Sunday, December 19, 2010

December 15

I am learning that we never know what each day will bring. I leave my phone's ringer off at school and usually check it some time toward leaving for the day; every minute otherwise is jam-packed. Recesses are filled with students staying in to finish work. I rush to use the bathroom before the hordes come down the hall (fifth grade socializing starts the minute they enter the hall together and stops – if we insist on it - when they reenter the classroom).

So it happened that on Tuesday I had an appointment right after school, and rushed off without checking messages. I had another appointment for a massage right after the first, so looked at my phone and saw that Dad had called. I took a minute before leaving the hairdresser to listen to his message, and discovered Mom had been taken to Emergency by ambulance that morning. I was pretty shaken up, and called him back. Bear in mind, he didn’t call the house phone where Steve could get the message, or the school phone where I’d be notified right away.

He got a call from Mary Alva’s (her former foster home) saying she was running a fever and had a suspected bladder infection, and they had called for the ambulance. At the hospital they determined that she had no fever; in fact, her temperature was below normal. The culture for the urinary infection was negative. Her blood pressure was off the charts due to the very upsetting experience of being hauled out of the place on a stretcher and being subjected to the ordeal.

Next, Mary, the owner of Mary Alva’s Senior Class informed my dad that since she was already out of their facility, he should find a new provider for her. So my dad was faced with putting her in Columbia Basin nursing home in The Dalles.

When I expressed dismay that he hadn’t contacted me directly, he replied, “You’re talking to an 81 year old man here. I can’t be bothered with trying to do that”. It’s such an indication of how he’s functioning. I tried to explain to him that I needed to call my next appointment to let her know that I was cancelling; in addition, I got a call from the contractor doing weatherizing on my home and had to deal with that. He got upset with me and said, “I don’t have time to deal with this (my interruptions). I am going to walk the dog and get on with my life. I’m exhausted.”  And hung up on me.

I drove up to Sheri’s, my therapist, and sat in her lobby, trying to collect my wits. I reflected that the emergency was over – Mom was settled for now at Columbia Basin and Dad was off with the dog. There was nothing, really, I could do. In my new frame of mind, trying to take care of myself being more a priority, I decided to get my massage.

After returning home, I called Dad. He had settled down a bit. I told him I’d come over on Wednesday. The next afternoon I got a message from him on my cell and called back at about 3 PM. He invited me to join him for an intake appointment at Columbia Basin at 3:45. When I called him, he said, “Never mind. I changed my mind – I’m going to try to get her into the VA Home.”

“Dad, wouldn’t it make sense to keep the appointment and give yourself time to look around and make a decision based on what you see in the different options?” I asked.

“I guess you’re right”.

At that point, I had to pack up the computer quickly. The trip to The Dalles is often made at 70 rather than 65. Even so, I pulled in at the same time he did. We met with Glenna, a very nice social worker who helped him fill out the enormous stack of papers needing signatures and initials many times over.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

December 3

I went to see Mom today after Quaker Meeting. Jeff, a Friend, came over to visit. It was really nice to sit with the two of them. She said, “Well, Jeff, I don’t get to see you as often as Shannon”. That was interesting. Anyway, I hope he realizes that she doesn’t have perspective or memory, really. Bottom line – she remembers  us.

She has a little stuffed dog on her bed that someone brought. She was petting it, so I asked her if it had a name. She said it was Buffy. Some will remember they had a dog named Buffy who got lost on one of their trips to Arizona. It was sweet.

Dad and I had a set-to tonight. I’m the daughter on the scene, so if he’s going to have conflict with someone, it’s me. He is very worried about finances and what happens when the money runs out. It’s totally understandable to be worried. So far, he hasn’t actually spoken with anyone who could help him figure it out and take action. I suggested he might want an advocate to go with him, as it’s overwhelming and draining. You also can’t stop at the first twist of the red tape, but have to persevere. It’s not a situation that can’t be fixed, but he needs to get on it. So, I’m seen as a meddlesome person who doesn’t think he can make decisions. AAAHHHH.

We had a good walk afterwards, and when I came home I called a friend of his who worked in the field of services for seniors for his career. Dad will listen to him; he’s knowledgeable, he’s a man, and he isn’t family. He said he’d help us out. What’s more, he’s retired. Dad might eventually wonder why Doug always shows up after he and I  have a disagreement. Don’t any of you tell him why!

They say one day at a time, for good reason.

Monday, November 29, 2010


We had a nice Thanksgiving at Mom and Dad's house. Although I was sad that she wasn't there, we did enjoy being together and preparing the meal. And eating the meal. And cleaning up after the meal. And eating Joanie's pie. Everyone helped. Dad was glad we were there. Chris' daughter Athena provided the entertainment. Mom fell asleep early; by 5:00 visiting her was done. It was great to  have Margaret, Stan, Dune, Joan, Steve, Chris and Athena there to share the day with Dad.

Kirsten and I saw her yesterday for lunch. She did a pretty decent job of feeding herself tomato soup with crackers, plus a bit of Greek pasta salad.  Sometimes she needs a little prompting; she forgets what she's doing.

She had trouble tracking well today. I realized the other day that the stories we know are the ones we're going to get.  I asked her about Oe (her great-aunt), who lived with us until her death when I was almost 5. Mom lived with her grandmother, her step-grandfather and Oe when she was young. I knew that Rodney (grandfather) had been a prospector but I had thought it was a hobby. She said he was a miner. It was probably at  the copper mine around Salt Lake.  Oe  had lost her legs in an accident. Mom said she was a pedestrian and was struck. She did remember those things, but I was hoping for something new. I guess the lesson is ask while you have the chance. We have some of those things down but not enough.

Mom was an only child until her teens when Grandma Dee married Charles Rhodes (Rhoads?) and Bev came into her life. They enjoyed running around together. I'm glad she had that; she really did have a sad childhood. The years with Oe and grandma and grandpa were good, but the years when Dee and Jack pulled her back to live with them after abandoning her at her grandma's doorstep were very sad. She said that she was taken from what she knew as her home

She and I are alike in that we didn't really learn to be happy until we got older and got over a lot of life's troubles. Neither one of us get to go back and change anything, either. If I'm lucky, my family will try to understand as well.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sunday Visit

Mom was in her recliner this morning, magazine on her lap. She doesn’t track what she’s reading, but she still can make out the words on the page. Awhile back, she had a beautiful book from Birds and Blooms on her lap (from Joanie). It’s good to have something like that, large illustrations and few words. She said aloud the caption, “red tailed hawk”. It’s interesting, the skills that stick and the ones that are left behind.

The lunchtime visits are usually the easiest; evening brings on some anxiety and weariness. Susan or Becky gives her something for the anxiety when she has trouble.

Kirsten is so good; my youngest spent a few years doing CNA work. She also did a lot of nursing prerequisites, and is really tuned in to the needs of her grandma. It’s better for her to visit by herself, though, because if we’re together she turns to me.

I need to bring her a coffee next time; I’ll share a mocha with her. She still enjoys her java.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Summer is long over;  we are moving into Thanksgiving now. The last few months have brought big changes in our family. My mom is 86 and suffering from a variety of illnesses. The most life-threatening is a fatty liposarcoma in her abdomen. It has recurred after 5 years, the first time growing to 10 pounds and taking a kidney and part of her colon with it on removal. No one knows how long it will be before it interferes with her ability to digest food or does other damage. She never recovered her strength after the first surgery. She has gotten progressively weaker over the last few years, using a cane, then a walker, and finally in August lost the ability to even do that.

The culprit that may have hastened that is the same one that causes her to say, "Happy birthday!" when I walk in on an ordinary Thursday after work to help her with her dinner. Her dementia had been slowly getting worse, but something happened and her grip on what you and I call reality loosened all at once.  Maybe in some strange way it's a gift. She doesn't remember now that she has a tumor and as far as we know it will be the end of her.

My poor dad has it the worst. He is doing amazingly well, trying to figure out how to live in their house without her. He is learning that no matter how upset she might get with him, she won't remember in ten minutes.

Hospice took her off their services last month. It's not because she's getting better; she is getting worse slowly.  Her caregivers are wonderful and help keep her comfortable and well cared for. Her world is one hospital bed and a recliner chair because she can't sit up in a wheelchair anymore. The other sweet ladies at the foster home ask about her.

What keeps this from being absolute hell is the fact that she has medication to keep her relatively pain-free, she is a happy person, and we have a lot of support from friends and family. Also, she says some really funny things.  Last time I saw her, we greeted each other and I asked her how she was. She said she was fine. "I'm training for a new job". Ok, I'm game, so I asked her what it was. She said, "Data entry".  She had been a social worker from her 40s on. Go figure.

The really great thing is that she still remembers us.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Logolepsy - May You Be Spared

I recently joined Library Thing ( ); dangerous, I tell you! Not only are there endless numbers of books and people who like words, there are games to be played! I joined one group where the challenge was to find 5 not well known words of an insulting nature. I wrote this little ditty from my search.

The beldam (n. - a repulsive older woman) had quite a borborygmite (n. - a dirty mouth, or practitioner of spurcitious--foul and obscene—language) and was given to pathomimesis (n. – malingering) which explains why she was a pentapopemptic (n. - divorced five times. ) It caused great pentheraphobia
(n. - fear or dislike of one's mother-in-law) in her daughter’s husband.

To be fair, I should write one for the male gender, but that was enough for one day. There were so many amazing words on .

A couple highlights:


adj. - given to gross excess in drinking or eating; debauched intemperance


n. - fossilized feces. coprolith, n. hard mass of fecal matter. coprolitic, adj.

n. - vigesimation

n. - killing every twentieth person

(now, I ask you, why is that word even necessary? Is this a biblical thing?
Happy verbiage!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Friends Don't Razz Friends Who are Teachers

Last night at dinner, a couple of friends were questioning the release time from school the district has provided due to the adoption of a new, complex math program. I understand that it's inconvenient for parents to have to make other arrangements for their children. However, math is no longer 2 + 2, as my friend so glibly asked me.

Elementary school children are expected to tackle concepts that in the past, students didn't touch until middle school, at least. Oh, excuse me, junior high. That's another thing that has changed. Further, 3rd graders (on up) are expected to prove their answers to problem solving tasks, and to be able to explain how they solved them. We are covering geometry, algebra, coordinate graphing, you name it...I teach fifth grade, and it is amazing. Let us remember that each year in Oregon the benchmark for passing the state test keeps being raised, NOT lowered, as another friend stated - baldly untrue. And just because you hear it on the radio don't make it true! (Grammar error on purpose! What would we do without teachers teaching grammar!)

Follow this link to get a taste of what fifth graders have to know these days:
There is nothing unethical about a practice test, by the way - this comes from the state, and students have to know how to deal with multiple choice questions, deal with testing on a computer instead of paper/pencil, etc.

There was a little steam coming off the top of my head...I wish I could remain calm and try to correct their misperceptions, but I work too damn hard to hear that - and these friends kn0w it.