Sunday, November 30, 2014

Report from Pillville: How to operate a Lazy-Boy recliner with your feet/ how to stay on your feet

"You're one tough cookie," the ER doctor told my mother on Friday evening. She was flattered, I think. So when you're tough, you try to wheel your wheel chair with a broken hand. You don't let anyone help you screw the cap back on your bottle of Ensure even if it's incredibly awkward doing it left-handed. And when you're in your recliner in the sanctuary of your room, and it's pointed out to you that the control lever is on the right-hand side and that you shouldn't try to manipulate it because your hand might be further injured since it's not yet in a cast, you don't call for your daughter or your granddaughter to help you when you want to get up. No. You're a tough cookie so you somehow fling your ninety-year-old leg over the arm of the chair, and with your ninety-year-old foot you get that damn lever to put your foot rest down. Yeah. Fuck yeah.

that's my mom's room there to the right--and a glimpse of the foot-operated recliner
God help me. This is the second night of the two-ounce martini. The second night that she's home. The second night that I will be sleeping in this nifty little bed right outside her bedroom door. And it's okay, really. I suspect that in a few days after some physical therapy, she'll be strong enough to get herself out of bed.

I'll be arranging for a caregiver so I can carry on caring for myself and the needs of our household. While I wouldn't describe myself as a tough cookie, I'd say I'm good at talking and thinking things through, and that I'm resolute.

It also helps that my fridge looks like this.

That's homemade sangria and homemade chutney made by friends. And there's still leftover pie. It also helps that daughter C researched and found a home security camera/baby monitor that will come in handy when I move back upstairs to my own bedroom. It helps that daughter M may be able to work from home (meaning here) one day a week. It helps that I have just ordered a bottle of non-alcoholic gin which may enable me to dilute the teeny martini. Yeah, so we might just all stay on our feet.

So let's celebrate that. And please visit my other blog, and let's celebrate the end of National Adoption Month too.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

It's All in the Timing

Why does anyone ever get sent home from the hospital on a Saturday or a Sunday?
Why does my mother seem particularly prone to being hospitalized around holidays and birthdays? (not her own birthday though)
How could it have possibly taken me a full hour tonight to put the detergent in the dishwasher and push the button to start it, each a step toward it interrupted by something my mother needed?
How is it that she could have fallen yesterday morning when that seems like several days ago?
And how is it that she could have fallen just minutes before I walked in the door yesterday morning (her version of the story) when her bedding was spotted with blood and pool of long dried blood was not that long after found on her floor?
How is it that a person who's been on this earth for 90 years has not learned to ask for help?
How much harder would this have all been without both my daughters visiting? (I don't think I really want to know the answer to that.)

I'm just full of questions tonight, aren't I?

In any event, she's home.

The foam topper on her hospital bed is now belted to the standard issue hospital bed mattress with yoga straps. (The askew foam topper is not why she fell, but was something that needed addressing.) Yet another reason to be grateful for my yoga practice and my yoga friends.

In other news: The two ounce martini was received politely. (The martini consumption can be, I believe, correlated to the fall.)

Two ounces per night (or perhaps less) will now be doled out by me. As opposed to the abundant pre-mixed supply as portrayed in the photo below.

And all other booze is now hidden. Come over. We'll party. The secret location here on the premises will be disclosed discreetly.

The coming days will hold a visit to the cardiologist (what is up with the low blood pressure?--hers--sure as hell not mine,) a visit to the primary care doctor, a visit to the orthopedist, home health visits from a nurse, a physical therapist, and, I feel reasonably certain, visits from my friends.

Friday, November 28, 2014


If you are expecting the typical turkey leftovers post, that's only part of the story. This particular turkey sandwich with mayo and cranberry sauce was consumed in the ER. C  delivered two such sandwiches for M and me as we sat with my mom who is still in her ER cubicle awaiting admission to the hospital. 

Just back from my hour at the gym this morning, she staggered into the hallway between her room and the kitchen with two rapidly purpling eyes, a cut on her nose, and a swollen hand. She'd fallen minutes before. "I fell but I'm fine," she said. She looked anything but fine. So here we are four hours later. No brain bleed, but a broken hand, a swollen nose and two ghoulish shiners. 

I think it was in this very room that I devoured a middle of the night tuna sandwich with Dan a few months ago. The nurse delivered it on a tray topped with a white cloth and flanked by a coffee, a Sprite, and two pudding cups. It was the best tuna sandwich I ever had. 

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Give Thanks, Give Thanks, Give Thanks

our pretty table

Of course there was a an immense amount of mess, unseen here.

And merely hinted at here, but of course by the end of the night, the happy chaos had spread everywhere. Happiness itself had spread too. I enjoy my daughters and our friends very much. The turkey was especially good this year. Even my mom, who doesn't really like meat, said it was delicious. My first attempt at homemade cranberries went very well, as did the grilled asparagus, and my friend Ellen's homemade chutney was a wonderful and different addition.

 But the friends have gone home; the daughters and my mom are asleep. The dishwasher is running its second load, and the greasy roasting pan and cutting board are congealing in a far corner.

I'm having one of those nights when I could sit here forever and stare out at the dark water.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pumpkin Custard

apple crisp, pumpkin pies, and pumpkin custard

I don't know how it started. Maybe once upon a time I made twice the amount of pie filling that I needed and because I didn't want to waste it, I had to do something with it. Hence, the tradition of pumpkin custard the night before Thanksgiving. The daughters and I are sitting on the couch with the Laker game on TV, each of us double-teaming with an additional device in our laps. C is reading about how to carve a turkey, M is playing some kind of game. We're eating pumpkin custard and talking about Giving Tuesday--which I have to admit I don't really know much about. Sometimes I get so lost in the day to day of life here in Pillville that I completely miss something that everyone else seems to have a working knowledge of.

Our dinner tomorrow will be our smallest Thanksgiving gathering ever. We'll all sit at one table, and mostly there will be one conversation going on, I'm guessing. That seems nice. I like small gatherings, as a rule. No pressure to mingle or figure out how to exit one conversation for another.
So, yeah, small seems good. My energy feels a little low. I forgot to put the brown sugar in the pumpkin pie filling and had to take them out of oven. C carefully stirred in the sugar and I think the pies are fine.

I had two mini-parties for my birthday. I liked that a lot too. The first one involved champagne and chocolate cake, the second a homemade cheese log and wine.

Whether your gathering is large or small, I hope the food and the company at your table are delightful.

Monday, November 24, 2014

And the wishes roll in...

Dan snapped this with his iPad when I was only 61 and a half.
I'm older now.

The first b-day greeting came from Bali last night, then France, England, then east coast joined in, moving on to the midwest straight to the Pacific Coast where I got sung to after yoga this morning. It's a world-wide rolling virtual party. A wave. Thanks for being part of it. Sending love right back at you. 

I'm doing one of my favorite things today. Blogging. Yeah--and over HERE too.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Report from Pillville: Grateful for the Sunrise

this morning's sunrise

I sleep with my shades partway up, so I saw this immediately upon waking. Which was a very good thing. The evenings here in Pillville are long. The duration of my mom's memory is short. For days now, we've reviewed who is coming for Thanksgiving, how unfortunate that daughter C's husband will have to work, that yes, I'm making a turkey, that the dining room chairs are being recovered in turquoise and orange, that daughter M will most definitely have the day off. That we don't know for certain if Dan's daughter will be coming and if she'll be bringing a friend. Last evening these questions were recycled through god knows how many martinis. 

The newest development on the cognitive front is that my mom now reads out loud when she reads to herself, and she thinks out loud--in addition to the almost constant moaning. (Eggs again?) (She knows I like onions in the cucumber salad.) I'm not quite sure if I should let her know she's doing this or if I should just let her think I'm a mind reader. 

Last evening my mom's shoulder was bothering her, and she told me she was going to take an oxycodone. I nodded toward the half-full martini glass and told her she ought to stop the drinking since she needed an opiate. Okay, she said as she drained the glass. I went upstairs and had a shot of vodka, (I've got some great tools in my toolbox, right?) fumed for a good while, and then fell asleep and dreamed of my ex-husband all damn night. 

Hooray, sunrise!

Anyway, I'm happy to report that after two weeks back in Pillville we have done all the necessary appointments for my mom: Teeth cleaning, hair cut, foot doctor, pacemaker check, cardiologist, primary doctor, Miracle Ear, and a consultation with the vascular surgeon complete with vascular ultrasound. My mom's circulation to her feet and legs is terrible, BUT it hasn't gotten any worse since the last visit, and she's not in much pain. Her short-term memory, however, is shot. I'm now the czarina of her pillbox, because that whole scene was going completely haywire.

As for the martinis, tonight I decided to shut it down through distraction. I fired up Netflix, put on a Cary Grant movie, and cranked up the volume. She took the bait. For the length of the entire movie there was no drinking. And no moaning, no re-asked questions, no muttering. I may be onto something.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday Morning Beach Report

Wind. Blue sky. No lifeguard on duty, the sign says. Without a CROWD of beach goers, that seems reasonable to me. Sometimes we have to save ourselves. To read about another kind of crowd, click on the link above.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Grief Report

This is the tree The National Tai Chi Chuan Association, in coordination with the Bronson Canyon Tai Chi Group, requested from the Griffith Park Forestry Division, (Trees In Tribute)  dedicated to Dan Paik.

This is life at the bottom of the crater of grief.

Your feet are on the ground, but the ground is not to be trusted. The crater of grief is a funnel and sometimes the ground falls out from under you. Like maybe you got confused and poured rice into a funnel instead of a strainer to wash it, and the next thing you know the grains of rice are slipping out of the hole in the funnel and there is no bottom to anything, just the sound of your dinner slipping away.

You are always surprised at how permanent the loss is and how far reaching. Months go by and still the beloved is gone. Your eyes open in the morning and still he's not there. The phone rings at the appointed hour, but still it's not him. You go places you nearly forgot that the two of you went together--and the sudden sadness creates a roaring in your ears. The erosion continues as the  crater encompasses more and more of your world. There are so many places that he isn't. So many places that he will never be.

This is life at the bottom of the crater of grief.

The world narrows at the bottom of the crater of grief. Friends who are not really friends fall away. While friends who are really friends join hands and hold back the collapsing sides of the crater. And at the bottom of the crater of grief,  the sky is a tent of stars or an umbrella of blue. When your are at the bottom of the crater of grief, if you remember to look up, what you see is sky. Pure unadulterated sky.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Life in Pillvillle, Dreams of the Dead, and Cat in the Hat

DREAM: I was young--17 or 18 years old-- and I'd been sentenced to death by the Grand Dictator of our failed nation. My father was with me in the dictator's court as the sentence was handed down. My father in the dream was my real-life father looking pretty much like this, but wearing a white shirt and tie with a beautiful teal cashmere pullover instead of the dark suit.

In real life, I never knew my father when he looked like this (and neither did my mother) since he was 55 when I was born. Anyway, in the dream, my father and I accepted that I was doomed. The dictator granted me one last day to spend with my family, and my father and I decided that we would not divulge my sentence to them since it would only spoil our last hours together. The Grand Dictator agreed that my father could accompany me to my execution and I took comfort in that. We knew that I could not escape. The secret police were watching the house. It would be bombed if I did not return to meet my fate, and if we all tried to escape, we all would be hunted down and killed. I woke up before the execution--so that was nice, I guess. I don't know what my crime was, but I was young and rebellious and the country was in shambles.

I think my father might have visited me in my dream because I yelled at my mother last night. Yep. Outright yelled. After she tried to clear the table looking like something like this.

Cat in the Hat with stuff

So my mom dropped the container of salsa which went everywhere--all over her, her I've-fallen-and can't-get-up button, the cabinets, the floor--which is not so terrible, but then she bent down to clean it up when I told her I'd get it, that she shouldn't be bending down to clean it up and of course she almost tipped over. So I yelled. Because just before dinner, maybe 30 minutes earlier, she was wiping the kitchen floor with a paper towel, (some drips of water that I'd probably splashed while washing the carrots) and I said, "Um, how about using the mop," (which is handy just a few feet from the fridge) "because, um, remember you're not really supposed to be bending over like that because you could fall again." And mind you, there were martinis involved here. And just a couple of hours before that, when we were returning from our trip to Miracle Ear, and she was Cat-in-the-Hatting it out of the car with her purse on her arm, and her cane in her hand, and kleenex too, and my empty water bottle and a shoe, and two empty ice cream dishes, and two silver fishes, and two plastic spoons and a piece of the moon, etc., (okay, the shoe, the fishes and moon are an exaggeration) I said, "Mom, please just get your stuff and let me get the rest, that way you have a free hand in case you need it." 

She doesn't remember shit. Or she has absolutely no impulse control. Or both. 

And I shouldn't yell. So I have no impulse control. Well, shit.

And just yesterday I half-jokingly told a friend who is a retired attorney that she would be my first phone call when the police come to ask about all the bruises on my dear old dead mother. I mean, this could seriously happen. I still get a chill when I remember the moment in the pediatrician's office when I was asked to step into the hallway so the doctor could question my daughter about her two black eyes and her pear-sized nose. 

And did I mention that I've had an irrational life-long fear of ending up in prison?

Well, anyhow. Thanks, Dad, for the warning. I'll try to keep mom from serious bodily harm as best I can. And I'll try to keep myself from being executed or ending up in prison. And I'll try not to yell.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Report from Pillville

The latest from Pillville is coming soon. But meanwhile, read THIS if you need a Pillville update. Not much has changed. And yes, the expansion deck is almost ready. Sample cards include:

You've missed three days of your morning medications. Do not pass go. Go directly to bed.

It's 3:30 and you've already had a martini. Do not pass go. Go directly to bed. 

Your caregiver is worrying needlessly about having mixed up you meds. All is well. Celebrate. Have a martini. Send your caregiver directly to bed.

But seriously folks, we're okay.
However, my brain is about ready to explode from all of this celebrating.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Furries. Cat videos. Cartoons. Sex. Sweetness. Just your normal Saturday.

Here's how my Saturday went:

A walk in the fog on the beach. I text daughter M about the blurb my book has gotten in my college's alumnae magazine.

Some more texting ensues.

Later I send daughter C this.

This ensues.

What would I do without the daughters? Danger. Danger.

Friday, November 7, 2014

It's National Adoption Month

Have you read this?

If you know someone who relinquished a child (whether she talks about it or not) you might observe that November, with its focus on happy adoption stories, is a difficult time for her. 

As Concerned United Birthparents says "Adoption begins in tragedy, not joy."

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Wednesday Beach Report

 Willets, wind, and waves.

The Santa Ana winds were blowing. Notice how the spray gets blown backwards. For some more backwards news about the winds of change, read this.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Happy as a Seagull Sitting on a Trash Can

That's how I felt today....

when this view greeted me:

The sight of Anacapa and Santa Cruz both visible from end to end. And yes, the sky and the water really were that blue.

I still feel immensely relieved that I'm alive. When I sat in front of Dan's Day of the Dead altar for a bit last night, I told him I'd almost come to see him.  "Hmmm," he said. "Dear sweet girl." 

This afternoon after my mom and I had voted, we nearly got caught in a road rage confrontation. I thought of The Appointment in Samara, a story I first heard from Dan. I've also been thinking about another real life story he told me about a friend or a friend of a friend who had been going through a terrible divorce and a fortune teller or a palm reader told her that on such and such a date there would be an event that would change everything. She construed it to mean her ex would die. Instead, she died. 

I frequently think about my mother's death. When. How. Yesterday, I thought, well, hahahaha I guess that's not how things are going to happen. We're going to go together.

On a happier note, I used to tell Dan I was not the person he would really want with him in an emergency. (Happier is a relative concept, okay?) I sited my deranged mumblings in the ambulance when C had an accident, and she told the paramedics that they needed to take my blood pressure because I'd given out my cellphone number as her father's contact number and I'd given them our old home address instead of our current one.  Or maybe it was birth dates I'd mixed up. I was so out of it, I really don't recall."You don't know that story about yourself is still relevant," Dan told me. And indeed, I don't think I'm that person anymore. 

What old skins have you shed, dear readers?

And, oh, p.s. I AM as happy as a seagull on a trash can despite all these musings about death.

Monday, November 3, 2014

We're Not in the Hospital or the Morgue

Everything pretty much went according to plan. Getting my mom out of the car and into a wheelchair at the curb at BWI with an icy wind howling. Me with four suitcases trying to find the wheelchair attendant and my mom after we got separated. Walking/wheeling to the very last gate. Running for snacks and water. All the usual airport stuff. We got on board, flew for hours, landed, found another wheelchair attendant, claimed our luggage, got in the town car I'd ordered to take my mom home in comfort.

And then, in free-flowing L.A. traffic shortly after 2:00 p.m., the car died in the fast lane of the 405 Freeway. Stone cold dead-stopped. Folks, we have a problem, the driver said. He mumbled and tried to start the car. I commanded him to put the flashers on. He began trying to call his boss. I called 911. We are in serious danger, I told the dispatcher as cars screeched and careened around us. The person the driver was talking to said he'd send a car to pick up the passengers. I said this is a fucking emergency. Six terrifying minutes passed and I called 911 again just before I heard the sirens. An LAPD vehicle parked behind us, lights flashing. The officer was calm. Do not get out of the car, she said. A freeway emergency tow-truck came. A minute or two later, a CHP officer ran a traffic break, closing down all northbound lanes of the 405. He then escorted my mom to his vehicle as I followed behind.

For twenty minutes or so, we sat in his SUV on a nearby street chatting until the transportation company sent a van for us. Thank you so much, I told the CHP officer as we got out of his car and he helped my mom into the van. It's what we do, m'am, he said as if it was a line in a movie script.

There's nothing like a brush with death for a jolt of energy. I cooked a nice dinner. Did our laundry. I am wide awake. I walked across the freeway with my 90-year-old mother.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

"It's too old and cold and settled in its ways here."

my mom with her birthday martini last month

Holy shit.
Sugar hangover.
Jet lag.
Bad tempered at the rudest drivers in the world who sit on your bumper despite the fact that you are already going 10 miles over the speed limit, and when you don't speed up, they roar around you like what they'd really prefer to do is crush you to bits. Not just one or two assholes. It's everyone.

I drove my mom down to my cousin's house where she used to have an apartment in his basement, and for the second time in two years we wandered around opening drawers with dozens of hats, and scarves, and gloves and talked about how we didn't want them. We fingered books, and crochet patterns, and cigarette lighters, and stood there overwhelmed with how much stuff there was.The one thing I did want--a tall and thick brass candlestick--I left behind as I carried the shopping bag of stuff my mom chose.


This trip back to the apartment was the first for me and the second for my mom since her twin sister died. Gone just over a year, it's just plain weird to be back here with my mom, but without her sister. It's weird to be here too without Dan to phone at night. With the time difference, I'd lie in bed here in my brother's dark and quiet house and call Dan and whisper about my day. Today I would have told him how I missed my turn on the way down to my cousin's, but found a good route anyway. About how the way home was much easier until my exit two miles from my brother's house where I found myself in a newly constructed wedge of suburbia that is so fresh that Google maps knows nothing of its existence. Make u-turn. Make a u-turn. Make a u-turn. Uh-oh.

My mom (on the right) and my aunt in September 2013
many years ago

But here I am. In the bed where I've slept dozens of times when I visited my mom here. Tomorrow I take her back to California with me. While it's been hard these past two plus years to be so completely responsible for her so far away without any support from siblings, it's okay. I'm happy to be going back and to have her back. Thrilled actually.

Both she and I have agreed that we're not doing this again. It's hard for her. She needs to pack so many things that the average not-90-year-old person can do without. She has her zip-lock bag of toiletries AND a gallon size zip-lock of over-the-counter stuff and take-as-needed meds, and a shoe box of the must-take meds. She has hearing aids to keep track of, essential medical paperwork, her cane, her this, her that. Tonight she stood in her room here staring at her stuff, paralyzed. I stood staring at her stuff. Which was the stuff from California we'd packed for the trip, and which was the stuff that we left behind here on purpose. Wait. Are you taking all these pajamas? Wait. These don't have pockets. You hate pajamas without pockets. That's why we didn't take them to California in the first place.

We all have stuff we need on the plane. She has stuff she NEEDS on the plane. Do I have it all? I hope so.
California, I need you. Cue the Joni Mitchell.

My mom in action on our patio. Binoculars. Good for watching birds, boats....and neighbors.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Day of the Dead

After visiting my favorite dia de los muertos exhibit at The Folk Tree last week, I bought some supplies and made my own altar for Dan.

I dreamed of him a couple of nights ago. We were camping on a big fluffy air mattress tucked in between some boulders in a canyon. The sky was still blue, but we were already  in bed, watching the clouds, marveling at the blue wide-openness. A cop pulled up on his motorcycle, asking to see our permits. When I rifled through a box of stuff, he saw our clump of pot. "It's medical," I said to the cop. "Show him your scar," I said to Dan. Dan didn't pull up his shirt. He smiled and shrugged. The sky turned an even more brilliant blue.


It's National Adoption Month. I'll be blogging about that.