My precious granddaughter, Charis, had spent the night on Saturday night. She is an early riser, as a rule, and I felt her slip into bed beside me just as I was ready to get up on Sunday morning. The smell of roast beef was wafting up from the kitchen, and I remembered that it was “Carry-in Sunday” at our little country church.
The man who was supposed to bring the morning message had been waylaid by surgery that hadn’t gone as well as expected, so Friday night, the Leadership Team had decided to have a “fifth Sunday” plan for the morning service and that meant we would have a song service instead of a morning message, and follow that by a potluck “dinner on the grounds” kind of thing. Only it wasn’t dinner on the “grounds” to be honest. It was “dinner underground” in the basement of our church. It’s a beautiful and convenient gathering place and will easily handle our congregation. I was so glad for the decision to have carry-in. I missed last month’s when we were in Missouri, and it’s always a good time with our church family.
So Charis and I got ourselves up and betook ourselves downstairs. We stirred about, she having coffee and a breakfast sandwich and watching Veggie Tales, and I, making succotash, getting the roast out of the oven, making gravy, collecting the mushrooms for the mushroom dish I like to take with the roast, and trying to calculate if there was enough tea concentrate to take Garden tea along for the meal instead of the usual Southern Sweet eat that we take. Certain Man came into the kitchen and carefully sliced the roast into the usual pan, and Middle Daughter came down and helped out with the dinner preparations, and we finished in good time. It’s always a scramble to get out of the door on time any Sunday, and this day was no different, but with the good, good help of everyone, we got everything loaded and got to church on time.
We had a wonderful time at church. The “mature women’s class” had a splendid time together. There was so much to catch up on and there were things to cry about, things to laugh about and lots and lots of things to pray about, for sure. And the song service was heartwarming and worshipful and familial. And yes, I did mean familial. If there’s anything we are at our church, it is that special feeling of being a family. We don’t always agree, and we don’t see everything eye to eye and sometimes feelings get hurt, but most of the time, for most of the folk, people are caring of each other and how people feel and think. And we really do love to sing together. I thought Sunday’s songs were especially thoughtfully chosen and enthusiastically sung.
But it wasn’t just the service and the meal. It was the announcement that was made during the service. The announcement had to do with a notice that was put on the back bulletin board. And for all of you who haven’t heard, this is now the official word.
Here, see for yourself.
Now you know!
(This is the “happy news” alluded to in the last post, and it is exciting for all of us.)
It was hotter than blazes in the parking lot at Milford Genesis nursing home. I had come in several hours earlier with Cecilia as they moved her from her bed in 232b at Bayhealth Milford to her new home in Room 215 in Rehab at Genesis. Her mother had met us at the nursing home, carrying two new pairs of pajamas. She stopped by the side of the ambulance as they unloaded her daughter and then waited for me while I was unloading things from the minivan.
Cecilia was distraught. She had several episodes of shaking that resemble shivering. She will do this when she is upset or worried or in a situation that is unfamiliar. She had reached her hand towards me when I got into the hospital room earlier this morning, and grasped mine in hers like she was never going to let go. When I disengaged her hand and was getting ready to comb her hair, she began shaking like she was cold.
“Cecilia-girl, I’m here,” I said. “It’s going to be alright. We are going to get you to a place where we can get your legs stronger so you can walk again and come home.” As long as I stroked her arms and spoke soothingly to her, she wouldn’t shake. But if anyone came in or if I wasn’t fully engaged with her, she would start again. I wondered again about this girlie and what was going through her head. Did she think she was going to be abandoned again? Did she fear being stuck and prodded and misunderstood? How much did she understand about this move?
The transport came, and she was taken from the familiar bed and put onto a stretcher and taken the few miles to the nursing home. I drove over, and then Cecilia’s mother and I answered questions, talked to a lot of different staff, and waited. I fed Cecilia her lunch that came shortly after we got there, and when Cecilia Mom decided that she was going to go back to Newark around 3:00, I offered to bring her car around for her. She had parked in a side parking lot when she arrived because of being unfamiliar with the institution, and the walk was a long walk for someone her age. At first she demurred, but when I insisted, she handed me her keys and I went out to put some stuff in my car and to bring hers around.
Just before I pulled into the parking circle where there was a handicapped space for her, another quick red SUV whipped in ahead of me and took the spot. But I wasn’t too perturbed because there were two women getting into their car that was in the same row, and was even under a shade tree, and so I decided I would make the circle and wait for them. And so I did. I waited and waited. The sun got hotter and hotter. I couldn’t figure out the AC for Mrs. S’s car, but I thought it would not be much longer, and I waited and waited. The two ladies just sat there in that hot car. I waited some more. Someone came buzzing around me and took a spot farther down the row. That made me cross, too. Why didn’t I just go down there?
Finally, after it seemed like I was going to melt in that blistering hot car, I decided to see if those gals were going to leave or if they had other plans. I got out of the car and walked up to their open window. They were both busy on their phones, scrolling through stuff as casually as if it were their living rooms.
“Excuse me,” I said (with cheerful voice) “Are you ladies leaving?”
“Oh, yes, we are!” They chorused. “We’re so sorry. We really are!”
“If you’re not, that’s okay. It’s just that I brought this car up for an 88 year old lady and if I could have your parking spot, I would really appreciate it.”
“No problem,” they said. “Of course!”
I went back and got into my (or rather, Mrs. S’s) car, wondering why I hadn’t done that sooner. They put their car into reverse and backed out and I slid into the spot before anyone could steal it from me, and was most grateful. I locked Mrs. S’s car carefully and headed towards the nursing home. After the sweltering car, the breeze felt good and we were almost finished with the admission and (maybe) I could go home soon.
I walked down the sidewalk, feeling the weight of the day on my shoulders. It had been a tough day on several fronts. My crazy feet were not co-operating with me like I wanted them to. I came around the corner to head into the nursing home and caught my toe on the small discrepancy between the sidewalk and the one that was perpendicular to it.
“Oh, no!” I felt myself hurtling forward towards the ground at an alarming rate. Thankfully I remembered what happened when I let my face hit first, and I threw my left arm out to try to break my fall. Ker-thunk! Now I felt the weight of my day (Plus a lot more!) on my left elbow. I scrambled to my feet, looking frantically about to see if anyone saw me. Whew! No one in sight. I had kinda’ rolled over onto the mulch beside the sidewalk, and there were long black strands of sticks hanging onto my sweater and skirt. I hastily brushed them off and kept on walking, into the sanctuary of the front door of the nursing home and its cool, welcoming foyer. No one noticed as I made my way down the hall and into Cecilia’s room where Mrs. S waited. I’d been gone a long time for just moving her car up.
“Wow!” I said. “It’s really hot out there!”
“Isn’t it amazing,” she said in her cheery voice. “It was cold when I left Newark, but by the time I got here, it was really hot!” I was grateful that she didn’t ask why it took me so long. We made small talk and then as she was getting ready to go, I discovered that there were a whole lot more strands of mulch hanging from my person in diverse places.
“Oh, dear,” I said, as I tried to pull them off. “I must have missed these.”
The story came out, then, and one of the pleasant staff observed that there were even more that I had missed on my shoulder and the back part of my upper arm. She pulled them off for me, and finally I was cleared of all the evidence. I laughed about it and brushed it off as inconsequential because, in fact, it pretty much was. Finally, Mrs. S left, the last questions got answered and I could flee to my car and drive to the safety of my house and the quiet of my chair.
No one watched me as I searched for any abrasions or blood. (There was none.) No one saw me pull up my sweater sleeve in front of the bathroom mirror to see if I had somehow broken a bone in my forearm or elbow when I came crashing down. Nope. It just aches. As does my right foot.
Most importantly, no one knew when I checked this aching heart and found that I finally had time to sit and think and cry a bit. Some days are just hard, and even though I keep telling myself that this day could have been a whole lot harder, and even though I KNOW that I’m a woman blessed beyond measure. — This day was one more really hard day in a string of hard days, and I’m good and ready for some normalcy.
I came home to fresh chocolate chip cookies on the kitchen counter. The dishwasher had been loaded and was clean, and after a while, Nettie came home and was pleasant. Certain Man is on his way home and he averted the accident on Route One by taking another way home. There are happy secrets to be told very soon, and there are highly anticipated visitors coming and family reunions and picnics and all sorts of wonderful things to look forward to. The driveway monitor just notified me that Certain Man is home and it’s time to catch up on his day and enjoy the evening.
Two years ago, (actually on May 21st) My Sweet Mama had fallen and broken her Femur. Her bird came to Shady Acres while she was in the hospital. We didn’t know it then, but Pretty Boy would become a permanent resident of Shady Acres until he died, almost a year to the day after My Sweet Mama went home to Heaven.
This was my facebook post, two years ago this morning:
Caption, May 25, 2017: Charis reads to Grandma Yoder’s bird, Pretty Boy. Charis is very concerned about her Grandma Yoder. She made her a card this morning, and put this picture on it. She wrote: “Der Gremoe Yotre I am retig to your Brde. Love Charis. (And if you can’t read that, there is something wrong with your reading skills.)
(*** for those who just can’t figure that out, here is what it says. “Dear Grandma Yoder, I am reading to your bird. Love Charis.)
On this rainy morning, the memories are making it hard to function. There is much to do today. If all is well, BL moves to rehab this morning. There is packing and paperwork and phone calls to be made. The unknowns of this are difficult for me. (Will she ever get better enough to come home? Will she be carefully tended in the nursing home? What can I do to help everyone in this situation and still take care of my home and my husband and my family? What is God saying to me about here and now???)
There is so much for which to be thankful, and even when I selfishly wish for time to sit and think and “wash the windows of my soul” (that’s CRY, if you didn’t know!) I know that God makes a way in our wildernesses, and He cares what we feel and how we grieve and He knows what is going to trigger our grief.
My Aunt Dottie’s fall on Monday of this week has given me a thousand memories of My Sweet Mama. Aunt Dottie and Mama were friends, peers, sisters in law and almost the same age. (Less than four months separated them). Often church and family gatherings found them together, as in this picture, taken at a July 4th picnic, in 2009:
Sometimes on Sunday Mornings when I see my Aunt Dottie, it makes me so homesick for My Sweet Mama that I turn my head away and think HARD about something else. Aunt Dottie is a brave and classy lady. I feel deeply for her in this latest episode. I know it is devastating and discouraging and disheartening. She’s doing better, but still is in Christiana Hospital. Please pray for her.
Then last evening we received word that Lawanda Zehr‘s father, Loren Martin, died suddenly of a massive heart attack. Lawanda is married to Daniel’s nephew, Pete Zehr, and this young couple has had a special place in our hearts for a number of reasons. This has triggered a host of emotions for me, too, and made me think of losing Daddy and how difficult it was once the reality set in. With this being the anniversary of Mama’s fall and her homegoing (June 16th), it feels like the loss of my parents is suddenly right in my face, and “in my way” no matter which way I turn.
And so. What is the best thing to do on days like today? Each person is different, I know, but for me, it’s a tried and true coping mechanism. It’s to give thanks for any and everything that I can think of (while planning for a time when I CAN sit and think and cry) and getting on with the next thing that I need to do.
Which is to go and pack clothes for BL’s move. Mark them with her name, pack them carefully into the suitcase that is hers, and get a move on. The transport will be there in another hour and a half and I have more than enough to fill up those 90 minutes. (Plus, this computer is driving me batty by not keeping up with my fingers as I type. This irritates me into being done for now. )
Blessings on you all today — may your day be filled with Grace and Glory. May there be purpose in the mundane and excitement in the everyday. May you find Gifts that give pleasure, Friends that give comfort, and a Sense of the Presence of JESUS that make everything look better.
There are some things we just can’t wish/pray away. That’s when I’ve made a choice to trust His Heart when I cannot feel His Hand.
Which, quite honestly, is right now for me. I’m sitting beside Cecilia’s stretcher in the emergency room. She is breathing, but pretty much unresponsive. She didn’t bother to protest when they stuck her again and again trying to find a vein, finally on about the fifth try, they got one in her thumb. They “hope they have enough . . .” (Not sure how they plan to filter IV’s through there, but that is, after all, their problem. It still makes my heart ache.)
The last six weeks have been one mad rat race. Actually, ever since the first of the year I haven’t had time to catch up. Didn’t get my taxes done, no flower beds tended, haven’t had time to write any of my head or my heart like I would like.
And it’s been very lonely. Not because people haven’t cared and helped and prayed and shared, but because there are some things in life that are hard to explain and even harder to understand. I don’t know how a blind, non-verbal, stubborn as a mule, autistic scrap of humanity worked her way into my heart 17 years ago and stayed.
I didn’t want her.
I had done respite with her for a friend and I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to endure her for an extended period of time. There were too many behaviors and too many “messy” things. But when she was in desperate need of a home, My Sweet Mama took her in during the summer of ’99, and made it clear that it had to be short term. As the months passed, I changed my mind. And when January 1, 2000 came, Cecilia moved into the bedroom with Old Gertrude and became a part of our family.
Life goes on as it is wont to do, and there have many momentous occasions since she arrived. There was the death of Old Gertrude, who loved her with the pure sweet love of innocent unselfishness. There were family weddings, graduations, the death of family members and both Daniel’s parents and mine. Each of our delightful grandchildren joined our family, and every one of them was inordinately interested in the little lady in the chair in the corner. (I would find toys piled up on her lap after the grandsons visited, tribute to Frankie’s concern that she needed something to play with). There were walks on sunny days and always, always music playing for her in the corner chair where she sat in a nook off of the kitchen; she listening to the sounds of the family, and swaying her head slightly to the music. And so the days passed.
But back in December, she had a positive Cologard test. In January, she had an appointment with the gastroenterologist. In February. she had a colonoscopy. In March, she had surgery for a malignant polyp in her colon. And that set her on her current decline. She was in the hospital almost the whole month of April with various complications. There were many times when I despaired of her getting better again.
Daniel and I had plans to go to Missouri to see his biological mother’s Amish relatives for the week from April 29 to May 6th. His sister, Lena, had made the arrangements, (we were in 7 different beds on 7 different nights) reserved a rental car (with Daniel being the designated driver) as well as a motel for our last night. I hardly thought I would/should go, but Deborah insisted, and Daniel was not looking kindly towards my uncertainty. I finally decided I needed to go.
“And why not?” I reasoned, more than a little conflicted. “I was in Ohio with Daniel’s parents and siblings when old Gertrude died. I might as well be away when something happens to Cecilia.” That Man I Love Best looked at me a little strangely when I voiced those sentiments. I’m afraid I might have stuck my chin up at him and said, “It would almost seem like it’s a test of my loyalty and commitment!” He kinda shook his head a bit and just went on out to the chicken house or wherever.
Little did I know what a mix of joy and concern, new relationships and blessed exchanges, as well as inconvenience and discomfort that week was going to be. (And sometime I MIGHT get around to writing about it. If you are interested, Daniel’s sister, Lena, has a blog where the trip is chronicled. Find that here: http://happytrailswithlena.blogspot.com/)
We all know that Cecilia has behaviors that make it difficult for us to determine exactly what is behavior and what is a symptom. And last Wednesday night when she went from walking well to suddenly leaning into Deborah who was guiding her to the bathroom and then crumpling on the floor- well, that was probably behavior. Usually when she pulls that trick, someone always catches her and lets her down gently. But this time, she was going over backwards and Deborah could not do anything except keep her from hitting her head. She heard a snap, saw that the ankle was at an odd angle, and until it was all said and done, Cecilia was in the ER until 3 the next morning, getting a cast on a “significant” fracture to her left ankle. Thankfully, it was not dislocated, but she was to be non-weight bearing until she saw the orthopedist.
But there were appointments scheduled for the week that we are now in — three in fact. One to the Primary Care Physician, one to the Surgeon, and now one to the Orthopedist. Back in Delaware, my case manager and team from the Department of Disabilities handled the authorizations and took care of legal necessities. From Missouri, I handled home calls and took care of making arrangements for the appointments scheduled for this week with the transport company. I made appointments and wrote down numbers. I talked to nurses and dispatchers and my case manager. The transport company wouldn’t provide transportation unless I gave them three working days notice, so they refused to take her to the appointment that was yesterday (Monday) with the orthopedist. So, again from Missouri, I called my brother, Mark, Jr., and begged for help. He said that he could help with transportation on Monday, and not only provide a van, he could also provide his strong, young son, Timothy, to drive and help. Wow!
Back home, Deborah was so concerned about Cecilia. She wouldn’t eat. She was lethargic and seemingly depressed. Deborah tried to tempt her with her favorite foods. No interest. She played her favorite music. She talked to her and made sure she was clean and dry. Nothing made any difference. The messages I got in the last few days of our trip were singularly lacking in any good news.
We got in on Saturday afternoon. My heart sank at my first glimpse of our Cecilia Girl. I made my voice as cheerful as I could and tried to rouse her from her quiet apathy. She brightened briefly. I thought I saw the shadow of a smile, and she reached her hand a short distance off the sheet on her hospital bed. But something seemed terribly wrong.
I stayed home from church with her on Sunday, hovering close most of the time. She ate more for me than she had for Deborah, but probably because I worked harder to get past her resistance. She often acted like she was going the throw up, but never actually did. It was hard to tell what was really going on, because Cecilia can make herself throw up when she wants to, and she will do it if she is upset. Deborah kept track of her active tummy sounds. Those seemed fine. And so Sunday passed.
Yesterday morning, I came down to discover that she had vomited profusely during the night, and I was sure she had another obstruction. Deborah listened, and all her stomach sounds were good. But something seemed so wrong. I called her Primary Care Provider and they said that they could see her at 12 noon. Her orthopedist was supposed to see her at 1:00. So Tim came early, and he and Deborah helped me get her loaded onto the Geri-Chair and into the van. She looked almost comatose. The PCP listened to everything. Vitals were normal. Tummy sounds were active. No temp. We discontinued the new blood pressure medication that was started in the hospital because she was exhibiting a lot of the negative side effects, and they gave me an order for a CT scan of her head to rule out stroke. We were very late at the orthopedists, but they had told me to come in when we could, and they checked her leg, determined that it would not need surgery, and encased it in a hard cast, with instructions to have no weight bearing for at least four weeks when they would see her again. We couldn’t get the CT scan of her head on that trip (we tried!) and so we came on home. Nothing much resolved and poor Cecilia exhausted and as sick as ever.
Today there was a multitude of visitors through the house. The Millennium Home Health Care nurse, the Physical Therapist, and the CNA. Soon after lunch, Cecilia’s mother showed up unexpectedly. One look at Cecilia and I could tell by the look on her face that she was beyond upset. She was frantic. We talked a while, and I told her all that we were doing, and what the nurses said. The tummy sounds were still good, no fever, BP in the normal range for Cecilia; pulse and respiration good. Mrs.S was quietly distressed and did not stay long. After she left, I cried a bunch. I felt so helpless. And sad. And desperate for answers.
It was after Mrs. S left that the CNA came and gave Cecilia her bath, and lovingly lotioned her up and made her look sweet and clean. Cecilia slept the sleep of the very sick. No responses, no movement except an occasional frown, and an occasional strange, raise of her arm towards the ceiling in a strange sort of wave like she is trying to bring something in close to her face. My heart felt like it was going to burst. I finally called my nurse from the state. Diane Timmons, my resource, go-to support and friend, said that I needed to take her to the ER.
“I have no way of transporting her,” I said, my mind so boggled by the day before and its difficulties that I couldn’t think.
“Call 911,” directed Diane. “If they can’t find anything and send her home, then we will know, but we need to at least cover our bases in case something is really wrong. I think there really is, but she needs to be at least evaluated.”
911 was called, the ambulance came and brought her in here. It is now much later. The night has been long and drawn out, and eventually a doctor “straight tapped” an artery to get the labs they needed after getting a good IV line in that afforded anything they needed for the CT scans. She rests quietly now. She has an NG tube draining the liquid from her stomach. She is in acute renal failure. And she has another bowel obstruction. Her White Blood Count is high, and she is septic.
I prayed over her, and played music up close to her ear, and when they finally found a bed for her upstairs, decided to go home.
Oh, my Cecilia-girlie. What is there going to be for you? I’m reminded of what Old Gertrude would often say to me as she looked at you with love in her eyes. “Oh, Mom,” she would say, her voice almost pleading, “I wish she could say somethin’! She’s so purty! I just wish she could say somethin’!” How very much I wish you could say something! How very much I wish you could even just point to where it hurts. I think I wish I could know what is in the days ahead, but maybe I don’t. You nor I nor anyone who loves you are given grace now for the days ahead. I’m not even going to tell you to “hang in there.” I am going to say that you need to rest easy. That you need to listen for the Angel Song, whether protection or assistance or summons, you can trust their song.
This note on 05/13/17: Cecilia has improved significantly his week. The obstruction has resolved, her kidney failure has started to reverse, and she is responding to us more normally. She will need to go to a nursing home/rehab facility until she can walk again, but the plans now are to attempt rehabilitation with the hope that she will be able to eventually return to Shady Acres, and her spot in our home and family. She is still hospitalized and we do not know how long that will last, and things change so rapidly in our world, so we cannot really predict what will happen. Please keep us in your prayers.