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.