Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Precious Memories

Once again, today was a good day. But something in the air...has me reminiscing, and at the same time, wondering about the future. I think some memories from childhood are so profound that they affect us throughout our entire lives - they become a part of the fabric of our being. Ever since I became a parent, I've been thinking more and more often about my childhood. I pull out the happy memories, and I think about how I can duplicate those precious moments in a way that might be a gift to my children - that they may also carry such memories with them throughout their lives.

So many of my precious memories involve close family friends, like the ones I shared surrounding our break fast celebration each year. But many of my memories also involve my childhood best friend and her family who lived next door to us. I've been thinking a lot about them recently...not only because of a well-timed email that arrived from Wizzer the week all of this started with my mom, but also because of a beautiful card her parents sent my mom last week.

I spent so much of my childhood in their home. It was always filled with all kinds of pets...hamsters, guinea pigs, snakes, chicks, dogs, turtles, name it, we probably had it as a pet. I say "we" because I always thought of Wizzer's pets as mine, too. I remember sitting around many days and nights in front of their fireplace, listening to her father play his guitar and sing to us. One of my favorites was "Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night." When I learned I was pregnant with Micah, I went searching for that song online...even downloaded a version from iTunes and play it for Micah now.

They had another daughter, B, who died as a young teen from a congenital liver problem. B was also a huge part of my childhood. Perhaps a year or two before she died, they had gotten some baby chicks for her, and she kept them in a makeshift chicken coop in their house. I remember each morning, sitting in their kitchen before school, listening to B wake up and hearing her footsteps padding down the hall to check on her chicks. At the time, they also had this...clever and determined dog named Willie. Willie was a long haired miniature dachshund, and he had a knack for breaking into the chicken coop some nights. Each morning, as B came down the hall to check on her baby chicks, we would all freeze in the kitchen, hold our breath for a moment, hoping to hear B squeal with joy as she saw her chicks. It was that instant of hope I remember feeling - knowing that there was likely bad news ahead, but for just a moment, each morning believing it would be okay, and feeling my heart expand with faith. Far too many mornings, however, B would come down the hall, time would stand still for a moment...and then she would cry out in despair "Oh, Willie!" At that moment, my heart would sink, and I would know that Willie had broken into the chicken coop again and taken out another baby chick.

So many mornings, I wake with that same feeling - for an instant, I hold my breath, hoping to hear good news for the day, knowing that the possibility of a version of the "Oh, Willie" cry from my mother is lurking ahead. Today, we heard only squeals of felt like another day that we managed to keep Willie out of the chicken coop.

Maya was difficult last night - after she woke up again at 4:00 am, I pulled her into bed with me, and we snuggled together and slept. She was quiet and nestled close to me until Micah woke up at 8:15 this morning. It was another typical morning - we brought Micah into our bed for a little while before bringing him downstairs for breakfast. The babysitter arrived at 9, and DH took Micah to preschool this morning. While they were out, I managed to get a bit of housekeeping done - I finally sorted all the clean laundry downstairs and put away the kids' clothing. Micah definitely needs a Fall wardrobe - I have several boxes of hand-me-downs from my friends that I need to sort through so I can pull out clothing for him. That is the next task on my housekeeping "to-do" list.

I took care of a few work items, caught up on email, searched for a few houses for us to rent, and got myself ready and out the door around 12:15. Maya and I met my parents' at the hospital, and we had a bit of a wait. Mom had gotten a shower this morning - I think perhaps her first one since she was hospitalized. They had a wonderful wheelchair shower chair, and my mother said it felt good to take a shower.

Once again, radiation was running behind. We met with the doctors, we chatted, and Mom got her kisses from Delicious. Mom has been getting headaches the past few days, and we were concerned about some brain swelling. After talking with her, the doctors have decided not to increase her steroid dosage yet. They will check with us again tomorrow, and if her symptoms start to worsen, they will immediately increase her dosage. For now, they want my mother to sleep with her head elevated, and we may need to talk to the nursing staff about changing the times they administer her steroid - they seem to stretch it closer to 12 hours at night, and that might be contributing to her headaches.

Today was an interesting day as we waited in radiation - I think we heard the bell ring 2 or 3 times. Many cancer centers have a tradition - patients who complete their course of radiation ring a big bell after their final treatment. When my mother heard it today, it brought a huge smile to her face. We talked about her ringing the bell, and she said she was looking forward to it - that it is a big milestone she cannot wait to see. I think on her final day of radiation, we'll have a big celebration - perhaps our entire family will be there, and we'll take video and pictures of my mom ringing that bell!

We did receive some good news at the mom is doing very well, and they decided to add 7 more days of radiation to her course of treatment. That means my mother's last day of radiation will now be October 25. It does mean she will be in the rehab facility longer, but this is good news - they only add time to patients who do well. They believe that it means they can extend my mother's time with more days of treatment.

When we finally got back to the rehab facility today, we were almost an hour late - and we had missed our family planning meeting. My brother had been waiting for us for almost 45 minutes, but the team had to reschedule our meeting for tomorrow morning. Instead, we met with the social worker and the nurse coordinator to discuss a few concerns. First, my mother was a bit ticked off by some events that had transpired. Apparently, her physical therapist had failed to return her to her room after therapy - he simply dumped her in the front hallway by the nurse's station. My mother felt disrespected - she had to sit there and beg for help for a long time, and apparently, the nurses ignored her. She kept saying that she needed help and asked if someone would help get her to her room. The nurse coordinator apologized profusely, and they made a note to discuss the issue with PT.

Our other concern was that the floating nurse who was assigned to my mother today had once again not given my mother her intestinal medications as directed. She had also nearly given my mother the wrong dosage of her chemotherapy medication. Luckily, my father caught the mistake and the problem was resolved. We again expressed our concerns that their system for administering medications was failing, and we were promised they would get it fixed.

After our meeting, we returned my mother to her room. We rescheduled the family meeting with the nutritionist and the rehabilitation team for tomorrow morning. We did learn at the meeting that the rehab team is expecting my mother to be staying at the rehab facility for 4 weeks, and it seems likely that insurance will be approving all 4 weeks without argument. We are thrilled - that timing works out perfectly with my mother's expected radiation completion date.

We helped my mom set up her dinner, and we arranged the television for her. My mom entertained a few phone calls, I checked her closet to see if she had enough clothing, and we arranged her tray with her phone, ipod, and other necessities before we left. I had my father follow me through the backroads to the highway, and then we went our separate ways.

I arrived home to an empty house - DH and Micah were out visiting one of the possible rental houses (that house is a definite "no"). I also called one of the possible caretakers for my mother and set up a time for her to come meet our family. DH and Micah made it home around 8:00, and we spent some time with the kids before we put Micah to sleep at 8:30. I gave Maya a bath, and my mother called a few times to talk. She seems to be doing a little better with the phone now, so I think practice is helping. Maya fell asleep a little after 9, and I am hopeful that she will sleep through the night tonight.

Tomorrow, as I drive up to the rehab facility for our family meeting, I will probably be thinking of B again. One of the reasons I think about B so often these days has to do with a story her father told at her funeral. I remember him talking about how B loved to pay the tolls for the car behind her when they went on vacation, and I even remember her doing that once or twice when I was with them. That story really touched me, and for at least 15 years after B died, I liked to pay the tolls for the car behind me on every trip I took. I would tell the toll agent to tell the car behind me that it was a gift from B. It made me smile thinking of her, and sometimes I swear I could almost hear her raspy laugh, and I imagined her sitting on the ground near the toll booth, her legs straddled out in front of her with her feet touching, and a purple dress cascading around her.

My favorite place to pay the toll for the car behind me was just beyond the hospital. I often drove north on that road in the years after B died, and I remember thinking of B all the way up, getting excited as I readied myself to pay those tolls. In fact, over the years, driving north always made me think of B. Since the advent of the automated electronic passes, I rarely pay the tolls for the cars behind me on this trip north (although I still do it every year on my trip to Florida), but I still think of B every time I drive north. For the past 6 weeks, I've been driving that route every day and thinking of B.

Today, I started to think about the ways in which we remember people, and how some memories are so powerful that they live within us and shape our lives. I think B paying the tolls for others is one good example - it made me want to do a random act of kindness by paying a toll just so that I could honor B's memory. My Grammy lives within me through her sayings...she had all of these phrases she would say over and over again. Some of them, she would say when we were driving. There are some streets that I drive down and can hear my grandmother's voice, almost as if she is sitting next to me in the car.

I have so many happy memories of my makes me wonder which ones will stand out most to me over the years to come...which ones will be the foundation for the stories I tell my children over and over again. I wonder if there will be that one thing, like paying the tolls, that I can do that will make me feel close to my mother, as if she is right there with me.

1 comment:

Chele said...

Super big hug. I'm exhausted from reading your post. You are doing an amazing job of keeping it all together and running as smoothly as possible. I had forgotten about needing to move while the addition was being added. I keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers. I'm happy to hear your mother is making progress but am appalled at some of her caregivers.