Category Archives: caregiving.

What an eight days

Was still awake when K’s alarm went off at five. Ugh. From studying maps of LA and Oroville (to track the progress of the fires), to dispiriting ongoing voter suppression news (it is just the GOP norm now), to the firing of Sessions, I found myself spacing out about appointments and social engagements this week and wondering what overwhelm morphs into. Not despair, I hope.

(Not despair, I hope?)

And what of Mueller? Was he strategic enough to withstand this level of obstruction? Will we be denied? Reading the first linked article below constituted a highlight this week because it credibly outlines why Mueller is likely poised to finish his investigation.

And who thinks our depraved President only went to Paris to meet with Putin? The international shame of him provides a whole other order of gloom.

So I went to a protest. The “red line” one. Not the one in Boston because I was tired. Too much trouble for democracy? Well, maybe. The Needham gathering, though small, offered a shared sense of outrage and worry and could be reached by car without hassle. Get well cards to Ruth Bader Ginsburg were circulated.

Tuesday I worked the polls. Our very civilized polls. It was busy — I gather from old timers, busier than normal.

A pleasant (for a change) visit to Salem came at the end of the week — very little traffic and a cleaner apartment than usual helped (PCA Maria #1 is back, to our shared relief). Doing the Times puzzle together was good, too (the sharing of it. Not this week’s puzzle!)

The North Shore visit came a week after one to K’s father in the nursing home where he is safe and well cared for and nevertheless restless and lonely.

Raking leaves provides ballast. Sanity. Tidying a closet, I can handle. Deciding which project to finish, not so much.

Here’s what I am looking forward to (and then I want to hear what YOU are looking forward to):

News that Grace and family are safe and their property untouched by fire;

The kids coming home for Christmas;

The first snowfall;

The indictments of Trump’s family and Sean Hannity;

The lentil soup I’m gonna make tonight;

Reading the next four hours and 28 minutes (gotta love kindle!) of “A Gentleman in Moscow,” which I am really enjoying.

Reading three articles about the use of dialogue in fiction;

A time when politics does not enter the dialogue here.

How about you?

Article by Ben Wittes: It’s Probably Too Late to Stop Mueller.

P.S. because of the overwhelm, I didn’t finish the draft post entitled “Savor a Little” in which I intended to lay out the impressive Democratic wins from the midterms — all there is to celebrate and feel terrific about. So, I’ll just leave you with this Washington Post article.


Here’s Finn running around looking all Dog and happy with his walker yesterday. While he enjoyed running around in the sun, I drove my sister to (another) cardiac appointment. It was in Danvers this time.

The doctor was distractingly handsome. Don’t you just hate that? I once had a colonoscopy, of all things, done by a blue-eyed gem who looked a lot like Paul Newman.

The Danvers doctor was named Silver — even that’s glamorous.

He gave clear advice. Took his time. Answered all our questions. So, that was a boon and while the news wasn’t great, it wasn’t terrible, either.

Getting there and back didn’t go so well.

For starters, the phone wasn’t telling me where to go. What? Why not? For once, I was relying on that annoying voice (“in two miles, take Massachusetts 62 West to Maple Street”). There I was driving on unfamiliar streets looking in disbelief at my phone. Not exactly safe.

I’d turned off the podcast from the ride up because it was bothering my sister, not realizing that meant the map audio would go silent, too (duh — Blue Tooth and all).

All the while my sister was telling me which way to go. She has a good sense of direction — much better than mine — and this was her turf, but still, she hasn’t driven in ten years and there was no reason to assume she knew the way.

I wanted the google directions dammit!

It took a few frustrating miles and a detour into a parking lot to figure it out.

Meanwhile, my sister had for some reason taken my sputtering at the phone personally. The seat belt alarm was chiming every few seconds (she’s too big to buckle in) and then there was the clinic’s practice of cancelling an appt if you’re 15 minutes late.

Kinda stressful.

Wheel chairs were lined up at the door and I knew to look for the extra wide.

A slight rise from the curb to the glass doors posed a challenge. Wow. Was this really only a two percent grade? After last week’s appt I had a mild case of tennis elbow and didn’t want to injure myself.

We managed. Heard the pros and cons of ablation. Next steps for evaluation lined up — some more discouraging than others.

Getting her out of the confining space where she’d had her EKG took a little doing, however. It’s one thing to push a heavy wheel chair. It’s another thing to pull one.

“Don’t bother with the brakes,” she said as I parked her on the sloping sidewalk before running off to fetch the car.

Seriously? On a slight slope leading into the driveway — don’t use the brakes? Umm. NO.

Being powerless can make a person take charge where they can. I try to accommodate.

Driving back to N’s apartment, I decided to go by highway and because I thought I knew the way, ignored Google Maps. To be fair, I couldn’t hear the annoying chorus of “recalculating” because my sister needs to have the AC blasting on high and all the windows open to be comfortable. I ended up overshooting the exit by MILES.

Ever notice how different things look coming from the other direction? Perspective is everything.

Meanwhile, N wanted me to stop and buy her some booze (NO). Then she wanted to stop at the Homegoods, because it’s “the best one and we’ll never come out this way again”. (Yes we will and NO)

This from a person who doesn’t want to have to get up out of her chair to buzz me in (after the pissing in the casserole dish incident — don’t ask — I made sure to get my own set of keys).

This from the same person who grocery shops in a motorized cart and is exhausted for days after. The time when she could lean into a shopping cart for support is long gone (or not yet returned, depending on your point of view).

But to be clear: I was the unreasonable one. Obnoxious, even.

One way to feel in control, by the way, is to make your helper feel like shit — bonus points if you’re related.

Then, just as were looping back toward her place after that long detour and a speck of relief emerged, she demanded a tour of downtown Salem.

(NO). Now I’m really awful.

Mind you, I still had to drive home — a trip that runs from 40 minutes to two hours, depending on who the fuck knows what. As you might imagine, we were both pretty done in by then.

So I dropped her off. Her aide would help her for the rest of the afternoon. And I would go home and eat chocolate. Watch TV. Take care of some tedious financial stuff. Learn about the Supreme Court’s three disastrous decisions and actually feel a shot of genuine gladness that the stressful occupations of the morning had prevented me from hearing any news for five hours.

And now? Back to writing. Ha!

Scripted and unscripted love

After reading Fiona’s post describing the making of her banner for Mo’s project (“I Dream of a World Where Love is the Answer), I decided I wanted my own embroidered “love”. So I stitched the word on a strip of walnut-dyed cloth just below an appliquéd heart. It seemed a good spot.

Have you noticed how often typing on a phone that one mistakenly types ‘live’ when one means ‘love’ or ‘love’ when one means ‘live’?

The quirks of a teeny iphone keyboard dishing up a philosophical message is emblematic of our age — for what is life without love?

To live is to love. To love is to live.

If one is loving, of course.

We were out of town this weekend and I got to witness the tender care my sister-in-law gave her 91 year old father. Did he need anything? Could she read his cards to him? Didn’t he look sharp in yellow and how about walking down the hall a little ways? I reflected on how my manner with my sister in no way approaches such soft, tenderness; how I could NEVER get her to walk down the hall a little ways; how impatient and defended I can be.

There are lots of reasons for the differences, reasons both exonerating and out of my control, but the weekend felt like an object lesson anyway.

Because it was also Kentucky Derby weekend, the guys made mint juleps.

The visits are always short these days and all the more precious for being so.

Beets and radishes

Anyone who camps knows how even the most pedestrian meal is enhanced to a near-miraculous degree after a day in the wilderness. It happens all the time. “How can a bowl of pasta with canned sauce and chopped zucchini taste so good,” you wonder. And yet it does.

The visit to Salem was tense and then tenser. We didn’t manage to capture the cat. The aide had to leave a full hour earlier than expected. Plans had to be abandoned, limitations accepted. But before we got there, a fair amount of hostility was expressed. I spent a lot of time walking around the building, sort of wishing I smoked.

My sister blamed her temper on a transiting Mars / natal Sun conjunction and pretty much everything else on me.

She kept telling me to sit down and to stop moving. I kept suggesting that it might be time to put some pants on. The aide cleaned the kitchen. Then the bathroom.

My wish to get something done collided with my sister’s refusal to move. It’s often this way.

It’s a kind of wilderness, really — and I think it made the salad I made after getting home taste ridiculously good.

The gorgeous food blog, Harvest and Honey, inspired the choice of ingredients.

With the sweet, candy-like beets, the smooth and creamy avocado, plus a little goat cheese, chopped scallion, sliced radish and a handful of micro greens, it was beyond delicious.

Recipe (you hardly need one!)

1 large beet, roasted, peeled and diced*

1/2 scallion chopped, including white end

1 radish, sliced thin

1 1/2 Tbs goat cheese

Handful of micro greens

Dress with a tangy mustard vinaigrette (loaded with garlic).

* if you stow beets, post-roasting, in their foil wrappers in a large, unsealed zip lock bag, be very careful carrying the bag to the cutting board unless you want your kitchen to resemble a crime scene!

Trip along

One. Indivisible Group telecall and coffee. Two. Empty trunk of car. Three. Text Dog walker. Four. Set phone to blue tooth so I can listen to “Pod Save America” on the drive to the North Shore. Five. Stop and get future cab fare cash for my sister while praying we can grab her wily cat when the time comes. Six. Arrive in Salem, make sure I say enough of a hello before kicking into gear and fetching cat carrier from basement. Six (a). Crawl around looking under furniture for cat, hopefully with success, and then fill trunk with stuff for N’s new apartment. Seven. Drop my sister and her aide at new place. Eight. Take cat to vet for shots. Nine. Pick up my sister and her aide. Ten. Write pet escrow check for housing authority. Eleven. Drop check, proof of vaccinations, and form at housing authority. Twelve. Probably collapse momentarily at old Salem place before driving home (not likely to have to argue about whether to go to hardware store too because my sister tires way faster than I do). Thirteen. Drive home saying OM TARA TUTARE TURE SWAHA. Thirteen and on: Record expenses. Dog Joy. Food (his, mine). Sewing. Bath. TV.

Once again random capitalization suits. This time: Dog Joy.

Moving along

Some thing’s getting done. Other things getting fucked up (by you know who — don’t ask me about aprons right now).

Will make (an unexpected) run to Salem today in order to take my sister to the North Shore housing office. She’ll be signing the lease for subsidized housing this afternoon. Hooray!

Now if only Son #2 would get a job — something, anything — if only to stave off K and me having to ask, “What is our limit here?” I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know that many families would’ve considered it reached and then some.

It is very cold today. Very. As in, bitter. But, Finn and I walked around the lake with a friend and she graciously shared stuff about the child of hers that has needed extra this and extra that.

Her words were the first gift of the week. The second is that K has agreed to come home early so that I don’t have to abbreviate the visit with my sister in order to accommodate the dog.

Off to fix an apron!

Back light and self pity

It’s a little funny to me that just beyond this serene house quilt is the huge mess associated with tree clean up.

Happily, my brother in law came to help yesterday, otherwise we’d really be behind the eight ball.

It’s still a bit daunting. For one thing, on closer inspection, we noticed that the tree did hit the house, so I’ll need to get an insurance adjuster out here as soon as possible (after two back to back nor’easters, I imagine they’re very busy!) More snow coming Tuesday, P.S.

With the ladder leaning on an about-to-be-cut branch, there were plenty of Wily E. Coyote jokes.

We tried to broker a meeting between Finn and his dog cousin, Ziggy, and did everything right up to a point — (starting in neutral territory, keeping a good distance, then closing the distance, then a break apart) after which it did not go well. It turned into a minor disaster, actually, because when Finn went apeshit, I slipped in the snow and let go the leash. Ziggy seems to be fine, but it didn’t prevent one of my self-pitying laments about difficult dependents.

Speaking of which, after eight years on the wait list and three application updates, my sister has gotten subsidized housing. This is the best possible news for her (and secondarily for my brother, whose financial burden will be greatly reduced). For me, it is a giant chore with no real benefit (did I mention self pity about difficult dependents?) I am happy for her, don’t get me wrong. I just wish there was someone else to orchestrate the move.

Meanwhile, these are my last few weeks to prep for Newton Open Studios. We will pay rent for my sister’s current apartment through the end of April, which hopefully will make the transition manageable.

(Just so you know, we moved all her belongings into storage in 2009, out of storage in 2010, and then had to assist with near complete possession pack up during the bed bug ordeal last year. These were the same years that we moved our sons a total of seven times).