Bittersweet summer

Summer is slipping by at a fast pace – wishing I could go back and enjoy a little more of it with my sweet kiddos, but as the old adage goes, “time and tide waits for no man.”

Many of you already know that my dad passed away July 25th. I am thankful I was able to be there with him, holding his hand when he slipped very peacefully off into eternity. Harder than facing his death was telling my mom, who was still recovering in a nursing home from her car accident — we brought her home the day dad died. But, thankfully, we made it through with God’s help and here we are a couple of short weeks later, making great strides.

I spent a good portion of today at my mom’s house, cleaning out my dad’s closet. Bittersweet memories wrapped up in flannel shirts and “old man” khaki pants. Fishing trips, tall tales, and many a late night camping memories came flooding back as I removed each item and folded it to give to a local missionary. It tickles me to no end that my dad, a man who lived his entire life not wanting to have anything to do with Jesus, accepted Him a week before he died. And now all of his clothes and shoes will find themselves on a truck to Mexico with a missionary who will distribute them to new converts in Christ.

I found myself chuckling as I went through his dresser — hidden amongst the folded pants were brand new and never-used Craftsman drill bit sets and a myriad of other “special” items. Anyone who knew my dad would know he was probably “saving” those – because he rarely bought anything new – he was a lifelong garbage collector. From his days working in Fairbanks as the head of the Sanitation and Waste department all the way down to to his retirement home in Texas – he owned the key to the city dump.

Mom came in and sat on the bed halfway through and all productivity ceased as we began to reminisce about the man he was and how much we are going to miss him. There were a few tears shed…okay, a lot of tears were shed. But it was such a sweet time of bonding with my mom and I think we both needed it.

He had 91 years on this earth – I pray that Jesus comes back before I’m that old…but if not, I pray that I live them to the fullest and greet each day with a smile and a song in my heart, just as he did.

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The Accident…

*Note – this is a long post, so grab some coffee and a bagel, because it’s going to be a while.

I’ve stared at this blinking cursor on the page for too many days, trying to put words on virtual paper…where do I even begin? I’ve had a month’s worth of blog posts happen in a very short time, so I’ll probably resort to a bulleted list at some point.

We spent Saturday together as a family – the eldest was farmed out to her best friend’s house for the night and we had the two youngest with us as we grocery shopped and spent the evening just goofing off. It was around 7:30 p.m. or so when we arrived home, and we were just settling in to watch a movie before the kids went to bed when I received a phone call from one of my brothers on my cell phone.

Two things on this:
A.) I rarely answer my cell phone if my family is together, because…well, I’m not a slave to my phone and I don’t really like talking on it; and
B.) I have five living brothers (in order of birth age: Jim, Bob, John, Joe, and Don) and they never call me unless 1) they need something, or 2) something bad has happened.

I immediately called Bob back, only to receive his voicemail. It was then I noticed that he had actually left a voicemail on MY phone, so I phoned it to see what it was he needed. I was having a hard time hearing, so I put it on the speakerphone and heard, “Why don’t you ever answer your d**n phone – I have an emergency and no one will pick up!” Normally, I’d have laughed at his message (if you knew my brother, you’d understand – almost everything is an emergency to him), but the tone in his voice was completely different this time and it left me more than a little concerned.

Then I remembered the Life Alert bracelet my brother Jim had just ordered for my mom and started to feel a bit more urgency about reaching him, because Bob is #1 on the list. I got him on my fifth try (who says persistency doesn’t pay off?). I barely got “hello” out before he yelled in my ear about not answering my phone and told me to get over to mom’s – there was an accident.

Actually, his exact words were “Mother’s been in a car accident – she was hit my a car and run over. The paramedics are there now and will be transporting her to the hospital in a few minutes – if you can’t make it to her house to follow the ambulance, then get to the hospital!”

I’m not even going to try and be flowery with my words here – I’d love nothing more than to flesh out this story and fill in every little detail, but the truth is, I can’t.

This is one of those really weird instances where time just slowed to a crawl and everything seemed to be in slow motion, interrupted by short bursts of loud and fast-paced action. Looking back, my memory of it was sort of like one of those car wrecks you see in movies, the realization that something bad is going to happen (slow-mo), the actual crash (fast), the car crashing and windshield shattering (slow-mo), the aftermath (fast), and then the sobbing and crying.

Fortunately, even though I was in shock, my husband still had a brain and was using it. He gathered the two little ones and got them into the car while I put my shoes on and we were off to the ER, with me calling my remaining brothers to let them know what little I knew. I couldn’t reach ANY of them. Suddenly, I understood Bob’s feelings of utter helplessness and frustration. I posted on Facebook for them to call me asap and that it was a 911. I highly doubt any of them saw that message, but I was suddenly getting texts and emails from friends on FB asking what was wrong. I couldn’t bring myself to update them until I had talked to my brothers.

We actually made it there before my mom’s ambulance. I went in and told them she was on the way and went outside to watch for her. The ambulance pulled up two minutes later, no lights. I might have fallen apart a little bit then. I always thought that ambulances only turned their lights off if they were transporting a deceased person. Thankfully, I was wrong. But I did have a 30-second window where the wind was knocked out of me.

I went back inside as they wheeled her in and the ER nurse took me back to be with her. She was alert and talking and I have to say that I’ve never been so glad to see her. I had been through a whole gamut of emotions in such a amount of time, but I was honestly thrilled that she looked so good. At that point, I hadn’t known what part of her had been run over, if it was her whole body, an arm, a leg…and then I saw her wrapped leg and all the blood. I’m not talking about a little bit of blood, either. The bandage was soaked through, the sheets were soaked and blood was pooling on the bed.

Let me back up a bit. My mom is a heart patient and takes a drug called Coumadin to thin her blood and keep it from clotting. They could not get the bleeding to stop – and mom is a small, frail lady – she didn’t have a lot she could give up.

When the ER Dr. finally came in (in our town, Fri and Sat nights are the WORST nights to be in the ER – it’s the only hospital in a 4 county area that has a trauma section, so we get folks from four counties spread out over three states), he was concerned about the blood loss and when he found out mom had been on Coumadin, he ordered 2 pints of plasma and 2 pints of blood to help with the blood loss and clotting, as a start. Before it was all over, she received 4 pints of plasma and 5 pints of blood in a 24-hour period.

He was concerned she’d broken something in her leg or ankle area because her foot was black and swollen – at this point, he hadn’t even unwrapped her leg to look at the damage. He ordered x-rays as the next step and prepared to call the surgeon in. She was in excruciating pain, which they were able to alleviate only after they took x-rays (nothing broken – can you believe it?!).

At this point, I should probably back up and tell you what actually happened to her (our best guess anyway, because she really doesn’t remember all the details – she said it happened so fast).

She had arrived home from grocery shopping and stopped at the garage (where she has her frozen items stored) to unload the frozen food; she went to get back into the car (which was still running), and when she had one leg in, she went to steady herself with the steering wheel and somehow (we still don’t know) it was knocked into reverse. Because she only had one leg in the car and wasn’t seated, it knocked her off balance and she fell backwards, the car then rolled in reverse over her leg and she was caught up in the wheel well and drug backwards over 30 feet, until the van hit my brother Joe’s truck, which was mercifully parked at the end of the driveway. If it hadn’t been there, she could have been drug out into a very busy two-lane highway and killed.

She pressed the Life Alert button on her wrist as it was happening and my brother Joe, who was inside the house, heard a loud crash and then the alarm for LA sounded. The voice came over the intercom and asked if there was an emergency – he was already outside with mom. He ran back in to get towels to staunch the bloodflow and he said that “dang Life Alert lady” wanted him to tell her what was going on. He said to call an ambulance…he couldn’t talk.

I have to say – I’m so thankful he was there. I don’t know if I could have done what he did. His years as an army medic paid off – he was in full combat mode and took great care of mom using his training. The hospital staff say that he probably saved her life. I’ll have to make it a point to be much nicer to him in the future.

She had scrapes and bruises all over her body, but the only serious damage is her calf, which split open like a watermelon on both sides when the car ran over it.

Once we found out there were no broken bones, we were very relieved, because in our minds, that meant that she could heal faster. I don’t know very many 78-year olds who break bones and recover fully from that. And then the surgeon came and unwrapped her leg. I lost it (inwardly – I was very calm on the outside) again. Mom had already seen it – but I hadn’t. I won’t go into all the details here, but suffice it to say that I’ve never seen anything that bad in my life, and I’ve watched a lot of medical shows and true crime shows.

We were all asked to leave the room at that point and we did so gladly – the surgeon came in and she was prepped for surgery. There wasn’t a lot they could do with her leg – but they did the best they could. She ended up with about 32 staples and some inner stitches, and there are places on her leg where she just doesn’t even have skin, but it could have been so much worse.

We are just so thankful that God spared her life and are just clinging to Romans 8:28, believing that this is part of His plan for us as a family. Mom needed to slow down and let us do more for her. This gives her no choice. Is it going to be stressful? Yes. Is it going to be painful? Without a doubt. Will there be tears? Oh, you betcha. And I’m just talking about me. I know mom will have adjustments too. 🙂

I’m doing my best to maintain a sense of humor and a positive attitude through this for mom, but I’ll be painfully honest–I sometimes fall apart once I get home. The stress of the day is hard to forget when my sweet kiddos are getting under my skin and I occasionally raise my voice when I shouldn’t, or cry for no reason.

I am not the same person I was a few days ago. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing yet.

I’ve had several friends tell me that they admire my strength. Please don’t do that. I’m not strong. I’m a weak person. God is my refuge and strength – a very present help in trouble.

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations. You are the winner of a shiny, new…well, bit of nothing. Other than you’ve heard my story. Thanks for listening.

*If you are one of *those* people (like me), and want to see a photo from yesterday (after several days of healing), you can click here and here. For obvious reasons, I’m not posting them on my blog. I don’t want them being searched and indexed by google. 🙂

It’s not always happy, but it’s real. Subscribe via my RSS feed.

And Life Goes On…

Words are hard for me lately.

I want so badly to find my voice again…to talk about the things that are happening in my life right now. It’s not a very amusing or happy place I find myself in… which is why I have all but stopped blogging. With a title like “simply a musing” blog, what is one to do?

What’s happening in my life lately? One of my 6 brothers died recently, my stepdad is dying a slow and painfully frustrating death from Alzheimer’s, my mom is losing her ability to walk – and I feel overwhelmed at times by the changes taking place seemingly all at once.

I think about David when he was in the wilderness and running from the wrath of Saul and think I can identify, even if on a much smaller level. I’d like nothing better than to run in hopes of escaping what the future holds for me and my family…but I realize that God has ordained these events and I am supposed to stand firm and grow through this. I just don’t want to go through this. It hurts.

It’s agonizing to watch the man that raised me stare at me blankly when I ask him if he’s hungry, his mind searching the recesses and trying to remember what hunger is. It’s painful when he forgets where he’s going after two steps and stops and stands unsteadily for 15 minutes at a time until one of us finds him and asks him if he’s okay. It hurts to think that he will very soon forget my mother’s face, or my face…or the faces of my children and we will all be strangers to him. But the most painful reality is knowing that he’s slipping away and there’s nothing any of us can do about it.

My son still prays for his grandpa’s salvation every night. I’m at the point now where I realize that he might not ever accept the Lord as his Savior. My son is stronger at 7 that I am at 41, for he tells me that the results are up to God, we can’t give up, because Grandpa’s soul is depending on us. And he truly believes that his Grandpa will get saved and be in Heaven when he gets there. Because of my son, I can’t give up that one hope, but it’s not looking good…and I don’t know how to accept it gracefully.

My brother died the way he lived – hopped up on every kind of painkiller known to man. He was a tortured soul and had lived a very disjointed life. Part of me wants to believe that he’s in a better place…but part of me wonders if he ever really and truly made his peace calling and election sure. I hope that he did, but a hope-so salvation is just not the way it should be.

My mom’s health has taken a turn for the worse this year. The stress of losing my brother, watching the decline of my step-dad, and losing a lot of independence is taking its toll on her. I wish I could do something, but there’s nothing to be done. So I sit with her, do her laundry, clean her house, help her in little ways when I can.

But I’m tired. Lord, this season is too long. I don’t know if I can bear any more of it. I’m not wishing for it to go away…just relief. I want to have a day where I can remember what it’s like to be carefee again. I don’t remember what it’s like anymore to wake up without worry and fear.

I need to have the hope that there’s a bright side in all of this. That this situation is going to get better. That this heaviness in my heart will lift. I need to have one day where I don’t yell at my kids or cry from frustration.

Meanwhile…life goes on. There’s still laundry to be folded, dishes to be washed, dinner to be cooked, husband and children to love. I can’t fall apart because there are just too many people depending on me.

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Idioms and being 40

Keeping a blog is so much like having a conversation with an old friend. A 40-year old friend — because you’re basically talking to yourself when no one else is reading your blog. And you’re 40.

It doesn’t matter how long you go without writing, you can just pick right up where you left off like nothing has ever happened.

Of course, a lot has happened. But that’s neither here nor there.

Any one else ever grow up hearing that phrase “that’s neither here nor there” without really knowing what the heck it meant? I decided to look it up today…it’s an idiom that means “Not important; having no significance or influence on the question at hand; not related; not relevant; not germane; not pertinent.”

I’m completely embarrassed to admit I then had to look up the word “idiom”, because hello? Ninth grade was over 24 years ago and I’ve slept since then. {Not to mention I’ve had three kids — my vocabulary has been decimated by (reduced by a tenth – and no, I didn’t look that one up…I actually remembered it) twelve years of child-rearing and saying one syllable words like “no” and “wait”.}

Idiom means “A phrase characteristic of a particular language, that cannot necessarily be fully understood from the separate meanings of the individual words which form it, but instead must be learned as a whole unit of meaning.”

So basically, I’m just throwing some words at you in hopes that someone will take notice that I actually BLOGGED today.

Thank you and have a good day. Tune in tomorrow…same bat time, same bat channel. {of course, I’m not promising I’ll actually BE here…but you can tune in just the same.} 😉

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New to Me

Dave Ramsey says never to buy new. I think the last time I actually had a new car was…well, never, to be honest.

My first car was a red 1977 pinto station wagon…I wrecked it when I was 16 with my friend Jody Haas in the car. THAT was a fun experience.

My second car was a 1981 Volkswagen Jetta. A white, 4 door that had been wrecked – I remember priming and spray painting the driver’s side door because I was so embarrassed by the rust.

I drove that until 1990, when I assumed ownership of a 1987 white Toyota Celica hatchback…loved that car. Sporty, fun…but not good for a soon to be mama who had to climb out lugging an extra 50 lbs.

Then I purchased a 1995 white Honda Accord (in 1996 – probably the newest car I’d ever owned at that point). Then I moved to Texas and left Honda in Alaska because…Hello? It had no air conditioning. Did you know A/C is not standard in cars sold in Alaska? Well, it’s not.

So when I moved to Texas in 1997, I purchased a 1996 Chevy Lumina (blue this time) and drove the heck out of it until my husband was rear ended in it two years ago and the insurance company totaled it.

Then my mom gave me a 1997 Dodge Grand Caravan in Blue that SHE had wrecked (something about a motorcyclist plowing right into her passenger side — never mind that she turned left in front of him)…it wasn’t pretty, but it was still driveable. And the Lord knew I needed a van with three kids — even if it wasn’t real ‘purty’.

Now, my husband drives the ’97 grand caravan and I have a NEW used car: this 2003 Dodge Grand Caravan SE:

I lurve it. It drives really well, isn’t all banged up, gets good gas mileage..and best of all…it will be totally paid for at the end of this year!

Oh and hey…don’t laugh at me for blanking out my license plates. You just can’t be too careful these days. 🙂

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Through The Looking Glass

I have always loved the writings of Lewis Carroll. His “Alice in Wonderland” series was one of my favorites as a child and I was especially fond of the book, “Through the Looking Glass”. I imagine it was because at some time or another, we all speculate what life must be like on the “other side”, whether it be the looking glass, the fence, the computer, or this life.

Recently, I have had a look at what life on the other side of “healthy” and “young” is like and aging gracefully is something that I’m starting to believe only happens in Hollywood movies. Maybe it’s true that life begins at fifty, but everything else seems to wear out, fall out or spread out. Taking care of aging parents is demanding, draining and if you’re not careful, it can be downright depressing. I have always known the day would come when I would be responsible for taking care of my parents, but as with everything else in life, the day has come before I feel ready. Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that happen to man, I suppose.

This journey I am on with my 76 year-old mother and my soon-to-be 89 year-old stepdad is not exactly “Hazel and Fred’s Excellent Adventure”. I am having to broach the HARD topics…like wills, nursing homes and Depends undergarments. Thankfully, no one is biting my head off, but it’s probably because they know I could hide their teeth. We’re all muddling along as best as we can through this process…and it is a process like no other.

I’m doing well if I can get my stepdad to eat anything besides ice cream and if I can get my mom to eat anything besides Dollar General brand vanilla sugar wafers. What I want to know is why weren’t these things on the menu when I was a kid? I was always being told to eat my vegetables. My mom was so concerned about “roughage” and making sure I got enough of it so my “plumbing” would work properly. Now life has come full circle and it is me who is bribing her with cookies just so she will drink her daily glass of Metamucil. I want to make sure her “plumbing” doesn’t require any additional assistance from me.

My stepdad, who bathes only when forced to, thinks it’s a blast to walk around the house buck naked in the mornings. There’s nothing else I can say about that.

Apparently, their investments in health insurance are starting to pay off. They have had more dates with their physicians than my husband and I had before we got married. Every week, we are off to see another wizard. Someone who runs tests, orders labs, and asks questions only to come up with the same answer, “You’re old. This is what happens when people get old.”

Some days I wish I could put the looking glass down and just listen to Jabberwocky.

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(originally posted 4/29/08)

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