Staying at home is not something I have been able to do much in recent years. Consequently, I must confess I have really enjoyed this past week at home. Each day I have become a little stronger and surer on my feet as I have accomplished my regular household chores and light meal preparation without breathlessness.
The lovely bouquet that Mary Ellen and Brianna brought me last Saturday is still lovely in the living room. Jeannie’s huge flowering basket of purple petunias was just the annual summer lift I had failed to provide for the front porch this season. Together Gerald and I have kept it watered nicely. I have slept late late late without feeling lazy, and I’ve worked slowly instead of having to hurry.
After the second shot to help thin my blood, the home health nurse reported the better figure to my doctor on Monday, and a call came from the doctor’s office that no more shots were necessary. Now the doctor is trying to determine exactly how much warfarin (rat poison) I need each day to keep the INR figure ssteady between 2 and 3. Gerald took me to see the primary doctor on Wednesday, and the home health nurse checked me again on Friday.
I think the hospital doctor scheduled home health nurse visits for Monday, Wednesday, Friday again this week, and I am hoping by then my blood will be flowing perfectly at the correct thickness created with a stable daily dose of the correct amount of warfarin. And if my body has not yet already dissolved all the clots in my lungs as I think it has, I hope that task will have been completed by then too. I have been emphatically told that I need to stay on warfarin for the rest of my life, and that I will be glad to do. I was already glad to do so; but being told it was no longer necessary made me think I should follow the doctor’s advice. I did not want to be a pill popper. I think the doctor’s advice was statistically correct, but unfortunately my genetic make-up was somewhat of an anomaly. For me going off warfarin turned out to be an expensive experiment. But now I know, and I will pop those daily pills with a clear conscience.
One of the negatives of old age is that a large number of your loved ones and friends are also. Right before I went to the hospital, my brother Jim called from
Mattoon to tell me their
paper carried the obituary of a dear friend, who lived in nearby . I guess Shirley Keller Karraker was my
longest friend in the world since we were in preschool Sunday School together
for at least a year before we started first grade and then went through 14 years of school
together. Jim and his wife Vivian were
inviting me up to spend the night in case I wanted to attend her funeral on
Of course, I wanted to do that—especially since I have really been wanting to go see Jim and Vivian anyway—but I told him I really did not think I was up to it. And, of course, by Tuesday I was in the hospital and glad I had declined the invitation. But I remembered all the fun times Shirley and I had: Sunday afternoon play dates or swimming at the creek west of town where we used to persuade a parent to take us, high school double dating, and perhaps, best of all, the long long talks on the rare nights she got the family car and we would discuss the world and all the people in it but mostly talk about ourselves—what we believed, what our plans were, and what we wanted out of life.
Shirley had already survived two bouts of lung cancer (despite never smoking), lost her husband a few years back, and because of medical carelessness, had lost her eye sight. So I could not grieve for her. She had lived well, accomplished what she was supposed to in life, and is now in a better place But I grieved some for myself that we would not have that final visit or even a recent letter I meant to write that her daughter could have read to her.
Jim and I talked during last week, and on Friday when I meant to call him to wish him a happy 86th birthday, I was thwarted again. Since he and Vivian have busy lives that include four or five shots a day for her diabetes, and Jim also likes to sleep in, I was waiting until after lunch to see how his most recent doctor appointment had gone. At the noon table, however, the phone rang and the name flashed up that it was a call from Jim, so I answered by singing “Happy Birthday” to him. It was Vivian phoning to tell me Jim was in the hospital, had had a stint repaired or something of that nature that morning and would need another on Monday. (He had four stints put in last autumn when he ended up in the hospital for a week or so instead of being able to give his granddaughter away at her wedding as he had rehearsed.) Since that Friday phone call, I’ve been told he had a “mild heart attack.” Whatever that means. Needless to say, I am anxious about the procedure planned for in the morning.
This morning we learned that our beloved sister-in-law Ginger had once again woke with seizures, not too unusual for the last 13 years since she had a stroke that took away her short term memory. She remained well dressed and attractive and could pass at social events as healthy or at least until recent years. If she talked about the past, she did well. But if she asked you a question about recent events, she would immediately forget your answer and ask again. (I answered the same question once eleven times within an hour, and I knew she would ask again the next time I saw her.) Gerald’s brother Garry kept a wonderful care giver with her because of her need for help with medicine and meals and her intense anxiety about where he was after he took her into town each morning for breakfast before he began his day’s work on the farm. But the seizures and strokes eventually took their toll and she was often in the hospital.
A couple of months ago, once more the ambulance took her to the hospital, and this time she did not get well enough to return home. Much to her family’s discomfort, there were needs that could only be met at a nursing home, but they banded together to be sure that during most of her waking hours, she had one of them there when her regular day caretaker was not present. They cheered for her when she was finally able to stand, and the goal was for her to become sufficiently proficient with a walker to go back to her home. Our niece Vicki Sue grieved that her mother did not show many smiles although she sat through many funny movies with her mother. Ginger’s sister Lillian, who lost her husband after a long illness during this time, came from
to visit Ginger at the nursing
home. Vicki was ecstatic because her mother responded with smiles and laughter
during her precious sister’s visit. Missouri
However by the end of last week, Ginger was deteriorating. This morning Ginger was awake at 4 o’clock with yet another round of seizures, and the word went out to the family that she was taken to the
hospital and life support might need to be removed if a MRI showed no brain
activity. When we checked into the lobby
and Gerald spoke Ginger’s name, the receptionist there told Gerald, “Oh she has
the sweetest husband.” Cape Girardeau
Soon we were up in the ICU waiting room with a large circle of family members including Lillian to be with Garry and Vicki and her brother Kerry as they faced the responsibility of doing what the doctor was advising and what Ginger had said she wanted back when she was still able to make such decisions. Two by two we were going in with Garry to say goodbye to someone who did not look like anyone we used to know and could not respond. Eyes were closed, and occasional grimaces indicated some discomfort with the equipment all over her face. Garry, who has stood tall and firm for over thirteen years, was breaking up knowing what his answer must be for the doctor. The breathing tube was taken off, and Ginger continued breathing on her own.
We came home and there was a message on the phone from our neighbor telling us that her relative, who has also been our neighbor for more that 40 years, is in the hospital at
and the family is awaiting her death. Marion