Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Closing out 2008, the worst year of our life

This photo shows me and Steve New Years Eve 1969. Here it is 39 years later and another NY Eve. We were on our way to friends for our annual gathering in that phot.

Right now I am not looking forward to our trip to CA for obvious reasons. I had the dumbest phone call yesterday with Roseville Telephone CO, Surewest. Someday this will be funny but right now it was frustrating. I called them to disconnect Steve's phone. I talked to 2 fools. Both of who assured me only Steve had authority to make any arrangements for that phone. I repeatedly tried to explain, "didn't you hear me or don't you understand? He is dead. I'm trying to help you by notifying you." The second person in "customer care" was dumber than the first one--she asked, "Do you have a power of attorney?" I don't. (She is so foolish that she does not know that a POA is only good while someone is alive. But I didn't want to engage her any farther.) I hung up in disgust after wishing them a good day and saying they could do whatever they wanted. It's not my problem! Jerry shrugged it off--he said I talked to them too long anyway. Obviously they did not want my help so they could do whatever they wanted. When they try to collect any $$ that will be funnier. Then I suppose they will threaten to disconnect his service!

I called the apt. mgr., landlord today who said that it is the worst phone co in the country but he would try to contact them as he has had to have services disconnected before for deaths, etc. or when someone moves. Steve's friends cleared out the apt. and gave the keys back last Saturday. God bless them all.

Tonight for New Years we will go to the Legion for an early dinner--Prime Rib buffet for Jerry and Scampi for me. Talked to Aunt Pearl last night (Uncle Henry's widow) who said she is going to burn the calendars for 2008. I agree. Surely better times are ahead.

To top off the year, our garage door and opener has to be replaced. Jerry had found a replacement gear on line, ordered it from NY and spent Christmas Day fixing it. Saving $$ he though with the part being only $38. Well it lasted only until yesterday and then again stripped the gear. Nothing to do but get it all replaced. It is only 10 degrees outside today and even with the heated garage we em joy, too cold to be monkeying further. Well a friend recommended Overhead Door Co in LaCrosse who came out and today replaced the opener. Things are looking up. Jerry had been considering replacing our big wooden garage door with a new metal one anyway but thought it would last till spring. He thought wrong. So we are $1900 poorer but now have an operating door and the new one will be installed after we return from CA. As one friend says, any problem that can be fixed with $$ is not a problem.

Amen to 2008.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Plodding along

Christmas Eve day I kept busy scanning photos of Steve from the many loose albums. That was soothing and here is one from Christmas 1973. I emailed them to his friend Ron who is putting a slide show together in CA for Steve's friends who are gathering privately. On the same day the hospital from Roseville called me about filling out Medi-Cal papers so they can get some reimbursement. I said I would try to do what I could for them when we arrive in CA. Understandably his friend Ron decided not to be signing things. Can't blame him.

I understand that the post office has a hold on Steve's mail and that they will release it when we go with a copy of the death certificate. Who knows what bills there are. We can't nor do we intend to pay those; our finances getting drained with the funeral, flight, etc. Even dying is not inexpensive in CA. The obituary in three smaller newspapers where friends will most likely see it is costing $274.

I found a website on grief yesterday that had several letters from adults who have lost adult children. There is an org. "Compassionate Friends" for surviving parents with a chapter in La Crosse, WI. I may check it out next year. Trouble is so much of that is for those who lose children and this is different as the website pointed out. Something I read did not sit well with me--they say allow 18 months for the grief to begin to ease! 18 months! that's a long time. I know it will take time but that surprised me.

I feel a tiny bit more solace with Steve's passing. He asked us to come when he was in the hospital the first time and we did, giving up the best laid plans. And although my last days with him had some very rough moments and not the best, I am glad we went to CA. I'm still holding onto that it was his time; I can hear the Lord say, "well this is enough" as he was in the ICU, sedated, and at the last medically paralyzed. This was not my boy, not the son I prayed for when I knew I was pregnant, not the child we raised with all the hopes in the world. Hi life was too short but at least I will no more worry about what's happening with him. I know he is in a better place.

We are considering going to the Legion for NY Eve dinner; prime rib buffet for Jerry & I'll just have the scampi. I don't like prime rib. Dinner's early between 5--9 so that will work. We have not seen midnight for many years---eyes don't stay open that long.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Tree Angel

Picture of Steve with Santa 1965. Received a funny story at the end of this, got me thinking about Christmases past. This morning I woke up wondering if I am ever going to have another day in my life where I don't have tears. Yesterday was especially rough. We ran errands preceded by my early AM trip to the dentist who kindly fit me in and replaced a tiny filling that fell off along my gum line. After the grocery stop and a trip to the dreaded Wal Mart we returned to La Crescent with a final stop in the local market. There I found Jerry's 91 year old mother who is not to be out in the arctic cold but who does whatever her demented mind feels she should do at the time. So we took her home. It's only a block from the store but it is less than zero degrees with the windchill, icy all around and besides she has a terrible siege of skin rawness on her face right now, again. Long story shortened here so I can get onto our Christmas angel, by the time we got home I was beat, exhausted. I don't seem to have the stamina I had just a week ago.

One year in CA I was shopping and Jerry & Steve decided to pull out the artificial tree and set it up before I got home. That way they would have avoided trudging out to buy a tree or any other spontaneous idea I might spring on them. They knew I loved Christmas and would busy myself decorating the tree thereby leaving them to watch football or do whatever else they had in mind. But we had two Siamese cats at the time and it was a circus, especially with the male. When I got home, there sat the tree sideways on the floor. Jerry and Steve sat on the couch with arms folded muttering. The cats had been attacking the tree and they were stymied as to how to keep it erect. What a comical sight to me; they were not amused. They resolved it by using a squirt gun to spray the cats anytime they even looked at the tree.

We have a treetop angel whom we bought in 1967 for our first tree. A couple years ago, her hair was thinning so I gave her a hair transplant. She now has long blonde ringlets. Another amazing thing about her is she looks like Dolly Parton--no kidding, this angel has a shape. They just don't make angels like this anymore! She was not made in China for one thing--it's a US creation! I believe we bought her in a Thrifty drugstore near our home. I know we didn't spend much on her because we didn't have much to spend in those days.

She always sat atop the tree until we bought our newest, 7 foot fiber optic tree. Sam's had these for a short time in CA. I insisted we buy it and it was too big for our house in Newcastle. We moved it to MN where today it graces the front living room window in splendor. There is no other like it. No more frustration to Jerry of stringing lights. This tree sparkles like white diamonds and besides has the white lights built in. But sadly there is no place for the angel or anything on top of this huge tree.

So our Dolly Angel has to be elsewhere. In some years I put up another tree downstairs in the TV lounging area. This year one tree is more than I can bear. So Dolly angel goes atop a small tree. This year she is just near the nativity downstairs. Things are different this Christmas.

Now for the Santa Story that started this thought. It came as, "A Christmas Story for people having a bad day"

When four of Santa's elves got sick, the trainee elves did not produce toys as fast as the regular ones, and Santa began to feel the Pre-Christmas pressure. Then Mrs. Claus told Santa her Mother was coming to visit, which stressed Santa even more.
When he went to harness the reindeer, he found that three of them were about to give birth and two others had jumped the fence and were out, Heaven knows where. Then when he began to load the sleigh, one of the floorboards cracked, the toy bag fell to the ground and all the toys were scattered.

Frustrated, Santa went in the house for a cup of apple cider and a shot of rum. When he went to the cupboard, he discovered the elves had drank all the cider and hidden the liquor. In his frustration, he accidentally dropped the cider jug, and it broke into hundreds of little glass pieces all over the kitchen floor. He went to get the broom and found the mice had eaten all the straw off the end of the broom.

Just then the doorbell rang, an irritated Santa marched to the door, yanked it open, and there stood a little angel with a great big Christmas tree. The angel said very cheerfully, 'Merry Christmas, Santa. Isn't this a lovely day? I have a beautiful tree for you. Where would you like me to stick it?' And so began the tradition of the little angel on top of the Christmas tree.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It is over and yet it has just begun

Photos: Steve 2004for the school district ID, three of us appx.1983; Christmas 1976 our Newcastle garage Steve & Jerry,

At 3:00AM today December 18, Steve's big heart stopped beating. The call came and it was strange that I was awake before that just thinking about how we would face this.

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding, in all you do acknowledge Him and He will keep your path straight."

Steve has gone on and we hold onto his resting in peace in the Father's arms. We trust it was his time. I talked to the ICU earlier in the evening and the probing therapy, turning him onto his belly to relieve pressure on the lungs was not working. He just could not oxygenate. The doctors did not think he would make it. The infection in the lungs could not be overcome. I have been told this happens with diabetics. Hard to believe in this day and age of modern medicine but diabetes is so deadly.

Steve is gone. I'll no more hear those phone calls, "Hi, Mom, hate to ask this but.....or Hi Mom Don't worry everything will be all right or Hi Mom everything OK there?" It's been a day of phone calls and making long distant arrangements for CA. We hold tightly to each other. We are thankful for his friends and his support system in CA. They honor us by seeing this through and helping clear his possessions, etc. One said today that this must be for the best. Had he made it through this ordeal he would have been in rehab for a long time, mayber more than a year to recover and he would not have been happy.

Steve's memorial service to celebrate his 44 years with us will be in Auburn CA on January 10. I am thankful to have my home church, Pioneer United Methodist, to back us up. We saw no need to try to arrange something during holidays. We all are faced with dreary times as is.

I know 2 hymns for the service; the first Be Not Afraid which was just played for my Uncle Henry. I love it too as it reminds me of Pope John Paul. And to close I want "You'll Never Walk Alone" which my mom wanted and which we had as her final song.

We will use a favorite poem for the memorial service.
The Traveler By James Dillet Freeman

He has put on invisibility.
Dear Lord, I cannot see—
But this I know, although the road ascends
And passes from my sight,
That there will be no night;
That You will take him gently by the hand
And lead him on
Along the road of life that never ends,
And he will find it is not death but dawn.
I do not doubt that You are there as here,
And You will hold him dear.

Our life did not begin with birth,
It is not of the earth;
And this that we call death, it is no more
Than the opening and closing of a door—
And in Your house how many rooms must be
Beyond this one where we rest momently.

Dear Lord, I thank You for the faith that frees,
The love that knows it cannot lose its own;
The love that, looking through the shadows, sees
That You and he and I are ever one!

I can gain some comfort in knowing Steve is with my Dad and they are making a great relationship--the father I never knew with the son we had for too short a time. Sometimes this feels like a nightmare, other times too real.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Steve update Scars of Life

The photo was taken in CA, 2007 Thanksgiving of me, Shelly McGrath,and Steve. Shelly is his long time neighbor sister horse friend! Took no photos this time in CA--all we did was hospitals. We wait one day at a time. Steve was not responding in ICU. At 4:30AM on Monday 12/15 the ICU nurse called to say that I would be called to make a decision to remove his ventilator and to prepare for it. It is what I feared.

All day I let people know and prayed and many prayed with us. The worst conversation was with Steve's dear friend, Kevin. I thought it best to call and give him a heads up. He broke down and then I did. They are younger and this is devastating. It is so unnecessary but I have to remember Steve is an adult and made his own life choices; his is not my life to live.

About 7:00PM on 12/15 the ICU called and I steeled myself. But this time it was a different ICU trauma nurse with a bit of hope--God's answer. They have moved him to a trauma ICU with a special bed that allows them to flip him onto his belly to alleviate pressure on the lungs for about 6 hours at a time. We pray this will help. So many of his close friends in CA have been on the watch, keep in touch and pray and are doing all they can.

I am thankful for my strong faith and as I have believed we don't know, only God does, but right now he wants us to wait and be still. I received this story from a friend today and loved it so I am posting it here as prayers continue.

I also have a doctor's appointment today to just check on my self. I think I'm bearing up well and certainly feel much better after sleeping last night, but I don't want to get ill myself. I have the strength of a life long faith, raised in the church for which I am grateful.

The Scars of Life

Some years ago, on a hot summer day in south Florida, a little boy decided to go for a swim in the old swimming hole behind his house. In a hurry to dive into the cool water, he ran out the back door, leaving behind shoes, socks, and shirt as he went.

He flew into the water, not realizing that as he swam toward the middle of the lake, an alligator was swimming toward the shore. His father working in the yard saw the two as they got closer and closer together. In utter fear, he ran toward the water, yelling to his son as loudly as he could. Hearing his voice, the little boy became alarmed and made a U-turn to swim to his father. It was too late.

Just as he reached his father, the alligator reached him.From the dock, the father grabbed his little boy by the arms just as the alligator snatched his legs. That began an incredible tug-of-war between the two. The alligator was much stronger than the father, but the father was much too passionate to let go. A farmer happened to
drive by, heard his screams, grabbed his gun, raced from his truck, took aim and shot the alligator.

Remarkably, after weeks and weeks in the hospital, the little boy survived. His legs were extremely scarred by the vicious attack of the animal. And, on his arms, were deep scratches where his father's fingernails dug into his flesh in his effort to hang on to the son he loved.

The newspaper reporter who interviewed the boy after the trauma, asked if he would show him his scars. The boy lifted his pant legs. And then, with obvious pride, he said to the reporter, "But look at my arms. I have great scars on my arms,too. I have them because my Dad wouldn't let go!"

You and I can identify with that little boy. We have scars, too. No, not from an alligator, but the scars of a painful past. Some of those scars are unsightly and have caused us deep regret. But, some wounds, my friend, are because God has refused to let go. In the midst of your struggle, He's been there holding on to you.

The Scripture teaches that God loves you. You are a child of God. He wants to protect you and provide for you in every way But sometimes we foolishly wade into dangerous situations, not knowing what lies ahead. The swimming hole of life is filled with peril - and we forget that the enemy is waiting to attack. That's when the tug-of-war begins and if you have the scars of His love on your arms, be very, very grateful. He did not and will not ever let you go.

God has blessed you, so that you can be a blessing to others. You just never know where a person is in his/her life and what they are going through. Never Judge another persons scars, because you don't know how they got them.

Right now, someone needs to know that God loves them, and you love them, too- enough to not let them go.

And just to show that we must find humor, what follows is something a friend composed to respond to the Scars.....I said he has too much time on his hands.

'.......And then the PETA people sued the farmer for shooting an alligator. He was fined 500 dollars for hunting out of alligator season and without a license. The Brady gun grabbers confiscated his shotgun and the Child Protective Services bunch filed abuse charges against the father and took custody of the son. The ACLU filed suit against the author of the story for using the word "God" in his story and Congress enacted legislation which prohibited swimming in any waters which were not contained in a concrete tub. Al Gore and Michael Moore are currently working on a film depicting the incident as the result of global warming as that alligator might not have been in that pond if the water had been cooler...." Tom

Monday, December 8, 2008

Son Update

Sliding downhill continues. Phone call yesterday that son, Steve is back in the hospital. This time in ICU. He was admitted Saturday. They said infection, but not related to the wound. Yesterday I talked to the ICU nurse who said it was pneumonia and that they were keeping him sedated but that when awake he could follow voice commands to squeeze her hand, etc. They have him on a ventilator and because he would try to remove it he is sedated.

Today it is not so. He is non-responsive and they may do a cat scan to determine brain activity. They claim to have aspirated his lungs and got nothing although his breathing was rough. I asked if this could be from the sedation drugs and the pain pills they have given him.

I think I am prepared for anything. All is in God's hands. Prayers continue and we wait. I am glad that I am home in MN, even with the snow and cold. What would I do out there in CA alone?

This afternoon a winter mix storm is coming upon us with more tomorrow. Our 4-5 inches of snow is to increase to about one foot. Thankful to stay indoors.

Our tree is up and decorated. I did less this year but enjoy the sparkle of the season and so the tree is my awakening of the holiday spirit. Even without decorations it looks grand. We bought it a few years ago in CA and it's the only one like it we have ever seen--white fiber optics and white lights. It sparkles like diamonds.

Two nativity sets oversee the season--the oldest downstairs and the newest in the upstairs living room. The dining room table has the Christmas gold in abundance.

We pray for healing miracles in this season of miracles.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Battle Within

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, 'My son, the battle is between two 'wolves' inside us all..

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence,empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.

The grand son thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather:
'Which wolf wins?'

The old Cherokee simply replied, 'The one you feed.'

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

What a mess

Where to start. I leave CA tomorrow December 4 for MN and home. This has been a terrible experience and yet I am thankful for our friends and all the prayers and kind thoughts. Jerry was right (I hate to admit) that I should not have stayed here in CA to help Steve. But us mothers have weird sense or genes or whatever which makes us always want to try.

Brought Steve to his apt. from the hospital on Monday 11-24. Jerry drove the RV, towing the truck home to MN leaving same day and getting home safely by Wednesday. He had Thanksgiving with his cousin and family. I stayed in CA with Steve and fixed a turkey breast for Steve & me and some healthy veggies, a bit of dressing, etc. This is the first Thanksgiving Jerry and I have been apart in 42 years.

Long story short as I try to condense a heart ache. Steve is 44 years old and for some reason my presence is an annoyance and irritant to him. He can be nice to everyone but me; almost a Dr. Jekyl and Hyde monster. One major incidence was Tuesday AM, the day after he got home. He threw his walker and fell flat onto his face with that action. It was almost like the Holy Master pushed him down. He did not get hurt fortunately. By the way, he is nearly 6 foot and weighs (too much) at nearly 300 lbs. He cannot yet put any pressure on his right foot where the toes were amputated. I let him lay there facedown, walked out and went to Curves to work out. When I returned he was in better humor. Just like nothing had happened.

At his apt. all I did was cook, clean, grocery shop do more and more laundry and clean more. I washed over 30 loads of dirty clothes (mind you all at laundromats, lugging all the stuff, etc.) he had stockpiled. Instead of doing laundry he just bought more tshirts, etc. Well anyway all week we had issues. Ups and downs and many more downs than ups. Often he would go to his room and close himself in, play rap music and shout. Mostly he ignored me. Rarely was pleasant to me. But when his friends would come he enjoyed their company and behaved courteously, etc.

I kept his meals in balance, on schedule. All week he had good control of his blood sugar. Never needed an insulin shot. Just his long term Lantis (sp?) at night for which the doctor did decrease the dosage after it was apparent that it was too high at home.

Did I tell you that I got another call in CA that my uncle had died? My father's only surviving brother. Uncle Henry died Nov. 18 in the hospital in Grass Valley right at the time I was thinking about how I would like to see him and share the marvelous scrapbook I've made on my father. Got the call from my cousin that afternoon. Had I not been in CA I would not have attended his funeral November 29 so that was providence, perhaps.

While I was in Grass Valley Steve did something with his friend Kevin, took a ride? He also managed to nearly dissolve an entire candy dish filled with sugar free candies. He would argue about this because in his mind sugar free means unlimited. It does not. Saturday afternoon when I returned I knew he was not "right." That night for the 2nd time only he said he was very sore and I convinced him to take a pain pill to not suffer.

Sunday he awoke terribly grouchy. After I got his breakfast, I went to church in Roseville. I should have driven to my old home church in Auburn. But I was too tired. This is a story for another post. Back to Steve's to fix his lunch he was in worse mood. His blood sugar was high and he needed an insulin shot for the first time. He blamed me for feeding him 1/2 a bagel with lo-fat cream cheese for his breakfast. It wasn't the bagel it was the effect of the day before catching up. His friend Kevin came and Steve ate lunch and glared at me. I left with clothes baskets full to do more laundry--I changed the sheets off his bed and that made one full load. He'd had his dog visiting and she'd gotten in bed with him. His friend Kevin has been keeping his dog. Anyone with good sense would know that is good because all Steve needs is dog hair in his wound. But I have learned that he resented my being there and wanted his dog. Like I needed an animal to care for too--wait a minute I was already being a care giver to an animal as it became clear.

I stayed in the laundry room for over 2 hours. Steve had another friend stop by. When I returned he'd retreated into his bedroom. I went to the store and returned to fix dinner. He wouldn't come out of his room. This was an issue earlier as I refused to serve his food to him in bed. He needs to be somewhat mobile and using the walker from the bedroom to the kitchen table is a good thing, my opinion. It's a bit of exercise and mobility.

I waited and pondered. Finally he came out to the bathroom banging his walker into the walls and cussing. Oh boy, here we go again. But no, he returned to his room. Yelling that stress was increasing his blood sugar. At 6:30PM I knocked on his door and said if he didn't come out to eat I'd throw the rest of the food away as I'd eaten alone.

He came out of his bedroom in a fury--glared at me and told me to get out of his house. He said he'd called Kevin to take him somewhere. Words continued and I told him he was the most ungrateful person I have ever know. I know I called him a few choice names too as I said I would leave finally and was sorry to have caused him turmoil, I'd done my best and only wanted to help.

I called our friends in Newcastle, Kathy & Alex and said I needed help and would they come get me. I was very upset and as I write this it is still rough. I thought of staying in the bedroom and letting it blow over but something (that small voice) urged me to leave. I packed up my suitcases, set them outside his apt. and walked down to the street in the dark to await my friends who were there ASAP. We picked up my bags and they brought me to their home.

My goal had been to endure another week with Steve to get him to apply for Medi-cal on Monday and to his surgeon's appt. on Friday. But it was not to be.

I called Jerry who said I must not go back and was weary hearing this. He knew it might happen. I don't think he ever thought it would be so bad though. He has made me promise that I will not beat myself up. All friends have said the same; I did no wrong, I did all I could.

So I have not heard from Steve or his friends. I will not contact him. He has closed the book and drained the well. There is more to write and more to think about, but suffice it that this has been the worst experience.

Yet I know that God's will is for good and evil cannot overcome it. Yesterday I received a great email from Carlie about the Battle Within which is so appropriate. I'll be posting it on this blog after I get home.