Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Summer Fun and Garden Veggies

It has been almost a week since we visited the doctor and determined that my grandmother had something that is "going around." The doctor wrote her a prescription for an antibiotic, and she growled. She said, "I wanted you to give me a shot and clear this mess up!" He said, "I'm going to do that, too!" So, she got a Kenalog shot and a prescription for Amoxil three times per day for 10 days! The doctor told her that these, along with an OTC cough syrup, would help, but she would cough for about 2-3 weeks when she talks or laughs. As he left the exam room, she grumbled, "Well, I sure didn't want to cough for 6 weeks." (Where did THAT come from?!) I told her he said 2-3 weeks, not six, and maybe it would be sooner.

So, she is still coughing, but not as much, and I can tell she IS better... although she told me yesterday her aide had told her she needed to see a doctor! I have my doubts that the aide said that... and she doesn't need to see a doctor now... she is BETTER!

Nobody loves a summer garden better than my grandmother. She is now telling people she is "nearly 96" - have you noticed that at some point people quit hiding their age and actually start to brag about it again?! Anyway, she has a little patch of garden in her back yard that a couple of people are "helping" her with - green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, and maybe a bell pepper or two. She talks about hoeing and watering the beans, and honestly, I have only seen them through a window, but they look beautiful. If ever anyone had a green thumb, it is my Mam-ma!

Last week, Mam-ma told me she was wanting some purple hull peas, and so far, she had not been able to locate any. There is a deacon in her church who has supplied her from his garden for years, but this year he didn't grow any. Did I mention he is about 86 or 87?! She asked me to watch the farmer's market and produce stands for purple hull peas. I stopped at my regular produce stand and bought her a sandwich-sized zip-loc bag of shelled peas - $3.50. She was tickled. She said she would "like to have a bushel if I could get them." I asked if that was shelled or unshelled, and she said "I could sit her and shell them." She said last year a bushel unshelled was about $20. So, I stopped again at the produce stand, and the man told me that he could have a bushel for me on Monday (this was Saturday). A bushel unshelled was $22 - shelled for $30, and he said you actually got more peas - 10 to 12 lbs. So I phoned my grandmother, and she said "Let's just buy the little bags." I pointed out they were much more expensive that way, and we were talking $8 between shelled and unshelled, so she said, "Okay, order a bushel shelled for $30." I did, and I assured the man I would be back on Monday to get the peas.

Yesterday morning, my grandmother called me... "have you gotten the peas yet?" Noooo... I told the man I would come in the afternoon. She laughed and said, "Well, my neighbor just brought me a half bushel to shell!" I told her I was sorry, but there was no way to cancel this order, so she would now have another bushel of peas. She said that would be okay, she guessed, and while she was freezing the ones she was shelling, she could freeze the others, too. To freeze peas, you have to gently boil them on the stove, then drain the water and plunge them into icy cold water - it's called "blanching" and kills any critters and bacteria before freezing. It's hot work... and hard work if you are 96, but she insisted on doing this! So, I took her the peas - a Wal-Mart style plastic bag FULL of peas... well more than she would have netted shelling her own.

As my mom points out... you can buy peas at the store - in a can or a freezer bag! My grandmother cooks about half of one of those sandwich bags of peas at a time, so at that rate, we will have peas for the rest of our lives! At least it has occupied her time for a few days... although any time she is using her stove like that, I cringe and pray she turns off all the burners completely when she is finished. So, if you need purple hull peas, you know who to call!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The "Lull" is Over!

Last Friday, my grandmother's cousins came to visit from Sallisaw, Oklahoma. There were 5 in all - four women and one husband. These are wonderful, sweet people who love my grandmother - her first cousin was their mother, and now that she is gone, they have sort of "adopted" my Mam-ma as their substitute mom. Two years ago, they even drove from Sallisaw (a 4+-hour trip one way) to get Mam-ma for their July 4th weekend, then drove her home. So, when they called a few weeks ago and said they were coming on Friday, Mam-ma was excited. She had me buy a pork roast at the grocery store, and she put it in the crock pot on Friday to cook all day for sandwiches. She made potato salad and cooked green beans. Her friend Ruby made a "coconut" cake for their dessert.

The cousins arrived around 7:00 p.m., and Mam-ma served dinner. Then they all loaded into the car and drove to the local dance hall, where my grandmother is a charter member, for some dancing! The next morning, they drove some 30+ miles to visit an old family home place and the adjoining cemetery. They also went to a farmer's market and who knows where else. That evening, they attended a local Gospel Singing event in our city park, and then they closed the dance hall!!! The cousins had planned to leave Saturday evening, but they were too tired, and at my grandmother's insistence, they all stayed with her. She even let the husband/wife have her bed, and she slept on the couch. To my mother's surprise, she attended church Sunday - both morning and evening, I think. I know she went that night.

So, it was no surprise to me that Monday when I telephoned her, she sounded like a man. Her voice was very hoarse, and no doubt, she was exhausted. She had told my mother as much earlier in the day. However, she told me she and her neighbor had taken their walk that morning about 6:30. Then her Home Health aide came and gave her a bath, and then her housekeeper came. She had watered her beans in the garden and filled the bird bath with water (she claimed "the birds were just a pantin'!), and she had peeled Granny Smith apples and put them in the freezer! Did I mention she will be 96 in November?

Today, I phoned my grandmother around noon to see what she would need tomorrow when we run errands and she gets her hair fixed. She said she was lying around and would call me back. She sounded fairly well. At 2:00 p.m., she phoned me, sounding once again like a man, and she started coughing into the phone and telling me she thought she might have to go to the doctor, "if this doesn't get better." I asked, "are you saying you want to go to the doctor tomorrow?" Well, she didn't know... cough, cough, cough. I asked what her aides had said about her, and she said, "Shelley said I needed to see the doctor!" I asked if she would feel like getting her hair done tomorrow, and she said, "Oh, yes... I've GOT to have that done!" So I told her I would call the doctor and see if I could get an appointment for tomorrow. She was coughing hard as we hung up.

The doctor is closed on Wednesday afternoons, so I didn't reach anyone. I phoned my grandmother, and after about 20 rings, she answered. I told her that there was nobody at the doctor's office this afternoon, and she said, "Well, I don't know if I ought to wait!" I was thinking, "great... she wants to go to the ER... I am NOT going to the ER for this!" I asked, "What are you saying?" She said, "Well, I don't want this to turn into pneumonia. I really think I need to go to the doctor." I had told her I would try again tomorrow morning to get her an appointment. I asked, "So you DO want an appointment tomorrow?" She said, "Well, Shelley said I should go, and your momma said I should go see the doctor." I asked when she had talked to Mom about this, and she said, "Well your momma called this morning, and she said 'You sound terrible,' and I told her 'Well, I FEEL terrible!' and she said, 'well, you need to go to the doctor!'" So I told her I would call the doctor on Thursday morning, and if there were no appointments, we might have to miss the beauty shop to get her in that afternoon. She said that was okay.

I phoned my mom, and she was astounded. She said she had called my grandmother around noon, and she was doing great... that she was feeling better! Mom said, "She has never coughed once while talking to me!" But, she agreed that it is best to take her to the doctor if she wants to go and cut my losses... and make sure there is no pneumonia. She said she did NOT mention a doctor to Mam-ma, and Mam-ma did NOT tell her she was terrible. So, I am left to wonder if this nasty coughing into the phone is for my benefit - and effect - or if she is genuinely having trouble. She told Mom she "got this Sunday night." We have a high mold count right now, so I am wondering if that is the culprit. Mom was pretty sure Mam-ma said she walked with her neighbor this morning!

So we will never know the truth, but it looks like "errand day" will include a doctor visit! I'll let you know how it goes.

Meanwhile, a friend of mine is dealing with the admission of her aunt to a nursing facility in Missouri this past weekend. The woman has been diagnosed with Alzheimers but was "covering well" until recently, when her sister visited for a month, and afterward she told a family member, "Some strange lady came and stayed a whole month in my house - wasn't that brazen of her?" The family realized that this lady could no longer live alone. She didn't go peacefully to the facility - in fact, a seatbelt is all that prevented her from trying to escape the car... she threw open the door but was strapped in and couldn't get free. Alzheimers is a truly ugly disease... and so heartbreaking.

So I guess when I consider what others are dealing with, I can handle a little nonsense from my grandmother who still seems to have most of her faculties on any given day!

Hang in there - keep pedaling!!!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Savages

If you haven't seen the movie, The Savages, you might want to give it a look. I'll tell you now, it's quirky... and a bit over the top and "adult" in spots, but it deals with the issue of two siblings placing a parent in the nursing home... and their lives are already complicated. Juggling a personal life and this new responsibility is depicted as a challenge. I found the portrayal of the nursing home personnel to be extremely kind - maybe too generous (I don't recall someone always tucking my grandmothers in each night!) - but at least they were not made out to be cruel or overly unprofessional.

The other movie that touches on this topic is Away From Her, which deals with a woman (Julie Christie) who has Alzheimers - and her choice to go to a nursing facility - and how this decision affects her husband. It is sad and poignant, but a jolt of reality at the same time. It also has some light-hearted moments, and Olympia Dukakis has a starring role, which is always a plus in my book. I'll warn you - my mom didn't like the way it ended... and it did sort of seem to end "unfinished," but it is still worth seeing!
On the home front, things are about the same in my neck of the woods. My grandmother shows signs of decline, such as occasionally forgetting to take her medicine, but she is still gardening and cooking and living alone, attending church on Sunday, playing dominoes and going to shop and visit through the week, so what more can you ask for at 95+ years young?! I'm enjoying the relative "quiet" of this lull in activity, feeling fairly certain it won't last, but grateful for the time I am given. I hope things are going well for you... let me know the latest!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Be Sure to Read...

Please take time to read JJ's comments to the post "We're In a Lull" - I think you will relate on some level - and you might just get a chuckle or two along the way!

He also added in a side not to me: "I do sometimes feel like a bologna sandwich. A bologna sandwich does the best it can to make things better and give nourishment, but no one really appreciates it, and I think we have all felt that way.

I like the laughter quips you put in there. A good one I have loved since I first saw it, and you may have already used it but here it is anyway. LOL My mother was told about five years ago to walk at least five miles a day, so she did what the doctor said to do. Now we have no idea where she is."


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

We're in a "Lull"!

I hesitate to mention that we are in a "lull" because that usually invites trouble! And... some of our "lull" is because I did something to my back a couple of weeks ago, so I didn't see my grandmother last week - just spoke with her by phone. Luckily, my mom was in town and could run her errands. My grandmother called me every day for about a week to see how I was - and to relay what she needed - "I'm out of cash!" - "Did you pay my tithe?" (wasn't time yet - she forgot, she said!) She had plenty of people to see after her while I was out of commission - Mom and her husband power-washed the outside of her house one day, my cousins helped her with her garden another, and the man came to mow her yard, just to name a few. I am up and going again, so I will see her this week for "Errand Day". It was time last week to refill the daily medicine boxes, and I told Mom how to do it, and Mom said as she sat filling the little boxes, Mam-ma said, "I told Debbie I could do that myself!" Mom said it was a daunting task, as she made sure she got the right things in the right boxes. I agree, and that is why we do that for my grandmother!

There WAS one thing the last time I did errands. I picked up my grandmother for her appointments, and she was not ready for me, which was unusual. Usually she is tapping her toes at the door. I entered her house, and she walked past me and out the door. I asked, "Where are you going?" She replied, "I don't know." I reminded her she didn't have her purse or the remote for her garage door - two things she always takes with her. She came back into the house to get her things. I noticed on the kitchen table that Mam-ma's little pill cutter was out of the box. "Why is the pill cutter there?" I asked. She spun around and said, "Well, you didn't leave me any medicine for today." I looked at her and asked, "so you cut a pill to take for today?" "No," she answered. "There wasn't anything in the box for noon Thursday, so I didn't take any." I asked why she didn't look in the OTHER set of boxes for Thursday, and she said, "Well, you didn't leave me any medicine, so I figured you didn't aim for me to take any today." I asked if she had taken her morning meds - yes, they were in the box.

I remembered that the last week, when I filled her daily boxes (on a Thursday afternoon), I deliberately did not put any medicine in the Thursday morning and noon compartments of one set, so that my grandmother would not become confused (I hoped) and take a double dose, thinking she forgot earlier. BUT... she didn't understand that, so from now on, I will just lay out the evening medication for that day on her kitchen table and fill ALL of the compartments. Lesson learned on my part - and as my husband pointed out, she may have not taken the medication for my benefit - but we DID stop long enough for her to take her noon meds before we left for the beauty shop! Mom said some of a Friday set were missing when she refilled, and Mam-ma insisted it was "right," but Mom isn't sure. So, I still don't know for sure that Mam-ma takes her meds right, but she seems to be doing fairly well, so we will hope so.

My sister-in-law is having all manner of challenges with her parents. Her mom is 90 and her dad is 89. I think I related in an earlier post that severe storms caused a lot of damage to these folks' home and business back in the spring, and my sister-in-law and brother-in-law have made several trips - about 3.5 hours one way - to clean up the yard, and meet with insurance adjusters and repair people. Mother's Day weekend, my sister-in-law's mother had some sort of accident as she turned outside and started to go into the house. She fell and broke three ribs, pulled muscles in her shoulder, and was really banged up pretty good. She is convinced she had a mini-stroke.

However, some months ago, this lady dropped a plate on her foot, and my sister-in-law thinks she suffered some nerve damage, and from time to time the foot feels "heavy" and sort of "goes out" on her. There have been tests and doctor visits, and the consensus among medical personnel was that there was nerve damage to this foot that caused the fall. An MRI was talked about, but at the time, the pain and discomfort from the broken ribs was such that this lady could not lie still for an hour in the machine. She has steadily improved from the broken ribs and is getting around better now... all things considered - she has macular degeneration and only has limited peripheral vision, so her husband has to help her navigate (and he doesn't hear well, but that's another story!) - and she has even started to get out for Garden Club coffee, and things like that.

My sister-in-law (an only child) and her husband traveled to visit her parents this past weekend and handle some things with the insurance people. She e-mailed this report afterward: "My mom called to tell me she had another spell yesterday when she went with my Dad to check on the store. This time her left leg got heavy and so did her right, and her knees started to buckle. She held on and did not fall. So she had a dr. appt. today and she is now scheduled for an open air MRI on Wed of the lower back, & they are making an appt with a neurologist & want her to do PT at Health South. I don't think she needs to do PT until they find out what is wrong. She does not want me to come up there for the MRI so that is good. She is much more ok with that now. Also my Dad gets some free tests done with his 55 Plus club & his hemoglobin came back VERY low - it is 9 & should be 14, so he is going to the dr. tomorrow at 4. It just does not seem to let up." Do you relate? These dear folks still live alone in their own home, and they have no intention of doing otherwise. We all see the handwriting on the wall, but my sister-in-law and brother-in-law seem to be taking it one day at a time and just holding out as long as they can. They realize the day is quickly approaching when they will have to step in and force the issue... most likely when something major happens to one or the other that means they can no longer live at home.

I am so thankful that, for the moment, my grandmother is still able to live at home alone - and I almost added "safely" but some days I wonder about her and her gas cook stove and those trips out in the back yard to hoe her green beans in her little garden. But we do have a plan in place - we have already done the nursing home gig three separate times for rehab, and if something major happens, that will become a permanent residence, sadly. All things financial were arranged for that long, long ago, and if that fateful day comes, we will be ready. But so many are not... and the toll it takes on the children, aside from their parents' grief and frustration, is immeasurable. I know my sister-in-law and her husband will need a lot of support, and we will be there for them.

I spent an hour at the local nursing home lately giving an overdue piano concert to a friend of mine who is a resident there - she is 100 years young now, and for her birthday, I promised her a recital. She is still very clear in her thinking and relatively healthy, but at 100, she is not able to care for daily needs like meals, bathing, and general mobility - although she does drive a mean wheelchair! The hour was so rewarding... many residents came to hear the music, and then we sang hymns. I learned very quickly that, regardless of one's mental capacity, hymns are a universal common ground. People who could barely hold their heads up and put two words together sprang to life, so to speak, and began mouthing the words, or humming the tunes. If they didn't know the verses, almost all knew the choruses. And the smiles on their faces and the peacefulness in their eyes as they sang familiar songs was priceless. I will be doing that again soon!

I heard lately that at some point, you quit trying to hide how old you are and start bragging about it, and with a 96th birthday only four months away, that is my Mam-ma! While the time spent with the nursing home residents was rewarding, and it was a blessing to be able to bring them a little joy in an otherwise routine day, I also was keenly aware of how fortunate I am that my grandmother is not there. I am blessed that, even with all of her antics, she is still physically able to live alone - and more than that, she is still of fairly sound mind, save a little forgetfulness. She remembers what she told you two minutes ago and doesn't repeat the same thing over and over in rapid succession. She just completed baby blankets for two new twin nieces. She still keeps up with news and politics. ?And.. she still gardens!