Ken, my son who lived with me, killed himself the day after Christmas. I’m still in shock and disbelief. I’ll write more later..
I’m really into food. Mostly healthy food. I think about meals a lot, like I used to think about boys when I was young. Breakfast. Lunch. Supper. What do I want? Wht do I have? What do I need to order? Food is about the only pleasure I have left.
I’m also into nutrition, nutrition that will benefit my physical conditions—low sugar, low fat, low salt.
So I order cookbooks and books on nutrition from Amazon– Dean Ornish, Joy Bauer, Dr McDougall. I watch the Food Network on TV. I have my own page with Dr Weil online. It’s personalized and includes health tips for my particular problems and the latest health news. I get a daily menu which includes three meals a day and a library of meals I can choose as substitutes.
Today I roasted vegetables (my own recipe) for lunch and made hummus for supper. I substituted peanut butter for the tahini because it’s healthier and, surprisingly, I don’t taste the peanut butter in the finished product.
Making those two things and cleaning the kitchen used up all my energy for today. And I did most of it sitting in a wheelchair. The things I fix these days must be quick and easy. So I’ve had to put away most of my old favorite recipes.
I tried Meals on Wheels but the meals aren’t all that healthy or good. So, it’s a struggle, but I can still put a meal together; and though what I do now is far removed from what I used to do in the kitchen, the food I cook is much better than having it brought in. And I’m grateful for that.
I just started following a blogger whose husband is ill and she has to care for him. Almost all her thoughts and moves are affected by how her husband will react. She plans her life around him and his needs.
I understand where she’s coming from; I, too, was once a caretaker for my husband. Keeping him safe and happy was my life’s work. It was difficult at times, but mostly it was rewarding.
And this is why:
We were in our late 70’s when he became ill. Our children had long left the nest and lived in other towns. We’d lost two sons, along with many other friends and relatives. We mostly had just each other. I was a retired psychiatric nurse, and chose that profession because my heart went out to those in need and I wanted to help them. I especially related to the sick, as I’d been quite ill as a child, often separated from friends and family, trying to deal with my fears and discomforts alone. My mother took good physical care of me but was too busy or unaware of how to comfort a sick, scared child. She never spoke of or explained my illnesses to me. Basically, I was just put to bed in a bedroom and left to my own devices.
Mother had always wanted to be a nurse, but she lost her father and brother before penicillin was discovered and had to quit school and go to work to help with the family bills. Her nursing aspirations were carried into her adulthood. She saw that I and my bed were clean and that I was well fed. When I had Scarlet Fever, she rubbed my rash with calamine lotion. She boiled my sheets and everything that came out of my room. When she learned that I had Rheumatic Fever, she cried on the bus on the way home from the doctor’s. I knew then that something bad was wrong with me, but I had no idea what it was or what was going to happen. The treatment for Rheumatic Fever back then was bed rest. There were no medications to treat it with.
Anyway, after I retired as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, I missed practicing my calling. And with the boys gone and no one to take care of, I needed a reason to get up in the morning.
My husband was a strong, controlling individual. He made the important decisions in our family, and I was happy to let him do that. I’ve always been a sensitive, introverted individual, never really sure of myself, afraid to take the initiative.
Then, after Forrest became ill, first with Alzheimer’s, then with COPD, hypertension, diabetes, kidney dysfunction, and colon cancer, I gradually had to become the decision maker and performer of all the household duties. I gained confidence, and, in fact, enjoyed being responsible.
But most of all, I enjoyed taking care of my husband—cooking his meals, buying his special treats at the grocers, seeing that he had his oxygen, clothes to keep warm, bringing his meals to him in the TV room after it was too much effort for him to come to the table, taking him to his doctors’ appointments, wheeling him in the wheelchair. We’d sit on the patio, watch the birds build nests, the trees grow, flowers bloom. Sometimes, we’d watch TV together, or I’d watch while he slept in a chair across from me. We were together. We connected. Not only was he allowing me to care for him, he was enjoying it. Sadly, it was our best time as a married couple.
The woman I spoke of at the beginning of this blog lives in Australia on a bird farm. Our experiences with illness are not quite the same, but, still, I can empathize with her. Her blog address is: http://jmgoyder.com/ She’s courageous, admirable and an inspiration. I think you might find her blog worth the visit.
Some days, I can’t do anything without feeling dizzy and light-headed. If I try to cook or empty the dishwasher, even in my wheelchair, I feel as if I’ll pass out. So I have to be content to do nothing.
Every time I have a day like this, I become discouraged, believe I’ll never feel ‘normal’ again, whatever normal is. To me, it’s being able to walk through my house without the aid of a walker or a wheelchair (though I’d welcome a walker today); cook and bake the way I used to; drive; walk my dog, play with her outside, visit my friends; go shopping; go to church; do the laundry and other chores when they need to be done, not having to wait for a ‘good’ day. Or even just to get up and walk across the room to look out the window or turn on a light.
I think of the things I used to do and realize how much personal freedom I’ve lost. When I was 80, three months after Forrest died, I sold my house, had an auction and moved to Connecticut all in one month. Now, five years later, I’m in a wheelchair. Actually, a year after Forrest’s death, I started using a walker. Just months later, the wheelchair.
I’ve seen doctors, had tests; No one can make a diagnosis. It’s obvious that I have high blood pressure but my heart beats steadily, though I do have a condition called paroxysmal atrial tachycardia which sends me to the ER when I have an episode (not often).
I knew one day I’d get old and have to slow down, but I never dreamed I’d not be able to walk. It was a blow when I could no longer dance. I loved dancing. Such a freeing feeling. Now I’d be deliriously happy if I could just walk and feel normal.
Today I had to cancel a dental appointment. My teeth really need to be cleaned and it takes so long to get an appointment. Making appointments is tricky. Fitting Ken’s time in with office time.
Then there are the better days when I can wheel lickety-split through the rooms of the house, stand, walk with the walker, fix a meal without feeling I’m going to faint, perform light chores… I’m a completely different self. And I don’t know why. I keep looking for answers so I can make all days better. I appreciate them so much when they occur.
At my age, you realize that you’re not as in control of your life as you once thought. There’s not much in life you can depend on 100 %.
I try to accept what is and go on with my life. Find things I can be grateful for–the beauty of nature, my sweet companion dog, JennyPenny, what family and friends I have left, my books, computer, telephone, my mind, a house I like, funds which I hope will last me the rest of my life if the economy will allow it, the list goes on. I’d like to add faith to that list but there are questions, doubts to overcome. That’s for another day.
This is not an uplifting blog. I started it to find answers, to become acquainted with myself. And to present that self to the world.
It’s been rough. Today, all day, I did nothing. I felt physically and mentally ill.
Muffy was put to sleep about a month ago in the ER. She was dying of cancer of the liver; Betsy died Wednesday morning at home. It all happened so fast. She seemed okay. Then she became ill and died. Her ashes were delivered today.
And today is the anniversary of my son Scott’s suicide. I always dread August. The day Scott killed himself, we were having a heat wave. And now, again.
There’s always such guilt involved when a loved one, so close, dies. What were the signs it was going to happen? Why didn’t I see? What could I have done to save my son? My baby girls? Was I inattentive, negligent in some way? The questions haunt you, disturb/prevent sleep, tie your stomach in a knot so that you can’t eat.
Karen came with gifts, as usual. She’s here visiting her mother; always comes by when she’s here. Today she brought a cinnamon roll from the bakery on National and some lovely tomatoes,cucumbers and watermelon from a fruit stand. I took a few bites of the cinnamon roll, had a tomato for supper.
My heart is breaking. My mind isn’t really working. I’ll tell the stories of Muffy, Betsy and Scott another time. Just wanted to mention them on this day.
I’ve shrunk with age; parts of me have fallen, and wrinkled and changed in other ways; but my mind, heart and soul are ageless.
I’m unable to go very far without a walker or wheelchair.
It’s no longer safe for me to drive.
I have to break up tasks with periods of rest.
As my friends and family pass away, I’m becoming more and more isolated.
I have medical problems that will never be cured.
I am no longer desirable.
I’m lonely, sorrowful, regretful for past thoughts and deeds.
But I own my own home.
I feed and dress myself every day.
I prepare healthy, tasty meals.
I have a library of books I’m reading through.
Nature is always there.
I can still learn
and embrace the beauty of the world.
I have friends I visit with on the phone.
I can stop expecting a better me,
a richer life,
the sun always shining.
I can be in each moment
accept my life as it is,
forgive myself and others.
I have much to be grateful for.
The amazing thing is–
Joy! I’m here!
I found a new author, new to me that is, Canadian Margaret Laurence, a novelist. I don’t usually read fiction but was drawn to “The Stone Angel” because it’s about a 90 year old woman who’s not ready to ‘pack it in yet. It’s about her process of coming to terms with her decline and mortality. It’s an accurate picture of what it’s like to grow old and lose your independence. I relate to and sympathize with not only Hagar Shipley, the old woman, but also with her daughter-in-law who is her caretaker until she is moved into a nursing home.
I was formerly the one and now I’m the other. But not quite. I have no one to care for me, should I ever need a caretaker. If I want to die at home, I’ll need enough funds to hire caretakers. It’s a difficult position to be in. One wants to live, but one also wants to die before the funds run out. I pray for good health and a fast death, when the time comes.
A morbid subject? Yes, but at my age, you think about those things.
On a much more pleasant note, I spent the day posting some poems on my poem page. And sorting through more books. I’m afraid the ‘keeper’ box is filling up much faster than the ‘donate’ box. I find books I’ve misplaced and ones I’d forgotten I had. I want to stop and read so many of them, but if I do, I’ll never get this job done. It’s a good feeling to know that they’re there waiting to be read when I have the time.
It’s hard to let go of books. But I must. I just don’t have shelves enough for all of them. I had boxes and boxes of books in my auction after Forrest died. Broke my heart, but I was downsizing and there was no place for them. At least 10 boxes, but still not enough.
Now my three bedroom one story house with no basement is overflowing with “stuff.” I’m going to go through every room and eliminate everything that isn’t useful or special to me in some way. I’m starting with the books. I guess I’m a pack rat at heart, though in my other house there was room for everything.
Books are so special. They’re my second indulgence, food being the first. I don’t mark them up; I don’t bend pages; I treat them with great respect. I’m always uncomfortable when they are in others’ hands. When Forrest read one or another of them from time to time, I knew I’d get it back worn and tattered. I felt like I’d thrown one of my children into the garbage. Books are my friends. It’s not as pathetic as it sounds. I have human friends, but I’d be lost without my books.
I started reading early. In first grade I got my first library card and spent many happy hours there, leafing through the stacks, smelling leather and paper, checking a pile out to take home to read. I was sick as a child; had scarlet fever and rheumatic fever before antibiotics were available. And I had pneumonia, tonsillitis and strep throats. I spent many hours alone–reading!
Stories, thoughts, ideas, words are so very precious. And many of the authors are exceptional. I learn a lot from them; they inspire me to be the best I can be. They give me hope, faith in creation, love for nature and all creatures. They give me confidence in myself. People can do this too, but it’s tricky sometimes. Personal feelings and emotions get in the way. Some truths may be avoided for fear of offending. Besides, it’s fantastic to be able to have great minds available to you, even if on paper. And, of course, the older one gets, the less voices that are not on a page are available.
No matter where I am, I must have at least one book with me. There are books in every room of my house, except for the bathrooms and the laundry room. When I go out, which now isn’t very often, I carry one with me. If I forget to take one, I feel lost, insecure. That doesn’t happen very often.
So Ken is helping me. Earlier, he emptied three shelves above my desk and placed three boxes on the floor, one for keepers, one for donations, one for selling. I will not throw any away. I’ve started going through them, and just as I knew it would be, I’m having a hard time letting them go, some for what’s in them, others for memories they bring up. Every time I place a book in the donation or sell box, it feels like a mini funeral. But there is some consolation; the words in the books are very much alive and someone else will benefit from the wisdom between their pages. It’s nice to know that the knowledge and inspiration will be spreading.