Observations from the Days of My Life

Monday, November 1, 2010

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Alzheimer's: Can a head injury increase the risk? - MayoClinic.com

My mother suffered a forceful fall which caused traumatic injury to the side-frontal portion of her skull, as evidenced by her very black eye and cheek when I saw her three days later. She had accompanied my father to a hospital facility where he went to discusss a billing error. She was a frail woman in her early seventies, and was blown down as they entered the building via an outer entry foyer with double-doors, leanding to the actual building entrance. My father said this (recent addition to the old building) had actually resulted in creating a wind-tunnel effect, the force that was of such velocity that it blew her to the floor, face-down, on a metal grate for cleaning patrons' shoes as they entered the main lobby. He did not, at the time, think it necessary for her to be given medical attention, nor did the hospital employees who witnessed the event suggest that she should be. I was not told of it, and unaware until at least three days later.

So, I was shocked when I picked her up to take her to Luby's for lunch together. We went through the line, found our table, and I began eating. But, I soon noticed that Mama was just sitting there, sort of looking at her food as though she had no idea what she was to do. She had selected sliced beef roast, so I asked her if she wanted me to cut up her meat, just to see how she would react. Before that injury, she would have been surprised that I would think she couldn't feed herself. But, I was sad to hear her reply, "Yes." So I cut her meat up, and she struggled to feed herself from that time.

She had shown no signs of dementia before the injury, and didn't seem to have been seriously injured, only badly bruised. But, with hindsight I found before reading the following article to which I have placed a link, very soon began slipping into a dementia that was later diagnosed as Alzheimer's. She gradually became lost to us over the next few years, required nursing home care, and died about fifteen years after that fall. Perhaps she is an example of the new findings reported in that article. Be advised!

Alzheimer's: Can a head injury increase the risk? - MayoClinic.com

Saturday, August 8, 2009

"What in the world is happening?”

For months Carolyn had been actively struggling, paving her way to write a book of fiction -- yes, a novel, even though it would largely be based upon significant events from her own life. And, those events were actually of earth-shattering magnitude, and would surely fuel the creation of a best-seller, possibly even a Pulitzer, though she felt that would be unlikely since it would be her first book. In the past few days, though, undeniably providential events had occurred that had begun to extinguish her burning need to document and publish her lifetime.

Now, there in her living room, through the magic of television, even that thought was being interrupted, by James Garner (as Noah) while he poignantly and passionately embraced Gena Rowlands (as Allie, his scripted, beloved wife in "The Notebook”) upon her momentous awakening from a debilitating and chronic dementia. Sadly, she soon reverted to an agitated and confused state, lost to him again. Carolyn ached to the depths of her soul, because she was reminded of her own emotional injuries. It was incredible to her to think that she, herself, should now have arrived at old age in such mournful circumstances.

She had drawn her first breath of life so long ago in an October snow of a cold world, though warmed by the adoration of her mother and father. Her mother’s happiness might be marred now, even though she watches her only daughter’s life from Heaven.

Perhaps God in His kindness drops a curtain that does not allow mothers to see a cherished child’s duress. Surely, He does something like that, she thought. He had already revealed His great love for this now aged child, in a very special dream, when she was in the second grade. She had accepted Him as her Savior at a small Wesleyan Methodist Church summer Bible school session more than sixty years ago, and her mother had surely died in His grace.

Carolyn erased concern that her mother might be a witness to her present suffering and went to the kitchen to wash a hefty collection of dirty dishes from the weekend. These days, she didn’t often wash dishes, because of the arthritic condition of her spine which stubbornly resisted tasks requiring her to hold her arms outstretched before her while standing for longer than five or six minutes at a time. She made it through most of the dishes, though, before seeking the comfort of her recliner.

After a while, her attention shifted to the sight of her open laptop computer, sitting securely on a tilt upon the handy little wheeled table that she had assembled with great difficulty from a kit she bought a few months earlier, purely on impulse, at the neighborhood Walgreen Pharmacy. It offered her genuine comfort when it digitized her emotions from strokes upon its keys, validating her melancholy when she was able to see her pain in literary terms. “Yes! That precisely describes my feelings, and anyone interested will be able to understand me.” Sometimes she felt a little silly that she should find solace in this manner, but it was truly therapeutic.

Within the passing of only the next few days, however, tension and conflicts piled up with an almost unbearable crescendo among members and frequent participants in her household. She sat in her velvet-upholstered apricot armchair, surrounded by her tormentors, and pondered the factors of her pandemonium, seeking some avenue that might offer her quick relief, but there seemed no hope for the peace and order so necessary to relieve the hellish cacophony! Could no one see what they were doing to her, the ravaged peacemaker? And she realized that she would probably not ever have the peace needed to actually write her novel. After long consideration, she decided she would just write short stories – better than writing nothing at all. The engaged reader will be able to blend them together and realize that, by this method, she had truly written her “book.”

Monday, July 7, 2008

Retirement is a Whole New Life - Prepare Yourself! (Part 1)

Yes, and begin today! Here are some things I have learned that I should share with you. I will try to be humorous, but you'll see through me.

Of course, you should seriously sock away every cent you don't need today for basic necessities and only enough fun to keep you from going crazy. (I know you need to spend about all you and your spouse both earn to keep body and soul together, but when you possibly can, be thrifty!) Even being moderately conservative will perhaps not find you as well-prepared as you'd hoped when the rocking chair calls to you.  (And, that day will come much sooner than you anticipate. Let me share a bit of my life, to prod you to plan early.)

My husband and I diligently amassed our IRAs. Our home was mortgage-free. We paid for a new Buick LeSabre to drive us to the end of our golden years. We pre-paid our funerals. We arranged for good Medicare Supplemental Insurance (at my urging, rather costly policies that would fully cover us, for whatever might happen to our health. That way, we would not run the risk of suddenly becoming uninsurable due to the possible appearance of a now unknown condition), and took out our (better-than-minimal) Medicare D Prescription plan. With all of that taken care of, and our Social Security checks added to the mix, we thought, "Hot dog, we can boogie, now!"

( Uh-huh.)

By the fall of that year, we were both fully retired. I was 62; my husband was 65. Less than six months later, my husband signed off of his computer so we could go to our dental appointments, then he asked me if I had an Alka-seltzer. I brought one to him and he suddenly become nauseated. Cold sweat had formed on his forehead. I began analyzing him for symptoms of a heart attack, a prospect which he brushed off, then he drank the Alka-seltzer. I offered to drive. He said I could. That scared me, because he never wanted anyone else to drive when he rode in an automobile. I would have taken him directly to the Emergency Room, but he pooh-poohed that. So, I drove him the half-mile to the dentist. We were seen at the same time, with me right across the hall. I alerted the dentist (who was handling us as a shared session) to his symptoms and asked him to please watch for any worsening as we might need to leave fast. He was finished first, with no emergency actions necessary. The dentist, after taking an impression fashioned by the use of my old lower plate, dismissed me, unexpecedly without that older one. I was not mentally prepared to conduct our business in public with only half my teeth but that was, apparently, to be my fate.

I found my husband in the waiting room after the dentist had finished with me. He was sitting, ashen-faced, in the straight chair nearest the exit door. He said he had visited the Men's Room a few minutes ago, and he had thought he would not make it back to his chair. "Okay, buddy, here we go. I'll help you to the car!" (It was only a few steps to our parking space.)

We drove right to the E.R. Yesche, he wasche having a heart attack! He was admitted. (Inschidentally, it wasche very difficult for me to enunschiate hiss nesschesschary identifying informasshion and medical hisschtory, with one plate resschting in. our dentissht's office.) They did an angiogram, and found that he had three blocked arteries and a herniated abdominal aorta.  But, he had something more to worry about - a suspicious mass in his lung, very close to his heart! They only stented a couple of arteries, to maintain life while they further investigated the lung - it was non-small cell cancer. Surgery was not an option, as he was also then formally diagnosed with quite debilitating emphysema. He had a few rounds of radiation and a few sessions of chemo-therapy. His hair fell out. He lost strength. More chemo-therapy. Fine for a while, until the cancer started growing again.

Next came a new drug, not fully-covered by insurance (our copay would be only slightly under $3000 a month). That knocks the socks off the old IRA! After a lot of wrangling, his oncologist's office managed to arrange for special help. He has been taking Tarceva for almost a year, now, and holding his own.

Our long awaited dreams of extensive travel during retirement were extinguished by his need for 24/7 oxygen. He will not go to the trouble it would take to travel with all of its attendant trappings, and I imagine he feels vulnerable to a possible interruption in his need for an uninterrupted oxygen supply.
He's doing pretty well, now, since they cleared up the bleeding ulcer that Tarceva facilitated, and they boosted his diminished red blood cell count by orders to take daily iron supplements (that give him bouts of constipation), and on and on . . . .

We haven't gotten to boogie.

(Updates in later posts.)

The First Funeral I Attended

My mother's mother died in Clarksville, Johnson County, Arkansas, at the home of her youngest son. She was very beloved, and was mother to about fifteen children, including multiple births. For the past 19 years she had lived with many of them in intervals. She visited in our small Tulsa home for a few days, near the time of her death. Even though I was only an eight year old child, I noticed she was very weary then. When I was older, and realized just how many children she had borne and raised, besides the miscarriages, stillborns, and those that died as children, it was understandable that she would have a tired demeanor. She really was tired.

Grandma's visit was brief, as our house had only one bedroom. It was the first house we ever owned. Daddy had moved us to Tulsa not long after getting out of the Navy at the end of WWII, after living first in Springfield, Missouri. When we moved to Tulsa, there was a housing shortage, due to the large number of discharged servicemen who quickly formed new households across the nation. There weren't nearly enough houses available to rent, and we lived with Mama's first cousin and her family for several weeks, until we finally found an available rental. It was not even a house to itself, only the back two rooms of a home occupied by two other families, and it had an outdoor toilet! That was an uncommon feature for a Tulsa home. I was really glad when Daddy promptly found that next home, our own new home. He had to sell our old car to get enough to make the down payment, and had to walk to work for many months until he was able to buy another car. I did not have a room of my own. The living room sofa was my bed. To this day, though I've had my own bedrooms for many years, when visiting in relatives' homes while vacationing, I always ask for the sofa, because it suits me fine. However, it was not appropriate that my elderly grandmother sleep in other than a comfortable bed. She stayed only a few days before returning to my uncle's home. When she left, I was pleased to find that she had left a handsewn quilt, of the Grandmothers' Fan pattern.

When Grandma died, I went to Arkansas with my parents to attend her funeral. I had never seen a dead person before, and had never attended a funeral. It was very upsetting to me, as I have always been very tender-hearted, complicated by their choice to have her lie in state (after being embalmed) for what seemed like a week in the living room of her eldest daughter's home. It probably wasn't that long, but I was made a party to the wails and tears of her children and other loved ones, from my vantage point on the sofa, only five feet across the room. Her casket was truly beautiful, and she was dressed very prettily, with a sweet expression on her face, but her death took a toll on me. Only in the past two years have I been able to attend a funeral without crying my heart out. Now, I know a soul that enters the gates of heaven is to be rejoiced, not mourned. Now, only one of her children is living.
Friday, December 12, 2008 update: That remaining daughter, my sweet Aunt Juanita, was laid to rest, today.