Sunday, September 25, 2016

Mom, Almost 92, Is Still Teaching Me


Yes, I have been 2,000 miles away from home for a month. Yes, I miss my wife, my children, my grandchildren. Yes, in all honesty, there is a part of me that would like to be somewhere else rather than sleeping on the sofa in my mother and brother's mobile home, taking care of my mother's age-related infirmities and my brother's broken (again) leg. 

Part of accepting who we are is honesty. 

It's a funny thing, though, spending time with Mom. With her recent time in the hospital, she's received a concrete indication that her heart is weakening. At ninety-one years of age, no one needed to tell her that she was in her sunset years, that the first stars are already lighting the sky. She's lain in the hospital bed, though, lain there in the solitude of night, listening to the dark bustle of the night nurses, a former nurse now an elderly patient. 

I've been there with her; I'm here with her now. 

"When it's your time, then not all the doctors in the world can save you. That's what Dr. Clay says. When it's your time, it's your time," Mom says.

And I listen. 

And I hear acceptance, and courage, and peace--and even a wry humor. I hear love and gratitude, patience and perseverance. Wisdom. 

I am a long way from home, but on this journey, who could ask for a better traveling companion? We are all travelers, and all travels end. With love and gratitude, with patience and perseverance, Mom is showing me the path, reminding me to watch my step, to be a good son, and to please enjoy the journey. 


(Written and posted with iPhone 6+)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Mom Is Talking My Leg Off


"Sometimes I'll talk to your brother Pat, and he doesn't seem all that interested in what I'm saying. Your dad was like that, too, sometimes. You're more like me that way."

"I don't see you every day, so I like to catch up on all the stories you have."

Mom and I are sitting on the sofa. Earlier, I was on my iPhone, using Google Docs to give some feedback to my wife on a business document. So there I am editing the article while Mom jabbers away about this and that. We all end up happy--wife, mom, and me. 

"I don't want to make you work too much," she says about supper. "I've got apple sauce or pudding. I can have some of that lunch meat."

"You want a grilled cheese sandwich?"

"Oh, that's too much work."

"I don't mind cooking for you."

She leans against me, arm to arm, gesturing. She tells me to donate Dad's music to a school "in honor of your dad."

"Yes," I say, "and we can donate photos to the college historical society, like your school friend Haskell did to Chico State, in honor to you and Dad."

"That's a good idea."

We get ready for supper, which includes a chicken and pasta dish. 

Mom says, "I remember when my dad killed a chicken for dinner. 'I'm not eating Henry!' I said."

Of course not. My mother would never do something like that. 

(Composed and posted by iPhone 6+)

Monday, September 12, 2016

Halfway Home, Then Back to Oroville

I'm so proud of Mom, gaining back her strength and keeping her independent spirit, even with some depression with her circumstances. 

The Denver, Colorado, airport--that's where I'm at right now. Yesterday on the Amtrak Zephyr I received a phone call from my brother. He had gone next door to talk to a noisy neighbor, and whatever ensued, he fell again and had pain where the steel rods have been inserted where he broke his leg a couple of years ago. 

Then my brother told me he was spending the night in the hospital and would have surgery on his leg. 

Phone reception is techy on the Zephyr. Receiving information in bits and pieces as I rolled through the empty West and the Rocky Mountains, I managed off and on to hire Mom's driver and neighbor to take care of her, give her the meds she needs, and to tell Mom I was coming back to Oroville. 


I detrained halfway home at Denver. My wife was so kind to get me an airport hotel for the night, and tickets to Sacramento and a shuttle to Oroville. 

So I'm waiting for my plane, reasonably rested considering everything, and am heading back to take care of business. 

I've done this before, but I don't plan to be gone seven months this time. A lot of details are in place now. 

I almost made it home!

(Composed and posted on my iPhone 6+)

Friday, September 9, 2016

Mom at 1 AM

I wake and see Mom's bedside lamp is on, so I tiptoe to her doorway to make sure she is all right. 

Since her hospitalization last Saturday for congestive heart failure, and after three days of diuretics to remove excessive liquids from her lungs, she has been gaining strength and learning to use the low-level nose-fed oxygen assistance apparatus during the night. She has steadily gained more strength and confidence during the last three nights. Tomorrow morning we will probably let her bathe without the neighbor coming over, if she wishes to try alone--even though the neighbor has provided little assistance, just a steadying arm at the right time. There is a bit of risk going solo, and we hope for health care support to be available next week. I will stand at the bathroom door and listen, as will my brother, when I leave in two days--as a more distant "back-up."

Now I stand quietly at the door, watching Mom. She sits on the bed, fingering the light, flexible tubing, finding by touch the up and down of the gear so she can correctly put it on. She cannot see what she is doing because she is almost totally blind. She cannot hear me because she is almost totally deaf. 

I do not step in to help because after one more night I will be gone, back to Iowa. I am amazed and proud and humbled by her practicality. She carries on, her despair from her weakness overcome by her natural self-sufficiency. Like a ghost I witness her success, feeling guilty for not helping, but steeling myself to not interfere, knowing I will soon be gone, knowing the more times she experiences independent success, the stronger she will be. 

She sits for the longest time; I quietly watch and wait for the longest time. The nostril nose feed is inserted, feed tubes looped over her ears and secured "bolo-style" at the neck. She still sits. She's been sneezing, a side effect of one of her medications. 

At the hospital, one male RN said he was amazed at how few meds she takes, at 91 (92 in three months).

"It's because I never smoked or drank," she says. 

I do nothing now but stand and watch at the doorway--my 1 AM vigil. Mom switches off the light. I tiptoe back to the sofa, my bed. I've done my job of letting Mom take care of herself. She's done her job of taking care of herself. 

My guilt fades, almost gone, replaced by a vague, 1 AM melancholy. But I am inspired and uplifted, knowing that when I leave, Mom will soldier on. She doesn't want to be a burden, and I've helped her find her strength. 

For both she and I, for now, body and mind and soul are willing. 


(photo: Mom resting during the afternoon, with a "What the heck are you doing?" expression as I take a photo.)

(written and posted with my iPhone)

Monday, June 13, 2016

Rollin' and Writin'


Here I am, rolling out of Oroville, California, Highway 70, south on the Amtrak Thruways bus to Sacramento, where I will board the eastbound Zephyr. 

Time to work a bit on my short story "Perchance Beneath a Quince Tree." I revised it some on the way out from Iowa to California, and now I have some more time. 

Well, time to get to work! Thanks to my iPhone 6+, I can work on the go without too much equipment. I just have to be careful "typing," what with the rock and roll of the bus and train. 

Posted from my iPhone 6+.