Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Dad at the doc

Drew went with me. I met him and Dad at Sunrise at 1:00. Drew had brought along wheelchair (good call). Dad had just woken up from a nap and was very groggy. He kept saying he felt weak. At one point when we were walking out he stopped in the hall and held onto the rail. He also talked about being hungry. He said he missed breakfast and lunch. Drew and I think he probably did have breakfast but might have missed lunch. Anyway, he was pretty out of it.

Drew got the wheelchair out of his truck and put it in my car and we drove to Loma Linda. We had a bit of a wait before they were ready to see Dad so I ran upstairs to the canteen and grabbed him a hot dog and a diet Coke. After he ate he was much brighter.

We had a very good meeting with Dr. Griffin. Drew filled her in on all the details of the stroke incident. While he was talking she looked over the printouts of the Phoenix medical records. Dad kept asking about the stroke and being in rehab. He didn't remember most of what has happened in the last three weeks. Drew kept telling him that the stroke took away a lot of his memory but his brain was healing and his memory should return. Drew's been telling him this all along and Dad seems comforted by it. Dr. Griffin caught on and started telling him the same thing. She told him it would take one to three months for him to recover. She feels he's on the right medications and all she added was a prescription for a mild sedative for those nights when he's agitated and can't sleep.

Dad really did well. He never once got cocky and he cooperated as well as he could. He was very pleasant to be with. It's such a relief to know that he can be like this. Easier on us and so much better for him.

Work was enjoyable today. Dr.D was interviewing people for the Director of Food Services position at RCC. The meetings went way long so I ended up chatting with the last interviewee for about 45 minutes. Nice guy. His name was Hezekiah.

Last night Jeff and Bill came over for uke practice. It was more productive than our first meeting although it took us a while to get started. We did a lot of computer work, looking up songs and printing them out. We mainly worked on adding back up vocals to Tweedlee Dee. It's sounding great so far.

Not a bad day.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Dad free days

What a crazy couple of weeks. We have all just been through something kind of extraordinary. It's been a relief to have these last several days Dad free. But the whole situation has been constantly on my mind. I'm sure the same is true for the sibs and spouses. Sunrise told us they'd rather we stay away for a while until they can evaluate him. We can take a good, guilt-free break.

He's entered a frightening phase. Now he sees there's something wrong with him, that he has holes in his memory. He told Drew that he's very scared. I hope he's doing ok. The latest report says he is.

I've been puttering around getting things put away. The house is looking better and better. Not quite photo-ready, tho.

Tonight I went to open mike with Jeff and Bill. First we had dinner at this Mediterranean place. It was a little pricey and we weren't sure what to order. I came up with the brilliant idea of ordering two appetizers for my meal. I ordered the cucumber salad and this hummus and beef dish. Jeff and Bill thought that looked good so they ordered the same thing (except they had lamb). Little did we know... The cucumber salad was basically a LOT of yogurt and a few cukes in a bowl with olive oil drizzled all over it. The hummus and beef thing was really good. It was topped with mint, pine nuts and drizzled with olive oil. Very tasty but now we found ourselves involved in a meal that requires a LOT of pita bread. Never in my life have I eaten so much bread in one sitting. Several times I noticed that I had olive oil running down my arm. We all thought it would have been helpful if the waiter had told us the cucumber salad wasn't really a salad. It really was good but we could have shared one and it would have been perfect. Jeff and I left there with two containers of cucumber salad, which later spilled in the bag in the car.

When we left the restaurant it was pouring rain. We had parked close to the Folk Center and walked a few blocks to the restaurant. It wasn't raining then, of course. One the way back to the Folk Center I got drenched. A big raindrop hit me smack in the eye. OW. I had used styling gel when I blow dried my hair. Now it was a wet, goopy mess. I was hoping it wouldn't dry into a dorky, crunchy mass. At the break I snuck off and brushed my hair.

Bill sang Daydream Believer by The Monkees. The audience sang along. Jeff did King Of The Road. The audience sang along. I sang Sukiyaki. The audience sang along! Well, hummed along. I also sang The Bosom Song. I had to. Jeff shouted it out. He was just joking around but several other people chimed in for Bosom. I laughed and said I wasn't prepared but I'd do it anyway. Jerry said, "See what happens when you write a hit song?" (Ego feed!)

I'd been wanting to learn Sukiyaki by Kyu Sakamoto for a long time. I have no idea what it's about but it has that cute melody and I thought the challenge of singing it in Japanese would be fun. Yesterday I sat down and worked on it. It was actually easier than I thought. That semester of Japanese finally came in handy.

I enjoyed performing it. I goofed a couple of times but I think I covered ok. And people hummed along, which was fun.

It was a very enjoyable night out with the brothers. Tomorrow they're coming over here for uke practice.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Catching up

Dad's back at Sunrise now. He's in the Alzheimer's unit. Yesterday he was released from rehab. We all took him out to lunch at Olivia's and then back to his room. When we were going into the building Dad fell. He was distracted by the shuttle bus which had just pulled up. He got a lot of coaching on his walking when he was in rehab. We've tried to continue that. We'll remind him to stand tall, let his arms hang at his sides and to pick up his feet. He resents this and usually will either get bratty and make a joke or he'll get nasty. Or sometimes he'll accept it. But soon he forgets and it's back to stooped shuffling with his hands clasped behind his back.

Dede spent the night with him the other night. She said he woke up and didn't know who she was. She kept trying to explain to him that she was his daughter and told him the facts of his life. She told him about Dolores and his kids. He got angry and said, "How do you know this information?" She kept trying to explain. He said, "Don't call me Dad." That's the first time we've seen that. The next morning he was fine.

I don't feel at all confident that he'll do well at Sunrise. Their staff is very good but no one will be with him 100% of the time. His anger is always just below the surface and he's prone to falling. But it's too soon to tell. We have to let him go through this transition. Maybe he'll mellow out a bit once he's been there a while. I'm not optimistic. I think he's going to take a bad fall and either hit his head or break a hip. He has an appointment with Dr. Griffin next week. I hope I can get some time alone with her. It's too hard to talk to her with Dad in the room.

Other stuff...

On Tuesday Jeff, Bill and Liam came over for some uke-ing. We had fun but I think we need to be better organized. My voice is still pretty weak so I couldn't sing much. Liam brought pizza (Thanks, Liam!).

Dad's dog, Lady, is driving us nuts with her barking. She's deaf so you can't tell her to shut up. When I go outside she comes bounding up just as happy as can be. I've been bringing her inside when she barks but the other night when I brought her in she kept barking. Time for the shock collar.

I'm moving in little by little. I'll be so glad when I can start painting these walls. I guess it's a good thing that I can't start right away because it gives me more time to think about colors. My ideas are getting more crazy and vivid. Hoo boy, it's gonna be fun. I'm going for mid-century modern/psychedelic folk art/eclectic. Ok, I know how it sounds but you should see what it looks like in my head. It's FABULOUS!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Spending the night with Dad

Last night Stacey and I spent the night at the convalescent home. At first things were going well. Dad was in an ok mood. I'll probably get some of the details wrong. It was a rough night.

Some of the nursing staff at this place are very good. Some of them are clueless idiots. One of them showed up to take Dad's vital signs. Stacey tried to gently wake Dad up but the nurse dope got ahead of her and switched on the light. Dad woke with a start and was immediately agitated and angry. He started yelling at us and the nurse to get out. Stacey tried to calm him down but he was having none of it. Junji, his room mate, was having a very hard time last night. He's also a stroke patient and he has a lot of trouble breathing. Sometimes he makes these horrible, rattling noises while he's trying to clear his airway. When Dad hears this it makes him angry. He kept trying to bat at the curtain between their beds. Junji's nurse was moving in and out, trying to do her job. Dad kept yelling at her to get out. He kept saying he was going to have us all thrown in jail. At one point Stacey firmly pushed Dad down onto his bed and practically laid on top of him to restrain him. Dad tried to bite her. The male LVN on duty came in to see if we needed help. When Dad saw him he yelled some more. Lots of cussing. He screamed for help. Stacey held onto him until he wore himself out.

Somewhere in all this I called Dede to see if we could get him a sedative. Unfortunately one wasn't ordered so we couldn't request it. When Dad was mostly calm I went back into the room to try to talk to him. When he was having his fit Stacey told me to leave the room. Her idea was we would play good cop/bad cop and she wanted me to be the good cop. That seemed to work well. She went out to the hall to talk to Dede on the phone while I sat with Dad. He was still angry but too tired to give me much trouble. He was sitting in his wheelchair, hunched over with his head down. After a while I started talking about when I had played the ukulele and sang for him the day before. He had really enjoyed that and yesterday morning I printed out a bunch of songs that he could sing. I told him I had done that. I started listing the songs and then I sang one for him. It was hard because I was crying but I got through it and it seemed to change his mood. I sang about 3 or 4 songs and then helped him into bed. While I was doing that Dede showed up. We talked for a while and then she left.

Dad slept for about an hour, maybe more. Then he woke up and said he needed to use the bathroom. That was one thing that had us concerned. He was peeing a lot last night but drinking very little. Anyway, we helped him to the bathroom but he refused to let Stacey go in to help him use the toilet. Again he was angry. Stacey and I waited outside the bathroom until he was finished. When he cam out he again tried to go over to Junji's side of the room and pull back the curtain. I blocked his path and Stacey and I tried to guide him to the bed. He turned and walked out of the room. Dede had suggested letting him go for a walk when he was agitated because it wears him out. Stacey followed him out and I went back for the wheelchair. Again Dad was angry and yelling. We kept trying to get him to settle down and be quiet because the hallway is loud. Sound really reverberates out there. As we were walking along the LVN and another nurse came around the corner. Dad said, "Ok, I'm going to start hitting now!" and actually lunged at the LVN. Stacey pushed him down into the wheelchair and held him. Since I had removed the leg rests (I had been sleeping in the wheelchair) we couldn't move forward. So we backed down the hall, Stacey almost in Dad's lap, and back to the room. We backed in next to his bed and I sat in the chair and held Dad from behind. Stacey held him from the front. After a while he stopped struggling. He just didn't have the strength to keep fighting. Stacey sat on the bed while Dad yelled at her. She just sat there, not responding. Dad started to calm down but he kept saying nasty things to her. I don't think he was aware that I was right behind him. I started gently rubbing his back. After a while he started to lean forward and got more and more calm. Back rub. Another great suggestion from Dede.

Stacey left the room and I kept rubbing. I started humming Just As I Am. I couldn't remember all the words but it has a sweet melody and I thought it would be a hymn that Dad would like. After a while he said, "Just As I Am". I said, "That's great, Dad. You remembered the song." I sang what I could remember. Then Junji made one of his noises and Dad got a little mad. I started talking to him about how I know in his heart he is a kind and loving person. I told him I know he can have some human love and compassion for the poor man next door who is very sick and having a hard time breathing. I told him stories about all the times in his life where he has helped people who were in need. I kept gently rubbing his back and arms. Then I crawled out from behind him and helped him into bed. He fell asleep quickly. When I went back out to the hall Drew was there. Stacey had called him. By this time it was about 5am.

I talked to Drew for a while. All of us swap stories and tips for helping Dad to stay calm. Drew is very good with him and Dad seems to be less explosive around Drew. At 6am the LVN came to test Dad's blood sugar. No problem, everything went well. Stacey gathered up her things and went home. Last night took a lot out of her and she was very upset when she left. When Dad is in one of his rages his face changes. His eyes go wild and vacant. He says the nastiest things. These episodes always seem to dredge up the worst of our childhood memories of Dad. We know we're dealing with his disease and that this is all he has left but it still leaves us with a sick feeling. I hope Stacey gets lots of rest today.

He'll be in the convalescent home probably until Thursday. Then he can go back to Sunrise and into their Alzheimer's unit. He'll get great care there. His bed will have an alarm on it to alert the staff when he gets out of bed. We'll probably have a doctor prescribe a sedative so he'll sleep through the night. I think we may have reached the point where he'll need stronger mellowing meds. It's a tough balancing act. Too much medication and he shuts down almost completely. Not enough and he goes into these rages and could hurt himself or someone else, maybe a staff person, maybe one of us, maybe another resident.

Oh yeah, we're in the nitty-gritty of Alzheimer's now.

Friday, January 18, 2008

This sad anniversary

In the weeks leading up to this day I felt myself getting anxious. I wondered what I was going to do, how I would spend the day. On Monday, which was the anniversary of Jim's stroke, I kept noticing the clock. I kept thinking, ok, a year ago at this time I was at the hospital in the ER. Then, at this time I was in ICU. At this time I was driving home alone. For the next few days I was thinking about our time in the hospital. I spent most of today at the convalescent home so I didn't have much time to think about the clock and what we were doing at certain times of the day. Just now when I was driving home at around 4:30 I thought, ok, at this time we were at Ken and Sherri's having pizza with the family and Jim was already gone.

I've been thinking a lot about that time and some of the things that happened in the weeks that followed. One thing that keeps popping into my mind is the day when I went to the mortuary to identify Jim's body. I wish I had never seen him like that. I'm hoping that memory will fade. I'm sure eventually it will.

What a year this has been. I'm not the same person I was then. I've had to learn so much. Like, who am I? Who am I without Jim? That process is still unfolding.

Tonight I'm going to Ken and Sherri's. John is coming over and Lindsay and Kyle will stop by. We're going to play music and talk and probably get good and drunk. Being able to spend time with Ken has been so helpful this year. He and I are the only ones who really know each other's pain.

Today I took Lady to the convalescent home so Dad could have a visit with his doggie. Dede and I took him outside to sit in the sunshine for a while. At one point he leaned over and said, "I have a falling feeling." I held onto him and told him he wouldn't fall because he was snug in his wheelchair. After a while it passed. Dede took him back inside and I took Lady home.

When I came back Dad was just finishing lunch. He was angry and agitated. He really hates the food at this place. But it was probably more than that. Dede and I had a hard time calming him down. He kept trying to pull back the curtain by his bed and bug his poor room mate, who is also a stroke victim and not doing very well. She eventually told him that if he didn't calm down they would either give him drugs or restrain him. That seemed to get his attention but he was still surly. Fortunately, it was time for his physical therapy session so it was easy to redirect his attention. His aphasia seemed worse today and I think at one point he may have been hallucinating. Dede left to run some errands. She went to Sunrise to talk to them about when Dad can go back there and move into the Alzheimer's unit. Good news there. They'll take him any time. He still needs more therapy so he'll stay at the convalescent home maybe another week.

Since he's been there he's had someone with him every minute of every day. Drew and Dede have spent the night with him and Stacey and I have been there when we could. He can walk on his own but his right knee is very weak and he could fall at any time. Sometimes he's pleasant and cooperative, other times he's pig-headed and can even get physical. This is wearing us out. I'll be glad when he can get back into Sunrise. He'll have an alarm on his bed so we won't have to have someone there at his side 24/7.

Ok. Gotta go take a shower and get ready to go to Ken's. This'll be good. A nice little party for Jim.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Back in Riverside

Drew, Dede and Stacey bought Dad back today. They said the trip went really well for the most part. I left work just as they were checking into the convalescent home. Dad was very upset about being taken there but he calmed down after he had some dinner. After a while Mindy showed up with the kids. Most of the time I was there Dad was doing well. He'd zone out sometimes and snooze but he never really fell asleep. After a while Drew and Mindy left to take the kids home and get a more comfortable chair for Drew. He's planning to go back at around midnight. Dede and Stacey are there now. We've found out that one of us will have to stay with Dad the whole time because he keeps trying to get out of bed and stand up. If we're not there to help him he'll fall down for sure.

When I first arrived Dede was pretty angry. Stacey, too. I guess when they first got there things were pretty chaotic and the staff were clueless. They did NOT feel right about leaving Dad there. Once the night crew came on and we met them we all felt better about it. Dad is sharing his room with a man who had a stroke on Christmas. His son was there. Stacey pulled him aside and asked him if he was satisfied with the level of care there. The guy was a little hesitant. He said the care isn't that good but as far as he knows this place is one of the better ones. He said they have a family member staying with their dad 24 hours a day because they can't count on the staff to know what's going on. We're hoping Dad responds well to therapy so we can get him out of there and back to Sunrise. He can't go back to his apartment but he can go into the Alzheimer's unit.

I had to leave to pick Paige up from school. I'm going to get something to eat and then go back over there for a couple hours. I'll take the uke and play some music for Dad. Just before I left Scotty and B showed up. Dad seemed to feel like he had to stand up to greet Scotty. Stacey thinks it's because he doesn't want to appear weak in front of Scotty. Dad got kind of nasty with Stacey and we had a hard time getting him to sit down. Things were pretty calm when I left.

I really hope Drew is getting some rest right now. I'm going to gather up some pillows and stuff to try to make everyone a bit more comfortable. It's going to be a long and difficult week.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

It's a bit of a mystery at this point

Dad was doing better but now he's becoming more and more unresponsive. He just wants to sleep all the time. They did another cat scan on him today to try to find out why. I don't know the results yet. Dede and David are there now and they filled me in on the latest. Stacey is driving out there and she and Dede and Drew are going to drive Dad home. At least that's the plan for now. They have to wait until they know for sure what's going on. He won't be going back to his apartment. He'll go straight into a nursing home.

What a time this is. I think all of us are a little shell-shocked. We worked so hard to get the farm ready to be sold and to get Dad and us moved. I think we were all thinking things were settled and we could take a break and get our own lives back on track. And then Ruth died and Dad had a stroke. Several strokes, really. And it happened in Phoenix! Drew and Mindy have been dealing with this for almost week. Tomorrow is Stacey's birthday. And then there's that big, sad anniversary that's happening on Friday. This is life in a pin ball machine.

I wonder what February will be like?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Another bad day

I haven't heard directly but I guess Dad had a pretty bad day today. I don't know if they're giving him his mellowing meds in the hospital but they probably should. I heard that Dad was nasty and combative and actually had to be restrained. He doesn't remember anything about the stroke and he doesn't understand why he's in the hospital. Of course, it doesn't matter how many times you explain it to him. He'll either forget or he won't believe you. That's what Drew and Mindy have been dealing with. They're going to keep him in the hospital for another day. I don't know how they're planning to get him home. Stacey and I have both offered to drive to Phoenix if they need us. I'm sure by now Drew and Mindy could use a break.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Dad's having some trouble

Mindy called. They were at the airport (Phoenix?) and Dad started having problems. She said his speech was slurred and he was almost incoherent. She was calling me to get a list of Dad's meds. The paramedics got there while I was on the phone with her. We talked for a few more minutes and then she had to go. I haven't heard back from her. It's been a while.

Ok, I just called David. Dad has had a stroke. Don't know much more than that right now. They're giving him a clot busting medication at the hospital. I guess Drew and Mindy will call David when they know more. Holy cow. They were on their way to Texas for Ruth's funeral. This is just amazing.

I'll write more when I hear something.

Back to work

Yesterday when I went into the extra office I discovered that there was a water leak right over the desk. It had dripped into a big box of student contracts and they were all soaked on one side. I spent four hours spreading out contracts and I only got up to M. This afternoon when I got there the other office assistant had finished spreading them out. All I had to do was re-alphabetize them and put them into tidy piles. Then I spent the rest of the afternoon assembling binders for a retreat this weekend.

That's what I did. I'm an office assistant.

This morning Paige said she was feeling dizzy. Not like she was going to pass out but she was having a hard time with her equilibrium. She wasn't sure if she could handle going to school but she wanted to give it a try. I dropped her off and watched her in my rear view mirror. She went through the gate and then turned around and came back to the car. We came home and called the doctor's office. They could take us right away. She's got a mild case of vertigo, probably associated with the cold she just had. He prescribed motion sickness pills and said it would probably go away soon.

I'm making slow progress moving into this house. Maybe this weekend I can do a big push. I want to get some more stuff out of storage. Lindsay wants to go to Ikea and get a bed frame. I want to check out their lighting.

So, there it is. Ain't life glamorous.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


Well, I knew this one was coming. Aunt Ruth has died. She been completely bedridden for over a year because of her last stroke. She was 89. I guess she'd been going downhill for the last few days and even had a heart attack when she was in the hospital. I'll get more details later after I talk to Molly and Joe.

Ruth was Dad's oldest sister and my godmother. I was always just plain crazy about her and she always treated me like I was something special. She didn't have much of a voice in her last few years but I will always remember how she sounded when she talked. Her voice was high-pitched and kind of breathy, even when she was yelling at Uncle Charles. She spoke in a clear, precise way with that lilting Texas accent. To me, Ruth was Texas. She was funny, overbearing, strong, high-strung, dramatic, smart, fierce, sometimes mean but always full of love for her God, country and family.

Her last years weren't good and she gave her loved ones just as much trouble as Dad gave us. But I never had any bad experiences with her so I'll count myself lucky and enjoy the many good memories I have of my Aunt Ruth. I'm sure I'll be thinking about her a lot over the next few days. It hasn't sunk in yet but I knew the last time I saw her would be the last time.

I'm feeling better now. I'm going to go fix myself a pot of tea and go sit down and listen to the rain and think about Ruth.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Still sick

Oh man, shouldn't this thing be going away by now? I think it is lifting a little but damn, my throat is RAW. Aleeve is the only thing that works on this pain. But if I take Aleeve I have to put up with the aches and congestion. I can't take anything else because I don't know how they'll interact. Aleeve is pretty powerful stuff. Well, it's an acceptable trade-off. I'll put up with the aches, fever and crud. I can't deal with the throat pain.

Drinking a lot of tea, sucking on a lot of cough drops. I've missed two days of work and will probably stay home tomorrow. That bothers me. I just started this job. Now I'm taking a week off after vacation.

This house looks the same as it did right after the big move. Almost nothing is put away. And now Lindsay says she's starting to feel sick. I hope it goes easy on her. Paige was better after about four days. Maybe Lindsay will get lucky. I hope Kyle is feeling ok.

Ok, enough of this nonsense. I've got too much to do to be laying around immobilized.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Good-bye 2007

I looked up the spelling of "good-bye". Adding the hyphen makes a difference.

I may have just eaten the most delicious apple ever grown on a tree. Seriously, this apple was amazing. A big Golden Delicious, no blemishes, crunchy, full of juice and impossibly sweet.

I'm sick. I'm on day 2 of the cold I caught from Paige. I feel shitty. I look shitty, too.

Last night at 10:30 I drove to LAX to pick up Lindsay and Kyle. Since there was almost no traffic I arrived about 1 1/2 hours early. I found an I-Hop nearby so I figured I could kill some time in there. I was a little surprised at how packed it was. I ordered the breakfast sampler (big mistake) and put my phone on the table so I could know exactly when 2007 ended. I checked it at 10 minutes, then 6, then 2. I spent the last minute just watching that phone. When midnight came there was no fanfare, not even a little one. People in the restaurant acted like this was just any other day of the year. Not one person said yay or Happy New Year. The worst year of my like just slunk away like it understood that it had behaved very, very badly. Bad 2007! No cookie!

I looked at the clock a few minutes later and there it was, 2008 happily ticking by like it owned the place.

Now I'm home and getting nothing done. Foggy head, congested chest, hot eyeballs, achy joints and a sore throat. Sniffles, too. Actually, more like great gobs of snot and phlegm. I'm coughing up major organs. I wish I could sleep more.

I guess I'll go give it a try....

...on my new WONDERFUL mattress from SEARS!