Saturday, March 2, 2013

Some Days the Gap Seems Wider Than Others...

February 18... the phone rang around 2:30, and I recognized the number on Caller ID right away... the ALF.  The nurse told me that Mam-ma Polly had fallen and hit her head.  She had a nasty cut, and the nurse thought it needed stitches.  "Do you want me just to put her in my car and take her to the ER?" she asked.  I told her no... that I had signed papers saying that Mam-ma is not to go to the ER.  She said, "Then we need to call Hospice... and you can revoke those papers at any time."  I asked if I should come down to the facility, and she said, "It wouldn't hurt."

I was preparing for a workout, so I was not dressed.  I quickly pulled myself together and headed for the ALF.  I found Mam-ma with at least 3 facility staff members, sitting in her wheelchair beside her bed.  The workers animatedly began to tell me how she had "bled all over everything."  The bleeding had stopped, and she did indeed have a large cut above her right ear... just a little forward of the injury she received two Christmas Eve's ago on our driveway.  I saw blood on the carpeting and her oxygen compressor... but it did not seem excessive.

I told the staff that I realized it seemed like a lot of blood, but she bled so much more on our driveway - and she only had a small puncture wound from that.  The staff kept saying, "But she soaked an abdominal pad."  Yes... she soaked every rag in our house and the blood continued to run down the driveway.  This was not good... but I didn't see anything that I felt merited a trip to the ER.

We determined that an aide came in to ask Mam-ma if she wanted to attend a musical performance in the dining room.  Mam-ma was in bed at the time... napping.  She said she wanted to go to the performance, so the aide said, "I'll be right back to get you up and help you to the bathroom first."  Apparently, when the first note of music was played, Mam-ma helped herself up... and fell into her oxygen compressor.  The aide said when the first number stopped, she could hear Polly hollering... and she found her sitting in the floor with blood pouring.

The Hospice nurse came and cleaned the wound and Polly's hair - now read instead of it's beautiful snowy white.  The facility RN and two LPNs looked at her.  Neuro checks were ordered every 30 minutes for 24 hours.  Mam-ma basked in all of the attention.  The Hospice nurse lectured her sternly about not getting up without help.  Then she helped Mam-ma to the bathroom, and as they crossed the threshold, I heard the nurse yelling, "Wait!  Wait!"  Mam-ma had grabbed the rail beside the toilet and was already trying to help herself!  She will NOT listen - nor cooperate - and I am fully convinced that she knows perfectly well what she is doing.

I told everyone that when Mam-ma fell on our driveway, they did not suture the wound... they covered it with a gauze pad and wrapped her head like a turban.  It oozed and was ugly for quite a while, but it eventually healed.  A CT-scan was done, and she was given some pain medication she probably didn't really need - which made her woozy and very nauseous.  She spent two nights in the hospital... the first one vomiting every time they moved her.  For those reasons, I did NOT want to return to the ER.  Mam-ma seemed fine.  She was not complaining of anything.  The staff finally asked her enough times if she was in pain that she said "Yes," and they gave her one of her regular pain pills.  I told them, "If this controls things and she remains stable, this is the best option."  Some of them acted like I was Satan for not rushing to the ER, but I've quit caring about what anyone else things and now focus solely on what is best for Mam-ma Polly.  And this was best.

I stayed until Mam-ma was safely placed in the dining room for supper, and I left.  I told my husband later that I was totally exhausted... and I couldn't figure out why.  He said, "You spent two hours or more at Southridge!  That's exhausting."  And he is right.  It is... it was!

I knew fully well that my grandmother could have a more serious internal head injury - that she could even die in the night.  I was prepared for this.  After all, Mam-ma is 100+ years old and on Hospice... and she is living life on her terms.  I am done trying to add days/weeks/months/years to her life by artificial means... even medical ones.  I even wonder on some level if this stubbornness about getting up and around by herself is a self-conscious attempt on her part to speed things along.  We'll never know... Mam-ma couldn't tell me if I asked... and she might not even realize this herself.  I just know she is old and tired... and sick of living like this.

My mom visited Mam-ma the following day and could barely locate the wound, which had measured 1.25" long by .25" wide and seemed deep.  She came to see me afterward and said, "You definitely made the right call."  And indeed, she has not missed a beat since.  Cousins from Oklahoma visited on Friday, and she enjoyed their company and the chicken legs they brought her from KFC.  On Sunday, she could not even visit with me because she was so focused on her ham and turnip greens lunch... and Thursday, she was sitting under the hair dryer getting her weekly "do."

Meanwhile, I've been like a switchboard operator... trying to keep everything rolling along.  Mam-ma's laundry has been in a shambles of late, so I've spent the last two visits sorting her closet and drawers, looking for HER items and returning more than I can count that did not belong to her.  I've also been coordinating appointments for my niece with the elementary school to enroll Timothy in HIPPY, a program for preschoolers that helps the parents learn how to become more involved in the child's educational growth.

I've also acquired several children's car seats, cleaned them and washed their covers, so that my mom, niece and I all have our own equipment for transporting the children. This will make it easier for Mom to help out with caring for the children... and we won't have to be constantly shuffling car seats.  I feel like something of a rocket scientist now after removing all of the strapping and reinserting it in no less than six car seats in the last couple of months!  Once you get the hang of it, everything is pretty straightforward... but those first two or three were doozies!

In the midst of all of that, Timmy, Zola, my niece and I have battled some sort of upper respiratory bug... and we've had overnight visits from both of the two older children, which were a ton of fun.  I've also worked on finding a suitable Pre-K for Timothy for this coming August, and we've put out what seemed like almost-daily little "fires" of some sort between the youngsters and Mam-ma Polly.

In the "down time," we've tried to maintain a "normal" live... exercise, eat, sleep, handle our own personal business, and spend time together as a couple.  We even found time to attend our high school's local regional basketball tournament.  My husband's great-niece will be on the Senior Girls' team there next year, so we try to support her activities, as well.  It's been a very busy three weeks!

Shortly after Valentine's Day, my sister, niece and I attended a women's ministry luncheon with Mom at her church... the church in which we were reared.  Timothy and Zola spent this time in the nursery with three very attentive sitters who were thoroughly entertained.  Timmy returned the next day for Sunday school and "Wee Church."  When it was over, he did not want to leave... in fact, he cried!

While my husband and I now attend another church in town, I was delighted to see so many ladies I've known since I was a toddler.  It was great to see a mix of ages... from young mothers my niece's age to the ladies who are my grandmother's friends, and every age in between.  In my own church, we have created a "Middle Contemporary Praise and Worship" service in a separate building.  This service is held at 9:30 a.m. and is geared toward young families.  There are some grandparents who attend... and a few folks like my husband and me... but by and large, the age demographic is 40 and younger.

There are a lot of older church members who attend services at 8:30 a.m. or 11:00 a.m. in the sanctuary that I never see any more.  And that saddens me.  One of my friend's moms, who is 88, said, "We never see children any more."  When all three services were held in our church sanctuary, we at least saw each other in passing as one service ended and another began.  I am not sure what the solution is to this dilemma, but I can say with certainty that there is definitely a generational gap in our church... and we are smack dab in the middle of the Sandwich Generation on this one!  If you have encountered this in your own church setting, I would be interested in hearing how you are addressing it.

I share this information to emphasize that I am feeling "sandwiched" on all sides... and in most every area of my life.  And there are plenty of challenges on any given day.  Whether we handle them well or not remains to be seen.  I don't have time to quit trying... and you probably don't either!

There are dozens of aspects to this I would not trade for the world.  We absolutely adore our great-niece and nephews.  We take incredible delight in watching them grow and hearing what they have to say.  Nothing beats a hug, snuggle or a blown kiss from our little ones.  We revel in watching our niece and her husband learn more each day about how to be good parents and to nurture and encourage these babies.  And we are blessed to see the children enjoy the privilege of a close interaction with their great-grandmother and her husband, whom they call "Granny and Pap-pa Lee."

How many children can say they knew their great-great-grandmother?  While we have not taken them to visit Mam-ma often in recent weeks, Timothy and Zola HAVE visited... and I believe Timmy, at least, will remember her.  My mother's paternal grandparents died when I was in 5th and 6th grade or so... I still remember them and visits to their farm.  I know that Timmy, Zola and Nathan will remember visiting their Granny's home... and that is priceless.

So I keep on playing "Switchboard Operator" - arranging for Mom to keep one child while I keep another or so as my niece attends appointments or runs errands... scheduling visits to Mam-ma Polly and making sure that everybody gets where they are supposed to on time.  This is my purpose for this season of my life... and I pray God continues to give me the strength and energy to bridge the gap!

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