Saturday, January 31, 2009

Thinking Like a Child

Today is the day for the memorial service for JoAnn Miles, mother of my former pastor, John, and his sisters Beka and Debi. I have shared posts from Beka here in recent weeks. After her mother passed away earlier this week, she wrote about the reaction of her little girls, ages 8 and 10:

When the girls woke up this morning, we all got in our big bed, and Len and I told them about mom’s death. They were both crying and sad. Katherine was also little ticked off. “I only got to know mammaw for 8 years and yall got to know her for a lot more years than that. Mammaw was a fun mammaw. It’s not fair.” They are going to miss out on so much. I’ve been crying a lot of the day, and Anna brought me various stuffed animals for comfort as well as a quilt mom had made for me when I was a girl. Katherine has been coming up and patting me and telling me it’s going to be okay and adding, “At least mammaw gets to go be with HER mommy now.” She has also been unhappy several times with the level of attention that her dad and sister were giving me. Several times I saw her shoot them a dirty look, jerk her head toward me, and whisper out the side of her mouth, “Get over here and COMFORT her.” She is her grandmother’s granddaughter. She not only goes the extra, but, by God, she is going make sure everybody else does too. (Len and Anna, by the way, went the extra mile and were great by my standards – just not by Katherine’s.)

I was reminded of my niece, Jasmine, and how traumatic it was for her when my brother died ten years ago, followed by the death of my dad just 13 months later. Jasmine was 8 when my brother died - 10 when she lost her Pap-pa. Death is hard to explain to children... the finality of it, much less the "why" it happened. Jasmine knew both her Uncle Tim and her Pap-pa were very sick, but still a child has as many (or more) questions as an adult. To help her feel a part of things, we asked her to create a drawing each time for the cover of the program folder at the funeral. I remembered that the young son of a schoolmate of mine, who lost a battle with breast cancer, had done this for her funeral. He drew his mother himself, and his brother, and he added a caption... "Mom is in heaven now... she will have hair." Jasmine worked so hard on her own drawings. I can still see her hunched over her pictures. Her Pap-pa's included fishing - one of his favorite activities, and her Uncle Tim's included his dog, Carmen. At the visitations, people stopped this little girl and complimented her on the artwork, which gave them something to say to her and also made her feel like she was an integral part of things.

I am also reminded of my little cousin, Olivia, who was only a little better than 2 years old when her Grand-dad passed away. She loved her "Gone-gone," and he adored her. In his last hours of life, the family gathered at his home, and Olivia was front and center. I spent much of the last two days with her - reading, singing, and playing... and otherwise engaging her so that she was not aware of the sadness of those around her. She knew something was happening, but by keeping her entertained and busy, we were able to enjoy Her brightness and joy without causing her any alarm. She knew people around her were sad, but we managed to keep our sadness from upsetting her, and that was a blessing for everyone.

We concentrate so much on the elderly side of this "sandwich" sometimes that we tend to overlook the thoughts and needs of our younger family and friends. Then we are surprised when they tell us something that has been on their mind or share an emotion they are experiencing. I know we have a lot of balls to juggle sometimes, but we have to stop and look at the young people and put things in perspective. How are we reacting to situations in our lives, and what is that saying to our children? I remember very well that my maternal grandmother was not at all fond of her mother-in-law, and she transferred a lot of her negative feelings to me and my siblings. It was not until I was a young woman that I began to realize just how special my great-grandmother had been - what a hard worker she was on her farm - how she made quilts and was a good cook - and what hardships she endured in her lifetime. I saw her only through my grandmother's colored glasses, and I missed a lot in the process!

We must be careful to balance our perspective... and I do include myself in this. I know it is challenging to meet the needs - and the demands - of some of our elderly loved ones and friends. But our children are watching what we do - and how we react - and they are forming their opinions and attitudes based upon ours. It is NOT fair that some children don't get to know their grandparents for very long - if at all. It is not fair that our children have to see us sad and upset and frustrated and mad - especially over an older person who is in our care. But there are lessons for ALL of us in each of life's experiences. It is up to us to make sure that they are good ones.

Monday, January 26, 2009

You Can't Take It With You!

This crazy story happened to a young friend of mine a couple of years ago. As primary caregiver for her grandfather, Mickey* juggled the responsibility of her Pops and her own small children, plus a career. Each week, Mickey took her Pops to his favorite fast-food restaurant for a meal. One particular week, she picked him up for lunch, with her young son and infant daughter in tow.

Mickey's Pops had trouble keeping up with the handset to his cordless telephone, so he made a habit of keeping it in his shirt pocket each day. When Mickey picked up her Pops for lunch, he was wearing his house slippers, khaki pants, and a shirt (with the handset in his pocket). He announced that he needed to stop at Wal-Mart for a few things - namely a new wristwatch. They ate lunch and then headed for Wal-Mart.

Mickey took her Pops to the jewelry counter and helped him select a wristwatch, and he put it on at the counter. Then he said, "I have to go to the bathroom." Mickey asked her 8-year-old son to escort Pops to the Men's room. Meanwhile, Pops needed corn pads, too, so Mickey took her baby and headed for the Health and Beauty Aids section to find corn pads. By the time she met her son and Pops at the check-out line, Pops announced that he was tired and said, "I'm going outside and sit on a bench." As he headed for the bench in the store entryway, he tripped the alarm in the doorway, because he was wearing the new watch (which had yet to be paid for at the register). Of course, Wal-Mart Associates came running. The next thing Mickey knew, these associates had Pops standing at the Service Desk, pockets emptied, and he was saying, "But that's MY telephone."

The Associates thought Mickey's Pops had stolen the handset from the Wal-Mart Electronics department. He was frantically trying to tell them it was his - he had brought it from home. Mickey came to his rescue and also tried to explain that he kept his handset in his pocket so he would remember where it was, and yes, this was HIS handset from HIS house. They were not believing her. Mickey opened her Pops' wallet and showed them multiple $100 bills. She said, "Look... he HAS money. He doesn't need to steal anything." Still the associates were not believing her. There she stood with her Pops, who was tired and kept trying to go back outside and sit down, an infant and an 8-year-old, and she was being accused of lying - and her Pops of being a thief!

Totally frustrated, Mickey looked up to see the store manager coming in the front door. Fortunately, she knew this man, and he recognized her and came to her rescue. She explained the situation, and he told the Associates to let Mickey and her Pops pay for the watch and other items and be on their way.

Needless to say, that day brought far more than Mickey bargained for! I imagine she checked her Pops' pockets fairly closely before leaving home the next time! Do you have a similar story? We'd like to hear from you!

*Name changed.

Medicine - to Take or Not to Take

A few weeks ago, I arrived at my grandmother's and began dispensing her medications into her daily pill boxes. She said, "I haven't had any of "Such-and-such" pill for several days now. I questioned her, and she could not tell me WHY that pill was not in the compartment, but she said, "So I haven't taken that pill in about 3 days." I asked, "Why didn't you get them out of the bottle and take them?" (since she is always telling me that she could put her own pills in the boxes and doesn't really need my help). Her answer... "Well, since they weren't in there, I figured you didn't aim for me to take them!" I have to admit, I was dumbfounded by this, and assured her that yes, I did intend for her to take them, and regardless of WHY they weren't in the boxes, she should have gotten some from her bottle and taken them - or called me to come fix things!

So, I had to laugh when I got this post from my friend Beka, whose mom JoAnn has been hospitalized for probably 8 weeks or better now. She discovered that her dad was not taking some of his medication. She writes...

  • Dad stays on his regular routine and is doing well with only the occasional glitch. For example, we thought Dad was taking all of his medications until this conversation yesterday. “Are you taking all of your medications, dad?” “Yes, darling, I am . . . except for one. I don’t know what it is for, so I don’t take it.” “Dad, have you ever known what all your medications were for?” “No. But JoAnn knows what they are for, and she usually gives them to me to take. When JoAnn is well, I don’t need to know what they are for.”

    So, Dad and Uncle Warren are going to swing by his doctors office to pick up a list of the medications he is suppose to be taking. Mom is much more responsive now than she has been, but she is nowhere near ready to start answering our questions about dad’s medications. We are just happy when she smiles.

As if this weren't bizarre enough, last week I was driving my grandmother home from her beauty shop appointment, and we were talking about someone we know who suffers from neuropathy. Mam-ma said, "I told my friend Ruby that she has pain pills from her doctor, and when she hurts, she ought to take one. That's what I do." I asked, " take what, exactly... Tylenol?" "No," she replied, "I take one of those pills the doctor gave me." "What doctor? When?" I asked. "Well, long before you came on the scene!" she tells me. "The doctor gave me some pills for when I hurt so bad, and I just take a half of one." I didn't ask any more, but I didn't know what sort of pill she meant. We got home and I was unpacking her groceries, and she opens a kitchen cabinet and fishes behind her dinner plates and retrieves a pill bottle. "This is them," she says, handing me the pills. The label is so worn I cannot make out all of the date, but I know we have not used this pharmacist in several years. Thankfully the bottle was about 2/3 full, and I could see a half a caplet inside - she had said she only takes one half caplet at a time. I read the name of the pill, but it didn't mean much to me until I looked it up at home on the Internet. It's Darvocet!

I don't know if you have experience with this drug, but my maternal grandmother took them like candy, and she didn't know what planet she was on much of the time. My Mam-ma also takes a "nerve pill" - Ativan - as needed, and I don't know whether she combines this with the Darvocet, but probably. There is nothing I can do... obviously since she hid them behind the DINNER PLATES, and didn't keep them in her pill box, she didn't intend for anyone to know she has them. And my consolation is that 1) the bottle IS 2/3 full, so she isn't taking much, if any, and 2) they are old enough they probably have lost much of their potency. But I can no longer show the list of medications I have for her and say with certainty, THIS is all she is taking! I have no clue what other "hidden treasures" she has in her home. When my mother's parents moved to a nursing facility, she found random pills all over the house - even in a shoe in their closet!

I know others of you have similar stories, so c'mon... SHARE!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Is it the Pink Pill?

Last week some "bug" kicked my butt again, and I ended up spending a few days in bed. My mother is in town, and she promptly offered to take my grandmother to the beauty shop on Thursday. I accepted the offer, and it was a good thing, because Thursday was one of the days I could not get out of bed. So I was napping just after noon, and the phone rang - it was my grandmother.

Mam-ma: "Debbie, I don't know WHEN I've been to the doctor... I haven't been in a long time."
Me: "Okay...." (wondering... where is this headed... does she expect me to take her today?)
Mam-ma: "But today I got a letter in the mail from Medicare about a visit, and I don't remember a-goin'."
Me: "Is it a bill?"
Mam-ma: "Well, no..." and she starts to read it to me... "it says it's from the 9th of the ninth month of 2008." I'm looking on my calendar to see if we went to her family physician around that time in September, as it sounds familiar. I asked if it says what the visit was for, and she reads me a diagnosis that is for removal of some lesion.
Me: "That is for that place that the doctor froze off your nose."
Mam-ma: "My NOSE?!"
Me: "Yes, your nose... don't you remember, he looked at your nose and froze a place off it for you? When we went in about something else?" Well, she sorta remembered. Me again: "But it's not a bill, right?"
Mam-ma: "No... it's just a print-out. But I didn't remember we went to the doctor in September."

We did - two days early, as a matter of fact... she couldn't wait for her appointment! My mother had driven out of her driveway on September 8th for a 3-month trip, and the next day Mam-ma started to decline. She had a regular checkup scheduled for September 11th, but by the 9th, she could wait no longer!

Then she proceeds to tell me she got a letter from Aetna, and they are not going to pay for her Avapro.

Me: "But they ARE going to pay. I told you that. Your doctor got an exception on that drug. Just put that letter aside and I will stick it in your file." I tell her this twice and explain that Aetna agreed to pay for Avapro, but not Aciphex. Yes, she remembers about Aciphex, and she thinks the Nexium will be just fine as a substitute. She starts reading me the letter... how Aetna paid for Avapro in January but she will have to try other drugs first before they will approve it again.

Finally, I stopped her again... "Mam-ma... your doctor's nurse has already called Aetna about that and told them you are NOT trying other drugs, and Aetna agreed. It's taken care of. Just set that aside, and I will get it next week for your file."

Mam-ma: "Well... okay... I just didn't know if it was urgent or not."

I assured her it was not urgent - that it had been handled. I added, "You need to get ready - Momma will be to get you soon!" (Her appointment was for 1:30 - it was now nearly 1:00.) She said she had told my mother to call first and she'd open the garage door for her as we were having sub-freezing weather and she had her garage door closed. I told her, "She may be trying to call you now!" So she said good-bye - she DID say it! - and hung up. Sometimes she just hangs up when she is finished talking! You'll hear a "click" and you know she is done!

Wednesday it was her food stamps... Thursday it was the drugs. Bless her heart, I think she just goes into a panic mode when she thinks I am sick... and she comes up with all sorts of things that need my attention, like I am not going to feel better in a few days and she doesn't have others to help her in the meantime. My husband says it is just an excuse to talk to me. And that may be partly correct, because I have not heard another word from her since!

Wednesday, she had phoned to check on how I was feeling and to tell me that there was a letter in her mailbox telling her that she was approved for $14 a month in Food Stamps... something I had told her myself a few days earlier. Apparently we each got a letter, and mine arrived a few days ahead of hers. Anyway, in the course of the conversation, her medicine was mentioned, and she said, "Well, I'm out of night-time medicine." I questioned this, and she told me that her pill dispenser for Wednesday evening was empty. "Where did the pills go?" I asked, knowing I had filled enough for her to have medication through Thursday noon. She didn't know, but there was nothing in there. She was supposed to have two pills - her thyroid medication and her night-time Coreg for blood pressure. Lately, I've noticed that quite often, the night-time medicine is still in the dispenser compartments. If she gets sidetracked or has dinner away from home, she forgets to take this medicine. Since it is so important - the only dose for her thyroid each day and one half of her daily blood pressure medication - I have been concerned that she was forgetting. Now, she was coming up short - did she think she hadn't taken it and take a double dose?
Over the phone, I tried to talk her through putting night-time medicine in that compartment... and to quiz her about whether she had enough medicine for the next day, knowing that when my mom arrived, she was going to fill the dispensers again for the following week. Yes, she had the Thursday medicine. And now, somehow, she had a "pink pill" in her Wednesday night box. That would be the Synthroid for her thyroid. Did she have a white pill (Coreg)? No... just the pink one. So I talked her through finding the Coreg pill in her little tray, and I prayed that she had indeed found the right one. Meanwhile, she found a bottle of "green pills." NO... don't take those! Those were the pills for blood sugar that she was prescribed in October and didn't need/never took... I should have already tossed them... but I had left them in her box for some reason, and now she was looking them over. She said she would put them in the trash. I hope she did. I made a mental note to doublecheck that when I go next!

So, now we have confusion about the medicine, and I wonder how much longer Mam-ma will be able to manage at home alone. I know how critical it is that she take that medication properly and not over - or under - medicate. And I am doing all I can by putting it in the dispensers without physically going to her house and dispensing it three times a day, and neither of us wants that! So it just is what it is... for now.

I had to laugh... one of the same days all of this was happening, my former pastor's sister Beka posted this about her dad on her mom's CaringBridge site.

Uncle Warren and Aunt Joy went with Dad to see a movie at the library – one of Dad’s favorites – "O Brother Where Art Thou." When I talked to them they were on their way to the library by way of a route that Dad did not know. So Dad was complaining to Uncle Warren, who was driving. The conversation went like this:

Dad: Where are you taking me? I’ve never been on this road in my life.
Warren: Yes you have, John.
Dad: This is not the way to the library.
Warren: Yes it is, John.
Dad: It isn’t either. O Brother Where Art Thou? O Brother Where Art Thou? . . . I have never been on this road in my life . . . . . oh yeah, there’s the Shirley's house . . I know where we are now.

I know just how he feels. I think there are days when we all wonder if anyone knows where they are going! I hope you have clear pathways this week and all of your pills are in the right compartments!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

It Must Be the First of the Year...

Do you remember Johnny Carson's running gag... "It was so hot..." and the crowd would ask, "How hot was it?" and Johnny would add... "It was so hot that...and deliver a punch line." Well, in MY "Deli World"... "you know it's the first of the year...
  • if your grandmother is worried about a $227 gas bill and telling you, "I'll just try to keep the heat down a little lower and put on an extra sweater." We go through this every January - her bill is high, she talks about being "cold as a frog" and putting on extra clothes while she cuts back on heat. Every year I assure her she can afford to keep her house as warm as she likes (which is 80-85 degrees). I know... I know... she's messing with my head!

  • if your new Medicare Part D prescription drug provider is refusing to cover all of the prescriptions they promised to cover when you enrolled in their plan in November. Aetna didn't even wait one month - they went ahead and refused to pay for two of my grandmother's drugs right off the bat. The doctor was able to get authorization for one, but we are now going to try Nexium for one month instead of Aciphex and see if that works. The kicker is that, on paper, Nexium is $180/month; Aciphex is $150. However, Aetna must have a "deal" with the Nexium maker, because they will approve its use! So we are praying that the Nexium works.

    The funny thing there is that, as I explained this to my grandmother, she said, "Honey, that's okay. I've been reading about Nexium, and it's supposed to be real good. Besides, there are lots of things I can try if those insurance companies want me to - I hate for you to have to worry with them." Now, two years ago CignaRx required we try two other acid reflux drugs, and we ended up in a MESS - and back on Aciphex! And I can assure you that she would not be "okay" trying a variety of other drug substitutes, if asked. So we will see where this goes.

  • the cardiologist will start shuffling the six-month "spring" appointment date and time. I think we have changed the upcoming visit twice now. The doc (who I really do like) must have gotten a good deal on a cruise or something toward the end of March!

  • my grandmother starts talking about the dreary weather and how "the four walls are closing in on me." The day after Christmas, she actually told my mom that she had been thinking... "Maybe I should just go to the nursing home, where I wouldn't be so lonesome." LONESOME? Hellooooooo!!! This is the woman who, 1) tells me continually that her biggest fear is having to go to a nursing home, and 2) is so busy she can barely find time to eat and sleep! Just last week, her next-door neighbor told me that "Polly has someone at her house every morning... often more than one car at a time... and sometimes in the afternoons and evenings." It often takes several attempts to reach her by phone - because her line is BUSY! I don't know what hour of the night she is lonely!

  • the forms have arrived to apply for utility assistance, food stamps, and a re-evaluation for Medicare services. Some of the applications require print-outs... bank statements, reports of all prescription drugs purchased, copies of utility bills. The folks at the pharmacy shook their heads in agreement when I said, "My grandmother has exactly the same amount of income/expenses today that she did yesterday... and the government seems to know EVERYTHING else about us, so why don't they know THIS?!" We copied the forms and mailed them to the agencies, and everything is in the works.

    My grandmother is anxious to get her utility assistance. She heard on the television news that some elderly persons were receiving $150, so she assumes she will receive that amount. I told her that HER form said $139, based on her Social Security income for last year, which increased for 2009 by $42. So it is likely that she may get something even less than $139. I am quite sure she didn't hear me... she will expect to receive the $150 reported on television!

Couple of side notes... the other day my grandmother was telling me about her gas bill and how she was running out of money...

[Grandma] "Aaagh! I don't know how much longer I am going to be able to afford all of this! I'm about out of money!"
[Me] "No, you aren't!"
[Grandma] "Well, I don't know about that!"
[Me] "Well, I do - because I keep your books!"

My grandmother continued discussing how high things were and how high her gas bill was, and finally, I told her, "Please, just quit worrying about all of that. You can afford it, and we are going to make sure you have everything you need. Just turn your heat up and be warm and quit worrying."
Her reply... "Honey, I don't worry! I learned a long time ago that it didn't help a thing to worry!"
I had to laugh, "Well it sure seems to me like you are fretting about this gas bill!"
She answered, "Oh, I FRET, but I don't worry."
Apparently there is a difference in the two!

My sister-in-law reports that her parents, who together sort of make a "whole person" - her dad can't hear or remember - her mother can't see - are having problems with managing their daily affairs. However, her mother refuses to give up control of this and many other things that are honestly beyond her capabilities any more. So... when a recent electric bill was double what it should have been, the parents went into a tizzy. When my sister-in-law finally found the bill in a STACK of papers her mother fumbled through but could not see, the bill - and the checkbook - indicated that a recent payment had never cleared at the power company. The new bill included a past-due amount, which was explained at the top of the bill. But my sister-in-law's dad looked at the BALANCE DUE at the BOTTOM of the bill and did not realize there was an explanation of charges elsewhere. Suggestions to auto-draft all future utility bills were met with fervent protests! So for now, the past-due payment was resolved and things are in a 'hold-your-breath-and-hope-for-the-best" mode.

I can relate to this, as I used to give my grandmother a check to put in the collection plate at church for her monthly tithe. Then I noticed that a check didn't clear for more than three months. I knew that I had specifically given her the check... and she remembered getting it from me... but she could not recall what she did with it. I told her not to worry about it, but of course, it was money for the CHURCH, so she "fretted" for quite some time. One day she phoned and said, "I found the check... it was in the pocket of another purse!" I now have that monthly payment auto-drafted from her bank, and when she asks, "Did you pay my tithe?" I answer, "Yes, I surely did!" I've laughed that the church coffers would be overflowing if we were all as conscientious about our tithes as the little old ladies of the South!

My niece is expecting her first child in May. This will be my grandmother's first great-great-grandchild. She has already made two blankets for the new baby and is feverishly working on a third. We won't have to worry about this baby being warm! Several "little old ladies" in our community in my grandmother's age group (early to mid-nineties) are not doing well in the last few weeks. Mam-ma's neighbor and I were discussing this last week, and she asked, "How much longer do you think Polly can stay alone? She seems like the Energizer Bunny!" And truly, she does. However, we discussed the fact that even a fall could change everything, so I know this is a day-to-day thing. But for now, she is warm, her bills are paid, and she is stitching away between phone calls and visits!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

When It Rains...

This is another post from my former pastor's sister, Beka Miles. Her mother, JoAnn Miles is hospitalized in Hot Springs, Arkansas, for complications that began with a colonoscopy just after Thanksgiving. She has just been moved from ICU to the Advanced Care floor in recent days. JoAnn's husband is a retired Methodist minister. Her son, John and her daughter, Beka are Methodist clergy, as are their spouses. Beka and her husband, Len, live in Fort Worth with their two daughters, ages 8 and 10. They are very much members of the Sandwich Generation! Here are some of Beka's thoughts from recent posts.

Len, the girls and I will be heading home to Ft. Worth tomorrow after a stop in Little Rock for a belated Christmas brunch with Len’s family. I came to Hot Springs to help coordinate health care 6 weeks ago Sunday. Save for two short trips home, I’ve been in Hot Springs ever since. Fortunately Len and the girls were able to be here for 6 days over Thanksgiving and then for the last 11 days or so at Christmas. I hate to leave, but mom seems stable and I need to go home. Katherine – 8 years old – said at the table yesterday – in her Godfather voice – “I am going to drag you home if it’s the last thing I do! I’m going to take you home and then lock all the doors so you can’t leave.”

When we get home, we have to deal with the effects of the flooding from several weeks ago. When Len called -- way back when -- asking how to disinfect floors, it turned out that it was not just an overflowing toilet but a serious backup with sewer water standing several inches in my study. Len did a lot of work before he left and then hired a professional service to clean while we were gone. We will still need to replace the baseboards and perhaps some of the sheetrock. So, we’ll continue the process of getting the house back in order when we get home tomorrow. Only recently has Len begun to break the news about how serious the flooding was. I am so looking forward to getting back home, but dealing with the aftermath of a sewage flood is taking the edge off of my happy anticipation.

Over the Christmas break Len has been going back and forth some between Hot Springs and Little Rock to be with his folks. I’ve been waiting until I had permission to ask for prayers for Len’s parents - Pat and Lawson -- who live in Little Rock. Len’s mom has been in poor health, and a big part of Lawson’s life is focused on taking care of her and their home. He was sick a couple of weeks ago and then on Christmas Eve was hospitalized overnight for observation and to get IV’s to replenish him. He is having other doctors appointments this week and next. We ask your prayers for Lawson, Pat and their family. My mother and Len’s dad are the two “healthy” parents, and we have always expected that they would live a long time and have few health problems. They probably will both live a long time, but it has been a shock to have these two be ill.

There’s a story behind this. On Christmas Eve afternoon I was out shopping at the last minute for my Dad’s and Mom’s presents for family members (because Mom had not had a chance to do any shopping ahead of time. ICU is not set up for a satisfying shopping experience.) I was walking around a well-known discount store that that we do not even mention around my mom because she is offended by its less than stellar record on labor issues. (We refer to this chain as “the store that shall not be named.") We were very worried about Mom that day, and Dad had even gone out shopping that morning for a new white shirt so he would not embarrass Mom at her funeral if she were to die. (I’m not kidding you. He actually went shopping for a white funeral shirt on Christmas Eve – just in case.) So, I was in the store and was very much hoping that Mom wouldn’t die while I was there and come appear to offer me a word of peace from the other side of the Jordan.

There I was in the middle of the store worrying about Mom and trying to find appropriate presents. (I ended up getting everyone safety devises -- a not so indirect reflection of my fears for Mom). And I was also trying to get some groceries that would approximate Mom’s Christmas Eve menu. Suddenly, it hit me that I didn’t know how to make her Christmas Eve boiled custard or her gumbo, and that if she crossed over the river Jordan before regaining full consciousness I might never know how to make her boiled custard and gumbo (unless of course that was the word she would give me if she appeared to me from the other side. But she would never give me her boiled custard recipe if she found me in “the store that shall not be named.”)

So, in the middle of "the store that shall not be named," naturally I start weeping and was absolutely beside myself. I did what I always do when I am beside myself – I called Len. “Len please come back. I need you. Boo hoo. Boo hoo.” Len didn’t say, “I’ll be right there darling.” He said, “Well . . . there are some things I need to take care of here.” I’m thinking -- “Things you need to take care of? What could trump my falling apart at the store that shall not be named because of the boiled custard?” Fifteen minutes later I decided to call Len back because he had evidently not understood the gravity of my situation. For the sake of dramatic emphasis, I said to him, “For God’s sake Len, unless somebody there is having a heart attack, please come home! Boo hoo.
Boo hoo.”
There was a long pause and then Len said in slow, Len-like fashion, “Well . . . they don’t know if it’s a heart attack or something else.” It turns out that Len was at the emergency room with his father who was having tests and who would later be admitted for the night!

To my credit, I immediately sobered up, put away childish things and said, “You stay there, Len. Don’t leave.” He did leave after awhile and came to Hot Springs for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning and then drove back to Little Rock Christmas Day to spend the night with his folks, so his dad would have a chance to rest. (Len’s dad did not have a heart attack, and they released him the next day.) It looks like Lawson will be okay.

Len and Beka have returned to Ft. Worth for now, and their girls are very glad. Their 8-year-old said, "We were very polite at Mamma's and PawPaw's." Yesterday, Beka was sitting in her mother's hospital room, trying to decipher what she thought was "Watch out!" but was actually "Washcloth." Mamma JoAnn wanted to wash her face! Tonight, she and her daughters have had an early bath and put on pj's to get into bed and read. I'm sure it feels good to be home... sewage problems and all.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Just for Laughs...

I have a childhood neighbor who is like a sister to me. She lost her parents about seven years ago, but before they passed, she had her hands full. With two young girls to rear, and her own career and family to tend to, she and her husband moved back to Arkansas to be near her parents so that she could hopefully assist them. Yeah, right!

Her mother became incapacitated and was in a nursing home for many years, unaware of anything or anyone. Left to his own devices, her dad became even more of a "character," and his life's work became sweepstakes. Maurel was a Santa Claus of a man who always seemed (at least to us) to be jolly and whistling. He was as generous as the day was long. But Maurel was one of those seniors caught in that web of seduction known as "you could be our next million dollar winner if you buy these gifts or subscribe to these magazines." So the post office was kept busy delivering daily packages to Maurel's front door.

Soon the "awards" piled up throughout the house. Several rooms were waist high in "prizes" ranging from thermal blankets to bird houses to tacky jewelry to kitchen gadgets that worked for a day before they broke. What on earth did an 80-something Caucasian man need with a subscription to Ebony magazine... or any of the many others he received? Maurel just knew that a Cadillac or a huge cash prize would be his any day. My friend contacted the state Attorney General, and once, while her dad was hospitalized briefly, she thought she had his "awards" scam stopped. But Maurel was promptly on to her efforts and thwarted them... starting right up where he had left off before the hospital stay. He was so consumed that he would even stake out his mail carrier each morning so he could intercept and get his mail earlier in the day instead of the normal mid-afternoon home delivery. He was so anxious to see if he had won - or what awards were arriving!

There are many more "Maurel" stories, but here are a couple that really made us laugh today...

We all (my husband Bill, daughters Molly and Lucy, and I) were sitting in the living room at Daddy's. We were going to try and make ourselves stay 30 minutes. We were living in another town about 30 minutes away. After a little talk, Daddy disappeared and we looked out the window just in time to see him driving off. So, we were all released. He was good at the 10-minute-at-a-time visit. It was funny.

Then, one day ( this is awful) Molly and Lucy and I pulled up in front of the house. They bounded up the stairs, through the front door and immediately hit the porch. Daddy was sitting in the easy chair - naked - watching a soap opera. It was about 1:00 p.m. I'm sure he had stopped on his way back to the bedroom from the shower. He took about three showers a day. What a thing (literally) for Molly and Lucy to witness. I guess they should have knocked????????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I would love to hear YOUR stories... and share them here with others. We are all in this boat together, you know, and laughter is sometimes all the help we have!