Saturday, August 2, 2014

Telephone Scams Are No Joke!

You've probably seen this commercial on television...and if you are like me, you thought, "That's terrible...I'm so glad it doesn't happen in MY community."  Friends, I'm here to tell does.

This almost happened to one of our family members this week, when someone phoned pretending to be a grandson who had supposedly "been in an accident" while traveling out of state.  He needed $2000 wired immediately.  There were a couple of "red flags"...the man did not sound like this person's grandson (although this was "excused" in part due to distress over the "accident" and the unnerving situation), and it was suggested that money be wired from a well-known "chain" grocery store, which does not do business in our community.

Thankfully, the person did not give out any vital information, such as a credit card number.  Instead, a phone number was requested to call for confirmation when the money was wired, and the caller hung up.  Then the relative called other relatives to confirm that this was indeed a scam... and that the grandson was safe and sound - and not traveling in another state!

So this is my warning to this commercial.  Screen all calls and do not act in haste.  Remind your senior loved ones...or better yet, watch this commercial with them and discuss it.  I am sickened to think that people would prey on others in this manner...especially innocent, caring souls like our seniors.   But they do...and we need to be awake and alert...and do all we can to thwart their efforts.

My husband read online that the #1 way that scammers get info is via social I have redoubled efforts to tighten our accounts.  I've "unfriended" people who aren't close friends or relatives.  I've made the security about as tight as possible, and eliminated any info that is not 100% pertinent or necessary.  It's the age we live in...and we had better cross our "t's" and dot our "i's" if we want to protect our assets...and our family members!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Just Because the "Bread" Changes Doesn't Mean It's Not Still a Sandwich!

"Hey, Grandma E!  Grandma E!" Timothy persisted, as we drove to Burger King after church last Sunday.  "Grandma E" is the name Timothy gave to Greg's mother when he was first learning to talk...and it stuck.  My mother-in-law finally acknowledged Timothy's attempts to get her attention..."Okay, what, Timmy?"  "Grandma E," he continued..."I like your pretty jacket...and I love you."  You could have heard a pin drop in the car.  Grandma E replied, "I love you, too."

I realize that it has been awhile since my last post, but that doesn't mean we have not been busy!  All three children are now in school...Timothy just "graduated" from pre-K and will begin kindergarten this fall.  Zola and Nathan are in a program for toddlers and pre-schoolers who need an extra boost in certain areas, such as speech, gross and fine motor skills.  So we are not seeing much of the children except for weekends when we take the older two with us to church most Sundays.

Greg spends several hours a week with "Grandma E"...they have lunch together most Mondays after he delivers "Meals on Wheels"...he keeps her yard mowed, shrubbery trimmed and gutters cleaned...and he goes over whenever she needs help with things like her TV remote, a computer glitch - or a phone bill she doesn't understand.  He has offered to handle errands for her, but so far, she prefers to make a few trips herself - although she is getting out less frequently as the weeks progress.  The end of June, "Grandma E" will be 88 years young.  She still lives alone in her own home and manages pretty well - for now.

In recent months, the optometrist has detected a change in "Grandma E's" eye pressure...a signal that her glaucoma (which has been treated with daily eye drops for several years) is progressing.  After several "field tests" over a few months showed a significant change, the doctor thought a laser procedure was in order.  It doesn't cure the glaucoma, but hopefully it will relieve some pressure and preserve her vision for a while longer.

So last week, we traveled to Little Rock for the laser "surgery"...which took all of 30 seconds to complete.  Ninety "zaps" in all, and we were headed home...with a brief stop along the way for lunch and a little shopping.

Last weekend, Greg and I had dinner with a couple who have been friends of ours since childhood.  They were asking us about "Grandma E", and I told them that she is really involved in dog sitting these days. She has about a dozen "clients", and she absolutely LOVES them.  She also loves the income.  And we are good with that - it gives her purpose and company...and she seems very happy.

"Grandma E" with her boys. 
Greg is seated 2nd from the left.

"Grandma E" is a product of the Depression, and she is incredibly frugal, for the most part.  She won't say what she "charges" for dog-sitting, unless a client asks, and then she says "$10 a day." The owners almost never pay that little.  So "Grandma E" always has plenty of cash and gift certificates, candy, etc., that people bring her from their trips while she dog sits. 

A few weeks ago, "Grandma E" hurt her back again...not as badly as when she had to go to the hospital a couple of years ago, but we were watching her closely.  She could hardly get off the couch without severe pain.  Greg went over a couple of times to help her with a dog she had scheduled for a visit and would not cancel.  Meanwhile, the county election commission chairman sent "Grandma E" a letter saying that this year, ALL workers at the polls had to come for a mandatory training meeting at a certain time - or they could not work this year's elections.  "Grandma E" LOVES to work those elections... plus she gets paid for doing it.  She will tell you she loves getting paid to visit with old friends and work that election... it's like "found money!" 

Greg's mother was not able to sit up long enough to go for several hours of training.  He tried to get her to let the Commissioner know that she could not work this year...but she wouldn't hear of it.  We were over at her house on a Sunday, and she said, "The training is not until Monday... I will be alright."  Now, I'm thinking, "Okay...that must be the NEXT Monday."  I asked, "You mean, Monday as in NEXT week?"  "No, Monday - TOMORROW!"  Well, Greg realized that this would not work!  But, they decided that there were 3 days of training, and maybe she could go on Wednesday?  Neither one of us thought she would be able even by, she had dogs coming for the day!  "Oh, YES!"  she insisted. She would be able to go to that training!  So Greg went over and sat with the dogs...and his mother DID go to the training...AND she worked the election and had a ball!

Monday, my friend e-mailed me and asked how "Grandma E's" laser procedure had gone on her eye, and I told her it went great - that we were in and out in less than 45 minutes, and that included a 30-second laser treatment!  She replied, "Good...because we want her well enough to work the elections!" 

I responded and told  her that we stopped for lunch on the way home, and my mother-in-law was talking about how she was getting a dog that night for one night, then another dog Tuesday (I think) for several days.  Her "regular" neighbor dog (Theo) was to come on Wednesday for the day, and a friend called and needed her to keep a border collie while they traveled out of town for a funeral.  So on Wednesday, she would have an overlap that meant THREE dogs at once...tiny, medium-sized, and big!  She said she had already been worrying a little about how she would handle all of that.  Greg said, "Why don't you call the neighbors and suggest that their dog not come this week?"  She shot back, "Oh, NO!  I am just going to leave it alone...I will manage somehow!" 

We just the clinic she handed me her purse and said, "Watch has my 'dog money' in it."  I told Greg her "dog money" is probably as much as the war debt!

So these days, the "layers" in our "sandwich" have changed...but we still feel that we are the "chicken salad" (or is it the "bologna"?!) in the center!  Our focus with the children has shifted from one of a frequent "caregiver" to more of a sideline support.  Timothy will start swimming lessons this month, so I will be taking him to our Community Center three days a week for his these appointments.  He is now five...Zola is now three, so they are growing up!  Nathan will be two in August.  We will turn around and they will be graduating from high school!  The little ones will have a school break in July, and we hope to spend some extra time with them then.

My mom and me on Mother's Day 2014
My mother continues to have the travel bug.  At 75, she is spending her summer in West Yellowstone, Montana, where she and her husband, Lee, are working in a high-end gift store at the entrance to Yellowstone National Park.  For this they are paid a wage and  provided with a full hookup campsite for their motorhome.  On their days off, they venture into the Park to sight-see and take copious photographs.  Mother's philosophy is that she plans to travel as much as possible...for as long as possible.  Since September 2013, she and Lee have Workamped in Kentucky, wintered in Arizona, and now are spending their summer in Montana!

Honestly, our mothers DO worry us sometimes with their choices and "interests".  We can't help but be concerned about all of the cross-country travel my mom and her husband engage in...particularly given the handful of "incidents" with their motorhome and traffic that Mom voluntarily "shares".  We know that there is an inherent risk that one of the many little dogs for whom "Grandma E" sits can get under her feet and cause her to fall and break something or otherwise injure herself.  Neither of these "activities" is our "thing"...but they probably don't understand our penchant for being "professional homebodies" either!

When "Grandma E" described trying to remove a tick from the back of her leg with tweezers and a needle, we did remind her that Mam-ma Polly fell while trying to remove a tick from the back of HER leg.  She landed on her shower threshold and received a nasty, deep hip bruise that resulted in a nearly-3-month stay in the nursing home for rehab!  There are times when we can see that an activity or choice is ripe with possibilities for harm, and we feel obligated to point out the potential pitfalls.

But at the end of the day, we also learned a LOT in caring for Mam-ma Polly...and one of the biggest lessons is to let them "be" - as much as possible.  Allow them to be independent and active...and to do what makes them happy for as long as they can.  Soon enough, their bodies, or their minds - or both - will betray them.  If we are all lucky, they will enjoy good health and a fairly sound mental capacity for years to come yet.

Yesterday, family and friends gathered to memorialize the 42-year-old husband of a young friend of mine.  He valiantly battled brain cancer for 2 years, but in the end, he "beat the beast" in heaven rather than on this earth.  His wife and 4 boys - ages 8, 6, and 7-month-old twins - are left to carry on without him.  At the same time, my mother's best friend went to a meeting yesterday morning and returned home to find her husband had fallen back onto their bed and died.  He was in his early 80s.  We are none of us promised another day.

So we make the best of our "Sandwich".  We relish the growth and accomplishments of our little ones and nurture them as they learn new things...and we celebrate the activities and relative good health that our mothers continue to enjoy.  Some days are better than others...but in total, it's all good for now.  I hope you can say the same.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Happy Birthday in Heaven...

One year ago today, Greg and I greeted the dawn in my Mam-ma Polly's apartment, where we had spent the night trying to soothe her as she struggled to breathe.  Her Assisted Living Facility staff had been unable to rouse her the previous morning, and the Hospice nurse determined that she had most likely had a serious stroke.  She slept all of that day, as we watched and waited.  I administered morphine and Ativan drops to her every two hours, as instructed by the Hospice nurse.  As we settled in for the night, Mam-ma began what I refer to as the "death rattle"...that raspy, gurgling that sounds like someone is strangling with every breath.  It got so loud that the facility staff could hear her as they sat at a dining table down the hall, where they were rolling silverware for the morning breakfast.

Greg had gone home for the evening, but he called to check on me about 11:00 p.m., and I tearfully told him how Mam-ma seemed to be struggling, and he said, "I'll be right there."  And he was.  Mam-ma's dear friend and fellow resident, Bessie, came and sat with us for much of the night...insisting that "I don't sleep much at night anyway."

The aides did all they could to suction Mam-ma's lungs, but the senior aide finally said, "I'm stumped.  I don't know what to do next."  So we called Hospice, and my dear nurse friend, Ginger, came to our aid.  She worked and worked to do the things that she could, medically, and then she said, "I think she knows I'm here...and that I'm messing with her.  I'm going to step out, and I want you to soothe her and talk softly to her and see if she will settle down."  So I did.  I crawled into her bed and talked to my grandmother...stroked her hair and whispered to her...just as she did for me as a child.  And soon, she settled down.  The whole ordeal lasted a few hours...but after that, my Mam-ma Polly never really stirred again.

For the whole day on March 8th, we sat...Greg and I and my mother.  I spent a good deal of the day lying in bed with Mam-ma, cradling her and singing or talking to her.  I read to her the scriptures she had marked in her Bible.  Family members and friends dropped by to see us and say "Good-bye" to Mam-ma.  Residents and staff members came in to offer one last greeting.  Some who came to visit stood over the bed and prayed for Mam-ma and us...others merely kissed her cheeks and tearfully told her they would see her in heaven.

It was a long, tiring, but bittersweet day.  I knew from previous experiences that for every agonizing minute of that time, I would wish for a hundred more later on.  So I tried to just "be" in the moment... to trust that God was allowing us these last few minutes with my grandmother before she was truly see that He was giving us time to adjust to the idea.  And then, when she took her last soft breath, I held her hand and let her go.  Relief...and overwhelming sadness flooded me.  Little did I realize just how much my life would change.

If anyone thinks that death is the end, they are totally mistaken.  And I am not just talking in a spiritual sense.  There has been endless paperwork...even for someone whose "affairs" were tremendously simple and - for the most part - cut and dried already.  I am still waiting on at least one bill.

More importantly, there have been countless days - and ways - that I have missed Mam-ma.  A dear friend whose grandmother passed about 5 years ago told me several times how much she missed her.  I thought "Yeah... but Mam-ma is so ready for I am ready."  I was so wrong.  I head to the phone to call her...even though I had not spoken to her by phone in probably close to a year prior to her death, because she could no longer speak.  I finish a sewing project and think, "I'll take that next time I go to see Mam-ma."  Some topic of conversation triggers me to think, "I'll have to ask Mam-ma about that... she will know!" Or, "I have to be sure and show this picture to Mam-ma and tell her what Zola, Timothy or Nathan did!"  And during our most recent ice storm, for just a second, I thought about how at least Mam-ma was safe and secure at the Assisted Living Facility and I didn't have to worry.  Then I remembered... she's not there any more.

I've been back to the facility a few times to visit...but I'll admit that it is hard to go there.  Everyone wants to talk about Polly, which is bittersweet.  And I do find that I am doing many of the things that my grandmother once did.  I don't mean the crazy, quirky ones (although some might disagree on this point!).  I'm talking about things like how Greg and I keep our birds fed, especially during icy weather.  That was so important to Mam-ma.  I made Valentines cookies for Timothy, Zola and Nathan.  I still remember a February 14th a few years after we graduated from college, when our mailbox contained a giant heart-shaped cookie from least it ONCE was heart-shaped.  Now it was in a dozen or more crackled pieces!

I think of how Mam-ma encouraged others...especially family members...and became something of a "go-to" person.  I see that happening... especially with a few younger cousins who often reach out to me for advice or encouragement.  I think of how Mam-ma sewed many of the garments my sister and I she could look through the catalogs and make us "one of each" similar colors and fabrics - and often better than the originals!  I am now doing this for my nieces and cousins.
I look in the mirror and see the white hair that is quickly overtaking my head, and I think of Mam-ma's beautiful white crown of glory.  Everyone talked about how pretty her hair was...and it looks like mine is on track to be very much the same.

If I can grow old as my grandmother did...with friends, grace, beauty - and even a little spunk...I'll take it.  I am determined not to be sad today.  I want to remember her with love and be so grateful for the lessons she taught celebrate her generous laugh at her antics and to love her in spite of the way she often made me the object of her frustration, anger and tirades in later years.  Through it all, she was my mentor, my friend, my confidant, and grandmother extraordinaire!  I love her...I miss her...and I carry her spirit with me every day.  Sometimes, a little even sneaks through, and I have to say, "My 'Mam-ma Polly' is showing."  And that's not necessarily a bad thing...not a bad thing at all.

Happy First Birthday in Heaven to my Mam-ma Polly... Willie Dove "Polly" Thrasher Chandler.  We love you, we miss you...and we will all see you again one of these days.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

New Day - New "Sandwich"...What's in Yours?

As I write this post, I am sitting in the parking lot of an "eye clinic" in a nearby city.  Greg is inside with his mother, aka "Grandma E", who is having another "field test" for her glaucoma.  This is the third such test since October, when the doctor saw something she did not like.  She hoped it was a fluke, so Greg returned his mother in November for a second test, but the results were still not where the doctor hoped they would be.  Testing in December was delayed twice by icy weather... so here we are today.  Hopefully the results will be satisfactory and no additional treatment or testing will be necessary for awhile. (Added note...all seems well for now.)
I realize it has been a couple of months since my last post.  The "holiday months" were quite busy for all of us. Greg and I celebrated Thanksgiving quietly with Grandma E...she joined us for a lunch that I prepared.  My mother and her husband were away in Kentucky on a Workamping assignment, and the "kids" opted to have their own Thanksgiving dinner.  So I cooked a turkey dinner for three...and then we watched the original version of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty!

With just a few weeks before Christmas, I got busy the following day turning our house from a warm den of autumn coziness into a festive celebration of Christmas.  Thanks to Greg's help and "brute strength" in carrying all of the boxes down from the attic and assembling the big Christmas tree, I had everything decorated in a record two days!  Then it was on to baking and sewing...cookies, holiday breads, and pajamas, doll clothes and more.

In between, we endured a major ice storm that virtually shut down the town for about three days or more.  This put a halt to scheduled activities like the children's Christmas program at church, the Christmas parade, and many other events that had to be rescheduled.

I took the children to church two different afternoons to practice for their program.  As preschoolers, their role was to dress as angels and "ring bells". Assembling more than a dozen 2-to-5-year-olds...each holding two something akin to herding cats.  But the veteran conductor patiently persevered, and by the end of the second rehearsal, the children had pretty well figured out what to do and when to ring - and when not to ring!  And the adults had learned that it really didn't matter what happened... it was all going to be cute. When we would talk about the children's program, Timothy would say, "Everyone will be so PROUD of me!"  And we were!

At one of the rehearsals for the children's program, we gathered in the sanctuary. Since our children attend their Sunday school class while we attend worship in the sanctuary, they had never seen this room before.  Now it was fully decorated...massively tall tree filled with Chrismon decorations...poinsettias lining the choir loft railing...almost life-sized creche and angels in the foyer.

Timmy was in total awe. He kept pointing to the stained glass window over our choir loft that depicts a dove and the cross and saying, "Hey!  Look at that pigeon diving into the water!"  Even after I explained that it was a dove, he still called it a pigeon!  I explained to Timmy that this was where Uncle Greg and Grandma E and I come while he and Zola are in Sunday school.  He was impressed... but he still thinks there is a picture of a pigeon diving into the water over the choir loft!

The program was rescheduled, and the children stepped up to the plate and performed well.  Everyone enjoyed the production.

A few days later, the Christmas parade was held...having been rescheduled because of the ice storm.  I don't know who had more fun...the little ones or Grandma E.  The parade lasted about 45 minutes... and there was never a lull.  Our local courtsquare was fully lit and sparkled and glistened with brightly colored lighted trees, a nativity scene, a gingerbread house, and more. The two-storied courthouse glistened with lights outlining every window, wall and roof...and the children AND Grandma reacted as if they were walking through a fairyland.

Timothy had told us, "We won't see the real Santa. I don't think we will see the real Santa.  And we sure won't see Mrs. Santa."  A float came along with Santa - two of them - one on either side.  Clearly that was not the "real" Santa.  But THEN... a car came along with Santa... and MRS. Santa!  Timothy was so excited.

After the parade, we opted not to wait on the courthouse lawn to see Santa Claus and sit on his lap.  We headed up the sidewalk through an archway of lighted trees that Timothy had declared to be "magic" and we came face-to-face with Santa.  He walked up to Greg and Timothy and stuck out his hand and said, "Hello!  Merry Christmas!"  Timothy didn't miss a beat.  He said, "Merry Christmas, Santa!"

Then Santa came to Zola, Grandma E and me.  We had been told that Zola was scared to death of Santa, but he knelt and stuck out his hand and said, "Merry Christmas!" and she just grinned and giggled and said something we could not understand.

Timothy talked all the way home about seeing the REAL Santa and seeing MRS. Santa.  He loved the parade except for one thing... there was no Grinch.  He is hoping for a Grinch in the parade next year!

On Christmas Day, everyone gathered at our house for a big dinner and presents and stockings under the tree.  The children were so excited... Santa Claus had come to their house overnight, and now, they were getting to see not only their grandparents (my sister and her husband), but us, Grandma E, and my mother and her husband - just back from a nearly-four-month stay in Kentucky.  To say it was loud and crazy would be an understatement.  But it was also tremendous fun!

My point in sharing all of this with you is to make several observations:
  • During the holidays, I found myself doing MANY of the things that my Mam-ma Polly did when I was younger...baking, sewing, filling the Christmas stockings for Santa, preparing the holiday meals, and more...and I thought of her...a LOT! 
  • I also found myself juggling trips to take the children to rehearsals, attending Timothy's pre-K Christmas program, visiting Mam-ma's friends (and mine) at the Assisted Living Facility, and reaching out to people from multiple generations during the holidays.
  • Most notably, I realized that Greg and I still are very much a part of the "Sandwich Generation" as his 87-year-old mother has assumed the senior role...and the three little ones still keep us hopping on the other end of the spectrum! These children could not love Grandma E more if she were their own flesh and blood.  The two oldest ones almost cry on Sunday if she doesn't go with us to church and out to lunch afterward.  And I'm noticing that she is always thinking about something to do for them...some little toy or trinket to give them.  It's a great relationship for everyone.
Grandma E's antics are not as entertaining - much less, challenging - as Mam-ma's grew.  Mainly, she is forgetful... and stubborn (like going to retrieve her paper in the ice after Greg expressly told her NOT to go outside)...and she would rather stay home and babysit a dog than do just about anything else in the world.  She is truly remarkable for a woman well on her way to age 88, and we hope she still has many good years of living alone in her own home and doing as she pleases ahead of her.

The best three words in the world from the kiddos are "I love you."  Timmy freely tells Greg, Grandma E and me that he loves us.  In fact, on the way home from lunch one Sunday, Timothy blurted out... "Grandma E... I love you!"  Melts the heart!  He also tells Grandma E nearly EVERY Sunday after lunch, "Thank you for paying for lunch, Grandma E!"

Our little ones are learning valuable lessons about life and relationships from the time they spend with my mother-in-law...and she gets just the right dose of being a great-grandmother in return!

In recent months, I've been asked more than once..."Now that Polly is gone, what do you do with all of your spare time?"  Clearly, that "gap" has filled in rather nicely.  Each "Sandwich" is different...but from the looks of things, we'll still be part of The Deli for several years yet!  I look around at others who are smack dab in the middle of their own "Sandwich", and I marvel at how some of them manage to "keep all the balls in the air".  For others, I offer three words of advice..."Hang in there."  We are not alone...this subset of the population grows by leaps and bounds every single day.  If you are not presently a member of the "Sandwich Generation", you very well could be next week or next year!
Knowledge is power, and for that reason, I am continuing this blog.  Please share your stories...your insights...what works for you - and what doesn't.  Ask questions, seek support...and know that there are people who can help.  Someone asked me last week, "What's next for you?  What are you looking forward to this year?"  I honestly do not have an answer... but I certainly know that life will be anything but dull.  What about you?