Archive for November, 2006

Christmas trees

Us:  Do you guys want to get a real tree next year?  One you have to go in the field and chop down?

Connor:  No way, I like our buildable tree.

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lecture coming…

I know I will hear about it from Jeff and my mom (if I ever let it slip that I have a blog) but on the way home from Walmart, I did something they said never to do.
Getting off the ramp to come home I saw a man hunched over the hood of his car peering under the hood. Smoke was coming out. Without knowing what I was doing, I pulled up next to him adn asked if he had a phone. He didn’t so he used mine. The person didn’t answer. He left a message and as he was preoccupied, I noticed he had a school badge on and was dressed nice. He was old. I asked where he taught and he said the career institute and he was going to the middle school. Garrett and I gave him a ride to the school. It felt right and I did it before I could even think not to.

UPDATE:  I feel the need to clarify some things.  I will never pick up a hitch hiker.  I never would have done what I did today when I lived in PA, VA, NH or even where we lived before in MD.  Too busy.  too big.  Really, I didn’t think I would do it here either and quite frankly would have forgotten about it if I didn’t blog it right away.  But, our town is SO small!  It has two traffic lights.  Two.  In the whole town.  Not that bad things can’t happen in a small town.  That may be why I keep a knife next to the front door all the time.  The boys just run and open it some days even with the lecture.  They still always expect their friends.  But, being cautious, I keep a knife for the unexpected.  Just in case.  But, I didn’t have one in the car today.  I almost told him I had an ice pick though.  Mom used to carry one of those in her car.

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My Grandma is an amazing woman.  Some memories of when I was younger are still so wonderful.
~  When my mom and dad went on infrequent business trips together, grandma would come over with her red suitcase and baby sit us.  There were four of us girls although I never remember my oldest sister there.  I don’t even remember my second sister there.  I do remember Ruth there though.  We shared a room.  I remember grandma would rub our backs to help us go to sleep and she would always rub mine first.  Looking back i am not sure why though because when I would be sleeping and she would go to Ruth, Ruth would always be so loud and wake me up so grandma had to start all over again.  She never got mad.

~ Mom would take us over to grandmas for the day.  We would all stay there and do jobs aournd the house.  It may have been cleaning the attic, painting the storm windows, tape recording her notes from the many trips she had taken over the years, trimming trees outside or making calls to get people to donate to the Amarican Cancer Society.  The joke is usually Ruth was sitting in the chair watching her “friends” on tv while we were working.
~She was always there for family birthdays.  Everyone in the neighborhood knew Grandma Ruth.  The boy up the street, my best friend (besides Ruth) in elementary school, works at grandma’s nursing home.  Neat!

~She’d always go to our shows.  Whether it was musicals that Ruth was in and I was doing stage crew to the band concerts.  She was always there and we went out afterwards for ice cream.

~she’d take us all out to dinner.  Her favorite was the main hotel.  Jeff went once and she insisted he get the Prime Rib.  There was no way he could get anything else, luckily he played along and liked it.  She always said Mr. Visa was taking us out.

~When we would visit her house, she would have a whole buffet full of candy and chocolate.  We would all get a baggie to fill up with said candy for the ride home.  She’d also have a goodie drawer in her room where we could go get one goodie.

~SHe always gave us money for gas when we would go see her.

As you can see, she would do anything for anyone.   she is selfless, loving, strong, classy and brave.  She is very proud of all her granddaughters.  We all want to be like grandma.   She’s quite a lady!

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Pgh, day two

We got up, ate, visited with daddy and headed for grandmas about 9. She was up so we greeted her and started giving her her drinks to get something into her. Soon after we got there the doctor, who mom really likes, came in and pulled mom out of the room. I could hear them talking and knew that grandma was listening so I started talking to her about the good ole days figuring she would be mad that I wasn’t letting her listen but knowing she couldn’t say anything to me because she doesn’t talk much. I did get her to say interesting thing though. It seems she says the more difficult things, like, as I was getting her a drink I said something along the lines of “Grandma, when you hold your mouth open all the time like that your mouth is going to get so dry. Drink some of this to whet your whistle.” Instead of taking a drink right away, she worked really hard and repeated “Whet your whistle”. Then she enjoyed her drink. That was cool but I really wanted her to just close her mouth. She looks so much worse when it is open like that. So, we started talking again, now mom was in the room too, and we talked about grandmas husband, mom’s dad, Papa. He died when the kids were really young but was a wonderful dentist and the short time he was living, he provided so well that grandma never had to work a day in her life. Mom remembers when Papa would walk down the street to catch the street car into work and he would turn around, take off his straw hat and wave to everyone in the window. It was fun to hear the stories and I know grandma enjoyed it too because when mom was talking about their nick names (gmas, Queenie and Papas Lol) Grandma said “lol” as clear as day.

So mom called in the help and they put grandma back into bed. The doctor was saying she was exhausted and needed to be in bed more. He said bed till after lunch, up for a show then back in bed. She was also going to get an iv for liquids and tests to see about hospice on Tuesday. It was not such an emotional day although it isn’t ever easy to see your loved ones in such bad shape.

I’m starting to think I am getting my days mixed up. Day two would have been Sunday which means we were there till one when my uncle came. His day is Sunday and mom leaves at one and has the rest of the day off. So, when uncle Charles came, mom took him out and updated him a bit. I stayed in and fed grandma lunch. She doesn’t eat anything with chunks so it was pureed food. Yuck! She ate it though, liking the yellow stuff more than any of it. U. Chas said to give her the brown first though so she would get protein in her. Although I fed her slowly, about 15 minutes later it all came back up. Poor grandma. We brushed her teeth and gave her some of her special drink and let the worker know when she came to collect the tray. U Chas said, “She looks bad, huh?” to mom. Mom is trying to get him to say yes to hospice and he is unsure. She says he wants to use a feeding tube and mom says no way. She says there will be a fight if he insists because she won’t have it. “Mom wouldn’t have wanted that and you promised!” she says to him. He’s the baby and may not even remember his dad since he died at such a young age. U. Chas didn’t marry and has always been the baby of the family. He is thoughtful and loving but family is all he has and it is really hard on him to have grandma like this. Did I mention grandma is in her late 90’s? we all went out to eat and after uncle chas said hospice was fine, what other choice do they have.

Well, Monday, when mom went in to sign for it, they said she was getting more than hospice now (she has been in this home for quite some time and everyone likes her and mom and come in more than they should, including the doctors). They recommended mom didn’t sign up for it because she’s get people who didn’t know her. When mom came back from that talk and from her smoke I knew she had been crying. It seems talk around the home is that grandma isn’t doing well because mom said everyone kept stopping her to see if they could do anything and one even said something about these being grandma’s last days. Oh, boy.

while mom was out, I got to lay with grandma and read her some stories from Guideposts. I saw a few people glance in and Look at me odd, surely because I was right in grandmas bed with her but I didn’t care. When I asked grandma if she minded she said “fine” I also got her to say “I love you too Janet” She looked at me a lot and we got to have some quality time together.

Not to be rude but if you are reading this and want to say something along the lines of “at least you got to see her” or “some people don’t get to say goodbye” or anything like that, don’t. I’ve heard that enough and don’t want to hear it again. It doesn’t help me and it doesn’t make it any easier. I know I’m fortunate to have spent so much time with her but it is still hard. Let me mourn. Let me be sad and just understand it.

update:  Mom called  me the other day to thank me.  I had no idea what she was talking about but then she went on.  she saw how I was in bed, laying down next to grandma, reading her a story.  Mom said every day after that she did the same thing.  She crawled into bed with grandma and layed next to her.  It was a good feeling and I am happy mom got to do that.

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Pgh, day one

So I got this email from my dad a week and a half ago…

“Mom asked me to send you a brief note about Grandma Ruth.

Barring a miracle, she will be going into hospice next week at Country Meadows.

She is having great difficulty holding her head up and as a result can barely swallow.

Mom called Charles to come yesterday and the three of them spent a the evening together.

After her dinner, the three of us went out for a bite at Eat n’ Park.  When we left, Charles said he was going home, but we got a call a couple hours later and he was back at G. R.’s.  He is having a tough time.

You have all been here recently so you know she has been failing.

I know I have said more than Mom wanted me to say–she doesn’t want to burden you more.

She is OK.  The two of them have spent a great deal of time together and she knows G. R. doesn’t want this.

Like I said, though, Charles needs more time.

Mom just wrote out the hospice line of this–the rest is mine.  Hope I haven’t over stepped, but wanted you to be prepared.

Charles talked to Billy and they will all decide next week what is best.

We will keep you posted.

Love to all, Dad”

So, obviously, I talked with Jeff and we made plans for him to watch the boys and I would go be with my folks, specifically mom and grandma.  I was hopeful that they would be agreeable so I made the plans then called and let them know what I would be doing.  The strange thing is that one sister emailed back something along the lines of “I am sure you don’t want anyone now but let us know and we will be up at a moments notice” and the other two were just there so one emailed a thanks for the info and the other, I am not sure, she must have emailed to dad only because we didn’t get anything from her.  That’s not too bad though, I didn’t email everyone either because I wanted one on one time with them.  That NEVER happens anymore and I suppose I was being selfish.  I do find it interesting that four girls from the same family have totally different reactions to things.

Anyway, Jeff worked Friday and I didn’t feel like driving in the dark so I left Saturday morning.  I stopped once for some water and a bathroom break and made it in very good time.  Instead of stopping again, I drove straight to Grandma’s nursing home.  I knew mom would be there and I knew where a key to the bathroom was.  Sure enough, when I pulled up, mom’s yellow car was in the parking lot.  I rushed in, grabbed the key went to the bathroom then straight to grandmas room.  Anyone who knows me knows it was less than 3 minutes, including hand washing.   When I got to grandmas room, only grandma was there.  She was dozing in her wheelchair.  Her mouth was wide open but she was sleeping.  I figured mom went out for a smoke so I just made myself at home and sat next to grandma, hugging her and rubbing her back.  She used to love that.  Her eyes did twitch a little so I started talking to her but it was hard as she looked so different than she looked just last visit which was only about a month or two ago.

While I was whisper talking to grandma, two workers came in with a big machine.   I learned that is how they lift grandma in and out of her chair now.  That is something new since she got back from the week in the hospital.  Anyway, I asked them if they knew where my mom was (I felt like the bird in the book, Are You My Mother?) and one said she went home and will be back at two.  She then stated they were moving grandma into bed and I probably wanted to leave.  Hmmm, I wasn’t sure but thought mom knew what was going on (she’s there from 8-1 then 2-4 every day visiting) so I figured I would listen and go to my folks house.  They were just sitting down to eat lunch.  Dad got us all sandwiches from Arbys.  They are really good!  Anyway, it was wonderful to see mom and I could tell she was glad I was there.  She gave me a huge hug and when I told her what happened she said “so you saw mom?”  “yes”  “(crying) she looks bad, right?”  “(crying back) yes”

We ended up going back to grandmas after she rested for about an hour.  They were having some dance and praise singing thing that grandma usually likes.  She was still holding her mouth wide open.  Mom said it reminded her of the scream by munch.  I wish she didn’t say that because not only did that get me laughing, Jeff had wanted to buy that print once and now he will never be able to because it will remind me of grandma’s last days.  Anyway, grandma dozed in and out during the show.  Mom and I kept talking to her and though we were whispering (don’t say it Jeff) I am sure we interrupted others.  There was one resident that kept looking back (before we started talking).  When the show was over and we were moving to a table to all play a card game, she said to me “is that your mom?”  “No Marjie, you know that is my grandma”  “It looks like she is dying”  “!!!!”  I didn’t know what to say so I just kept pushing grandma to her table making sure we didn’t get with Marjie.

When we got back to grandma’s room we kept pushing her special drink.  She is not eating or drinking so anything we get in is great.  We stayed for another hour or so then grandma went to bed to take a nap.  The whole day she probably said 6 words and I think that is generous.

We got home, ate dinner, started a puzzle (those are always good places to have a conversation), then went down to watch tv from 8-10.  That is mom’s routine and that is what I was there for.   There were some times I felt really sad, like during the show when I looked at mom and she started crying.  Later I found out she was thinking this would be the last time I would see grandma.  And when we hugged and she held me tight.  It’s hard to watch someone go through this.

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Happy Thanksgiving.  A couple years ago we would be answering our door right  now to some of our Thanksgiving friends.  I miss that.  When we were in NH, we had Thanksgiving at our house.  Everyone brought something and we started around 10.  There were regulars, The Smiths, Luzadders, Josh, Nathan, Winans (where is your blog, guys?), Emily and then there were one timers, the interns from MCC, usually from LCC.  We ate, visited, played games, and the boys always had at least one TV for their x box games.  The first year we used real dishes but when the boys had to help wash them Jeff talked me into using good plastic.  Although he got out of washing the dishes the ones who did come up to  help interrupted the games.

This year, like last, we will go to the in laws.  Yes, it is a great time but it is not the same.  We miss you New Hamshire friends!!  Happy Thanksgiving.

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The hardest time leaving Pittsburgh (or so I thought)

When my mom and dad moved to Maryland my junior year of high school, it was hard. They let me finish the year in PA so I got to stay with our neighbor and got to continue to hang with my buddies and beau for another year. But, the deal was, if they allowed that, I would move with them my senior year of high school. With a lot of kicking and screaming, it happened. Both my parents went with me to sign up for my high school classes. It was too emotional and I cried. Dad was encouraging typing, mom just wanted me happy. I am not sure how I did it but they agreed to some work release program. I had English, accounting and a marketing class then I left at 10:30 to go to work the rest of the day at Pizza Hut. I still can’t believe daddy agreed to that! It was such a busy Pizza Hut. I would make about $50 a day in tips, give or take, instead of going to school. Then I also worked at night and made at least $100 on the weekend. I don’t know about you but for a stubborn high school girl with no social life (read, no friends) that is a lot of money. I started getting better grades than ever and also made friends with some of the people at Pizza Hut. It ended up being the best thing for me since in PA I never thought about the future. It was having fun and the here and now. I met some great people and through them I met my husband.

I thought that would be the hardest time leaving Pittsburgh but boy was I so wrong. Monday afternoon was the worst yet. As I paid my turnpike ticket in Breezewood I still had tears down my face and it wasn’t because he told me there was no Arby’s around. (mom got me liking their chicken salad sandwiches. They taste like Kathy Ross’) I think I am out of time for today but will try to get back sometime soon for the details. They are not pretty.

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