fire at the old folks home

There’s a lot I need to write about here (like the Great Escapes 1 and 2 that have led us to where we are today) but what I really need to write about is what happened today at the nursing home/assisted living facility that my Mom is currently living at (see, told you I need to write about GE 1&2–the first involves Mom, the second, me).

First of all, everyone is fine. Well, everyone I know and care about, that is. The fire wasn’t big, probably someone sneaking a smoke or something equally stupid on the 2nd floor balcony (this place has three floors).

I was trying to decide if I liked this new place or not. Plus: there seemed to be a lot of staff, and all the staff seemed to be paying attention to who came, who went, and making sure they found out if/how you belonged there. Minus: the memory care side, i.e., lockup, where Mom is, to prevent her from wandering off again…getting in was like wandering into the walking dead section. Naturally, you have to buzz to be let in to that side. Problem is, the residents come to the door when they hear the bell. I swear I just saw that scene in “Legion” the other night, people shuffling and pacing from side to side just behind locked doors.

Mom was parked in front of a tv showing “An American in Paris” with four or five other residents, and looked forlorn. Dad and my brother had gone to get lunch, she’d already eaten. When she saw me, she perked up, something she’s not done lately. Did she recognize me? The boys soon came back and we all ended up spending an afternoon outside dozing, chatting, the usual things you do when someone is in a place like this, not much. My brother said they were supposed to have a fire drill some time today.

By 4, I was ready to go. I wanted to beat the traffic back to my place. I asked to see Mom’s room before we left, and mom’s “pal” (they don’t call the nursing assistants that, in fact, they don’t call anything like other places…the CNAs are ‘pals’, I forget what the other staff are called but you can imagine, and the section of the building she’s in is called ‘the neighborhood’. Creepy coded language. )

Mom has only been there three days, and you can tell it was my Dad and brother who unpacked her stuff in the new place. Who wads up sweaters? Who puts socks with hats and t-shirts and pants in one drawer, when you have six? I was sorting stuff to make it easier (at least for me) when the alarms went off. Mom’s ‘pal’ said it was ok to ignore it, then went to check to see if he needed to help anywhere. He came running back yelling IT’S REAL! EVERYONE OUT!

My brother and I took off up the hallway to find Mom. She’d just sat down to supper. We got Dad to take her on out the building. The rest of the staff were herding folks in wheelchairs and walkers to the exit. There was a massive logjam at the exit: there were gates to be opened, a hill (!!!) to go down, curbs, a hose left on the sidewalk. When there was only one resident left who wouldn’t leave unless she could hold on to my wrist, I talked her out of the building.

Even by the time I got out, it was still chaos. One resident had fallen; ‘pals’ had paper towels against her head but the wound was still too fresh. While everyone was jostling on the sidewalks, slopes and lawn for space, I heard a sickening thud, and another person (he looked more like a guest than a resident) had gotten tripped up and faceplanted on the sidewalk.

We were outside for about an hour while the fire department came, put out the fire, cleared the building. One of the supervisors came and told everyone it was ok to go back in, exclaiming “Good Job! Good Job!” to everyone as they struggled to get back up the hill and back into the ward. I wanted to smack her, or at least to call her out on what constituted “good” but was too shaken by the ordeal. I sat with Dad’s cane in the tv area for a while, then checked to see if Mom was getting supper or what. The dining area was full of residents, and of course, they were eating as if nothing had happened. Their pie for dessert looked both delicious and nauseating in its normalcy.

My sister, when I called her later to tell her of the day’s events, dryly observed, “Can you imagine what it would have been like at night, when most places like that have half the staff?” Yes, I can, and I don’t want to. I don’t want to think about it at all. I don’t want to be a part of this any more, but how do you walk away from something like this?

FYI, the injured woman was transported to the ER. The injured man was patched up by the paramedics but declined transport.

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So long, old friend

There’s a certain email account I’ve had since 1996, maybe even 1995. I discovered it about the time I was using computers on a regular basis for work, realized what fun it was, and loved the rather distinctive email URL. Narrow-minded folk tended to think it was attached to a porn site (yes, one or two asked). Those who knew, got it.

Sooooo…jump to 2017. Still using the site, still free. Until, of course, it isn’t. The address has become my secondary email, one that I give out still to shock, and also when I’m not sure what kind of mailing lists I might end up on, but still checked daily. To be honest, I think I do more texting and tweeting than I do email any more. But old friends are old friends, and every time I’d open it up, I’d think “Awwwww, we’ve been together for such a long time.”

Well, not any more. Last week was a notice that free was no longer an option, and for the low low price of $35 I could keep my lovely email. Whether that was for a month or a year, I honestly can’t say because (a) I was surprised it took them this long to do that, and (b) I immediately started casting about for another interesting and unique email address.

I guess I’m not the only one who’s not really emailing much any more. Back in the 1990s it seemed like everyone was offering free email; of course, who knows what info you were giving away to get that, but in the carefree early days of the world wide web, who cared? All you wanted was an interesting email address and maybe your own site or URL.

So if you know me and you know the email address I’m talking about, be advised that as of Thursday, it won’t be available any more. You know where to find me.

And to my old email friend, trusted companion over 21 years, divorce, jobs, trans-continent and crosstown moves, I say so long, and thanks for all the fish.

 

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Almost Summer, 2016

It’s been so long since I’ve tried to write something here that I’ve all but forgotten how to do it. The less I use computers, the more I forget, nevermind how programs change and update from month to month.

Starting my seventh year here with a plan. The plan is to not be here for an eighth.

That’s not as ominous as it sounds; I just mean I’m going to do whatever it takes to leave this place, get back to somewhere where the weather is more temperate and I’m happy.

The last six months have really driven this home. We all go on in this weird half-life, until someone has to go to the hospital. After a day, a week or a month, everyone is back home and back to the same twilight routine. But something has snapped inside me…I’ve finally come to the realization that no matter what I do to help my folks, the minute I’m out of the room they go back to doing whatever they want exactly the way they want it.

Sometimes that means running the extension cord for the electric weed-wacker thru a puddle of water ankle deep and four feet wide. Sometimes that means eating their fill of blackberries or dairy products, starting a cycle of Kaopectate and Metamucil that ends with a hospital visit. I have seen parts of my parents bodies that no child should ever see (talk about your Primal Scene or whatever it was Freud or whoever said imprinted us and scarred us for life sexually!)

I came here out of a sense of duty, to try and do for them something they really didn’t do for me, which was show kindness at a vulnerable point in their lives. I won’t say that I’m fresh out of kindness for them, but it’s time to show a little kindness towards someone who will appreciate it, namely myself. Isn’t that what they tell you on the airplanes and other methods of transport when going over emergency procedures before getting on with the trip? Take care of yourself first, then look around to see who needs help. I’ve been gasping for oxygen all this time, trying to wrestle one of those idiot-looking masks on my parents. Time to take a deep breath for myself, for a change.

Oh, and I’m trying to learn how to read and write Japanese. Because you just never know…

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At Loose Ends

The days grow shorter. What used to be a drive as the sun was high overhead has turned into a drive at sunset. This time next month it will be in the dark. I hate driving in the dark now, although I used to love it.

This past weekend was one where no one called, no one wrote, no emails, no text messages. Talk about feeling isolated…but then, this is the shape of things to come. People die, or just wander away. Sometimes you have a hand in their leaving, sometimes they just go. A postcard friend of mine recently lamented the loss of her adult child, and I believe I rather ham-fistedly handled the response. What I tried to tell her was that being there and watching folks slip away bit by bit, day by day, is to me much much harder than not being there for their final moments. I’m not sure exactly what I wrote to her any more because I have never been a self-archivist; once it’s written it’s out there and outta my head. But I haven’t heard back from her in a while. She could still be mourning; I know I would be.

Which makes me realize all the more just how creepy it is to still be here looking after my folks. Welcome to God’s Waiting Room, that’s okay, I’m just their ride, I’ll sit here in the lobby and read back issues of People and Sports Illustrated.

I came back and quickly because I thought things were happening fast and they would only need my company for a little while. Now I feel like the undertaker in a bad Western, lurking, asking how they’re doing while secretly measuring them behind their backs.

As long as they’re happy, I want them to live. If they’re doing well enough without me, I’d like to leave, but find myself in the position of having just enough money to cover what I need without the possibility of saving.

Talk about frustrating.

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Wait, what?

How did it get to be 2015? How have I not posted in a year and a half? Short answer: same old, same old. Long answer to follow, involving a move and a long commute. More, later.

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Time flies when you’re having fun

Three and a half years…good lord. How did this much time, this much of my life, simply pass as quickly as it seemingly did? And at the same time, each day excruciatingly slow?

I need to get back to this, this thing of writing, whether it is about life with my stroke-addled octogenarian parents or about me trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing with my life at this point.

I feel lost and broken.

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Almost a Year

I’ve been here now for almost a year. If you don’t count the month I went back and stalled, not wanting to make the move but knowing it was going to happen, then I’ve been here a year.

Is it any easier? Yes and no. The easy parts are just the little day to day things, the regular patterns that one adjusts and adapts as a new lifestyle develops and becomes routine. What is not routine is coming to grips with both of my parents aging and deterioration. I can’t say that Mom has good days, because every day is in and out, up and down. In the past year, I can count on one hand how many times she has gotten my name correctly. Mostly, she calls me after her great-granddaughter (apparently the go-to name for everyone except my Dad). Those are the days to be treasured, because in the blink of an eye she will give me a look that lets me know she has no idea who I am, this stranger in her house, and it is only her polite upbringing that keeps her from having a fit over this stranger (i.e., me) who has moved in and “taken over.”

There are times when it seems it is all too much for my Dad. He will speak a string of nonsense words, then get angry when we don’t understand him. He has no patience to speak of. Never really did, but now it is even more pronounced.

Maybe if I hadn’t spent the last 30 years out on my own this wouldn’t be so much of a shock. I look at them and can’t help but compare them to my grandparents, their parents. I moved away and they grew old and died and all I had to do was come back and cry at the funerals. I didn’t have to watch the inexorable slippage into decrepitude of the people I loved. This is a trainwreck I don’t want to witness.

So why do I feel the need to be front and center in the seating area?

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