Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentines Day

Today is Valentines day. 2011.

Valentines Day has taken on a different sort of memory for us.

It was Valentines day of 2000 that found my father in the last full day of his life. He died on the 15th, 11 years ago tomorrow.

Valentines day 2006, Bob and I went to my mother's condo in Sun City to bring in and enjoy dinner with her. We lived just ten minutes down the road in Peoria. Mom had been getting weaker. She had been mostly housebound with trips out to the doctor on days I could get free and I brought in meals, groceries, and company every other evening during my workweek and on weekends when I wasn't working. It was a rather rigorous schedule caring for her needs, seeing her struggle to be independent inside her little home away from home basically holding on, lonely for dad, waiting for my visits and showers and an occasional visit from a neighbor. She was still trying but things were about to change dramatically.

That week of February 2006, we moved in with her when she became sick and after 5 days we called the paramedics because she was unable stand on her own two feet. Pushing her walker became too much and she was buckling. Not knowing what to do and sensing that she needed more help she went to the hospital. After five days in the hospital with her system out of whack, low potassium, uti (urinary tract infection) and marked weakness, she was transferred to a skilled nursing unit for rehab. The SNU was difficult. Burnt out nurses and aides. Often left for long periods without her calls being answered, Bob and I filled in the care by bringing in food and our company, caring for her alongside the nurses there. They left us to help them, grateful that they didn't have to be so attentive. There was so much discomfort for her there, emotionally and physically. She contracted a cold, then a cough, then oppresive pain in her chest and was rushed to the ICU at another hospital. There she was found to have pnuemonia, blood clots (pulmonary embolisms) and had a surgical procedure to insert a vena cava filter in her abdomen to prevent clots from ever entering her lungs again. After this hospital stay she was transferred to another rehab nursing unit, this time getting more aggressive practical help to get her strong and closer to coming home.

Meanwhile, I am still working, running to and from work to nursing care and trying to figure out how we can plan for her future. Providentially the condo next to her condo comes up for sale and we grab at the chance for her to buy it, planning to sell our home, buy her larger condo and have a smaller condo next door for her. Bob will build a doorway between the two and we will plan on caring for her there. I'll be able to care for her there, but we will also have our own space.

After the second skilled nursing rehab hospital we arrange for her to live in a Romanian group home of ten patients cared for by a Romanian couple. She has her own room and a walkway outdoors to be able to grow stronger by walking a bit each day. She gets stronger. She lives there 5 weeks till my last day in the library when we can bring her home to a freshly remodeled one bedroom condo with an adjoining door to her old condo. I move in some of my stuff, just what is needed to live. Bob continues to live at our home, working on getting it ready to sell. Mom is home by the middle of June. Bob doesn't move in permanently until November. We don't sell our home until the following June. We hadn't intended on paying double mortgages but we happened to hit the beginning of the extreme fall in housing. We still ended up making a good profit on our house in the nick of time (thanks be to God) and are able to buy mom's condo from her and she in turn is able to pay off the new mortgage on the small condo. (Of course I did all the paperwork etc...on her behalf).

So began our full time caregiving experience. When I spent two years previous to this caring for a semi independent mom I could feel the hand of God prompting me, sustaining me and giving me strength and patience to be this caregiver for her. Bob and I had always had mom and dad as one of our main priorities. Even when we lived in Arizona and they in Michigan, we returned every summer so that the boys would know their grandparents and the beautiful country that we loved so much. When we lived in Arizona we moved to be closer to their winter condo so that they would not have to drive so far as they were getting older and we would spend the winter holidays together. It was so important that we were there for mom when dad was ill and starting to fail. We were there for his radiation treatments and the vigil that became his last days.

I always felt close to mom and it was very natural for me to be her caregiver. When she would lament about this I would always tell her that we were in this together! God gave me the patience and the strength I needed.

We did not return for summer in Michigan that year of 2006. Chris came to Phoenix, recupping from a knee operation and able to help out a bit with mom. The next summer of 2007 we returned to the UP and spent five months then returning in the fall to AZ for the warmer winter. 2008, 2009, 2010 we did the same. Chris would spend the majority of the week with us at mom's house helping and allowing us to get out.(i.e. Bob and I).

I have been pondering this on this valentines day. I am overwhelmed by responsibility, by the loss of the friendship with a mom who is no longer quite herself. There is so much need and so much care and I am tired and feeling in a place where I cannot do what I want but what I have been destined to do. There is no other way for me than for this. I have made this choice. I have chosen this commitment and I am weary but hopeful for renewed vigor from the God that chose me for this very time and who can provide me with all the strength and patience I need but today it doesn't feel that way. Today, I need to remember.

Happy Valentines Day to those who enjoy this day to tell others that they love them. Here's to remembering to do that each day and to find the strength even on those days that are not holidays.

Love to you!

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2 Comments:

At February 19, 2011 at 8:30 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

AH Ruth, I wish I could be there for you. Give your mom a hug from me and have her give you one from me as well. I love you both and I know God is with you.
Love, Helen

 
At February 20, 2011 at 5:56 AM , Blogger Ruth said...

Thank you Helen. I know I'm mostly talking into thin air but it meant alot to find your note. I want to express what I am feeling inside yet not in a way that is demeaning or too whiney!

I love you
Mom's in the hospital this weekend. She has a very bad UTI and isn't quite sure what is happening.

Ruth

 

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