New Year’s Eve’s early morning started off with a BANG, CRASH, and THUD! I jumped out of bed, ran around the corner of our short hall directly into the living room of our tiny apartment. There sprawled on the floor was my husband. He had passed out again. We must have looked like an episode of Oliver and Hardy, where Oliver misses a step on the ladder crashing to the ground while Hardy… me runs around in frantic circles. As my husband lurched toward the floor he hit our oak corner table shoving it into the wall of our tiny apartment. Now there is a slight indentation in the wall. You can say we have made our impact on the apartment. My mornings frequently start out this way as of Christmas Eve 2015, one year ago.
My friends and I believed that after raising children that our senior years would become easier… the Golden Years. Then Christmas Eve night 2015 while my husband and I were lounging in bed watching TV my husband turns to me uttering, “Call 911! I can’t take the pain any longer.”
I’m thinking, ‘But this is Christmas Eve. We have plans to enjoy Christmas day with our son.’ So, turning to John I mutter, “How about if I drive you to the hospital?” thinking that we would get to the hospital, the doctor would give John some medicine to settle his tummy, and then we could come home.
My husband evidently didn’t see the confusion in my eyes. I was scared and concerned for my husband, but I wanted to enjoy Christmas with my family. John emphatically muttered, “No! Call 911. My acid reflux is killing me.”
As it turned out, the ‘acid reflux’ was killing him, but it wasn’t acid reflux. John had a serious hiatal hernia that was extraordinarily large, twisted around his stomach, pushing into his lung, and turning gangrenous. To add to the fun, my husband has such extraordinarily low blood pressure that he would stand up and pass out. I was hoping the doctor and hospital aids would wrap him in bubble wrap.
Now after several surgeries, and a barrage of tests, the doctors still don’t know why John passes out. Consequently, at night when he gets up and attempts to use the bathroom he may walk a couple of feet along the edge of the bed, start to wobble and bounce like a small child on the bed. Sometimes he misses the bed and hits the floor. Sometimes he staggers to the end of the bed and bounces on my legs. Night after night, and during the early mornings we go through the same routine.
Over the year, John has crashed through a couple of bathroom walls, knocked wooden closet doors off their tract, and banged up his head, back, leg, and shoulder.
My morning consists of getting up before John to get his water, pills, coffee, and oatmeal ready. I watch as he marches laps up and down our short hall as he works to get the blood circulating to his brain. Now, after seven months of this morning routine, he is finally able to walk out to the mailbox to get our mail, walk down our few steps to dump our garbage and recycling.
We don’t go out for meals, to visit our grandkids, or to run errands. “WE” is now “Me.”
This month’s IWSG question is “What writing rule do you wish you had never heard.” There are two rules that drive me crazy and I’ll bet you can guess from reading my story which two rules they are… “Show don’t tell,” and Write what you know. When I “tell” my stories I see them vividly in my mind… you mean you CAN’T read my mind?
Also, writing what I know… hmmm, WHAT do I know? I have volunteered forever with organizations that help children because of my dysfunctional family life while growing up. I keep thinking that if I tell my story people will see what went wrong in my family… so they will do things better and differently. Also, I admired Erma Bombeck’s style of writing with heart and humor… I hope to “grow up” to be like her… wish me luck.
Many Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for starting the Insecure Writer’s Support Group and to my friend, Patricia Garcia, for inviting me to join this supportive group. I also thank this month’s IWSG co-hosts: Jennifer Hawes, Jen Chandler, Nick Wilford, Juneta Key, JH Moncrieff, Diane Burton, and MJ Fifield.
In regards to December’s IWSG question: In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?
Sadly, my writing “career,” if that is what you want to call it is haphazard at best. Initially, I wanted to write a book about my brother’s sad life, but I realized I had too few facts to create a book. Then after taking writing classes for various aspects of writing I realized that I am happier writing short stories. I especially loved Erma Bombeck’s style and wanted to follow in her footsteps. Sad, but true, in attempting to publish my stories, I realized that the stories that magazines now publish are extremely different than in the “old days,” the stories I used to read. Despite obstacles, I have managed to publish a few short stories though.
I have a thought about producing a book on Caregiving since I have been caregiving for my husband for a year. Caregiving is NOT what I thought it would be like! I suspect other people were surprised about how exhausting and maddening caregiving can be… who would know?
Recently, I received a book, DON’T WRITE YOUR BOOK WITHOUT ME, by Viga Boland. The opening pages have hooked me right in to thinking about writing about my brother’s and my life again. Viga’s book is a “page turner” for me as her comments are not the standard… she wants me to “Free fall” —starting with random thoughts rather than using a specific outline. I like her thinking.
So my goal is to inspire my writing again… to actually accomplish more rather than shoving my writing in the garbage can.
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the things which you think you cannot do.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
“If you can’t change your fate, change your attitude.” ― Amy Tan
Walking into the Best Western’s conference room, as I looked around, I noticed approximately ten tables decorated in fall colors that were set for eight to ten male and female caregivers expectantly waiting for answers to their problems. Questions and comments I heard at the Family Support Caregiving Conference included statements like: One tired and tense, young woman spoke with tears in her eyes, “How do I care for my parents, go to work, and care for my kids too?”
Another woman said, “I was so angry that my husband had Alzheimer’s that I finally realized it was more important to take care of me, and then I stopped being angry.”
The leader of the support group mentioned, “Dealing with my parents’ finances, while they were sick, simply was not a matter of paying bills, there was way more to it as my sisters and I could not agree on what needed to be done for our parents’ financial security. I was heart-broken.”
“One wife said, “When I called ER and they showed up, I told them my husband passed out and nearly killed himself hitting his head on the tile floor in the bathroom.” The Emergency Medic turned to her and replied, “Your husband is drunk.” Her shocked response was “What do you mean he is drunk?”
Women in my group predominantly are caring for husbands and parents with Alzheimer’s, but there were a few exceptions as the woman who is dealing with caring for an alcoholic husband and attempting to get him straightened out. Then my husband has extraordinarily low blood pressure, so he stands up and passes out, adding to his other health issues.
What shocked me was the amount of anger that these loving women dealt with in caring for their family members. I thought I would be the only angry person in the group, and I felt there was something wrong with me for feeling so bad. Then I learned that you “need to give yourself oxygen before you can care for a loved one,” as it seemed to be the quote of the day for our group.
The Family Caregiver Support Conference included subjects like: Don’t Let Your Back Pain Slow You Down, Meditation and Self-Care Exercises, Assistive Technology, Safe Physical Transfer Assistance and Use of Equipment, and finally small break-out group discussions.
The Meditation exercise relaxed several of us so much that I noticed heads drooping as it nearly put us to sleep. Yes, we were stressed out. Then the conference leader had us doing stretches, and showed us some exercises to help keep us strong. The exercise would relax us too. After teaching us to relax, a list was handed out of agencies from around the county that we could turn to for emotional support.
The amazing part of this conference showed us equipment that helped severely disabled people function more normally on their own. Heck, I was shocked to see what looked like eye glasses designed to help people manipulate their computers through head and eye movements alone.
For those people with difficulty operating various machines, there are special handles that look like gardening tools designed so that you can attach it to the disabled person and then to the piece of equipment. Thus these handles make life easier for handicapped people so they can function more on their own. So not only caregivers gained support but we learned where to find equipment that would help incapacitated family members too.
For me, the best part of the conference was learning of the variety of support agencies that I can turn to if I need help. As well, I enjoyed meeting the other caregivers out there who needed support, as I do. We shared stories and tears. None of us expected to end up in this position but now all we can do is the best we can do, and know that we aren’t alone. Turning to others and helping one another out is important. I think when we all left the conference we felt that the load on our shoulders had lightened.
Many Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for starting the Insecure Writer’s Support Group and to my friend, Patricia Garcia, for inviting me to join this supportive group. Sadly, due to life, I missed posting for October so I will post two posts this month.
November’s question for the writers is “What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?” Actually, to be honest, I had never thought in terms of being a writer. What I like is creativity, and writing gives me the opportunity to express my feelings around family events that in some cases deserve to be told. My belief is that we learn from others’ life experiences… I hope people are listening. Thanks for stopping by.
So many people take our senses of hearing, seeing, taste, and touch for granted. Boy did I ever learn a good lesson when I picked up new hearing aids as I have lost 50% or more of my hearing in both ears.
Suddenly, driving, as the rain slams against my car, it assaults me as it sounds like machine gun fire interspersed with firework like pops as the cars passing me splash the puddles at my car. My keys in the ignition clanked as they seemingly slammed against my CRV’s dashboard like a sledgehammer. The car seat sounds like the leather is cracking with my every move.
Normally, I turn the volume of my radio up quite high, but it nearly blasts me from the car. My God, I can hear! Now my car won’t bounce down the street with the beat of the music.
On my walks along the waterfront, I hear the waves lap against the shore as the seagulls scream their lungs out while laughing at me as they fly overhead. I even hear the conversations of people walking in the park. Children laugh and babies cry. I can hear it all. I jump as a jogger runs by me. In the past, I could not hear someone coming up from behind me.
The other day down at the public restroom down at the Marina Park there was a mother with her three year old daughter. We managed to leave the building at approximately the same time with me a few steps ahead of them. Earlier that day the rain had drenched the earth and there were humungous mud puddles along the walk way leading from the restroom. As we left, the mother mentioned that she needed some water. The little girl pointed to the enormous mud puddle they passed and said, “Mom, there is your water back there.” I absolutely chuckled, as without hearing I could not hear these fun conversations.
As I type, I hear the clatter of the keys on my computer’s keyboard. Heck, I thought they were silent all this time. The best sound in the world is my children’s and grandchildren’s voices without my saying “WHAT?” all the time. However, I feel sorry for them as my new hearing aids screech every time I put my cellular phone near my ear.
In the kitchen, I hear the crinkle of the aluminum foil as I unroll it to wrap around my salmon. The foil screams as I tear it off. I used to complain that the timer on the oven was so soft it whispered at me. NOW, I realize it sounded like a fog horn all this time. I hear the clank of the silverware as I put it away in the drawer or pull out knives and forks when I set the table for dinner.
Yes, my family has a history of bad hearing, as I had lost over 50% of my hearing in both ears by the time I was 40. However, ego and lack of money kept me from purchasing hearing aids. I finally made the decision to wear hearing aids, several years ago, so now my old hearing aids were no longer receiving sounds, or my ears were filled with wax… YUP… BOTH. After the audiologist drilled for gold in my ears and replaced my antique aides with new aides, the shock of hearing nearly gave me a headache!
Now, I hear the creak of the floor boards and the thuds of the people walking around in the apartment above us. Oh yes, now I don’t have to leave my cellular phone’s volume on high. I can HEAR again! It’s a GREAT new world out there!
And now, don’t talk behind my back, as I CAN HEAR YOU!
“’Tis an old saying, That an Ounce of Prevention is worth a Pound of Cure.” Benjamin Franklin
“He that eats till he is sick must fast till he is well.” Thomas Fuller
“Desperate cases need the most desperate remedies.” Hippocrates
“The wish for healing has ever been the half of health.” Seneca, The Younger
OK, I have been Caregiving for nearly one year. What a year this has been and certainly not as I planned or expected. No one forewarned me about the calamities and crisis’ that could occur. Somehow I didn’t expect caregiving to be so exhausting and emotionally draining.
In January, my husband had surgery for an extremely large and unusual Hiatal Hernia. One the doctor had never seen before. My line of thinking was, “OK, we’ll deal with this, but my husband will get better, and life will become easier for us.” WRONG!
My husband also deals with extremely low blood pressure that is not related to his heart… but what? His blood pressure is so low that literally if he goes from sitting down to standing up he passes out. So now he is on medication to raise his blood pressure. One problem —the medication’s side effect makes it difficult to urinate. Now this issue creates scary complications.
I recently read some Caregiving Blogs that talked about the crazy situations that caregivers run into. This is my latest ‘wake-up’ call. First, for people with extremely low blood pressure, when they first wake up and attempt to get up, the blood doesn’t make it to their brain for quite a while. Until the blood does hit their brain… they are clueless as to what they are doing. It is like working with a large but very young child sometimes.
To prevent my husband from falling on the way to the bathroom at night, the doctor gave my husband a long jug with a cap (a urinal jug) so that he could sit on the side of the bed and relieve himself into the jug. Fortunately … or unfortunately my husband’s jug does not become very full, but it is quite difficult for him to use if sitting down so he stands up… or tries!
Suddenly he starts to feel weak, so he catches his balance by falling forward while leaning against the bedroom wall, but then life suddenly goes south for him and he collapses on the side of the bed in a deep bouncing motion while swinging his jug around. Like a kid bouncing on the bed he falls further and further backwards swinging the jug at me. I awake to a sloshing sound with the open jug aimed at me. Luckily he missed anointing me with his pee. When my husband attempts to stabilize himself he lays the jug on its side on top of the bed without capping it off, consequently the contents of the jug are now spilling all over the bed and the floor. Visualize drunk pirates staggering around with their beer steins swishing. They collapse and spill the beer all over themselves and others around them… now you can visualize my experiences with my husband’s jug.
When you become a caregiver for your spouse, the doctors forget to warn you of the fun you may experience. I have offered to have my husband’s doctor come caregive for my husband to learn about low blood pressure issues, but for some reason the doctor politely declined. We can either laugh about life or cry. I choose to laugh.
Life reminds me of the lyrics to Frank Sinatra’s song, THAT’S LIFE!
That’s life (that’s life) that’s what people say You’re riding high in April Shot down in May But I know I’m gonna change that tune When I’m back on top, back on top in June
I said, that’s life (that’s life) and as funny as it may seem Some people get their kicks Stompin’ on a dream But I don’t let it, let it get me down ‘Cause this fine old world it keeps spinnin’ around
I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate A poet, a pawn and a king I’ve been up and down and over and out And I know one thing Each time I find myself flat on my face I pick myself up and get back in the race
That’s life (that’s life) I tell ya, I can’t deny it I thought of quitting, baby But my heart just ain’t gonna buy it And if I didn’t think it was worth one single try I’d jump right on a big bird and then I’d fly
I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate A poet, a pawn and a king I’ve been up and down and over and out And I know one thing Each time I find myself layin’ flat on my face I just pick myself up and get back in the race
That’s life (that’s life) that’s life And I can’t deny it Many times I thought of cuttin’ out but my heart won’t buy it But if there’s nothing shakin’ come here this July I’m gonna roll myself up in a big ball and die My, my
Songwriters: VERNON DUKE, E. Y. HARBURG
© Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group, IMAGEM MUSIC INC, SHAPIRO BERNSTEIN & CO. INC.