Sunday, February 28, 2021

A Sort of Hammerfall: Post Script

 As you may recall, one year ago my life changed rather drastically.

One year ago today was A Sort Of Hammerfall - Not the complete Hammer Fall of 2009 where I was laid off, but a change of position:  after almost 18 years in one line of work I was in, I was transferred to a new area.  After almost the same amount of time climbing the corporate ladder, I was being reassigned to an individual contributor position.

The change was jarring, and completely unexpected - although not unmerited; as I related at the time, it is something I personally should have broached much earlier.  But done, as they say, is done.

The adjustment over the course of the year was both gradual and jarring:  gradual in the sense that responsibilities slowly rolled off my plate and onto the current holder of the office, jarring in the sense that going from being involved in everything, getting 100-200 e-mails a day, and having your opinion needed to being involved in a narrow slice of activities, seeing your e-mails drop by 80% (not a bad thing, that) and moving from presenting opinions to merely facilitating others making them.

Over the year, of course, personnel have changed.  Individuals I was involved in the hiring of have moved on and others have come.  My imprint is fraying; as with most things, I expect within another year anyone remembering I performed my old task will be few and far between.

All of this said, there remained one outstanding issues, one of incredible import to me:  my salary.

The agreement simply said that my salary would continue as is until the regularly scheduled review period.  My ability to be eligible for a bonus no longer existed (any more, at all, forever, from the way I lead the letter).  And so, throughout the year, I have been waiting for the letter that would tell me that a readjustment was happening. 

I had readied myself for it. I had written up budgets to address it.

And so, that season finally came.  And my boss called me, wanting to have a "mechanical discussion" - which, knowing him, meant my salary.

He is a very kind individual, and so his introduction to the issue was soft.   He said that he was in a bit of an interesting situation with me.  He had received letters of salary increases and bonuses for his other employees.  He had received none for me.  When he asked, he was told I had a "separate agreement".  And they would not tell him what that agreement was.

This is unheard of, at least in his - and my - experience.  Managers always know their reports make.

He asked me (in a very kind and roundabout way) if he wanted me to press the issue.  No need, I responded.  I explained where things had been left in principle.  And, I told him, to raise the issue now would be violate one of the first rules of work in my world, which is never draw attention to yourself.

In so very many ways, A Sort Of Hammerfall worked out for the best - without it, my ability to travel to The Ranch starting in Summer would not have happened at all.  I would not have been able to be here when my parents needed me to be here. And I truly believe another year with the stresses of the previous year would have caused me some serious issues, both physically and mentally.

Nothing is a given, of course.  Anything can easily be rewritten at the stroke of a pen.  And this still means that in the event of need, I am a very low hanging fruit to be removed.  It also means - I suspect - that I will essentially be frozen in place until such time as I leave the company, by choice or by fiat.

But I can live with the ambiguity.  Even if I lose that extra "punch" of cash in February, we now know - precisely - how much we will have coming in for the next 1-4 years.  And knowing means we can plan all the better.

This is not the place I would have imagined myself when I was called in on a Friday afternoon at 4:00 PM for my review.  But having seen it to the other side, I now cannot imagine it any other way. 

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Life In A New Kind Of Normal

So for the past two weeks (and it will be a full three weeks by the time I get back), I have been living a new kind of normal.

It is different in a lot of ways.  

The biggest difference is simply how alone I am so much of time.  I go down to visit my mother and father and see my sister and occasionally friends and the man that keeps cattle here, but for the most part I am living very much isolated from everyone.  It does not seem that way of course: with online meetings during the day and the InterWeb available, it hardly seems like I am alone at all.  Yet realistically I am alone in a way I have not been since perhaps 2009, when I moved ahead of everyone else to New Home (and even then, I was going in to the office).

Much of the day - or as much as it as I can manage - is spent with as little use of electricity and utilities as possible.  I heat with the woodstove during the day and eschew the gas furnace (it is set at a level to avoid freezing, but it has not yet engaged).  Mornings and evenings are spent by the light of the fire and a single lamp.

One surprising thing to me is how little free time I seem to have - yes, I am working, but I had anticipated I would have more time to do things like catch up on reading.  That happens a lot less than I expected - with driving to see one parent or the other, practicing Iai, working out alternate days, blogging, catching up on the blog roll, and taking a walk, my days seem completely full (it appears to accomplish more, I would need to "work" less).

Meals are simple affairs, mostly put in place to ensure I get fed nutritious food in a short a time as I can manage.  As a result, there is not a lot of cooking involved - microwaving chicken or a turkey patty is the extent of it (if not meeting someone for dinner).

If you were to ask me if this was different from what I had expected, I would be forced to tell you yes.  And no.  Yes in that the time elements (or lack there of) surprise me; no in that I am perfectly happy with what has come to be very limited human contact.

It is not a bad life.  And certainly a life which, if I had my druthers, I could very easily adapt to.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Update And A Request

Update:  I went to see both my mother and my father today.

Seeing my mother has come to be a relatively easy task.  She no longer asks about when she is going home.  Speaking with my sister, she may have even made a friend with another woman who came in about the same time she did.  She still does not seem to remember many activities (I know she is playing bingo), but she is doing them.  When I came to see her today, she had just finished dinner and was having dessert (lemon cake with glaze icing).  She tried to offer it to through the window screen - Thanks Mom, it looks good but I cannot have some right now.  Soon.

My father was more difficult.

They had taken his wristbands off and the elbow pads too, which appeared to covered the scratches from his fall (they were rather alarming, even in their healing).  The first thing he mentioned to me was the fact he did not have any money - in his words, he was "flat a$$ed broke" and could I bring him some?  I pointed out that he did not really need money, but he was insistent that he did (fortunately, my sister was bringing him some clothes later.  He had told her the same thing.  She had five $1 bills in the bag of clothes and let the nurse know why they were in there and to make sure he got them).

His conversation is still very disjointed. I tried to get him to tell me about what he did today but because either he could not hear me over the phone or did not understand the question, I got no sense of of it.  He started to tell me something which I thought might be related to what he did, but then it seemed to veer off as it did yesterday:  he knew of whom and where he was speaking but I had no idea  After about 20 minutes, the nurse came in with dinner.  She looked as me as if to ask if I needed more time but I motioned her in.  I told my father I loved him and to be sure he ate everything.

Physically, he looked a little bit stronger.  Mentally and spiritually, he seems a long way from himself.  It breaks me heart - as I tried to explain to someone, it is as if someone had broken his spirit in two.  I wonder if - or when - he will recover it.

Request:  So we have hit our first insurance issue.

The insurance company sent a letter to my sister saying that they would only cover 25%, not 100%, of my mother's stay.  Why?  Because the place she is staying does not have an RN on staff 24 hours a day.

This is more than a little frustrating because she had called - prior to committing to moving my mother in - and told them the location to find out if it was acceptable per the terms of the policy.  They did not return the call, so my sister assumed it was approved and moved forward.  Now this.

We can move my mother if we have to, but obviously it would be better if we did not.  I think that doing this twice in a short period of time would be detrimental to her well being.

My sister received a phone message this evening. Apparently the matter has been submitted for a appeal.  Not sure why.

So this is my request.  It is a pretty specific one.  If you are a praying person, could you specifically pray that a waiver is granted and my mother can stay where she is with 100% coverage?  If you are good-thought-thinking person, could you do the same?

I seldom pray for very specific items but this one is kind of special.  I will certainly relate what happens.

Post Script:  I have been overwhelmed by the support I have received throughout this.  People that post here, and in some cases people that have contacted me on the side (in both cases, people whose attention I never would think I merit).  From the bottom of my heart, thank you.  

People have asked me how I am managing all this with what seems like a relatively pleasant demeanor.  God, I tell them.  And writing.  And the support I find here.  Thank you.

Your Obedient Servant, Toirdhealbheach Beucail

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Visiting TB The Elder

 The sign on the door at the Nursing Facility read "No entry whatsoever".   I sigh, knowing this was the case and also knowing I had failed to bring the phone number I needed to call.  I look for the phone number on one of the many pieces of paper on the outer windows - There it was, hidden away on a sheet between the "No Entry", "Beware of Covid", and "Our Staff Rocks".

I lucked out calling the nursing station - someone immediately picked up.  I let them know I was there to see TB the Elder but did not know the room.  He let me know the room number, that the numbers were on the room windows, and to just keep walking down the left side of the building.  They would get him ready.

To be honest, I am a little nervous walking down there.  I have not seen my father in over a week nor talked to him; I knew what he was like the last time we had talked - was it a lifetime ago or only nine days? - and was fearing something equal to or worse than I had left.

By the time I get to the window the young CNA was there, trying to open the window.  He keeps struggling mightily, until I point out the window lock at the bottom. He nods his thanks, unscrews the lock,  opens the window, and wheels my father forward.

Wheels.  My father is in a wheelchair.  That I know of, I have never seen him in a wheelchair.

Sitting in a wheelchair almost makes him appear more frail - or maybe it is that he is more frail, and I just refuse to accept it.  He looks about the same as I remember him last Saturday - thinner than he has been in earlier years, his arms covered with age spots and scars and some scabs, his elbows encompassed by two white pads with the date on them for reasons I do not know.  He has beard stubble of at least 10 days, but his hair is combed.

He is wearing different wristbands, like a seven year old girl that discovers how to make friendship bracelets.  His medical admission with his information.  A bright yellow one that seems to indicate he is prone to falls. On another bracelet - one I cannot read - it has a pink dot with "DNR" on it.  

I know this is the way of it.  It just shocks me to see it there, so blatant, a now constant reminder of the fragility of the future.

We start to talk.  He seems to remember who I am, happily.  Taking  a lesson from advice given on this blog (thanks everyone!) I already have a list of things to talk about:  That mom is doing well.  A list of the well wishers that send him love and greetings (I mentioned everyone here as well - thank you again!).  That the Ranch is fine, that my sister is fine and my brother in law is handling the money.  That we have enough wood to burn.  That I am sure glad to see him up and moving around and how important it is to follow the advice of the nursing staff to help him getting better.

He asks me if I want to come down to the end of the hall and meet him.  No dad, I tell him, we cannot do that right now. 

His conversation is on and off focus.  At one point he thinks that my mother is dead (I quickly correct that).  He asks about my family and how they are doing.  He complains that the hospital is feeding him okay but is also trying to kill him with the amount they want him to eat (Note:  This is probably the actual amount of food someone should eat, not what he has been eating).  I nod benevolently, and say I suspect that is not really the case.

At one point he goes off into a ramble which I do not quite understand, something about replacing a "something" - a box, by the shape he is making, at the nursing facility.  We keep talking about it and I finally understand he is talking about a propane tank - we replaced the one at his place in August (I was there, so this is the only way I can follow the thread).  I still do not have the link between the two in my head.

He tells he was hoping to move back into The Cabin below the house, that that would be okay.  I nod, not saying anything other reminding him that it was really important to do all the nurses and therapists asked to help him get better so that maybe that could happen.  I say it half desiring it, but knowing in my heart it will never come.

He stands up as we continue to talk and moves to the edge of the bed.  I worry as soon as I see this - I trying to convince him to sit back down but he says he is fine.  After a few minutes of this, he tells me he has to go to the bathroom - "They will not let me go" he tells me, which surprises me (I think this is also not true, like the apparent food poisoning attempts).  He starts towards the bathroom, stepping on some kind of floor mat on the ground - and stumbles.  My heart is in my throat as I see him start to go down and I instantly question in my mind the structural strength of a window screen and how quickly I can get through.  My calculations are not tested today:  he rights himself and moves to the bathroom.

While he is busy about his business, I think it time to leave - the wind is blowing cold, and I want to make sure the window is closed before I go.  I call one of the desk numbers and get a nurse, who by the tone of her voice seems concerned - bothered? - that the window is open.  She says she will get someone down there.

My dad comes back.  The door to the hallway has blown shut.  We wait a bit, and he asks what I am doing.  Just waiting for someone to come close the door, I tell him.  We make conversation for a few more minutes.  I call again.  And again.  And again.  No answer.   It has been 10 minutes since I first called.

He tells me it is okay to go.  

I will not leave my post until the window is closed.

Finally, my dad tells me goodbye and that he hopes to see me again soon, grabs the two handles of the wheelchair, and starts to shuffle off to the door.  He pulls it open, goes out into the hall, and starts to turn to go a direction.  I have no idea where is off too.

He is grabbed by a CNA, who has brought him dinner.  She gets him back into his wheelchair and brings him back into the room.  I make sure she is shutting the window, thank her profusely, and turn to leave.

I was not ready for this visit.

I was ready to see my father.  What I was not quite ready for was to see my father looking so relatively frail, so confused, so not himself.  To see the man that all my life was a powerful embodiment of living in a wheelchair, shuffling and then stumbling; to hear a voice that now is wavering and somewhat always off kilter; to converse with him and to wander in and out of a past I cannot really see - this, I was not ready for.

But in my heart, I have to steel myself for this, just as I did for my mother.  This is the way of things now.  I can listen, I can empathize, I can nod and console and agree.  But what I can never do - at least in my own heart - is somehow pretend that things are going back to the way they were.  In a meaningful and real way, my father has gone somewhere where I can no longer find him.  All I can do is cling to the parts that remain and hope that somehow, some of what we talk about makes its way to that inner core that I knew.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Update: Moving Out

My father was released from the hospital yesterday.

The whole thing seems like a bit of a comedy of errors now.

My sister had spoken with the discharge person from the hospital last week and they let her know the process:  they would provide a listing of skilled nursing facilities in the area and check for availability of beds.  They would call her back and let her know options and perhaps some recommendations.  I had assumed (foolish me) that at that point we would have figured out where we would like to have him moved.

I actually found out about it talking with his assigned nurse today,  who mentioned in passing at the end of the conversation that he was being transferred.  The actual words did not register with me until I had hung up.

I gave my sister a call - no, she had heard nothing either.  She called - and while she was speaking with the other person, the discharge people called.  I was in the pre-know by 15 minutes.

They were not planning on moving him until later in the day and given that disruptions are probably not the greatest thing in the world right now, I am waiting to hear from my sister what visitation is possible.  

This is longest period I have not spoken with father - outside of training in Japan - that I can remember.

This is now another learning curve.  I imagine there is some level of physical therapy and recovery that will happen here.  How much?  How quickly?  What does recovery really mean.

I feel as if every new development which seems to be good news also brings with it a new set of concerns as well.

But my father is out of the hospital.  Today, we will take the victory and thank God.

Post Script:  I spoke with  my sister tonight.  She did talk to my father tonight on the phone.  He was somewhat confused but was responsive.  I will try to go talk to him tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Stacking Wood

One of the tasks I had undertaken when I started visiting my parents was restocking their wood pile by the house.  They had plenty available (it seems it was one of my father's few hobbies that stayed with him the longest), but he would only get enough to fill the back of his Gator and bring it to the house.  So I would take 40 minutes or so and load up the back of the house - "I am not working out and need the exercise" I would always tell him so he could not object.

They are not here now, of course.  But I keep stacking the wood regardless, perhaps a way to keep the reality of things at bay.

This wheelbarrow predates me.  I remember it from being very young, helping my father mix up cement to build the retaining walls at the house I grew up in.  The hands are a lot more worn, the wheel has been replaced, and one of the four bolts holding the body to the handles is now held by a non-original screw - but it still works fine.

This is the wood pile I have been pulling from most of the year.  The wood is not in great condition, but it still burns.  I have completely unloaded three ricks between October and now; I expect I pull down one more before our fire season is done.

This is the other woodshed with the well seasoned oak.  I almost loathe burning it now - even the remaining ones by the house - because I know it will be some long years before we see this kind of wood - and the fact that it will all have to come from me at this point.

These are the piles of wood ready to split - they were ready to be split in Spring of last year, but my father had started to slow down because of shoulder issues even then.  And this does not account for the trees fallen by the local power company to protect the lines which are still around the property.  I think I could easily collect enough wood for the next 10 years - if I had more places to store it and I have the time to cut it.

I have some vacation coming.  Maybe I will split wood.

 This was the end result - Not a lot of wood, but enough for me over the next two weeks.  

There is something satisfying about stacking wood - even when, in this case, the main reason for stacking it is gone.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Update And Blue Sky

Update:  Another improved day for my father.  He recalled his name - or rather, a version of his name that he only used at work.  He was a little humorous.  Mostly resting yesterday.  He walked about 10 feet with a walker and assistance, and possible using the commode.  He was overall compliant with requests and has had his restraints removed.  If today goes well, we will start to talk about the next steps.

Blue Sky:  Yesterday I got up and it was a blue sky kind of day.

I do not know why blue skies look bluer here.  Intellectually I know their is no difference; artistically I can see it.

The resident cattle were enjoying the sun and sky.

Everything is greening up again.  The yearly cycle.

The artisan spring has started flowing again.

The local horses watch me with a jaundiced eye.  I have neither food nor bridle, so I am neither friend nor foe.

The stream at the base of the meadow is running again.  Behind it, you can see the seasonal pond filled up.

This stream runs the length of the pastures.  When I was a child, my sister and I used to float sticks down the river, racing.  Later, this became the on-site action location for any number of action figure rescue and exploration scenes.

The cheeping frogs of February have been busy in the pond.

Blackberries are coming back.  Ugh.  I will have to get down here and cut them out.

If there is a better spot on Earth, I am unaware of it.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Update And No Update


No real update today.  My dad is essentially in the same state he was yesterday.  We have not heard anything from the doctor yet, but the nurse I spoke with suggested that he is reaching the point them consider him stabilized.  Once that has been reached, the hospital will have done what they are able to do and we will have to look towards longer term solutions.  We are prepared but are awaiting the final call to start with the arrangements.  As a result, I am not sure if I will extend my visit (mostly likely yes - who am I kidding) - I do miss home.

Hope you all have a wonderful Sunday.  I am hopeful that this week brings better news.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Update And Mist

 Update:   Less of a good night and day.  My father was apparently restless all night, seeing and talking to  someone that the nurses could not see - conversations, she said, not just isolated sentences.  I have no idea who they were:  His Dead?  Us?  Angels?  I do not know, but only hope they can give him the comfort that we cannot.  They finally administered something to help him rest.  His blood pressure peaked a bit so new medication there.  We await the results of his Lumbar Penetration.

The nurse with whom I was speaking commented to me twice "Your father is so cute!".  Once, apparently he thought he saw someone behind her and called out for her to be careful; it was the wall.  The second time, the computer screen she was working at partially blocked the screen.  My father said something and the Nurse peeked around the computer monitor.  "Oh, it's you" he said.

Even in his delirium my father, ever the charmer.

The nurse thanked me for the privilege of being able to care for my father.  Where do we find such people in such a cynical Age?

My sister called with an update later, similar to mine but with the addition that the confusion and mental unraveling seems to be continuing apace.  She spoke with the doctor as well.  The EEG revealed nothing as did the data from the Lumbar Penetration.  They have recommended a CT scan from chest to pelvis to look for a mass and test panel which can take 10 days to get results as it has to be sent to the Mayo clinic.   They will try changing his anti-seizure medication to see if that helps with the restlessness and confusion.  Beyond that, the most likely plan is to work to stabilize him to move him into a skilled nursing facility.  And wait.

Mist:  Yesterday was a rainy day, the sort of day that if were not a work day, one would stick one's head out, cry out like Christopher Robin "Tut Tut, it looks like rain", and then retreat to the house for a day of reading and toast.  Sadly, it was a work day and so there was no reading to be done, only typing away as the rain fell until the end of the work day.  That said, I needed to stretch my legs and so down the road I went.

The mist perfectly captures my mood:  the feeling of being trapped in a bubble that is clear, but only within a certain line of sight.  Beyond it, things are hazy and unclear and cut off as by a solid wall.  Move, and the bubble moves with you, obscuring where you have come from and revealing - only a little where you are going.  

I clod down the road, the waterproof boots I am wearing (having, sensibly, worn them instead of my tennis shoes) keeping my feet dry but also creating a din as I pound down on the road grindings that form the driveway.  I have always tend to walk on the ball of my foot and drag my heels; the boots and chewed up blacktop make this all the more noticeable.  The woods are silent, the silence of the rain when every creature has elected to stay under whatever shelter it had.  There is no sound of man either:  the recreational walkers and possessors of the infernal motorized bikes have all sensibly decided, like the animals, to remain indoors.  Only I, the insensible, walk.

Certain trees always appear greener to me in the rain and mist.  I have no idea why this is so; it is not as if they are somehow changing their colors like chameleons, and even if they did this does not nothing to conceal them.

It is as if I am in my own world as I shuffle along, a very light rain dusting my jacket and head and the sound of nothing but me in the surroundings.  Even the road going home is obscured in the distance, a future that I know is there and know the nature of, but cannot see right now.

The rain puddles and drips off of the house and implements at barn.  Some of these are actually functional; some of this, like this plough, are just things that caught my father's fancy.  It would still work, I think, with a little effort and oil.  Sometimes I find that I am the same.

The meadow is starting to green up to the point that I can see it, as it passes away into the trees and mist.  Somewhere on the top of the hill is where the Tom Turkeys go to roost at night; I have seen them earlier today, strutting about even in the rain, looking for food and fights and love.

As I stop and lean over the fence to take this picture, two birds suddenly spring from cover in a burst of thundering wings and move into the field.  One of them eyes me reproachfully, as if it had not choice but to flee when it heard something alarming.  I nod back to it:  fly if you can, little friend.  Not all of us can flee at the sign of danger or distress. Sometimes we have to sit in the mist and wait for it to pass.

The runoff from the hill is starting to fill the seasonal rill that runs at the bottom of the valley, as it has every year I have come up here.  It is not running enough, given the date.  We need more rain and less mist, but every little bit helps.

My mother loved Camellias.  They were in her wedding bouquet and we always had a plant - the same color as this - when we lived in the home I grew up in.

The camellias bloom, uncaring about all of the mist or rain or anything but what their internal timetable says to do.

The fire, when I get home, is a seething bed of hot coals.  It brings to mind Orodruin of Tolkien's Lord of The Rings, Mount Doom, the only place where The One Ring could be destroyed.  The coals pulse and breathe as I open the door, the opposite of the mist that I have been walking through.  Instead of creating a bubble through which things cannot be seen, the fire destroys all that it touches - but delivers heat and light in exchange for its voracious hunger. 

The rain begins again as I drop another log on the fire, the grey curtain descending to block out the world once again.

Friday, February 19, 2021

Update And A Visit

Update:  Today started with a little better news.  I spoke with my father's assigned physician (first time I have had the pleasure.  Just my dumb luck calling the time I did, I suppose).  My father was more alert than he had been previously, knowing his name and the town he was in.  It is the first good news we have had since Sunday.

The Lumbar Penetration also occurred under sedation.  Data will be trickling in over the coming 24 hours, but we do know that he does not have meningitis (low probability, but now ruled out).  In the evening my father was resting, apparently as well as he has since he arrived, and was not too agitated.  Still confused though.  They also took an EEG, which we are waiting for a neurologist to review.

Visit:  Yesterday I stopped by and visited my mother.

Visits - especially without my father - are a very short affair.  Five, perhaps ten minutes.  We go through the now-standard round of conversation now:  How are you feeling?  What have you been doing?  How is the food?  Are you reading any new books?

The answers are becoming the same:  Feeling okay.  Some activities, although she does not really remember any of them particularly.  The food is "okay".  She has some books, but she does not remember the titles of them.

And then she always asks "When can I come home"?

Sigh.  The moment.  It seems to come now with every visit.  I smile and say "Soon Mom, you are working on your memory".  

I fill her in a bit with goings-on of The Ravishing Mrs. TB and Na Clann, and then suddenly there is nothing left to say.  "I will see you soon Mom".  She thanks me profusely for stopping by and always waits by the window as I back out and waves goodbye as I pull out into the driveway.

On one hand, these conversations are not that different than ones we have had in the last year, only shorter in length.  So in that sense there is no difference.

But there is a part of me now that sighs when I leave, the part of me that knows that "soon" is "not really soon" and that this conversational interchange is likely to become the same one - or some version of it -for the rest of our relationship.

It is not that I will not continue to go - I will, as long as she is able to engage.  But the resetting of expectations around them has become harder than I anticipated.

Reality continues to close in, whether or not I choose to see it.


Thursday, February 18, 2021

Update And Circumstance

 Update:  Another not great day.  My sister received a call at around 0630. They thought my father had a seizure - a nurse thought she caught the tail end of it but was not sure.  He had a second one later in the day, observed by a doctor and nurse.  He is now on antibiotics to help with potential infection from any infection (apparently this can happen when liquid from the stomach or food gets into the lungs).  He has been moved into the ICU.

They attempted the Lumbar Penetration but he would not co-operate (like an epidural injection, the patient must remain completely still).  They will try again tomorrow but they needed our permission to sedate him - which, of course, we readily gave.  The doctor hopes that it will tell them something - it sounds like he is just as confused as we are.  He will consult with another colleague.  He remains unresponsive or asleep, but this may be caused by 1) his condition; 2) the after effects of the seizure; or 3) the anti-seizure medication, which has drowsiness as a side effect.

I talked with The Ravishing Mrs. TB today.  I was intending to go home in about a week and half, but will stay here as long as it takes until things are settled out, one way or the other.

Also as a note, I have now started compiling these series of writings into a separate page, Moving TB The Elder and Mom, as a way segregating and filing what has come to be an ongoing exercise.


By way of introduction on this meditation, if you are at all follower of this blog for more than a year, you will  recall that approximately one year ago, I underwent an inadvertent and unplanned job transition (called A Sort of Hammerfall) in which I was transferred from the career field I had spent the last 18 years in to a completely new one (Project Management), with the resulting loss of job title and reporting structure (I went from a "manager of people" to "the managed").  

It was initially a shock, of course, something I had not ever planned on.  And through the intervening months to June, I negotiated the "Work At Home" order in March, the hiring of my replacement in June, and then the complete change in how work "worked" for me in July.

Now, I am looking through things with a different lens.

Without Hammerfall, I would not have been in a position to work from home as I am now.  Without changing my position, I would not have been able to work remotely - The Ranch remote - one week a month.  Without working remotely, I would not been here  over the last six months to spend time with my parents or even now when I needed to be for an extended period of time. Without working remotely and being able to come, I would not have been here now but somewhere buried in ice and snow trying to make my way here.

Without The Plague, I would not have been ordered to work from home nor have the freedom to come here.  Without The Plague, I would be in Japan (or just coming back) instead of here to help.

That is a lot of circumstances arising from a single event that took place a year ago.  Almost as if there was a Hand at work, knowing what was coming in the future.

I am trying to have a wider view of things as a result.  The first thing that has come to mind, frankly, is being out here for a longer period of time.

At home, I really have four or five activities that are my life:  Iai, Weight Training, volunteering at my local rabbit shelter, my prayers and reading, writing, and whatever I languages I happen to be studying (currently Japanese and Old English).  A great many other things have become curtailed as a result of The Plague, of course - church attendance for one, and Highland Athletics for another.  

But now, those things are being interrupted too.  I practice Iai and train when we have remote classes, but that is not every session.  I train, but with body weights inside (trust me, my coach is no less brutal for the lack of weights).  I simply cannot be at the rabbit shelter (I do miss them mightily).  My other activities all stay with me, of course - I can take those with me wherever I go. 

Maybe, as if my hand is being asked to release, instead of being forced.

It would be, of course, arrogant of me to assume that anything of the sort is happening.  But I do recall the quote of Corrie Ten Boom, "Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open."

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Update And Mood


My father is still in the hospital.  Not much to report - or nothing great, anyway.  Refuses to take his medication.  Not eating well.  Speech is "garbled", although we are not clear if that means "unintelligible" or "mixing words".  They have reduced his blood thinner as they may order a lumbar puncture (tapping of the cerebrospinal fluids - warning that the picture on Wiki-everything article is not for the faint of heart) - not confirmed as ordered, but in the doctor's notes.

Also, still restrained.  Notes comment on his strength.  At 81 years old.  

I stopped by and saw my mother as well today.  It was not such a good visit.  She is ready to leave, but as I spoke with her I realized that I think she thought I was my father.  An odd feeling, one that is slightly uncomfortable  Told her she was still working on her memory, and we would be by to see her again soon.


Glen asked me a question that I had to think about a bit before responding:  How am I doing?

That is an odd question, odd both because I do not know how to fully answer it and odd because it is something my sister and I were discussing yesterday.

In a very real way, times seems to have completely collapsed.  A little over a month ago, I had taken my father to the doctor and he had passed his general physical as well as his cognitive test.  Within that period of time we have gone through three versions of "The Plan":  a) Move both of my parents into a retirement home; b)  Move my mother into a memory care facility and my father staying at The Ranch; c) Move my mother into a memory care facility and my father into assisted living.  And now, d)  Move my mother into a memory care facility and my father into a "skilled nursing facility", yet another term I am learning.

Plans b through d have all been in the last two weeks.

My future planning has narrowed to very small windows of time:  get my mother moved in, get my father moved in, get my father out of the hospital, get my father moved to whatever the next stage is.  I (and my sister, I think) are no longer planning in bigger chunks than this.

As their mail comes in, we triage everything.  At this point, we are making a few choices about what stays and goes (the satellite TV, for example, goes) while the rest of it - home insurance, auto insurance, utilities - we are maintaining as is as much as possible for n ow.  That is an issue for another day.

Am I frustrated we cannot do more?  I do not fully know how to answer that question.  We have certainly gone back and looked at the last period of time: Did we miss anything?  Should we have moved sooner?  Was there some significant health issue we missed?  Should we doing more now?

The answer keeps coming back as "No".  Four months ago my father was as he had always been.  The decline accelerated within (literally) the last two weeks; everyone involved has noted it.  And currently, given The Plague, there is little we could do that we are not doing:  We cannot go to his room and even if we did, I have no idea what we would do if we were there.  We are not medical personnel.  Maybe I could convince him to eat or take his pills - but the comment this morning was that he was not always responding even to his name.

I do not think I could do any better than a trained nurse in this matter.

Everyone has been unfailingly kind and understanding in this, from people involved in the various facilities to the various nurses and doctors we have spoken with to the pharmacists and receptionists and everyone in between.  I would hope that they are responded to with the same sort of courtesy and kindness from those that they are serving, although the more cynical side of me doubts this to be so.

The events of Great World "Out There" - the national goings on, the Arctic Disaster currently inhabiting the Midwest and South - are things  I should care about.  I have family and friends impacted by the Arctic wasteland that is the South and Southeast right now.  I actually have thoughts and opinions on such things, and occasionally the rattle around in my head as postings as I drive back and forth or as I walk the dirt roads here to make myself get out of the house.  But they all have an unreal quality to me at this moment, even as I acknowledge that eventually - whenever the "New Normal" appears (yet another reason to hate this phrase) they will impact my life.  

Literally, my world has shrunk to my parents' house, a hospital, a window at a facility, and the roads that connect them.

I worry, perhaps a little of all things, that my writing has also shrunk to this narrow band of experience and reality.  On the one hand, it feels like I should at some point be writing on different things - on the other, the reality is that I do not know how many people write on this, or at least individuals that are not professionals.   One cannot endlessly natter on about one's emotional and personal experiences when there is so much else going on to write about.

Yet every time I sit down, this is the only place my words seem to run to.

I do not find myself particularly tired or emotionally exhausted or "out of sorts" the way I have read or heard from others.  There is a strange limbo-like quality to all of this, brought on perhaps by the fact that I am displaced from my normal surroundings and habits and schedule.  I work, but it almost feels like I am simply filling the time between when I get up and the time that I quit, waiting - and dreading - for the phone to ring or a message to present itself.

In a very real way, I am a nomad living in a prairie of shifting grass mounds; I have surrendered any hope of passing through the prairie at this time, and am only concerned with getting over the next mound.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Rain And Waiting

 Yesterday was a rainy day of waiting by the phone for a call, not wanting to be off somewhere in case I had to head back to the hospital.

The rain misted all day, a slight moving blur between the windows and trees, caught if you focused on it but otherwise creating a gentle, subvisible curtain.  It reminded me that, except for Christmases, I have not seen this sort of rain in almost 11 years, other than this past fall when I came out.  It strikes me that is a long time.

Rain here at The Ranch is (for the most part) different than rain in New Home.  Here, the rain can fall heavily or gently for days or a week, sometimes (like today) so faintly that it might be mistaken for snow.  In New Home, rain storms are much more violent and short lived, with the rain generally hurling itself at the ground, liquid skydivers trying to burst aside the soil structure.

It makes for a grey morning and afternoon.  The light is enough that you can mostly get things done without having to turn additional lighting, which makes for a rather pleasant experience.    The ambient light from the clouds also seems to highlight the slowly incipient green of the grass growing and the needles and leave of the pines, cedars, and madrones.

The daffodils that my mother loves so much are enjoying the rain as well, reminding me that Spring is right around the corner, even given today's weather conditions.

A short update on my parents:  TB the Elder had an MRI yesterday.  It revealed nothing definitive.  The doctor my sister spoke with today is baffled and is doing some more research.  My sister also stopped by to see my mother today.  She is able to get out of her room now and my sister said she is meeting people and doing activities and seems to be doing okay.

Monday, February 15, 2021


 My sister got a call yesterday around 0700.  My father was on his was to the hospital.

Apparently he had fallen - there was a scrape on his arm.  Additionally, he seemed very confused.  So back off to the hospital he went.

The scrape in his arm, it turns out, was not the concerning matter.

The Emergency Room doctor and the nurse were the same two that had helped my dad yesterday.  And they were concerned by the change in his mental state they saw over (literally) the last 24 hours.  Their concern was a stroke.  So he has been admitted to the hospital.

The CT scan did not reveal anything that appeared concerning.  His lab work is all within normal limits - even his glucose (he is diabetic) was in normal ranges in the evening.  He was scheduled for an MRI, which is not set to happen before today.

Of course, given the Plague, there is very little that we can do right now.  We cannot go there.  I did speak with the nurse (Who was so helpful.  Everyone we have dealt with has been universally kind and helpful).  He is confused, asking for me (which I suppose is a good thing as it means he still remembers I am in town).  When the nurse asked for any particular helpful hints, I suggested a warm room and sports, both of which will give him some level of familiarity.

We wait.  I told my sister I almost hope the MRI shows something - not that anything an MRI would show us would be a hopeful thing, but at least we would have some kind of cause - and we could formulate a plan.  Now, we are just operating in the dark based on symptoms, not causes.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Moving TB The Elder

Yesterday we moved TB The Elder.

The Universe, of course, refused to let things go without a fight.

The plan was a simple one:  get up, have a leisurely morning with my father, pack up his remaining things, go down to see my mother, meet my sister and brother-in-law for lunch, and then go to his new living quarters in the early afternoon and let him settle.

At 0700 (sleeping in), I got up.  His right hand was swollen, almost to twice the size of this left.  He could not use it at all and was in obvious pain.  Off to the Emergency Room we went.

Due to The Plague, of course, you cannot go in.  I wait.  And wait.  For two and a half hours.  Finally, I go in and get directed to the phone and spoke with a very nice ER doctor.  He thinks it may be gout - has my father had it?  (I think so, yes).  He will prescribe some steroids to help with the swelling and is glad my father has an appointment on Tuesday.

I call me sister and give her the update.  She notes a new medication means a new set of instructions (the place he is going in is very explicit in the information they need).  Back in I go to make another call.  Thankfully, this is something they have heard before and can accommodate.

I wait another 40 minutes.  Finally my father is allowed to come out, his right arm wrapped in a stiff bandage and in a sling.  The bandage has to stay on until his visit Tuesday.  He also has a brace for his left hand as well.

I call my sister again.  I am worried - and she is - that this will be too much for them to manage for the living level he is going into - it is not a big deal to bring him back home, we just need clarity.  She calls them again and then calls me.  It is not a problem.

We have lunch at a Panera.  He has a cinnamon bagel and coffee - not the best of lunches, but it seems to make him happy.  I have a really good grilled cheese and turkey chili.  The day is sunny but with a wind that bites a bit when the clouds come over.  It strikes me that this will be our last meal together for a while, but I refrain from mentioning it.  He seems in a good mood at the moment.

It is now 1300, the time we had anticipated getting him to his new home.

I pick up his medicine and we drive back home.  Packing the last few things (I thought to make a list), my father looks for a jacket with button sleeves that will accommodate his wrap and brace.  We are probably not there more than 20 minutes  - I am trying to keep things moving to keep him from dwelling too much on what is going on.

We pull out as it is snowing a bit though the sun shines through.  The cows watch us as we drive off - then as we drive back as I realized I had forgotten his room key.  This, I regret - I was trying to keep things moving forward, not coming back to dwell on them.

We get going again and get down to see my mother.  She is doing well.  She is still a little confused why she has to stay there, but she does not mention being ready to leave.  She had ice cream, she says, and shows me another book that she has found to read.  It is one that she has read before; I remind her that she liked it last time.

Then, back into the car.  During this whole time, there and now back, we have said very little.  I have commented on traffic, he makes a couple of suggestions for how to avoid snarls ahead.  Whether by choice or design, we both agree to say nothing about what is happening.  He does comment he worries about my mother, but she seems to look well.  I agree with him - she does.  That is about all I think I can manage for each of us without some kind of breakdown occurring.

Pulling into the new location, I happen to notice a rainbow - a large one - just ahead of us.  I point it out to my father.  I will take it as a benediction.

My sister and brother-in-law are there when we arrive.  It is now 1630, almost four hours after we intended to have all of this done.

The moving in process is much quicker: the fast unpacking of a handful of items, turning on the television and the heat and showing him how they work, helping him organize dinner and breakfast.  

And before you know it, it is time to leave.

He is sitting in his chair, one arm in a bandage and one in the wrist warp.  He still has his mask pulled down but on from when he came in.  "Let me take that off, Dad" I tell him.  "You will not be needing that now" - and he will not, after tonight, at least not inside the facility.  I give him a hug, tell him I will see him tomorrow, and off I go.

I say goodbye to my sister and brother-in-law and we separate, mostly by mutual unspoken consent; we are both, I suspect, more than exhausted. I run by the grocery store and pick up a few things to last me into the week - with my father gone, it will quiet meals here most of the time.

The house is quietly empty when I arrive home - like when my mother left, still full of stuff and their things, as if they were simply on a trip and would be returning soon.  I disconsolately poke around for one or two things I forgot - his cell phone charger, and his pajama bottoms.  I enter the expenses in the log book - why, I do not know.  There is no need for any of that to be tracked that way anymore.  Force of habit, I guess.

I struggle to make the evening fire - I do not have my father's skill with flame (but I will need to learn it) and after 35 minutes, multiple crumpled paper balls, and at least three sets of kindling, I finally get a fire going.  I overcompensate a little I suppose, and drive the temperature up to 78 F.  

My father, I think, would be pleased were he here.

Saturday, February 13, 2021

The Pause That Depresses

One more day.  

That is how long I have to hold everything together.  

One more day.

We kept busy today:  moving my father's furniture down to his new domicile, driving down to visit my mother, attending the burial of his sister who passed away from The Plague in January, driving back to my sister's to get a table, then driving back to his new domicile to put a last piece of furniture in, and finally going out to dinner with my sister and brother in law and returning home.

He is on the couch, napping.  He is, I am sure, exhausted. After all, he is in his early eighties and has not been doing a lot of physical activity lately.

I am (perhaps self-evidently) here typing, also exhausted.  Physically, to some extent - my sleep pattern is always off a little bit here, and his wrists have been keeping my father up at night.

But mostly mentally.

I am not by nature or disposition an optimistic person (our resident optimist, Ed of Riverbend Journal, handles that for us here).  But for the past week, I have had to be not just an optimist, but The Optimist.  

About a thousand years ago - or really last Tuesday - we moved my mother into a situation where, in one location or another, she will spend the rest of her life.  My father, not surprisingly, is very concerned about her but does not necessarily understand all the protocols.  So I and my sister have to explain:  Yes, she is okay.  Yes, she will be able to leave the room soon after her test.  Yes, we are sure that people are visiting her and checking on her.  Yes, we are sure she is eating.

And when my father and I have seen her, we have to reassure her as well:  Yes, you have to stay in your room right now.  Yes, you will be able to get out of your room soon.  No, you have to stay there for a little way longer - knowing full well "longer" is a very long time indeed.

With my father it is somewhat the same:  Yes, I am sure it will be hard at first when you move in, but you will get to know people.  Yes, I am sure the TV will be set up.  Yes, the place will be okay.  Yes, Mom will be there soon.

We need them to believe that this will work out for the best.  We exude optimism as a methodology to make it so, trying hard to will something into existence.

But then something like tonight comes:  my father asleep, moving tomorrow, me having seen my mother today with all of her things packed into a bag and asking when she can come home.  I almost lose the belief myself, falling into consideration of the totality of all that has happened in the last month.

But I cannot.  Not yet.  I have one more day to see the world through the eyes my parents desperately need me to see them through.

One more day.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Packing TB The Elder

 Yesterday we packed up my father, TB the Elder.

Packing him up was easier and more difficult than packing for my mother.  Easier, because there is not a sense of secrecy as we go about looking at things, of having to have a ready answer for "why we are taking that".

Harder, in that my father is very clear what we are doing.

He is less concerned with some things.  The practical matters of things like towels and linens and dishes he is little concerned with, and I sincerely doubt he knows which clothes we have selected for him.  He seems surprised as we haul a bed frame and mattress past him (he has slept on the couch for years; the facility tells us the medical staff will not like that so down the the bed goes).  We debate which recliner to take; he finally shrugs and says "Whatever".  We take the one that he sits in next to the fireplace now.

His concern are the pictures.

My sister has done a good job, grabbing pictures that my father has mentioned as well as ones which she thinks he will want.  There are far more going than went for my mother, but then again my father remembers more.  They are mostly pictures of the grandchildren, both mine and my sister's, with a healthy grouping of pictures of he and my mother.  I assume there are one or two of us there as well; as children, we often rate somewhat below the grandchildren and slightly above remembered pets.

He just sits and watches as we trundle past, slowly transferring what seems essential to his life in a new location.  His grief and sadness are palpable as they are largely unspoken - when my sister asks him how he is doing, he just says how much he misses my mother.

He goes to bed at 7:00 PM tonight, the earliest he has gone since I have been here.  When I ask him if everything is okay, he just shrugs and says he misses my mother.  Sleep is a way to escape the reality of the pain, the memoryless hole where we find visions and confusion and occasionally, rest.

And so I sit here in the computer room off the side of the living room, working in the flickering light and darkness of the ;laptop screen.  If I look through the glass panes of the closed door, I can see the flickering of the television and beyond that the orange and blue flames of the fire in the stove, slowly burning away to keep out the cold of the rain that I hear pouring down outside in the darkness - the fire that has burned here all winter for over 20 years.  My father has gone to sleep, dreaming the dreams of old men who have had full lives and now find themselves in a place they had not imagined.

I look out the window into the darkness.  The rain only comes down harder, giving me no answers except for its fury.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Not Quite Spring


Two weeks past stood snow
where now ten thousand frogs sing 
hopefully of love.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Moving Mom

 I have been driving this road all my life.

This road is the great artery of the region, picking up smaller towns and hamlets like the tributaries of a river, all coming together to flow to the sea.

When I first traveled this road, I could not drive it but was driven on it - to the zoo,  to the seashore and camping, to the magical place called "The Mall", to the Bigger City where Aunt J lived.  It was the road we followed to go "places".

Later, I would drive this road myself - first as an escape from my hometown as freedom, then to college near and college far away.  Eventually I would come back the other way, bringing my own family up the way I had come down.  And then after we moved to New Home only occasionally as we became salmon, swimming upstream to find our roots.  But always, this road.

I have been driving this road all my life.  And now I am driving it to take my mother to her new home.

If I were to tell her this, she might very well believe me - she has been convinced for some time that the Ranch is not her home, although it has been for over 20 years.  She lives in a world now where "home" is a nebulous concept, a place that she knows exists but never seems to quite know where it is.

The skies are overcast but thin to sun as we drive, first into The Big City for another doctor's appointment, then back towards "home", the old and the new.  Traffic is light in both directions - it is the middle of the day, and those who have places to be are already there.  

My father decides that he is hungry for lunch - I agree, out of both a perceived hunger but just as much  a need to delay what is now the inevitable conclusion of this journey.  We stop at Denny's, one that I have never been in although it may be as old as I.  We go through the now-normal routine:  she picks up the menu while I pick up mine and try to beat her to the punch by suggesting what she will be able to finish, which is always much less than she thinks she can eat.

Lunch is delayed, longer than usual - a bit surprising for a restaurant so empty, but neither I nor my father comment; we are in no hurry.  We eat the way we always do now:  my mother picking at this and that, my father and I trying to balance out what she eats with suggestions.  The meal is good - surprisingly good, in my opinion.  My father decides he wants ice cream for dessert.  The server - the server who always seems to be the ever-present stock character of any server in any Denny's - brings him the equivalent of a sundae instead of the single scoop he asks for while charging him for the scoop.  I am happy, because I get to swipe the whipped cream on the top that neither my mother nor father care for.  We all eat some, even my mother having a spoonful or two.  I do not even smell like a Denny's when I leave, something which I cannot remember every occurring.

But lunch delayed is not destination denied.  And so we get back in the car for the short journey to where she will stay.

We pull up and I tell her we need to go inside here.  She seems a bit confused -she does not recognize this place - but complies the way she always does, with the acquiescence of someone who does not always know what is going on but is sure that someone does. I ask my father if he wants to come, but he says he would like to just sit in the sun in the car.  And so we go in.

We wait in the foyer, which is now covered with health notices the way high school bulletin boards used to be covered with fliers during the first week of school advertising clubs.  I comment on it to another patron waiting in the foyer.  We all laugh;  my mother introduces me as her brother - one last, gentle reminder of where we actually are in the scheme of things and why we are here.

The door opens; the moment of truth has arrived.

The intake operation is one smoothly choreographed flow which is as impressive as it is well rehearsed:  everyone from the facility is there to greet her.  They welcome her by name, commenting on her choice of colors on her shirt, reminding her of her interests (cats and reading), telling her that they have been expecting her.  We go into the office to get the now-obligatory scan of our temperature.  She asks our host why she is here.  "To work on your memory" comes the reply.  

"How long will I be here?" she responds.

"For a few weeks, until you get better" comes the response I am sure has been spoken a thousand times.

My mother turns and looks right at me.  "Does my family know about this?" she asks.

I am frozen in a moment.  I can pick out the individual forms on the desk near me, hear the copier as it drones on and draws down characters through an electronic well onto a blank sheet of paper, and discern 50 shades of grey and brown in the office furniture.  In that moment I am not sure of who she thinks her family is.  It may be me.  It may not.  And I do not know, now, that it matters.

"Yes Mom, they know" I respond, grateful for the ability to speak the truth in however garbled a form.

They whisk her back out to meet more people as I finish up a few questions and go out to the truck to get the last things that we had to bring because she was using them last night.  My father gets out and decides that he, too, would like to come in.  We go in together and go to her room; I unpack as our host walks around the room, telling her about the small snacks and rose on her table and asking her about the pictures on the wall.  Mom remembers them, even as she recognizes the things in the room.  She knows these things; I do not know if she is convinced but at least she seems unalarmed.

We finish unpacking and setting up; I am ready to leave not so much to end the experience as much as to make the transition easy for her.  We say a quick goodbye; our host has done this part as well and there is an unspoken agreement - at least between us - that keeping her half distracted as this happens is the best.  We wave goodbye and go out to the truck; we see her through the window getting settled as we begin to back out.

The drive back is silent, the silence that fathers and sons have shared since there were fathers and sons when events happen and they do not quite know what to say or how to say it:  I fearing to break the spell of my father who seems at least somewhat comfortable with the change, my father perhaps lost in the silence of memories or simply realizing in a way that I cannot the passing of an era.

While she is still with us, she is gone - gone in the way a child entering school for the first time or a young adult striking out on their own is gone; gone in the way that happens when a friend gets married or divorced or has the first child and you are neither married nor divorced nor with children  They have a life away from you now that in some way will always be separate from you and something that, no matter how close you are to them or how much you learn about it, you will never quite be able to ever really enter into.

The house, when we arrive, looks as it ever did; other than the missing bed we took and a few items that were in closets and cupboards and empty places where a few pictures sat, nothing has changed.  But her presence, while experientially around in things, is not here.  Which seems strangely reflective of the reality that while my mother was here, in some ways she has not been "here" in some time.

Perhaps even houses mourn.