How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you were? ~ Satchel Paige

Tintern Abbey, Monmouthshire, Wales by Phillip Capper (fotopedia) 

                  

“In a dream you are never eighty.” ~ Anne Sexton

Ash Wednesday. Cloudy and chilly.

Bamburgh Castle by Anthony Dodd (fotopedia)

I spent nine hours on Monday in the emergency section of DePaul Hospital. This time it was not my mother; it was my mother-in-law, my ex’s mother.

Some people find it strange that I still refer to this woman as my mother-in-law. I don’t find it strange at all; she’s been in my life since I was a young woman. I find it incredible to be able to have two mothers-in-law, both of whom I admire and love. How many people can stay that truthfully? My m-in-l here has Parkinson’s Disease, a very unforgiving disease that takes away chunks of the mind without warning.

On Sunday night, my sister-in-law Ann came over and spent a good hour crying. She had found her mother on the floor of her bedroom on Sunday morning. When asked why she was on the floor, my m-in-law said that “it felt good.” As the day progressed, she was better, but she was still talking a lot of nonsense. I told Ann that I was afraid she might have had a mini-stroke. We decided that we would take her in the next day if we could convince her to get in the car. Turns out, we didn’t have to.

When we got to her house around 9 a.m., she was on the floor of the playroom, the first room off the hallway. She was lying there, and it was apparent that she had been there for a while because her skin was icy cold. I went into the bathroom to get a warm washcloth to wipe her with, and the floor was soaking wet as was everything under the sink. When I asked her if she knew how the bathroom had gotten wet, she told me that the people who live upstairs had left their bathtub running.

There are no people upstairs.

Ann and I called 911, and she was transported to the ER. The EMTs asked her if she knew where she was, and she said that she was at the hospital. They told her that she wasn’t at the hospital yet. One of the doctors in the ER asked her if she knew the date, and Ann and I looked at each other—neither of us knew the date . . . Turns out that my m-in-law was dehydrated and had a urinary tract infection, but the CT scan did not show any signs of a stroke. The doctor admitted her to get her stabilized, but there were no available rooms, so Ann and I spent the entire afternoon in the little ER cubicle. I’m certain that the ER staff thought that we were both batty as we got the giggles more than once, and at one point, we were singing.

It had been hours without food, anything. Ann needed her insulin. I needed something besides Pepsi.

“When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether it had happened or not; but my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so I cannot remember any but the things that never happened.  It is sad to go to pieces like this but we all have to do it.” ~ Mark Twain

Castle in the UK by Anthony Dodd (fotopedia)

During all of this, my m-in-law was in and out of reality. She would be talking to us about something, and then she would turn to her left and have a conversation with her sister (who was not there). It took a bit of getting used to, but we muddled through. There were times when she was eating imaginary food and sewing invisible clothes.

If I sound as if I’m making fun, I’m not. It was one of those situations in which the pain of the reality could become so acute as to be overwhelming, so the better approach was to just go with the flow and try not to think about anything too much. 

I finally asked Corey to come and get me around 6:30 when I was certain that she was being moved to a ward. I had been wearing my contacts all day (something I am not yet used to), and my eyes hurt as did my back and my head. Ann was able to leave a little after 8.

In between all of this, I texted and phoned people, including my ex as I was acting as an intermediary between him and his sister.  The whole brother/sister thing is very touchy as my ex has been unwilling/unable to pitch in at all with his mother’s care; therefore, it has all fallen on Ann. She makes sure that her mom takes her meds three times a day, that she eats, that she has groceries in the house, that she hasn’t set the house on fire.

I try to do what I can, and I know that it’s not enough. Paul’s reason for not doing more is that “it’s so depressing.” Oh, and I suppose it’s a piece of cake for the rest of us? Yes. I would slap him if I thought that it would do any good.

“The great secret that all old people share is that you really haven’t changed in seventy or eighty years.  Your body changes, but you don’t change at all.  And that, of course, causes great confusion.” ~ Doris Lessing

Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland by Juan Diego Robles (fotopedia)

Today, Brett and I went to visit with Ann. When we got there we found out that they had to restrain her mom because she was trying to get out of bed. It’s like it was with my mom except that my mom was more coherent during the day.

Brett was not prepared for the state his grandmother was in, and it really upset him. She didn’t know who he was. I wish that I had thought to prepare him better, but the reality is that there probably isn’t any adequate preparation.

After several texts and phone calls, Alexis finally texted me back last night. This is a real sore spot for me, and I am not yet able to go into the full story on why I am so upset with her other than to say that it deals directly with Alexis’s participation in this family.

Last night, Ann and Paul and their respective spouses met for dinner, and Ann said that it went fairly well. Paul has agreed to go along with whatever medical decisions Ann makes, and he and Penny will do research for Ann as needed (big whoop). Ann told him that she isn’t asking for a time commitment but that if he could really try to go have dinner with his mom or spend an hour with her it would take some of the stress of Ann.

I suppose we’ll just have to wait and see how all of this works out.

“To know how to grow old is the master-work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.” ~  Henri Frédéric Amiel 

Looking West from Dun Beag Broch, Scotland by Anthony Dodd (fotopedia)
For me, the saddest part of this situation is the loss of the woman I used to know, a woman who sang in her church choir (alto), a talented woman who sewed beautiful clothes, read voraciously, listened to classical music, wallpapered and painted every room of her house, and knew how to grow any kind of flower, herb or vegetable.

This person is gone, and there are only small glimpses of her, and those are appearing less and less. And I am left to wonder if she is aware of this loss. How much does she know? How much does she remember? In one instance, she could name the main road that abuts the hospital; in the next, she was talking about a ticket taker on the train. I hope that this logic makes some sense to her and that she doesn’t really perceive how far from reality she has strayed.

To lose a bodily function from disease, arthritis, whatever—it seems that we as humans have an ability to compensate for such a loss. We use the affected limb less, or we don’t lift as much weight as we used to. But to have a keen mind, a mind that hungers for knowledge, a mind that enjoys continually learning about new things—to lose that gradually must be infuriating. And then after a few years of the slips here and there, to begin to lose great chunks of time and memory—how does one cope with that?

Today, Yvonne held out her fingers to me and asked me if I wanted this (invisible thing). I said that I sure did, and I pretended to take it and put it in my pocket.

I have not yet allowed myself to cry, and I’m not entirely certain that I will because the tears would be tainted in a way. Would they be tears for her, for us, for what has gone, for what is going, for having to watch this helplessly, for not knowing whether or not to acknowledge the invisible things she moves around with her fingers, for the papery thickness of her skin that is blotchy with bruises from the blood that they try to take from her veins, for Ann’s burden, for the resentment that I bear towards my ex and my daughter for their unrelenting self-centeredness, for my sons who are visibly hurting.

What exactly? I have no answers, and that pisses me off more than anything, having no answers. That’s’ the part that really, really sucks.

More later. Peace.

Music by Bird York, “In the Deep” (I know that this is a repeat, but it felt right).

                   

Memory’s Voice
For O. A. Glebova-Sudeikina

‘What do you see, on the wall, dimly alive,
at the hour when the sunset eats the sky?

A seagull, on a blue cloth of waters,
or perhaps it’s those Florentine gardens?

Or is it Tsarskoye Seloe’s vast view,
where terror stepped out before you?

Or that one who left your captivity,
and walked into white death, freely?’

No, I see only the wall—that shows
reflections of heaven’s dying glow.

~ Anna Akhmatova
 
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“Sameron adion aso” (I shall sing a sweeter song tomorrow) ~ Theocritus

“The Empire of Lights,” by René Magritte (1954, oil on canvas)

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Winston S. Churchill 

"The Scream," by Edvard Munch (1893, oil, tempera, pastel on cardboard)

This is the fifth morning in a row in which I have woken up in screaming pain, I mean literally screaming. I am going through a migraine bout the likes of which I haven’t seen in several years. Who knows why, certainly not I.

I just wanted to post a quick update since I haven’t been on in several days. Corey had his interview, and it went very well. The three people who spoke with him were very impressed with his background and training. That’s the good news. The downside is that the position does not come with any benefits, and is not guaranteed for 40 hours a week. Nevertheless, Corey is very excited about it as he would be able to make many contacts if he gets the position.

It was just wonderful to see him so happy, and having a good interview really went a long way in making him feel better about himself. Even though the position itself isn’t ideal, we both think that it would be great for him to take it if offered. The people who interviewed him even said that if something more in his field came along, he shouldn’t feel bad about taking it. So who knows.

I’m just happy that it went well and that there is a good possibility that Corey will be working again. I know from experience that having a job in which he is interacting with other people will be great for his state of mind, and also, it always seems easier to find another job if you are already working.

“When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching—they are your family. ” ~ Jim Butcher

"The Large Family," by René Magritte (1963, oil on canvas)

On the down side, we had quite a family scare yesterday: Alexis had a seizure at work and was taken by ambulance to a local emergency room. They ran a series of tests on her, and fortunately, there does not appear to be any physical reason why she would have a seizure. The doctor thinks that one of the medicines that she is on may have caused the seizure: Wellbutrin has a 4 in 1,000 rate of seizures in patients who have been prescribed the medication. I was completely unaware of this side effect.

Alexis is supposed to have a follow-up with a neurologist just to make sure. She spent today at home in bed sleeping. Everyone was at the ER last night, and I have to admit that the first thing that popped into my head was brain tumor. I’m sorry, but that’s where my mind goes. Fortunately, the CT scan showed no blockages or masses anywhere in her brain.

I won’t even get into the stupidity that was the presence of my ex at the ER and what an ass he made of himself. What is important is that my baby girl seems to be fine, none the worse for wear, and apparently just experienced a medication side effect.

It’s funny, but Corey and I always seem to comment on those pharmaceutical commercials that promote new medicines for new ailments as seeming miracle drugs, but at the end of the commercials there is always this list of horrible side effects: heart attack, stroke, death.  The cure seems to be as bad as what it purports to fix.

Anyway, Alexis walked out of the ER with an appetite, and she and Mike stopped at a McDonald’s drive-through on the way home, so I’m thinking that’s a good sign.

That’s about all for now. My head is beginning to throb again from the screen. Time for another ice pack.

More later. Peace.

(Had Magritte on my mind, which led to Munch. Hence, the images)

“Breathe In Breathe Out,” by Matt Kearney

More Lunatic Tales From The Ether

18_not_easy 

The Other Side of the Looking Glass

When last we left our heroine, she had been disarmed of her sword and was strapped to a gurney being transported to the emergency room for her own good . . . 

The Mexicans in the Walls

Part 3

Final chapter: The Emergency Room 

 So we arrive at the emergency room, where I am parked on a gurney in the hall to wait, for what or whom, I have no idea. I have already assured anyone who will listen that I don’t really need to be there, which is probably not the best thing to say in an emergency room full of people who need to be there. I am going to be taken to x-ray to make sure I didn’t hurt my back when I tried to rearrange the furniture. In the meantime, I am right outside the door of a man who is apparently—and I really am not making this up—dying. This is the only part of the story that is not the least bit humorous, and I don’t think that this was part of my hallucination. He is moaning and crying and no one is doing anything about it. It’s tearing me to pieces to hear this, and I just want to go home. I promise my husband that if I can just go home, I’ll be fine, but I don’t want to hear this man any more.

starting-an-iv
The Correct Way to Start an IV

In the meantime, someone decides that I need an IV. The crew from the ambulance that brought me in assert comically that they need some practice in this area, so one of them volunteers. It’s the female. She gives me the smile given to crazy people to assure them that everything is going to be all right when it’s obvious that it won’t be; then she jabs me with the needle: again and again and again. She looks over at the person who I assume is her supervisor and says, “I can’t do it,” to which I ache to reply, “No shit.” He ambles over, picks up my arm, and declares: “She has really tiny veins.” I reply to his assertion, “no one’s has ever had problems with my veins,” but they aren’t listening because they think that I’m crazy. Well I may be crazy, but I know my veins. This guy tries twice and misses. I give him a look like I’m going to pull a sword out of my butt, and he backs off.

Finally, a technician comes by, (I deduce what she is because she is carrying one of those carts with all of the tubes and needles and stuff), and I tell her what they’ve been doing to me, and she says, “Oh my. Here.” And in goes the needle, and I have an IV. I’m glaring at the EMT’s who are hanging around the vending machines. This is why I didn’t want to come to the emergency room.

Did I mention the medications? Probably not. When the EMT’s were in my bedroom checking my vitals and getting ready to take me out, jefferson-airplane-surrealistic-pillowthey noticed my little castle of drug bottles by the bed, the veritable cornucopia of pharmacopoeias. They looked at each other, and I’ve seen that look: “She’s a druggie.” Please let me pause here. I had just been released from the hospital for back surgery. I had a few meds on my nightstand, along with my medicine for heartburn and other ailments. But they are jumping to the White Rabbit conclusions (you know, “Go Ask Alice,” Jefferson Airplane), and frankly, at the time, all I could think of was Desi Arnaz saying to Lucy, “Lucy, you got some ‘splainin to do,” which would have made me giggle, so I shut up.

I wanted to giggle a lot during this whole episode, but I think that (other than the two cops at my bedroom door), I’m the only one who was finding any humor in the situation.

So now that I have an official IV and an ID bracelet, we sit. And sit and sit and sit. The man in the room is moaning horribly, and I’m getting hungry. I also need to pee. I ask my husband what we are waiting for. He replies that he’s not sure. We’ve already been there for two hours going on three. I get off the cart, and my husband immediately panics and asks where I’m going. I tell him to calm down. I’m not running away from the ER, I just need to pee. But that’s harder than you would think when you have an IV, and people are in rooms, and there is no bathroom close by. I find a bathroom but am not particularly happy about its cleanliness—it is, afterall, a hospital, and they are teeming with germs, and by now, I am very ill-tempered, and I just want to go home.

My beleaguered spouse goes to see if anyone will see us, and comes back without anyone. So I pull out my cell phone and call the ER main desk. I distinctly remember doing this as this is something that I would do under normal circumstances. I call the main desk and ask if anyone is ever going to see me. The person who answers the phone is very confused. She asks who she is talking to. I tell her that I’m the woman on the gurney in the hallway outside of the door of the man who is dying, and no one has even checked me in yet.

A doctor shows up in two minutes. We give him a rundown of what’s going on. He totally ignores me (which proves my whole conspiracy theory), and only talks to my husband. I realize that he’s a resident. I hear him go off and consult with the attending, a female physician who comes back and asks my husband if I want a psych consult. I say, “No. I don’t need a psych consult. I just want you to tell me why I’ve started to have post-op hallucinations.” They order a psych consult.

After four hours, I tell my husband that we’re going. He looks at me, and I say, “Look, obviously, it’s something to do with my medicine. You can call the surgeon’s office when we get home. I want to go home and get back in bed. I’m not hearing or seeing anything any more since I haven’t had any medicine in almost six hours. Just take me home, and put me to bed.” He reluctantly admits that I have a point. Truthfully, at this point, he himself is so exhausted that he would probably agree to me performing surgery in the hallway if it would get a response out of someone.

 I wait for the next physician type to walk by and then loudly announce that I’m leaving. It’s the resident again, and I think that I’m scaring him. The female attending comes back, says that I have to sign papers saying that I am refusing treatment. When she thinks she’s out of earshot, she starts talking about me. This time, I’m not hallucinating.

On a better day, I would have taken her to task, but today I have to admit defeat. I’m tired, and I just want to be gone from this hell-hole.

We go home, and my husband finally speaks to someone knowledgeable at the doctor’s office. Turns out that the whole thing was a result of my having stayed in the hospital on the extra strength kaboom medicine for five days instead of three and then going home and taking extra strength pills that the doctor had prescribed for me without taking into account that I still had all of the other stuff in my bloodstream. In other words, the surgeon didn’t bother to do some measured calculations on how much frigging stuff they were pumping into me those two extra days that I was hospitalized and then sent me out into the world, an hallucinatory event in waiting.

What a pedestrian explanation for a calamitous event. After we got home I heard the music a little bit more, but didn’t say anything. My husband got some sleep. My kids approached me tentatively, and I tried to explain that I wasn’t psycho any more. But as far as the whole family of Mexicans and their card table and coffee behind the walls? I think that they left when the ambulance pulled out of my driveway.

It was one hell of a ride, I’ll give you that. The person who had the worst end of it was my poor spouse, who was just trying to keep me from hurting myself. The cops who turned out in full armor probably laughed themselves silly at the stupid woman who was waving around a sword with a blade so dull that it wouldn’t even cut an apple. And I had to have an MRI to make sure that I hadn’t undone the surgeon’s work when I tried to move a 200-pound dresser to bar the non-existent intruders.

It never occurred to me to ask the Mexicans in the walls for help.  But that’s just as well. Now that there is a lot of time and distance from this event, I find it highly amusing, vitameatavegamin1but my husband? He still is not amused. I cannot imagine why.

So this is the moral of the story: If you have a lot of pain medication when you are in the hospital, and they give you more pain medicine to take at home, don’t be surprised if you start to hallucinate. I’m not sure if you’ll have a Mariachi band as I did. But whatever your hallucinations may be, just know that it’s the medication, and don’t allow yourself to be used for recertification training for EMT’s who need to practice sticking people who are conscious.

And that dear friends, is all for now. Peace.

More Lunatic Tales From The Ether

 unreality-crashes-in

Phantasms Collide With Reality

 

Picking up where we left off. If you recall, when last we left our heroine, she was having both auditory and visual hallucinations, and her family was considering running far, far away . . .

The Mexicans in the Walls

Part 2

New and exciting chapter: The conspiracy.

You are going to love this part. Trust me. I am not making this up. This is like something that W. would say at the microphone before his handlers could stop him and the press is just pissing in their collective pants with joy at the gift that they have been handed. I kid you not. That’s how good this part is, and we aren’t even to the S.W.A.T. team and the sword yet. I have figured out why the Mexicans are in the walls. Hallelujah. In my head, this is more real than Paris Hilton’s suntan or James Frey’s memoir. My husband has gathered all of these Mexican’s in the walls, who at this point are playing cards, brewing coffee (which smells rather good because I do love strong, Mexican coffee), and playing this infernal Mariachi music all night and all day, because he—my husband—has devised a plan of such cunning that it would make a Fundamentalist proud.

Now granted I’m not exactly sure how the Mexicans fit into all of this except that there is a larger plan or was a larger plan. I’m getting ahead of myself again. Let me back up . . . When the visual hallucinations started, my husband called the doctor again, who suggested that perhaps he (my husband, not the doctor, silly) should take me to the ER. Well, I was not having any of that because I was onto the whole ER thing. It was as plain as the brace on my body. If I let him take me to the ER, then he would have evidence that he could use against me later when he wanted to commit me or if he ever wanted to have complete control over me. It would be there, in writing: I was L-O-O-N-Y. It was a conspiracy.

He had brought the Mexicans in so that I would see them and hear them, and then when I did, he could tell them that I was seeing things and hearing things that weren’t there. Husbands all over the country were doing the same thing so that they could control their wives, like Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, and we know where that leads, and I wasn’t going there. I had just read Under the Banner of Heaven, and those people were crazy. So I was not going back to the old ways. Not me, no way, no how.womens-collageThe conspiracy, you see, was that if husbands secretly banded together through some kind of code word (no I didn’t know the word, how would I? Duh. It was a secret), then all of those involved would be able to have something on their wives, like me being loony, to keep them in check. You know, no more freedoms, no more equality. None of that crap. Back to the old-fashioned days when women were never allowed to speak or own land or heads of cattle (not that I wanted to own cattle, mind you). I knew that that’s why my husband was planning, and I told him that I knew, so he could forget about taking me to the ER, because I was not a threat to myself or anyone else, so I knew that they wouldn’t hold me. So there.

Of course, this was before the streamers. In between calling the doctor, my husband had been calling his mother and my daughter, asking for advice, help, anything. My daughter was at work, and his mother was 800 miles away, and believe me, you don’t call my mother during something like this unless you want to make it ten times worse by a factor of 92 or so. But I digress . . .

This is important because of the streamers, which I’m getting to right now. Apparently, every time I went into the bathroom or fell asleep, my husband (or so my deluded mind believed) would do something new to add to my doubts to my sanity.

Well, I woke up in the middle of the night, and there were all of these beautiful colored streamers hanging from the ceiling and walls, and they were not the cheap paper kind—I was impressed—but lovely, translucent gels (where did he get these in the middle of the night, I wondered), and I just knew that my daughter had come over and helped my husband to hang them while I was asleep. Let me just mention here that this is the first time that my poor spouse has actually fallen asleep under the assumption that I, too, have gone to sleep for the night in my cocoon of pillows.

He should have known better. He woke up to me jumping on the bed trying to grab the streamers on the ceiling. I really thought that they were quite lovely, and I just wanted to touch them (also, I had to know how he had gotten them to stick to the ceiling like that).  However, post-operative back surgery, I don’t believe you are supposed to be jumping on anything, even a mattress. He brings me down, agrees that the streamers are lovely, and probably does not sleep any more that night.

Now this is the really weird part. No, the other parts were eccentric, a bit out there, but for pure weirdness, this is it. The morning after the streamers, I am in the bedroom alone. Said spouse is out of earshot. Little do I know, but he is in the backyard on the phone trying to convince someone, anyone, that things are not quite normal in our household. When I call out for him, he doesn’t answer, and then I hear a big noise in the garage. I make a completely logical leap here (in my mind), and decide that someone is breaking into the garage, and they have probably taken my husband hostage.

I crouch on the floor by the closed bedroom door and dial 911 emergency. While I am on the phone with the emergency operator, telling her about the hostage situation, I try to move my dresser in front of the door. This is an old, solid wood dresser, not pressed board, and it is full of clothes. I am tugging on the bottom of the dresser when I remember the swords. I still have the operator on speaker phone when I dive into the closet where we have three antique swords that we bought at a thrift store. I grab the first one that I can get to. If I have to, I think, I will take them all out like The Bride did in that scene in the tea house with O-Ren and the Crazy 88’s, which is just the coolest Quentin Tarantino scene ever, except I don’t have a yellow biker suit, and I don’t believe that I’ll be doing any jumping from balconies.

kill-bill-sword
How I Saw Myself With The Sword

“Hello?”

“Yes.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yes. I tried to move the dresser in front of the door, but it was too heavy.”

“Do you think that you could open the door?”

“I guess so. I have a sword.”

“You do?”

“Yes. It’s pretty old and not very sharp, but it’s the only weapon I have.”

“Well, do you think that you could open the door and give me the sword?”

“Where is my husband?”

“He’s right here with us.”

“Oh. Okay.”

So I open the door, and there is my husband behind two police officers who, I swear, are trying not to laugh. One of them reaches out, and I hand him my sword, while explaining to him that it’s not very sharp, but he should still be careful because it’s a sword. I am a mom, after all. I know these things.

The police ask if I want to go to the hospital. I tell them not really. They tell me that an ambulance is already outside, so maybe I should just let them check on me. Since it’s the police and not my husband, and they are asking nicely, and no one has kidnapped anyone, I figure, why not.

And that’s how I end up at the emergency room.

 

(For Part 1, see https://poietes.wordpress.com/2009/02/18/lunatic-tales-from-the-ether )