Freshly Cut Pink Peonies
“And the hands pick flowers
And the soul takes no notice.” ~ Fernando Pessoa
Saturday, early evening. Sunny and mild, 71° F
What a long strange week it’s been. Corey worked two double shifts, and as a result, is dead tired. Brett finished his exams for spring semester and is now preparing to take the summer off from studies. He finished the year with a 3.5 GPA, an A-/B+, which I think is terribly impressive.
Eamonn did not do as well, although he did do better than he has been doing. I’m not sure if his GPA will be strong enough for him to transfer to ODU this semester, but we are going to apply in the hopes that he can get in. I really think that he would like ODU better than community college as it will feel more like he is in college than continuing high school.
Tomorrow is Mother’s Day here in the U.S., and I am really not looking forward to it, mostly for reasons that I will elaborate on further later. I was hoping that we would have the pool open for Mother’s Day, but it doesn’t look as if that’s going to be possible. We had to order a part for the filter (luckily under $10), and that hasn’t arrived yet. Of course, not having the pool cleaned hasn’t stopped Tillie from accidentally/on purpose jumping into the pool and making big splashes. She is growing impatient with us as she is obviously ready for swimming season.
“The temple bell stops.
But the sound keeps coming
out of the flowers.” ~ Basso
On Friday, I went to see my other m-in-law at the rehab center. Ann, my sister-in-law told me on Wednesday that Yvonne will not be coming home. She has stopped trying to feed herself, and she won’t do physical therapy. She has also been having problems with swallowing. I had planned to visit on Thursday with Ann, but unfortunately, I had one of my sleepless nights and was completely out of it Thursday morning. Amazingly, Alexis went with her Aunt Ann to visit.
Since I wasn’t sleeping, I called our s-in-law in Germany at 2:30 a.m. (8:30 their time). Ann had called last time, so I told her I would do it this time. She seem prepared for the news. Her own mother had died of Parkinson’s about five years ago, and Helma had been the primary caretaker. The plans are for the Germans to come at the end of July; we’re all hoping that they will not have to come sooner.
I cut some fresh peonies from the front yard and took them with me when I visited. Yvonne has always loved peonies. When I arrived at 11:30, my m-in-law was still asleep in bed. Her nurse came in and asked me if I would mind leaving the room for a bit as she was going to get her up and dressed so that she could go to speech therapy for lunch.
We went to the speech therapy room on the first floor, and the therapist put my m-in-law’s food tray in front of her. She reached for the fork and began to feed herself. I have never been so glad to see such a small victory in my life. She did really well, but got tired about half way through, so I fed her the rest of her lunch. She had no problems in swallowing anything.
After her meal, of which she ate almost all, I took her back to the room, and we talked. She was very coherent and not her usually mumbling self. I told her about all of the outrageous hats at the royal wedding, and she laughed. We talked about the flowers that are in bloom, and a few other things, and for the most part, she was with me.
It’s probably one of the best conversations that I’ve had with her in a while.
“I don’t trust the truth of memories
because what leaves us
forever ” ~ Anna Kamienska, from “A Path in the Woods”
Unfortunately, as I was getting ready to leave, I leaned in to hug and kiss her, and she jumped. I had scared her; then she told me something that really bothered me. I won’t go into the details because it’s private, but the gist is that she thinks someone is coming into her room at night.
Now ordinarily I might say that it’s the dementia that was talking, but I don’t think so. She was completely coherent and cogent the entire time we were together. She remembered names, and she even asked how her old house was doing without her.
I had to stop myself from marching down to the administrator’s office and raising hell as it isn’t my place to do so. But I didn’t want to leave her alone. These are the very reasons that so many people do not feel comfortable in placing their elderly and disabled relatives in homes. What goes on when you aren’t there?
The population in rehabilitative facilities is completely at risk in so many ways: fires, natural disasters, caregivers who do not care, and caregivers who abuse.
I am sick with anger, sick with guilt over my helplessness in this situation. This is not how I want this woman to spend her final days. No one deserves to be helpless, at the mercy of people who ignore their plights, or worse, who take advantage of such helplessness. I debated whether to call Ann, who was on her way to Blacksburg to pick up my niece from Virginia Tech. Finally, I called. At the very least, she could make a telephone call and request that her mother not have a male nurse.
I mean, if it is dementia, which is what abusers hope such things will be chalked up to, and it is merely a male nurse who is getting her ready for bed, then if she doesn’t have a male nurse, then she won’t misconstrue the situation. But if it’s something else, it is going to be damned hard to prove.
“At the doorstep you will know
the moment we have
left to live.” ~ Edmond Jabès, from “The Stranger”
I just don’t know what to do. Part of me wants to call my ex, but I know that he will not react well, and I don’t know if that would upset my sister-in-law. The family dynamics are so touchy. Ann has been in charge of making all of the decisions as she is the one who has been there full-time caring for her mother.
None of us can be at the facility all of the time. If she really isn’t coming home again, then what is the best thing to do? I cannot stand the thoughts of anyone trespassing on this woman’s privacy, and she has always been a very private, proper woman. At the same time, she was always a woman who took no gruff from anyone.
So you see why Mother’s Day does not really feel like a time to celebrate for me. Eamonn asked me to take him to see his grandmother on Mother’s Day as he was supposed to go with Alexis on Friday morning before he had to go to work, but surprise! She didn’t wake up. I told him that I would take him. Brett is still grappling over whether or not he wants to go. He knows that he should go, but doesn’t know if he is able after how traumatized he was last time.
I cannot really help with this as there is absolutely no way of predicting what shape she will be in on any given day. She could be having a great day, like she did with me, or she could be having a terrible day, like she was earlier in the week. I know that it had to be bad for Ann to go ahead and sign the papers committing her to long-term care, which, by the way, will cost $7,000 a month.
A month. That’s horrible. As long as she still owns half of her house, then Medicaid will consider that an asset. So now the decision over what to do with the house arises: Let my father-in-law have it completely . . . The thought of that really irks me.
“No, none of us seem so very real.
We’re only supporting characters in the lives of each other.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk
I haven’t really spoken of my other father-in-law in this blog, and that’s because I lost tremendous respect for him when he walked out on my m-in-law in 1992 for a younger woman with whom he had been having an affair.
He now lives in a big house on the water thanks to the other woman’s money (which she inherited from her dead ex-husband, whom she left for my f-in-law, as well as some money from relatives). This is the same woman (who looks remarkably like Camilla Parker Bowles, I kid you not), who uninvited me from the family party last summer, so definitely no love lost between us.
Anyway, my ex-f-in-law doesn’t need the money from the house my m-in-law was living in as he is taken care of quite well. He has half of his Navy retirement, half of his school retirement, and all that he does any more is hang out on the back porch and smoke (his health has declined badly, as well).
I don’t hate the man; I loved and admired him greatly at one time. But I have never forgiven him for what he did to my m-in-law. It’s that blind loyalty thing of mine kicking in once again. That and the fact that he completely lost contact with his grandchildren when he left. At the time, the boys were babies, but Alexis was used to spending time with her grandfather, and he made no effort to do anything with her, not until years later after he married his true love and they set up in the big house.
Bitter? A wee bit.
” . . . the old heart
In which I sleep, in which my sleep increases, in which
My grief is ponderous, in which the leaves are falling,
In which the streets are long, in
which the night
Is dark, in which the sky is great, the old heart
That murmurs to me of
what cannot go on,
Of the dancing, of the inmost dancing.” ~ Mark Strand, from “Dark Harbor: A Poem”
Family dynamics are so hard and so complicated, a bit like eggs really. Eggs in the wild bring new life, but cracked, the process of development stops abruptly. Conversely, the eggs that we eat become stronger when immersed in hot water, as if the very process of being exposed to harsh elements toughens both the outside and the inside.
People can be fragile, or they can be tough, and sometimes, they can be both at the same time. Put into a basket together, some fare better than others, as is the case in families.
We come together, and at times it can be precarious, and sometimes it seems as if we are safer when we are apart. But who among us does not sigh a bit sadly when coming upon a small blue cracked egg upon the ground beneath a tree because we know that but for the elements or the creatures in the night, a baby robin’s song would have become part of the background music of life.
Sorry, a bit sappy, I know.
More later. Peace.
Music by A Fine Frenzy, “Hope for the Hopeless”
What Kinds of Times are These
There’s a place between two stands of trees where the grass grows uphill
and the old revolutionary road breaks off into shadows
near a meeting-house abandoned by the persecuted
who disappeared into those shadows.
I’ve walked there picking mushrooms at the edge of dread, but don’t be fooled
this isn’t a Russian poem, this is not somewhere else but here,
our country moving closer to its own truth and dread,
its own ways of making people disappear.
I won’t tell you where the place is, the dark mesh of the woods
meeting the unmarked strip of light—
ghost-ridden crossroads, leafmold paradise:
I know already who wants to buy it, sell it, make it disappear.
And I won’t tell you where it is, so why do I tell you
anything? Because you still listen, because in times like these
to have you listen at all, it’s necessary
to talk about trees.
~ Adrienne Rich