateful!.
It looks like I will be strong enough to move the first week of March.  I've cleared the date with Watercrest and our son.  I saw the hip doctor this week and she declared me free of PT.  Yay!  Though I will miss the sweet therapists!  He-Who will, too.  He enjoyed walking there with me.

Poster child? Ha!

It's clear I'm no poster child for recovery.  The hip is taking longer than I expected and I'm still not driving which is frustrating for us both.  At least I am able to go to more activities here at Brookdale that include He-Who.  He loves the Life Story class on Monday mornings and though he doesn't contribute anymore, I like to think that maybe hearing the stories of others he can recall some of his own.
Our plans to move to San Antonio are becoming more solid.  Our designated apartment at Watercrest at the Dominion is still not finished.  Now they are saying the end of April.  I complained loudly:  "No, no, no.  This won't work for us.  My sister-in-law and I have a big joint 80th birthday party planned for March 11 at our son's house in San Antonio.  We have been planning this for months.  Family members have plane tickets, hotel reservations, etc.  We have to be moved!"
Watercrest's Brandy Davis, the resident counselor who sold us the apartment, called and offered us a temporary apartment until ours is ready...same floor plan.  Whew!  I've been concerned that the longer the move is delayed, the harder it will be for He-Who to get oriented.  I am afraid if we wait much longer, he will need the memory care unit and I will have to go into a much smaller apartment.  At least with the same floor plan as our future apartment, I am hopeful it won't be so confusing for him.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Hard earned lessons as a caregiver....

AT this point this proud independent now dependent woman learned to ask for help and accept help when offered.  I am just too ill to do it all .  By now He-Who needs help to turn the TV on and change channels.  I had already put labels on the TV remote and the telephone to distinguish them apart.  On the table under the TV was taped a list of TV channels and their numbers but he has a hard time manipulating the remote.
Thank goodness our Brookdale independent retirement community offers the kind of support I need.  For a price, grant you, but worth it and available.  I hired someone to do our laundry....$11 a load and worth every penny.  He-Who has a laundry basket in his closet but never remembers to put his dirty clothes in it.  When taking off his clothes, he just hangs them back up so I have to go through every few days and try to figure out what he has worn.  He would wear the same thing every day if I don't suggest something different.  But with this help I just have to get the dirty clothes and sheets more limping to laundry room down the hall.
     Amazon Prime is my new best friend.  Since I can't drive, I order lots of stuff online and it is here in a couple of days.  I can order laundry detergent as well as books.  I ordered some new underwear for He-Who as he is beginning to occasionally soil his underwear.  I don't know if it is the medication he is on or he just isn't sensitive to the signs he needs to go or just isn't able to wipe well.  Guess I better check with the doc on this.
     The best help I have discovered from my friend, Rowan, is an apt called Shipt which delivers groceries from HEB, our local store, for a small charge.  The website shows pictures of everything the store offers and details of size and price.  Click on the picture, name the quantity and the time you want your delivery.  My first delivery was by a delightful young woman who called as she was shopping to let me the store didn't have an item and asked if I would like a substitute.  They don't deliver alcohol, darn it, but her pick of the produce was perfect.  I will definitely use this service again and tipped her well.
The only drawback is that He-Who and I miss trolling the aisles of HEB.  With short-term memory and problems with naming and word recall, it is pointless to ask him what he wants ahead of time but he always enjoys picking out cookies, crackers and beer.  Alcohol isn't supposed to be good for Alzheimers patients but he so enjoys a bottle in the evening.  I say "What the hell? He's 85 years old and has so few pleasures."

The tapestry begins to shred

Well, it certainly has been a while, hasn't it!  So I must start back in January when life's tapestry began to shred with threads flying everywhere and as hard as I tried, I couldn't weave them back into the lovely pattern they had been.
Threads began flying back in September when my right hip became so sore and painful that I could no longer drive or walk very far.  No longer could I take He-Who-Sleeps-Alot by the hand for a walk around the community or a trip back to Clear Lake.  My children didn't want me to drive for fear I wouldn't be able to lift my right foot quickly enough.  So there went our mobility.
I went through a series of doctor appointments and shots in my back and hip and a couple of trips to the ER with sinus tachycardia and still the hip hurt and I continued to tell docs it is my HIP, not my back, that has a problem.
Meanwhile He-Who monitored the election with MSNBC going 24-7 and copies of the NY Times and the Wall St. Journal.  But with time I noticed that less and less of the newspaper was being highlighted or even read.
Finally I got a referral to a hip doctor in late December and scheduled a total replacement January 12. Of course with this plan, a plan for He-Who's care had to be put in place.  Our son came from San Antonio and took over his dad while my sister-in-law and my daughter took care of me in the hospital.  I went into a rehab hospital for a couple of weeks determined to be the poster child of hip replacement while He-Who went to his brother's home under their care.  I did the best I could to micromanage it all by phone and they were very good to bring He-Who to see me and to talk to me on the phone.
When the caregiver goes down, life becomes chaotic and disorienting for the Alzheimer's patient which presents a bigger challenge for those in charge of their care.
I was determined to go home after two weeks in rehab instead of the recommended three as I felt I needed to get home and try to get our lives as back to normal as possible whatever that had been.
AND we were still hoping to move to San Antonio SOON.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Blessing in disguise

Well God Bless!  The dumpster diving has turned into a blessing.  Now that He-Who-Sleeps-Alot has found the dumpster, we are making good use of him.  Holidays frequently occur on Mondays, our regular garbage pick up day, so on holidays we get no pick up.  He-Who does a great job now on those days of delivering bags to the dumpster, not just for us but now for neighbors.  It is so great to seem him accomplishing these tasks and he loves the walk.  AND he doesn't bring any of it back home, thank goodness.
Ya just never know, do ya?  Strange incidents can turn into blessings!
I'm reading 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows , a book about a caregiver and her spouse with Alz.  Really good...a weird kind of affirming to read that her spouse confuses the fridge and the freezer as well..  A couple of weeks ago I found an exploded beer in the freezer...what a mess!

My task this week is to keep throwing out stuff and filing papers.  Where does all this paper come from?  Mostly insurance and Medicare and why do I feel I need to keep it?  For how long?