Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind


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Death, three years later

P1010382Three years ago yesterday, my mom died from complications of COPD. She had been fading away for the few years prior to that, and since my brother and I had researched the disease, her death was more of, “Oh, it’s now” rather than, “OMG, NOOOOO.” My father, on the other hand, was devastated. He still is.

The last time I saw her was at my niece’s wedding three weeks before Mom died. She had saved all her energy for the weekend and it took everything out of her. Her body was frail, almost bird-tiny, and she had almost no reserves of energy. My sis-in-law arranged for transport wheelchairs for both of our moms for the wedding activities, and that allowed Mom to be present for rehearsal dinner, family visiting, the wedding ceremony, and reception, with the whole family (except bridal couple) gathered at the same table. We were all happy, looked wonderful, shared the joy of the day and the enjoyment of each other’s company. And we all said goodbye when she and Dad left to go home. We had our goodbye, even though we didn’t know it was the final one.

I lived half way across the country and didn’t see her often. We talked every day at 6pm my time, 5pm her time, for seven years, since she was hospitalized for a serious infection following an emergency appendectomy when she was 76. Note that she diagnosed herself with appendicitis reading Google search results. I am her daughter in more ways than one.

Three years after her death, I’m living in her house, cooking in her kitchen, caring for her husband of 62 years. And I listen to Dad tell stories about her every day, which sometimes makes me crazy because I hear the same ones, word for word, many times. Yesterday we went to a memorial service for a friend and it allowed us to heal a little more.

 

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Taking a Break from Caregiving

13256291_10209796703980001_3438453961952806348_nFortunately for me, I now live only 2 hours from my brother, rather than half way across the country. Visits no longer require advance planning, plane tickets, and scheduled vacation time away from the office. Instead, it’s just a short hop on a lot of 2-lane roads.

After 7 months of living with my dad, I was ready for a break. I lived alone for my entire professional life and it’s not always easy to have someone around all the time. I prepared food, wrote out menus, did laundry and took care of house things. Then I made our family coffee cake traditionally made for gatherings, loaded up Tessie (who was none too happy about it), and headed out for two days off.

My niece and her two small children were visiting from Colorado and won’t be back until Christmas, so this was a chance to see them. Children change so quickly and the little guy is already starting to pull himself up. His big sister is smart as a whip and I so enjoyed making cookies and playing with her.

But I also really needed the time alone out on the front porch in the quiet of a rainy day, watching deer out in the pasture and grateful for the solitude. It can be lonely, being on your own, but for me, it’s restorative. My brother and I had some good conversations about Dad’s health and future planning. He’s in good shape now but at 88, anything could happen at any time. I’m glad that my brother and I see eye to eye on next steps.

Coming home was difficult. Tessie meowed almost the whole way, which is seriously annoying. Dad’s first comment was, “How many phones do we have? I can only find 3.” Gee, nice to see you, too. I’ve been impatient and stressed, and yesterday ended up with a wicked full-blown cold/sinus problem and feel as though an elephant is sitting on my chest. Okay, maybe just a cat. But still.

I want more space than I can have here, emotional space. It’s clear to me that taking time off for myself, including having Dad spend time away so I can be alone, is imperative to my long-term health and sanity. I don’t regret my decision to move here but sometimes I’m just losing who I am.


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Life in the Slow Lane

12108756_10208073611423764_1885628941810349569_n (1)Four months ago today I arrived in Texas after a 1,658 mile drive from Connecticut. My sister-in-law flew up to share the drive and Tessie was good as gold on the trip. We stayed in pet-friendly hotels but didn’t make reservations except for the first day, since that gave us more flexibility depending on road and traffic conditions.

Our route took us through the Poconos and down through Scranton, PA and continuing down through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, just a short drive from my former home in Charlottesville. We skimmed through Tennessee and cut across Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana into Texas, completing the drive in 3.5 days. My furniture arrived within 24 hours, much to my shock and delight.

The past months have been nesting time. Figuring out where things go and what things we don’t need. My pre-move cleanout made the move cheaper than estimated and also meant fewer items to find homes for in my new house. We ended up taking quite a lot of kitchen things and books to Goodwill, including my dad’s 40-year-old stereo system that took up way too many shelves in the bookcases. I replaced it with a new Bose system with CD-player. We’re loving our Amazon Echo in the kitchen and listen to NPR and music over meals.

Dad and I joined the local community church and I’m singing in the choir, which is like breathing for me.  I’ve also been taking Mah Jongg lessons and am starting to play regularly. It’s a strange game but an important social activity here so I’m meeting lots of people.  And the parties! I’ve been to more parties in the last 3 months than in the past 10 years!

It’s been a big adjustment to go from living solo (plus Tessie) to sharing a house, meals, errands, etc. with my dad. We’re figuring things out as we go and the space is large enough that we’re not falling over each other, especially now that we have a second TV in the den. He watches Fox News in one room and I watch anything else in the other!

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Thanksgiving 2015

 

 


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What did you do with your wedding dress?

My mom in her wedding dress

Mom and I were talking tonight about her wedding dress.  My grandmother made it and my mom, her sister, and 3 other women of their generation all wore it.

My grandmother was a wonderful seamstress who actually took dressmaking courses at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn back in the 1920’s.  She made the girls’ clothes (and her own) for years, including this amazing dress.  It’s made of Chantilly lace as an over-dress that was worn over a satiny under-dress, and has dozens of little tiny satin covered buttons down the front and the sleeves.  She covered the buttons herself.

It hasn’t been worn in a very long time.  I obviously didn’t wear it, and my nieces wouldn’t fit into it.  But my mom has had it in a box for 60 years, and even has the dress pattern used to make it tucked inside the box.

My grandmother in her wedding dress

But what do we do with it now?  How to best preserve such a treasure?  Should it be donated somewhere, given away with an ad in Craigslist, taken to a consignment shop?  Maybe cut into pieces and framed?  I would love to have a pillow made of the lace with the buttons on it as a reminder of both my mom and my grandmother – but only if there isn’t a better use for the dress.

What did you do with yours?  What do you recommend for us?  I want to be respectful of the past but also realistic.

(I included my grandmother’s picture because she is totally gorgeous and I love this picture, not because we have her dress, too.)


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Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

I’m in between trips and scrambling like mad not to fry in our current heat wave.  It was hot in Texas, but somehow it’s worse here which is just not right.  Thank heavens for AC!

The Texas trip was originally supposed to be to attend my nephew’s wedding, but it morphed into a family gathering at my brother’s ranch (140 acres in the middle of nowhere between my parents’ house and my brother’s place in Houston). They have very photogenic cows 🙂

My mom’s sister was there from California, nephew Rob from Massachusetts, and me from Connecticut.  Rob didn’t stay long, heading west to spend the weekend with his brother (the former groom) and friends going to a baseball game and country western concert.  My youngest niece ran a triathlon that weekend (I can’t imagine doing it in that Texas heat!) but my goddaughter (above) came from Lubbock for the weekend.  We celebrated our June/July birthdays together with carrot cake 🙂

Everyone flipped over my new look and I realized while I was there that I’ve almost lost my mother in terms of weight.  She weighs 115 lbs and I’ve lost 110 – which really is a whole person.  Puts things into very clear perspective.

I had a great time but was glad to come home (as was Tessie).  But I’ve been scrambling again because I leave on Friday for my national conference in Denver.  I have several meetings to facilitate so I have agendas and prep to finish, plus catch up on my paid job.

My conference wardrobe was all thought out, including a few dresses that looked good and were cool and comfy.  Except I’ve realized that all of them – ALL of them – are too big. Great problem but a bad time to figure it out, since the stores are starting to stock fall clothing (just after July 4th, go figure) and only have very picked over summer things.  I did get a few tops today that I can wear with black pants that will work.  I’ll find out soon enough.

I found it pretty easy to eat while in Texas.  My mom generously stocked up on some Greek yogurt, berries, chicken, and guacamole, and there were plenty of good options for me at the ranch.  Mostly people were interested in my choices and asked a lot of questions about the band and how it worked.  It was good practice for going out with more people; I’ve been reading menus for Denver and practicing restaurant eating, at least in my mind.  We’ll see how it goes!

I’ll try to check in from Denver but am not at all sure when I’ll have free time to write.  My time is pretty scripted.  But I’ll check in and at least keep up with y’all even if I can’t write until I’m back.  Stay out of trouble!


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Visits and Leaks and Weight Loss, Oh My!

My nephew came down for a quick visit this weekend from the New England Patriots training camp.  I saw him last November when I went up for a quick visit to see him and my brother.  His muscles in his arms and legs have muscles that are as hard as rocks, and he’s in wonderful shape.  As he said during the visit, it’s his job to eat healthy and work out in one way or another 5+ hours a day.  After practice and after some supper, he heads back to the gym for additional time.

I made him a home cooked meal (the most exotic thing in it was green bean casserole, which he loves) and was astounded by the amount of food he eats – but then, he has to fuel that body for hard physical work.  For a special treat, I made a sour cream coffee cake using an old family recipe.  My mom makes these for holidays and special family gatherings, and he was shocked that I not only knew how to make it, but had been doing so since before he was born.

We spent Friday night looking at boxes of old family pictures and telling stories.  On Saturday after a leisurely breakfast of coffee and an enormous pile of scrambled eggs, we went out to explore Yale.  It is over 300 years old and the buildings and campus layout are totally different from anything he’d seen in Texas or Utah.  We wandered the law school, old campus, the main library (which he recognized from the Indiana Jones movie that filmed there just as I started working), and checked out Skull and Bones.

We finished the visit with a relaxed lunch at an Irish pub before he had to hit the road to get back for a charity event that night.   We are the only family members in this part of the world and being able to get together without the hassle and expense of plane tickets is priceless.

While he was here, we discovered a water leak from the apartment above.  The toilet tank seal had broken and water was flooding their bathroom and dripping down through my ceiling and down the walls, getting the carpet and pad beneath it soaking wet.  It happened fast and having Rob here was a blessing, since he found the damage more quickly than I would have here on my own.

Maintenance came and fixed the upstairs problem, wet vac-ed my rug and carpet pad, and set up a dehumidifier to suck water out of the walls and carpet as well as fans to help dry things out.  They’re coming back this morning to do some repairs and I’m sitting here waiting for them, since I want to be sure I know what they’re doing.

Last but not least, I’ve now reached the 100 lb milestone and am only 10 lbs away from entering ONEderland for the first time in over 25 years.  I’m not there yet and am not celebrating in advance.  But I know I can do it now and am content to let it arrive when I’m ready.

I’m very happy with my progress and accomplishment.  I am also painfully aware that people who don’t know me see a fat woman who needs to lose a ton of weight, has no tone and obvious fat pockets.  I’m lumpy from the saggy skin, though people don’t necessarily know that’s the reason when I’m covered up.  Time is running out for that as the temps rise.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember when reading other people’s weight loss blogs that we are in very different places in our journeys and that their words and observations are not about me at all, since they’ve never met or even seen me.  They just hold up a big mirror to the things I still have to deal with – or not.  My goal is not to have a lean, trim, toned body. My goal is to be healthier, fitter, smaller, but it also needs to be a place where I know I can maintain without looking out for the fitness police to knock me into a different place just because it works for them.  I have enough to process for now.


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Rob is on the Eagles Practice Squad!

Rob Myers practicing with the EaglesThis week was BIG for professional football.  After weeks of summer training camps and four weeks of pre-season games, all NFL teams had to cut their 80-man training roster down to 53 for the football season.

Rob signed with the Eagles at the very end of the training camp period and five days later was playing in the first pre-season game against the New England Patriots, featuring QB Tom Brady’s return after missing almost all of last season.  It was memorable.  He played in all 4 games, had a groin pull, but recovered nicely and played last week at tight end and special teams.

On Tuesday the Eagles cut down from 80 to 75 players, and yesterday they, and all other teams, cut down to 53.  Rob got the call yesterday that he was on waivers, but today was one of 4 players signed to the Eagles practice squad.  There will be 8 on the squad by Monday, I think, but we are excited, proud and relieved that his time as an NFL player will continue.  It’s just awesome.

My parents and I have learned way more than we ever thought we’d care to know about football and know we’ll continue to learn more.  I know that the practice squad, well, practices with the 1st string players as they prepare for the next week’s game.  If anyone gets injured, they can call up a practice guy to play in the game.  Mostly I know this is a real job and Rob is living his dream.  One of his friends from training camp was also signed to the practice squad, and they’re talking about getting an apartment together.  They’re both from Texas and their sisters know each other at college, so we’re practically related.

What this all tells me is that if you have dreams, make them goals, break them down into small steps and take them one by one until you can look back and say, wow, I really did get here. What seemed insurmountable is accomplished one step at a time.

Yayyyyy, Robo!  I’m proud of and excited for you for working your butt off and taking advantage of every opportunity to live your dream.