Monday, November 01, 2010

Let's jump into the Wayback Machine!

Dear and Gentle Reader, once again I find myself apologizing for the appalling lack of correspondence on my part. I have no real excuses, other than my duties as a Caregiver, Wife and Mother have kept me from here on a regular basis.

And I *miss* here.

I find myself, at least a dozen times a day, mentally composing blog posts. Many, many things have happened in our little corner of the world that I wanted share with you, but I have (literally) not had the time.

And so, as promised - one hideously long and seriously boring post about what's been going on "behind the scenes" at our little cottage. (You have been warned!)

March 2010: We "celebrated" the anniversary of Mom moving back home with us. Because she continues to decline, it was less of a "celebration" and more of a "let's have a little bit of cake!"

Twinks had Spring Break, but spent most of it sick AND going to play practice. So, not much of a "break" really...

April 2010: Hospital City holds the annual Spring Outreach Clinic in the Greater Metro. Twinks goes in for what we thought would be a "routine checkup". Her feet are molded for new orthotics, but then the doctor in charge decides that she needs to be evaluated for surgery. In Hospital City. The appointment is scheduled for the Tuesday after Memorial Day Weekend. My only consolation is that Twinks will be out of school by then, and TW volunteers to take off work, and stay home with my Mom, so that Twinks and I can have some "girly time" on the trip, without worrying about the logistics of caring for my Mom as well. Did I ever tell you what a wonderful man TW is?

May 2010: iPad. One for Twinks, one for TW & I to share. Yes, it is magical. And a bit heavier than I would like, but find myself using it much more than I expected I would. My first Apple product! Surely, somewhere, a tiny bit of Microsoft Hell froze over...

Memorial Day Weekend: 3 day sojourn to Hospital City. A tale unto itself, it is a driving force (pun intended) in the events that transpire in June. TW insists that Twinks and I leave on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend; it is the middle of the holiday weekend, and so traffic on that day should be lightest. This means we will overnight 2 nights in Hospital City. I have to leave the mini-van for TW to transport Mom around in, so we rent a Hyundai Sante Fe for the trip. Twinks is jazzed about the satellite radio. I am looking forward to spending Monday, Memorial Day going around Hospital City with Twinks and having a tiny bit of respite from taking care of Mom.

The drive down is non-eventful, and the weather was nice as well. When we get to Hospital City, our room is ready at the new Homewood Suites that we are staying at, but the rental car has a problem; the rear window falls down into the track, and can't be brought back up. We contact the rental company, and go to the airport to exchange the car. When we get to the airport, they don't have another Sante Fe; all they have is a Kia Soul.

 Twinks nearly swoons with joy - this is the "Hamster car" - the one from the commercials with the Hamsters that drive the cute little car around. She has had a crush on that car since the first time she saw it! We drive it off the airport, and I am in love with it before we get to our hotel. Monday, we have fun; driving around in the little Hamster car, and shopping, and eating at favorite restaurants.

Tuesday, we get up early, and follow our customary routine on Hospital Day. Check out by 6:30 am, Hospital by 7:00 am, we are eating breakfast by 7:15, and waiting for Hospital Day to begin. At 8:00 am the Clinic opens, and Twinks goes back for "weighs and measures". We head over to x-ray, and then back to the waiting room to wait for an exam room. Once in the exam room, Twinks is asked to return to the x-ray department for additional views. This time, they take the x-rays in a sitting position. Twinks does "the walk", where she walks up and down the hallway in front of doctors and PA's and Interns and Residents. They evaluate her gait with shoes on, and shoes off. Back in the exam room, measurements are taken very carefully.

Finally, the verdict: no surgery - but she needs to wear the orthotics that are waiting over in the orthotics and prosthetics department. The orthotics are fitted, but the shoes we brought are wrong. Brand new shoes - and they won't work with the new orthotics. So, we go to the Mall that is just two blocks over from the Hospital, and find Twinks some amazing shoes. Shoes that (we hope!) will work. Back to the Hospital, and the wizards in Orthotics whisk away the shoes to be fitted with an exterior lift. When the shoes come back, they have cut off the original sole of the shoe, fitted the lift material (that matches the shoe) trimmed it, and glue the original sole back on. You can't tell that the shoe has been "lifted" unless you look very closely. Twinks is happy - the new orthotics fit just right, the lift helps almost instantly, and we are driving home in a Hamster Car.

We make the drive home from Hospital City just fine; I fully expected that the "magic" of the little Hamster Car would wear off by the end of the 400 mile drive. We arrive in the driveway, and TW is bemused by the little Hamster car - he drives it after we get home, and finds himself equally enchanted by it. When I take it back to the rental counter on Wednesday, I realize that I could happily get into that little Hamster Car, and drive another 400 miles.

June 2010: I get a call from TW while he is at work - he has been injured, and will need to see an orthopedic doctor. Because it is work-related, our list of doctors to pick from is fairly short, but luckily we know one of those on the list, and we pick him. In very short order, TW goes for an X-Ray, then an MRI, and then to Dr. Knee. Dr. Knee says "Hi, good to see you - and I'll see you again in three days for surgery". Surgery goes as well as can be expected - TW has torn up the meniscus. Dr. Knee cleans up the tear, bevels back the edges, and we go home with an ice chest contraption that has an aquarium pump in it that is supposed to keep the swelling down. And as a bonus, some nifty pictures of TW's meniscus, "before" and "after". I spend the next two weeks doing nothing but making and bagging ice; the little ice chest contraption works, but the heat from the pump melts the ice faster than we expect. Before the end of the month, TW is in physical therapy.

Up until now, Mom has always ridden in the front passenger seat of the mini-van since she came home nearly 3 and 1/2 years ago. She can't easily or safely get in and out of the back of the mini-van, where the doors are equipped with child-locks. Increasingly, Mom is grabbing the door handle of the mini-van when we are driving down the road. We are now faced with a dilemma: we can't continue to transport Mom in the mini-van safely. TW drives a little Ford Festiva to work every day; it's in excellent condition, (Oh, how he loves that funny little car!) but not practical for driving Mom in either, as we would again have the door handle issue. We need a vehicle that Mom can get in and out of easily, and that has back doors - with child-locks on them. We want it to be fuel efficient, and to be something that we would be happy to drive for at least the next 5 years or so.

This leads us back to:

HAMSTERS!!! 

We bought a Kia Soul (yep, the little car from the commercial with the Hamsters, and our recent adventure to Hospital City) and I haven't had this much fun driving since I was a teenager! I find myself *inventing* reasons to drive now - I love hopping into my little red Hamster Car and zipping around town. SO much fun! We got the red color (called "Molten") and I still smile every time I see it in the garage. :)





July 2010: My birthday. I am now 49 years and 13 months.

And, yes, I have an iPhone4. Goodbye Windows Mobile; I am now "app savvy". For once, my tendency to plan ahead pays off: the bubblegum-pink ultra-girly Bumper I ordered along with my iPhone prevents me from experiencing the dreaded dropped-call syndrome. Got one for Twinks, too. TW decides to wait, and see if we like ours. He's not a total technophobe, but, like a lot of people, he doesn't like change, either. That crackling sound? More of Microsoft Hell freezing up solid...

TW's physical therapy sessions (three times weekly) continue. While he is "progressing", we have now learned that Dr. Knee believes he won't regain 100% function of his knee. TW is in a lot of pain, all the time; in part because there was so much damage. I wish that I could take his pain for him - I blew out my left knee when I was 14, and have lived with the resulting pain and limitations for nearly 36 years. I'm used to it!

Twinks takes her drivers exam - in the Kia Soul - and passes! She is a licensed driver! The first day she drove away from the house, alone, I was TERRIFIED. But she really is a good driver, and has proved to be an *enormous* help to me. I can send her on errands, and because she will be able to drive herself to school, TW & I won't have the pickup/dropoff routine for the first time in 12 years. I actually got teary-eyed at that thought; another milestone passed.

August 2010: Twinks goes back to school - she is a Junior in High School this year. A Junior. I can't believe it! Virtual School again this year - and her two on-campus electives are in the afternoon this time, instead of the morning. I can't decide if I like that, or not. It was nice when she went to the campus in the morning, because it gave us the rest of the day after lunch, if we needed to run errands, or take Mom to the doctor. But, since she is more active in her Drama class this year, it will work out well - she can just stay up at school for the after-school play practices. I think it will also be nice this winter, especially if we get a lot of snow and ice - the streets will be in much better shape by the time she has to leave for school. So that will be a big plus.

TW's physical therapy finally ends. The last session is spent measuring his progress, to see how much range of motion he got back, etc. He can walk fine now, but still can't do stairs. Dr. Knee tells him to stay off of ladders and no squatting. Memo to Dr. Knee: He is a mechanic - an aviation mechanic. He (literally) lives on ladders and scaffolding all day. :::sigh:::

September 2010: Labor Day comes and goes too quickly. I have my routine exam at the dermatologist, and mention that the sunblock she prescribed isn't working. And that it burns any time I am in the sun. Itches too. And I don't sunburn any more - I have these raised red bumps. She does a biopsy, and calls me three days later: I have PMLE - Polymorphous light eruption. Dermatologist gives me a prescription for a rather scary-sounding medicine that is supposed to help, but it will take up to six months to see results, and in the meantime, I need to avoid being in the sun if at all possible. It explains a LOT - why I feel so tired and cranky and icky after working out in the yard, or after an afternoon of driving or sitting in the front seat. I remember that one of my Dad's sisters had PMLE, although at the time, no one knew what it was; it was just called a "sun allergy" and she was pretty miserable as she got older. Sadly, she was killed in an accident before the scary medicine was available for PMLE sufferers.

TW gets his iPhone4. He is amazed (and delighted) at how fast he can burn through an iTunes gift card in the App Store. Just in the nick of time, I introduce him to the word "free", and show him how to find no-cost Apps. He is having way too much fun with his new toy phone.

My Mom takes a turn for the worse, and for the first time in over three years, we are adding a medication to help control some of her symptoms. She is progressing more rapidly now, and we see changes every month, sometimes every week.

Twinks finally gets her long-awaited for MacBook Pro. I have to confess, I am beginning to see why my Mac-afflicted/addicted friends have been so loyal to Apple all of these years. It is so easy to use, that I find myself over-thinking how to do things. Even TW is impressed when he sees how quick and easy it is to install our networked color laser printer.

October 2010: Mom continues to decline slowly. She no longer laughs or smiles at all, and has begun to retreat within herself. She no longer does any of her "puzzle books" (mostly find-a-word and large print crossword puzzle books) and she hasn't colored in her Dover art books for months now. She simply sits, and stares, all day long. Generally in the direction of the TV, but I feel very strongly that there is no comprehension now. None at all. She can, and does still dress herself, feed herself and toilet herself, but it is strictly by rote; there is no ability to learn or process new information at all.

The fall colors are out, and this year they are amazing. I try to get out with my camera - the Nikon that I got for Christmas last year, but events conspire against me.

TW got a MacBook Air 11. He falls in love with it instantly - the fit and finish, the light weight, the crisp, bright, even screen... And of course, how easy it is to use. Suddenly, Mr I-don't-want-to-change is All About The Apple Store, and he won't rest until I have an Apple, too.

I had planned on nursing my Dell through another year or so. However, events transpired, and just about a week later, I was at the Apple Store myself, walking out with a MacBook Pro. Somewhere, Bill Gates shivered, and didn't know why as the last of Microsoft Hell surely froze over solid. I cut my computer chops on DOS 2.3 - and have been using Windows since the beginning. And although I do like W7, what I have never liked about Windows (in general) is how *hard* you have to work to get everything to... work. But with the Apple products, you don't have to jump through all of the hoops - stuff just... works. Amazing.

Twinks has Fall Break. Again, she has play practice, and a sinus infection. We take Mom to the beauty shop to get her hair washed and cut, but otherwise, it's quiet.

Mom is now almost like a doll. A beautiful. sweet doll; we must lead her by the hand, and she has to be watched over 24/7. Her beautiful blue eyes are nearly completely vacant now; she has almost no expressions or emotions. I can recognize her physical form, but increasingly, I feel like her spirit is withdrawing from this world, and packing for the trip to the next.

Twinks and I sat on the porch, on Halloween evening, and handed out candy. We talked about everything - about how different Halloween is now, versus when I was a kid. About what it was like when she was born, and everyone who came to the hospital that day. About how teenage boys are stupid, and shouldn't be allowed out without direct supervision. And lots of other stuff. It was a nice evening - the weather was only just cool enough to make you shiver a bit, and a tiny breeze rustled the dry leaves just enough to give you goosebumps.

November 2010: Here we are... All caught up, at last! If you made it this far, I appreciate your loyalty, not to mention your sheer tenacity! You are to be commended. I would give you a cookie, but I ate them all while I was waiting for you to get down here.

Thanksgiving is next. Join the TCF movement!

Thank you, again, Dear Reader. For coming back to read that rather lengthy missive, and more importantly, for sticking around while I wasn't here. I'm glad you are here, my friend. :)



9 comments:

Suldog said...

I've printed this out for reading. I'll be back later with any salient commentary (as if I would ever have any of that variety...)

First, though, I see just by scanning that you give another plug to TCF. Woo-Hoo! Thanks!

Buck said...

Wow. I've seen catch-up posts before, but this here's a tour de force!

There's much to comment on here but the thing that struck my heart is what you're going thru with your Mom, Thimbelle. The end game is never easy when we lose our parents but yours seems truly heart rending. Courage.

On a lighter note... Bill Gates ain't the ONLY one who cringed. I'm a Stuff From Redmond Bigot.

Suldog said...

Lots of good reading here, as well as some heartbreaking stuff. You know my prayers are with you, so I'll comment only on one thing with which I've had experience.

I had the meniscus repaired in my right knee some 13 years ago now. I can relate to the before and after photos, as they gave me a set of them, too :-) Perhaps my damage wasn't as extensive, but I was back playing ball - and catching, at that, which involves almost nothing but squatting - within about three months time. I've been catching ever since, too. I have a small cracking sound in my knee every once in a while, when I straighten it fully, but no pain. Was the meniscus all that was done on The Wrench, or was there anything else added into the bargain? Also, I was 40 when I had mine done, and I gather The Wrench is a bit older - maybe that accounts for some of it, too?

Ericka said...

wow. you like that hamster commercial? it kind of weirds me out. glad you like the car though. i'm learning all about the joy of NEW! parking in the furthest most space kind of sucks when it's pitch black after dark but the exercise is good for me.

yay for comfy new twink shoes!

hope tw's knee gets better!

i LOVE my iphone. get the bargain bin app. it keeps track of all apps on sale (like when there's an update coming) or free. if there's an app you don't want to pay full price for, you can watch it and get an alert when it goes on sale. good stuff!

and most importantly, i'm so sorry for what you're going thru with your mom. it sucks past words that this is happening to her, and to your family. i know it's a burden, but at least you have the comfort of knowing that she's well cared for and loved. thank the gods you got her away from that man when you did.

*hugs*

Thimbelle said...

Buck - First of all, I *finally* got your linky-love going on the sidebar. Sorry for the delay! Taking care of Mom has been (to say the least) far more challenging than I thought it would be. But it truly is a labor of love, and we will keep her here with us for as long as we can.

I am *still* surprised at how swift and easy my conversion to Apple has been. (What a lot of folks don't know is that I service & support PC's - primarily Windows-based laptops! Dell alone has been responsible for a LOT of my income, due to outsourced tech support. With a TeamViewer suite, I can support most of my clients from home, and the few that require hands-on work come to me, and we work in our Library here at home.)

I don't mind W7 so much - but I am increasingly disenchanted with the quality of the *hardware*. With the MacBook Pro, I can (and will) be able to run W7.

Sully, TW's knee was pretty badly blown out. He had been on his knees all day that day, and he actually felt it tear when he got up at the end of the shift. It locked up because the meniscus was flapping around in there. :::cringe::: It really isn't a question of *if* he will have arthritis in that knee now - it's WHEN. And you were right - TW is 51 (Which again - makes him OLDER THAN ME, which is all that matters!) so he has healed slower than he would have 10 years ago.

Ericka: Thanks for the tip on that App - I'll get it tonight! :) I'm glad every day that Mom is here with us; I sleep so much better at night, knowing that she is as safe and healthy as I can keep her.

I need to post pix of Twinks shoes - they. are. so. cute!!!

The worst thing about parking so far out is once the weather gets colder, I am a weenie, and will park as close as I can! LOL! The good thing about the Kia Soul is that it is so tiny that I'm hoping we won't have too many door dings!

Thanks everyone for wading through that post... Hey, at least I kept track of everything! LOL! ;)

Daughter said...

Thimbelle,

It was so good to read what you have been up to! My prayers are with you and your family.

I thank you for all the encouragement you have given me.


I look forward to reading more about your life- whether it be next week or next month or next year! :)

Thimbelle said...

Daughter, thank you, especially for the prayers. :)

I know you are so very, very busy - but keep posting (and minimally, reading) at the Alz.org forums! It is important for both of us to remember that we truly aren't alone in this journey.

You are an amazing person!

Amy LeForge said...

(happy sigh...)

Ahhh, it's good to catch up. Even though we've never met in person, I always like to know how my Internet buddies are doing, and I'm glad there are so many good things to report.

I will keep you in my prayers for peace and strength for your mom. My father-in-law is 86 and so far doing well, but the downward slide has most definitely begun. All of his sisters save one are declining, and they're younger, so we know what's coming.

hugs!!

Chuck said...

Hey there Thim. Glad to hear everything is going OK, and good to have you back! My Mom is continuing with her slow decline as well, I know how hard that is. And I'm very glad you like your new techy toys, but I'm just too anti-Apple to give them a chance, I'm afraid...I am also due for a blog post of my own, which I hope to have done after my sister's visit here ends.