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.


Thursday, January 07, 2010

A Cottage Designed by Monet.....

This year has started out with the proverbial "bang".

Within the first few days of January, I picked up another wretched cold. I get a lot of those lately. For the past week, I've been sneezing, coughing and blowing my nose until I think a replacement model might be in order.

It's getting better now but this is an extraordinarily long-lasting cold. A few people have mentioned that it's a peculiar one going around and everyone takes a few weeks to get over it.

The cold has given me a lot of time to consider my future residence. I've thought about what I want and where I'd like it to be. Many years ago, when I visited the UK, one of the places we went was Stratford-on-Avon. There were some of the most beautiful cottages there. Cobblestone streets and huge gardens. It wasn't the cottage itself that drew me as much as the gardens that typically surrounded it. Since the place I choose will be my home for a number of years, until I either move to Thailand or die, it really needs to be the right place.

I want a cottage designed by Monet.

Given the unlikelihood of my being able to afford that, I'll settle for a cottage not designed by Monet - but I'd like it to be close. What I know for certain is that I don't want to share my space with another person. I don't want to live in someone else's house. It must be detached, must have a private entrance and must be isolated from the "main house". Living in someone's guest cottage is very appealing but the only time I want to see the owner is on Rent Day. At that, I'd prefer a maildrop. I've lived through this situation so long that I am reluctant to ever try it again.

My geographic range is anywhere between Garberville, California and Crescent City, California. All of those communities, small or large, are either coastal or near the coast. They all have more than 2 inches of rain a year which is about what we're getting in the Central Valley.

It seems important to give all of these things consideration. For so long, I've allowed things to "flow" which in itself isn't bad. It becomes bad though when it means not making choices and going only for speed and convenience. That is how I created the mess I am in now.

So.. if you can spare it, send a positive thought my way. At this point, I'm looking at a February 1st or March 1st launch day.