Friday, May 30, 2008

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Blast from the past

My spousal unit and I were out walking the dogs on Saturday. A new neighbor was outside doing yard work, so we stopped to welcome her to the neighborhood.

We chatted about random stuff, and then she said “I know you from somewhere.” I asked where her daughter goes to school to determine if we might have met through PTA or Band Boosters. “No,” she said. “I know you from a long time ago. Did you used to live in the North End and do you have a sister named Shelly?”

Yes, folks. She knew me when I was 13 years old! And I now worship her because she said: “You look just the same except your hair is darker.” SHE IS MY NEW BFF!

Sadly, I have photographic evidence that I no longer look 13. But as long as there is no mirror present, I can hang out with my BFF and pretend I’m young again. I can play my old Partridge Family albums on the turntable to set the tone. Do you think she still has any Barbies?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Back in the saddle

We had a wonderful funeral service for Dad. There was a video featuring some of his favorite gospel music backing photos spanning his childhood, through his “Burt Reynolds” years (he was a dead ringer for Reynolds in his younger days) through his “father” years, to his “grandpa” years. The toughest part to watch was a relatively recent video of him describing his conversion to Christianity. We’d been through so much with him at the hospice that it was difficult watching the old dad. Then my brother and one of my nephews spoke and both speeches were eloquent and touching.

After the service, we headed back to my sister’s house for an old-fashioned wake. Complete with a VERY open bar. Oh yes, the booze was flowin’! A folk/country/gospel band was playing and there was a house full of folks telling stories, laughing and singing along with the band. And the grandkids were not quite sure what to make of their less-than-sober parents and aunts and uncles. There was much giggling, whispering and “Holy cow! Look at your mom!” It was a party Dad would have loved.

And since I had clearly not been through enough in the past week, I got to attend the whole shebang on crutches. Before I flew to Colorado, I had been having some trouble with my left knee. It was mirroring right knee troubles from 11 years ago that culminated in surgery and obnoxious physical therapy. I wasn’t looking forward to repeating that scenario and was practicing head-in-the-sand, if-I-don’t-see-a-doctor-then-nothing’s-wrong behavior. I had gotten to the point where I had decided to schedule an appointment as soon as I returned home, but I guess my knee wanted to make sure I lived up to my decision. I took all of the grandkids to Garden of the Gods so folks could finish getting my sister’s house ready for the wake. We were walking (well, I was limping) around the park when I must have set my foot wrong. I heard a popping/cracking noise and then couldn’t put any weight at all on my left leg. My kids and their cousins had to help me hop back to the car. Luckily, there were crutches back at my sister’s house! I had just enough time to get changed before we had to leave for the funeral. So, add crutches and alcohol together and you can picture me scooting on my butt up the stairs to where the band was playing, can’t you? Sure you can.

Yes, I have now seen a doctor. The verdict is arthritis. Apparently, I seriously aggravated it when I stepped wrong which led to a couple of days on crutches. I’m on anti-inflammatory medication and am hoping to avoid anything more invasive (can you say “needle in knee”?).

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks working on getting back in the swing of normal life. It’s truly amazing how exhausting hanging around a hospice can be. For something that is not physically grueling, it really takes a toll. Tonight is the first work night I haven’t felt like I needed to come home and just vegetate. Tunnel, meet light. Thank goodness!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I don't cry pretty

You know those actresses in all the movies ... the ones who can cry whilst nary a speck of makeup leaves its original location? Well, I am not one of those kind of cryers. Of course, I'm not a big makeup wearer either, so at least I don't have any dripping down my face when I cry. However, I do make unseemly noises and do not look the least bit pretty.

And I've done a lot of crying lately.

On April 24, my brother-in-law called to let me know that my dad's doctors had given him only two to three weeks to live. Apparently, his liver decided it had had quite enough and was shutting down. Thus started the tears.

Thankfully, the human resources gal at my office suggested--nay, insisted--that I immediately fly to Colorado to spend time with Dad while it was still available. She booked a flight for April 26 and I was supposed to return home tomorrow.

I arrived a few hours before Dad was transferred from the hospital to a hospice. One of the first things he said to me was "You realize I won't be going home." Cue waterworks again.

And not for the last time. Losing someone to pancreatic cancer sucks in ways I cannot even come close to describing. I can only quote my sister who, during a prayer, said it was "ridiculously painful." Suffice it to say that by the time it was all over, we were all relieved. Which is hard to believe.

Hospice workers are truly amazing. I cannot imagine what it would be like to work day after day in a place filled with people who are dying and the families of those people who cry every time they leave the room. Well, not everyone cried every time they left the room. In fact, I may have been one of the few who needed quite that many tissues. Some of my family members insisted that I drink lots of water since I was clearly the designated family cryer.

Some highlights of the hospice:

When Dad for some reason thought a CNA was a lesbian and went on at some length about how that would have bothered him 60 years ago, but that now he was okay with it. But he wasn't sure about raising kids in that environment. He was still lucid enough to be somewhat embarassed when I cleared up his misconception.

When the night nurses had to come up to our rather large gathering in a common area and say: "We hate to have to ask this, but could you keep it down a little - the patients are complaining." Yes, while we may not have been making enough noise to wake the dead, we were certainly making enough to annoy the dying.

Moving our gathering to Dad's room, where we had popcorn and sodas and told stories that had everyone laughing out loud. The hospice doctor reassured us that since Dad really loved family gatherings and since hearing is one of the last things to go, it was the best thing for him to hear us talking and laughing around him.

Dad died yesterday morning. We figured he wanted to spend Cinco de Mayo in a better place. He went peacefully, which was a blessing.

I'm going to miss him terribly.