Thursday, March 18, 2010

T minus 14 Days.....

So, the time is getting nearer and I'm ready! Only 14 days until I see this place in my rear view mirror for the last time.

There's one thing I will miss here though. This has been like a long-running soap opera during which I've watched a family dynamic in action. Reminds me a bit of the old night-time soap called "Dallas". We have the classic sociopath, the victim and the "Pixie Dust" characters who choose to pretend everything is going to come up roses in the end. If we just wish hard enough, it will all be wonderful and the flowers will bloom and everyone will go away happy. We have the estranged child who has returned to the fold. We have the weaknesses and strengths of each character coming into the light, bright sunshine making each flaw obvious. We have financial intrigue, health struggles, substance abuse and women of ill-repute. We have the detritus left behind when the one who has held it together and managed to keep it under control is no longer able to do so. It is the chairs on the Titanic, shifting from one side to another but we know this ship is going to sink. The place has a haunted feel to it.

By far, the most interesting character is the Classic Sociopath. I've been fascinated by that personality disorder since I was in college. Of course, there's a lot more known about it now but we really don't know how it develops.

A friend suggested I write a novel. The reservation I have is that it's hard to imagine who would want to read it! It might be a good beach read! So... would you read my novel if I wrote it? Any experience with a sociopath?


Monday, March 08, 2010


    This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish clod of ailments complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy...I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. (George Bernard Shaw)

Lots of lessons being learned here.

There are some basics, things that are probably insignificant to others but huge for me.

I have seen the cycle of reciprocity in my own life of late. The energy exchange is now something I understand on a personal level as well as an intellectual one. While dialectics in the scientific sense have always appealed to my intellectual/logical mind, it never made sense on a personal, individual principle in my own life.

Quite some time back, I prayed to understand it. I wanted to know how it felt to give and get, both in the negative and the positive. If I was lacking in generosity, I wanted to know how to fix that. One might say that I considered it to be essential to my own growth. However, I wanted to see what it would be like to take it out of the intellect and put it into the spirit.

The abundance that has come my way has been almost astounding. And it has all been in very practical, tangible ways. I'm far too cynical to believe perception is reality or that wishes and hopes manifest. What I believe is solid intel. Give me the facts, the figures, the final outcome. All the rest is pixie dust.

God, in his/her/its infinite wisdom knows this about me. I'm Doubting Thomas on steroids.

The first literal manifestation came from a friend a few months ago. "I know you are struggling with the deposit you need to get your teeth done. My husband and I have talked it over and decided to give you that money. You don't need to pay it back." Paraphrased, that is what was said.

Knock me over with a feather! I thought perhaps I was having auditory hallucinations!

I noticed that people began responding to my efforts at friendship. They reciprocated. I've gone from three contacts on my cell phone to thirty. And this isn't the equivalent of collecting Facebook friends. These are real people who call me and I call them. I spend more time on the phone now than I did when I was a teenager!

In my apartment search, I've had some problems because of credit issues. Some things went south and I have some accounts in collections. Sometimes that is just how it goes. It's not that I don't want to pay those things. It's not willful negligence. It's something that often happens when people become disabled. You choose between fundamental survival and the luxury of reputation.

Don't get me wrong. I hate what the credit issues have done to my reputation. I hate being viewed as a flake when it's simply not the case. FICO scores do not define character. They can be telling of many other things though. They can tell of sudden unexpected illnesses. They can tell of job losses. They can tell of failing capabilities. Sometimes they can tell of someone who has willfully run up a bunch of debt and walked away from it. The one thing they can not gauge is character.

Anyway, like it or not, I have to deal with the surface judgments from those who would rather see me in a negative way than to look at my personal situation. It's something I simply have to accept.

Once again, a friend came to the rescue. She'd told me she would pay the deposit which was extraordinary due to the aforementioned issue. I didn't take it too seriously because people say all kinds of things. Follow-through isn't always as forthcoming. I'm a "trust but verify" kind of gal.

When I went into the office this morning, she'd already sent the moneygram. I asked her to do it that way because I don't want any suspicion that I pulled a fast one - or was trying to get money, just to get money so I asked her to send it directly to the apartment complex. I saw the moneygram with my own eyes. She came through.

The payback terms are very reasonable and something I can do with little negative impact on my monthly budget.

All of this makes me want to be in the world, doing more, giving more, sharing more. It's that spiritual dialectic that had alluded me for so many years. This doggone give-and-take principle can actually work for me, too! I honestly believe this is a power greater than myself, showing me the principle in a way that I can internalize.

The interesting thing, for the record, is that neither of these people who have so generously offered their financial assistance are members of the family I have been helping for the past several years.

Isn't that something!


Sunday, March 07, 2010

Forkin the Road...

I have put down the deposit on a new apartment and will be moving at the end of March.

I'm at peace with having done the best I can in this situation. I'm not sorry to have stuck it out because, truthfully, it shows more character than to run. In the past, I've always run. Without exception, I run. This isn't running. This is completion.

Her son says it would be wrong to tell D because it might upset her. I'm willing to go along with that. For now.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Over the past few weeks, there have been a few developments. My housemate probably has Lewy Body Dementia. Basically, in a nutshell, that means she ain't comin' home. Ever.

Each day is a new day for her. She doesn't remember her visitors or activities from the day before. Sometimes when she's prompted, she can remember snippets from previous days. Mostly she sits on the bed with her cell phone in hand, calling her son to "bring me home" or making random calls, giving the details of her latest trip to Lewy Land.

This morning.

My phone.

5.14 AM - "I want to come home. Why can't I come home?"

6.17 AM - "The sheriffs are holding me here. They are at the door and there's a big man standing in my doorway. I'm being kept hostage. You need to come and get me." (This means she tried to bolt and the nursing facility staff is trying to keep her from doing it again.)

6.30 AM - "I'm at the apartments across the street. Near the filling station. Can you bring the car and get me? I'll wait about ten minutes. I hope you get this message." (This is a complete fantasy. She is at the nursing facility.)

7.00 AM - "I tried to get out the back door but there's a pack of dogs out there. They're growling and I'm afraid to open the door. I'm desperate, honey." (There are no dogs.)

This was just the beginning of the day. This goes on all day. Every day. Her son gets the bulk of the calls.

Since she is considered a "flight risk", we will be transferring her to a more secure facility next week.

One of the most painful things to hear is that she believes God is punishing her. She continually asks "what did I do wrong?" or "what do I have to do to get out? How much time do I have to do?" She has the belief that she is serving a sentence. She believes the neurologist has sentenced her to time because she missed some questions during last week's visit. That is her perception of her confinement.

It's a difficult question to deal with. Why do these things happen? Certainly she did nothing "wrong" and she's not "serving time", although I know it feels that way to her.

God punishing her? No.

But how do you explain to someone in that condition that we live in a random and chaotic universe? Sh*t happens. There's no adequate explanation. There's no scientific explanation and there's certainly no dialectic explanation.

How to be comforting and reassuring becomes especially challenging when there's no concretes to offer. She has a horrible disease, a progressive disease, and she will die in a nursing facility.

I, of all people, have no answers.


Saturday, February 06, 2010

Simple Pleasures....

Chris at Enchanted Oak has offered to give $2.00 to Haiti Relief for each person who is willing to post some simple pleasures. If you are interested in participating in this challenge, share some simple pleasures on your blog this weekend, link to Chris's blog.

Given my status lately, it's a good reminder to sit and think of a few things that make me happy, simple things that restore and refresh me.

Here are a few:

1. Going to my favorite consignment shop ~ Renaissance ~ and spending a few dollars on definitely unneeded but fun clothes.

2. A quiet cup of coffee at Starbucks in the morning after a walk, especially in the fog.

3. Good food! Weight Watchers or not, I still love to chow down.

4. A good book! A book that takes me to another world, another place, getting to know people I'd never know otherwise.

5. Getting my hair done at Bravissimo. It's definitely a little pricey but always makes me feel good.

6. Rings. I love rings and have dozens.

7. Rose gardens, creating or looking

8. A cup of something hot in the evenings, reading in my recliner with some soft music in the background.

9. The guilty pleasure of listening to Pink in the car, maybe just a bit too loud, which definitely makes me a Stupid Girl.

10. Certain ringtones on my phone - because it means a friend is calling.


Friday, February 05, 2010

And The Beat Goes On....

First of all, I want to apologize for my lack of attentiveness. It's okay if you roll your eyes. I've done the same thing when people say that. The truth is that my energy is at about 30% and very little of that has been expended on things I care about - such as reading blogs, reading books or even leisurely watching TV. While all the things I've been doing are necessary, they're also challenging most of my personal limitations, physically and mentally.

Not to say I won't be okay because I will. In comparison to my housemate's troubles, I have little room to complain - if any at all.

She is still in the nursing facility. The Cliff Notes are that she has been declared incompetent and is no longer able to make her own decisions. Her family has been brought in and those dynamics are coming into play. Her sister from Southern California has decided I am the spawn of the devil since I have asked to be paid for my services and has removed me from all ability to help in any substantial ways. I am not allowed to have information about her case from the nursing staff. If she could ban me from the premises, she probably would. I've gone from Golden Girl to goat in two days flat. Since she has Power of Attorney, I can't even make a suggestion. The staff can't even take information from me, let alone give it. The fact that I have had my boots on the ground for the past four years holds no significance. The Sister From Hell and I no longer speak and have no reason to do so in the future.

Her son is here, also from SoCal, and she has cut him off as well. The reasons for this are basically a power struggle. He also can't make any decisions. Luckily, after sweet-talking her, he can get information which he gives me and we discuss possibilities among ourselves. The discussions he has with his siblings are none of my business and I don't really care - but someone in the family needs to see all of these changes in context. If I can give that to him, that's good enough.

The sister's opinion is that I have no right to be paid because I am a "friend". I guess a friend, in her mind, should sacrifice his or her entire existence to care for her sister with no expectation of reciprocity. Of course this makes me angry and I have questioned my ethics on this every way there is. I have talked with trusted friends and even my spiritual advisor to think this through. I have determined that my asking for financial compensation is ethically clear.

I don't see any other "friends" of hers stepping up to the plate. I am there with her at the minimum, three hours a day. I go with her to physical therapy. I have lunch with her. Since she has little sense of time, she gets lonely very quickly and needs the visitors she has. Her two sons and her daughter visit her daily as well. They all have full lives and this is taxing them as well. We're doing the best we can. My housemate trusts me and knows I will always tell her the truth. That's not going to change. The rest of them have their own unique relationship with her and deal with things the way they think is best.

So that's my m-bitch for the day.

As for her, we got the report from the neurologist and he diagnosed early stage Alzheimers. Needless to say, she is not going to be able to come home without full-time caretaking which the family will have to work out and likely pay for. The insurance morass in this saga is something I won't even go into at this point but I'll say there's never been a stronger argument in my mind for national health care. This isn't a time to have to be worried about money. It sucks for her family, none of whom are independently wealthy.

When her son and I told her the results of the test, of course she began to cry. It's a hard pill to swallow and she's not someone who reads a lot or even talks about these things. She's scared to death, rightfully so. We've had a lot of talks about doors closing and her choice to open new ones. We've had talks about accepting limitations and creating a life within them. As a disabled person, I've had to do that. Everyone does. Eventually. As the saying goes, none of us get out of this life alive.

Seriously though, putting myself in her position, I can only imagine the hell she is experiencing in her quiet moments. I wish her grace, peace and acceptance - the kind that only something divine can offer her. We human beings are so limited in our wisdom and our ability to make horrific things right - or to even make them kind of okay. Sometimes life just sucks.

Thanks to all of you for hanging in with me, even though I am so notably unresponsive right now.


Thursday, January 21, 2010


"How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these."
George Washington Carver

The day after I last posted here, my housemate had a catastrophic health event. She was taken to the emergency room, was diagnosed with pulmonary embolism, pneumonia and sepsis. She was critically ill and was admitted to the ICU.

Since that time, my life has been a whirlwind of taking care of and helping her family, making sure her needs are met as best I can. She is currently in a skilled nursing facility where she is getting physical therapy and breathing treatments, other things that will hopefully restore her to some independence and quality of life. This event has pushed her into some serious cognitive issues. She has likely had Alzheimers for some time and this made it worse. As it is right now, her grown kids are having to make her decisions. The reality is that she probably won't be coming home.

During the worst of it, January 8, while she lay on a bed in the emergency room on a respirator, the doctor approached me and told me he was prepared to put her on life support. She wasn't expected to live. A few minutes before that, she'd given me her advance directive in front of the hospital personnel. It was a huge responsibility to choose between her wishes as I understand them (no heroics) and my knowledge that her family needed time to gather from around the state, get time off work and all the little things that must be attended to before they were able to come to her bedside. I didn't want to make a decision that would deny them the ability to say goodbye.

My answer was "yes". Put her on life support if necessary.

In my lifetime, I've always been protected from these things. I have very little experience with the cycles of life. My mother, thankfully, still has full cognition. My father passed a few years ago. My brother is fine. He has a typical collection of health issues, just as I do. It's normal for people our age.

When I was growing up, we lived thousands of miles from extended family so most deaths, illnesses and so on were little more than informative phone calls. We were not actively involved. Consequently, it had a distant feeling to it. A detachment.

This has been entirely different. I'm at the nursing home daily. I'm actively involved with her kids, all of whom work and have to maintain their lives. I'm making decisions and being proactive in her daily health care at the facility. I'm on the HIPPA list. The staff talks to me just as though I am blood family. (That is with her family's consent and legal permission.) I am paid to do this work. (That's another issue for another blog. Why am I paid? Should I be paid? Etc. My decision was to be paid.)

The one thing I'm very aware of is that there are a lot of dynamics in her family. Old wounds. Broken relationships. Each person wanting to establish his or her place on the hierarchy of decision-making. It's an interesting and sensitive road to navigate.

If there's anything I've learned from this so far is that it's so important to let go of all those old grievances. (Mine, too.. not just her kids. I'm taking my inventory. Not theirs.) We all tend to judge the giving of other people by our own standards when in reality, we need to be looking at the individual capacity of others. I have had my issues with D. in the past, as everyone who reads here already knows. In looking at it from this perspective, she was giving the best she had to give. It wasn't always up to my standard. There were times I felt exploited and used. The reality is that she did give me what she had to give - within her capabilities.

That is why I haven't walked away which is what I would have done in the past. Little did I ever imagine I would be in the position I'm in now, making choices and decisions about her life - and finding that I want them to be the kindest, most compassionate decisions I can possibly make to keep her happy. Her life is probably short at this point. I want to see her go peacefully, feeling loved and pampered. That's the best I can give.