I Love the Rain

Monday, July 12, 2010 3:30pm

When I was about five my parents bought property outside of town. It was a staggeringly beautiful place to grow up, and our water came from a well. There was generally lots of water there, but not always. When we had had no rain for a while, we had no water. I remember my father walking through the house with buckets of water to flush the toilet, and Mom giving us “spit baths” with a  single basin of water. Being a nurse, she was good at that. All the water we had at any given time was what was in two large, newly-purchased 30-gallon trash cans. When they ran out, my father would drive away to get water “from town.” (It is only at this moment that I wonder if he got it from work, or from a friend, or if there was a public water source for all the people who had no water.)

It only got that bad one summer, but every summer we were careful, even after Mom had a new well dug and a 1000-gallon water tank installed. Mom always knew how much water was in that tank. She was always insistent that we be careful with water. Even in the wettest seasons we knew better than to let a faucet run while we brushed out teeth. But when that tank started to go down, instead of re-filling as we used it, we went into heavy conservation mode. Allowing water to run over your tooth brush only to go down the drain was suddenly unthinkable. One filled a cup with water, dropped a splash on the brush, used half the remaining water to rinse, and swished the tooth brush in the rest to clean it. We didn’t have to do that often, but we did do it.

A few years ago a heard someone talking about saving water by re-using “grey water.” That was old news for me. Mom washed dishes in basins in the sink so the water could be poured on plants if there was not too much soap in it. I don’t know when I learned that other people poured remaining coffee down the sink instead watering the house plants with it.

Water in my house was precious. I want to say it was liquid gold, but gold could hardly be worth as much in August. Water was a precious as … water.   And so I grew up loving rain. Rain in comforting, safe, and when it falls steadily and gently, it is peaceful.  Sadly, I now live in a place that is classified as “semi-arid.” Not a desert, but still dry. Though I don’t miss humidity and its child, mildew, I do miss the rain and the fog. Now I when I watch the rain in the spring I wonder if this will be the last rain until fall, or will there be another. There is a public water system for irrigation only (not safe for drinking) that is turned on when the officials decide we have had our last rain until fall.

The other day my uncle said the  thing, “It’s getting so hot, it’s gotta rain soon!” He wasn’t so much hoping for rain as expecting it, as though the heat somehow makes the rain come. Other people have said similar things. “Boy, I sure hope it rains soon and cools us off!”

The rain did come, and the temperature did go down. It was a long, steady, peaceful rain. I sat on the porch, read my Kindle, and listened to the rain.

And not one person joined me to celebrate the wonder of rain in July.

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Sunday, July 04, 2010

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Well, there is no unsecure signal that I can piggy back on here at Mom’s house. There is one really strong signal, with a very cute name, but I don’t have the password. Sigh. So I am writing this in word and will just have to publish it when I can.

I called Mom in the hospital. She said that she was up in the chair and she wasn’t supposed to be doing anything (presumably like talking), and she would call me back after they changed the sheets. That was half an hour ago. Mom’s friend, Jan, said that Mom did the same thing to her earlier today: said she would call back and then didn’t. That time it was because she needed to use the bathroom. So who knows what is up with that? Jan says that it could be related to the pain meds, or it could just be Mom feeling irritable.

In any case, Jan works night shifts and will drop by to see Mom on her way in. I’ll go in the morning. All the reports are that she is doing really well.

Meanwhile I am here in Mom’s home alone. It is so quiet. There is the hum off the air conditioner, but that is all. There are no husbands or young men noisily walking around, no computer games sounds coming from another room, no idiotic TV show blaring, and no pets. Just me. Just quiet.

At the moment it sort of feels wonderful.

Monday, July 5, 2010

There is a McDonald’s on the way between here and the hospital Mom is in. I should be able to stop by tomorrow and post this.

Yesterday I called my aunt, the one who wants to help and tends to wear people out. Often her help is more draining than helpful. I arranged to have dinner with her today. I asked, “Do you want to come over here, or should we eat at your house.” She responded, “Oh, let’s go there. It will be much easier for you than bring food here to cook.”

And that, my friends, is my aunt.

We did have dinner together. She even brought a salad. Then she drove me to her Y (about half a mile away) so that I could get find out if I could go there while I am here, since I am a member at home and all. It turns out that new people can have 14 free visits before signing up, so that won’t be an issue. Then I asked her to stop by a grocery store on the way home. I think I’ve made her feel useful enough for a while.

I signed up for navigation on my phone while I am here. It has been less successful than one might hope. Oh it took me to the “Regional Medical Center” where there was a phone in the lobby which connected me to a woman who nicely told me that my mother was in room 1412. I went to the elevator and there were only 6 floors. The sign explaining what was where didn’t give any indication of patient rooms at all. I rode the elevator, getting off floors and looking for someone, anyone who could help me. Finally someone pushing racks of food trays (or something) got in the elevator and told me that I was in the wrong building. The Medical Center is actually a collection of facilities and I had to go “all the way across town” to get there. (It’s a small town; I was not as put out and she seemed to think I would be.)

Anyway, I got there. On the way back though I thought I would drop by the local Tar-jey. I got directions until I was told to turn right on “Charlie Road” (not the actual name). Charlie Road was right where it should be. I turned and was told to drive 3 miles. After three miles it told me I had reached my destination.

I was on a tiny road between two farms.

I used it to direct me home. I went as it told me to, but it still claimed to be recalculating the route. The most ridiculous was when I was almost home. I turned down the road and was pulling up to my mom’s house when it suddenly claimed to be “recalculating route.” I turned it off.

Mom is doing well. I spent 6 hours in her room today. I told her that all I had to do today was read and it was cooler in the hospital than in her house. She dozed off a few times, but mostly she wanted to chat. After a few days there, she is getting lonely. She is also frustrated that she isn’t being allowed to move around more.

I had intended to be more entertaining than this, but I’m tired. I’ll write more later.i

My Mother’s Hands

When I was small, I watched my mother’s hands
tying my shoe laces
carving a chicken
putting on a bandage
knitting needles flashing
making tight cross stitches that turned into beautiful things.

When I was a child I played with her hands
like they were toys.
moving her fingers
making shapes
feeling the strength in her fingers.

When I became a mother
I tied my children’s shoes
put bandages on their cuts
cut up chickens
knitted needles moving
but never quite flashing.

My mother taught me to quilt.
Our hands side by side
her hands holding the needle securely
mine struggling.
The bones of our hands were the same.
The skin showed our ages.

Now I sit in a hospital and hold my mother’s hands.
Right hand constantly moving
from the Parkinson’s that stole from her
even while it prompted the test that found the cancer
while it was still so small
that surgery was enough,
no radiation, no chemo therapy.

We walk in the hall and her hand, small, soft, frail
rests on my arm.
I keep her steady.
She says I can have her quilting frames.
Maybe we will send the cross-stitch frames to my sister.
I look at all the beautiful things she has made
knowing there will be no more
knowing she will live.

Good News!

Mom’s doing really well.

The pathology report was good, really good. The doctor said it was the best report you could have, given that there was cancer. Mom had me keep a copy of her report. I’m to get copies and mail it to people.

That doctor also said that he didn’t see any air bubbles when Mom coughed or took a deep breath. He’s not the one who decides when the chest tubes come out, but when the surgeon drops by (late afternoon/early evening) there is a good chance he will order them taken out, though he might do some testing first.

But we are both happy.

Day Four

Well, fourth day for me. Mom had surgery on Friday so I guess this is day 7 for her. The do-hickey the chest tubes go into still bubbles a tiny bit when she coughs, which means there is a small leak, which means that her lung might/would collapse if they were to take the tubes out, which means we will be here for at least two more days. The absolute earliest that she can go will be 24 hours after the chest tube comes out.

But everything else is getting better. She has a pain med that is working. They took out the cath, and we went for her longest walk yet. The chest tubes are the only thing she is still hooked up to.

I keep thinking that I want to be able to take her home, but then I tell myself that I shouldn’t be in a hurry. There is just more that I will have to do for her when I get her home. I won’t be able to sit here and do nothing but read and fiddle on the internet.

Actually, I should try to do something like real work, but I’m not.

Feeling worse

They took out Mom’s epidural earlier today. Five days is as long as she is allowed that as the threat of infection gets worse. So now she is on morphine which makes her nauseous and icky feeling. And when it wears off she hurts far more than she expected to.

I got here about 8:30 this morning and was getting ready to leave at 4:30 but she just looked too pitiful. I told her I could stay; I was sure her friend who had invited me to dinner wouldn’t mind. She said, “Well, you should do what you want to do. I don’t want Jan’s dinner to go to waste.” (Translation: I would like you to stay.) So I called Jan and told her what Mom said. She laughed, cause she knows my mom well, and said that I could come to her house tomorrow.

Jan is a nurse who works nights in a different unit in this hospital.  When she gets off at 7am she makes a fresh pot of coffee and brings my mom a cup. Then she goes home to bed. She wasn’t surprised that Mom was trying hard not to be whiny from the pain. Mom was a nurse for years so intellectually she understands that she isn’t getting worse, she is just feeling things that she didn’t feel while she had the epidural. Emotionally she is is frustrated and worried because she was beginning to feel so much better and now she feels like crap again.

She has always hated making a fuss and demanding attention, but she is getting better at it. She no longer hesitates when she wants me to fill her water cup, adjust her pillows, turn the fan off, on, sideways, or fetch a nurse.

I know she is glad to have me sitting here. Right now what she needs is for me to be a quiet, undemanding presence while she tries to lie very still and ignore ***

*** okay, I’m back. The surgeon came in, told Mom that the pain was normal. They argued a bit over whether he had informed her it would be this bad. They put her on her side to check her dressing, etc. After they left ***

that was when I had to stop to get Michael* to get her diet ginger ale and ice, after which I adjusted her pillows again.

HOWEVER, before the second interruption I was going to tell you that after they changed the dressing I helped her stand up (very slowly) and then adjusted the bed, helped her get back in, held her hands and feet and directed so she could get straight, readjusted the pillows and the rest of the bedding.

Yeah, so I would say over all that it is a good thing I stayed her this evening.

*Michael is a darling teenage boy whose mother is one of the nurses on the evening shift. He is volunteering. When a nurse goes around to take vitals, he follows and takes notes. He also keeps the ice water pitchers full. He tends to get bored so someone gives him something to do he grins. When Mom wanted the ginger ale she said to get Michael to get it. When I went to the nurses’ station he wasn’t there. One of the nurses would have got the ginger ale, but when she found out that Mom had asked specifically for him, she went to get him.

Mom says that she and Michael are friends because she let him listen to her air bubbles with the stethoscope.

Transitions

It turns out there is free wireless at the hospital (yipee!) so for the next few days, I will be on-line during the day.

****

My youngest child is a junior in high school. Soon all my “kids” will be adults.

I’m pretty sure that the sweat fest I endured at the airport wasn’t merely because of the hot tea. I think I had a hot flash.

And my mother now looks elderly.

It’s like there’s been a shift in the world. “Everyone take one place to the right.” I don’t mind getting older (well, that doesn’t mean that I like sweating like a cold cup of tea in a warm room), but I do find myself conscious of it.

But Mom is doing really well today. She still has the epidural for pain and that is working well. She still has chest tubes pulling out stuff. She gets “air bubbles” under her skin, mostly on her back, but sometimes on her front. She jokes that she has become human bubble wrap and she is going to charge people to let them see and poke. The earliest she might have left would be tomorrow, but that isn’t going to happen. Until the chest tubes stop pulling anything out, they stay and she stays. Once they come out my impression is that she will have to be here at least another 24 hours.

Mom enjoys reading, but it is difficult for her. Her Parkinson’s makes it difficult, though not impossible, to hold things steady. Worse yet, it has started to interfere with her eyes ability to work together and so reading is just plain hard. I loaned her my Kindle (my beloved Kindle) and pulled up a mystery I thought she would like. We moved the font up to something pretty big, and she is reading it! This is a big deal because technologically speaking, my mother never left the 80’s. She not only doesn’t own a computer, she is not quite sure what all people actually do with them.

I told my mother that I would get her a Kindle as a early Christmas present and she could share my library.  She might have said, “Oh no, don’t go wasting your money on that” which translates to “no, thank you.” And she might have said thing like, “Oh, I don’t want you to go to all that trouble/spend so much money” which would mean, “I do want one, you just have to re-assure me.” That is her usual response to offers of help. This time she looked at me a minute and then said, “Okay.” THAT, my friends, translates to “Oh YES! Thank you!”

So I said, “Okay” back and the conversation moved on.

It is a sign of how much the Parkinson’s has affected her. Reading regular books is getting too difficult.

Her sisters, both the elder and the younger, seem so much healthier than she does now. Of course neither of her sisters has just had one third of a lung pulled out from between their ribs.

I’m so glad (though that seems the wrong word) that this happened during the summer when I could be here.