Thursday, January 07, 2010

Less is More

I snapped this picture on a beautiful day in December when the temperatures didn't seem as threatening as they do today at the Gables Apartments near our condo tower. Dripping faucets inside apartments seems like overkill if you leave your heat on...what? Our condo has been set for the heat to come on if the temperature at the thermostat reaches 60F. I think anyway. That hasn't happened yet but the current cold front may make it happend. The temp has been dropping since I got up this morning and seems to have settled just below freezing. With temperatures, at a certain point less is not more. But this summer during the days and days of 100F plus temps any drop was welcome.

There are other times that less is more, though. Covering some news stories, for example. Eating, drinking.

Also: stocking up. It seems like a good idea to people. They are walking through Costco and they think, yeah, I could eat that many (pick one) nuts, chips, ounces of cheese, etc. But sometimes it's good to not stock up too much and just eat what you have around. When the weather turns bad, people strip the stores of food and water. How long do they think they might be stranded. Don't most of us have enough cans of chili to get through a crisis?

I once was the owner of two beat-up VW Beetles. Somehow we got the idea that having a 'spare' car would relieve the times that we had one car in the shop. (Our other car was a rotary engine Mazda. Remember those.) But. It was a pain. It expanded the times one car needed some work by 50 percent and there was insurance, license, inspection. More trouble than it was worth. And you had to have a place to park 'em, too.

Now, sometimes it's reasonable to stock up on stuff. It's best to have enough underwear, socks and blue jeans to get past the next wash day and enough dishes to fill a dishwasher before you have to run it. But lots of other things, you know, you don't need so much of really. And stockpiling is a really bad idea. You really only need a certain number of pairs of shoes or T-Shirts (but those things multiply, don't they?). You only need a few watches (um, do people even use them any more or just tell time with their cell phones?).

But most of the complications of our life? They are from having too many things going, too many duties, too many households to manage, too much of things we should have never gotten into. From letting too many people grab your time. I've spent my retirement looking for things to do but, at the same time, jettisoning responsibilities and stuff. Some responsibilities are pesky, though, and grow and grow and there is nothing you can do to make them all that much simpler.

But...if I'd made a New Year's Resolution it would have been to remember 'less is more' and to try as hard as I can to simplify things in my life.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Needing a Hand...and Holidailies

I wanted to do something else for a couple of hours this morning. My dad wanted me to get yet another prescription out of a doctor. For constipation. Trust me, no matter what is wrong with an elderly person it always gets back to the bowel. Trouble is, some of the drugs he's taking cause constipation. He no longer had the pain they were to be used for. Stop those. Some drugs he's taking may cause diarrhea. Some drugs for constipation reduce the efficacy of some antibiotics he's taking. So. What is needed is for a doctor to look at the drugs and situation and recommend something. My sweet husband faxed a drug list to his GP and went over there to try to sort it out and go get a prescription filled or a recommendation. I needed a hand. Someone else to do what may be useful, may be futile but makes everyone feel like we are good caregivers and makes Dad feel like he has what he needs. Someone to wait to talk to the doctor. To take the prescription to the pharmacy and wait for it to be filled or get the OTC drug recommended. To talk to Dad about it. This is all I do, it seems to me. Doctor's offices, pharmacy, emergency room, talk to Dad, repeat. It could be worse. He can take care of some things, or try to do so, himself. But it is constantly on my mind. Other things are scooted out. Because Forrest is doing this possibly fool's errand, possibly errand of mercy, I can sit here and write about it. And go to a two hour class and write peacefully. Unless the phone rings. And my crisis management is required again.

But too many of my Holidailies posts have been about my dad's illness and my frustration with it.

There are other things to write about.

For example, I have managed to write a paragraph or two in this space for thirty-one days. I sometimes did it on a laptop while waiting for my dad's next need. (Often encountering his ire because he apparently wanted us to do something else while waiting for his next need.) I even wrote one on my iPhone. It was a nice release and while I will wince when I look back and see how bitter and ungrateful I was during this period, it will be instructive to look back. I was also pleased that this post got a 'best of Holidailies' designation. I always hope to get one of those a year.

Also, Chip did such a great job on the Holidailies site that it's been a true joy to use it. Why can't more sites cleanly present data, changing seamlessly as people add things?

And, of course, during this spate of writing here I have had the pleasure of displaying many of my shop window reflections, replete with shape and color and depth. Well, I like them and one reader, at least, does as well.

Nothing feels like an accomplishment any more. Not the things I do for my dad. Not the things I write or photograph. Not getting out Christmas cards or paying bills or (when I do get to it) cleaning the apartment. I have been walking a friend's dog since Saturday and I have to say that this chore has been a little bit of a joy, forcing me out into the cold air and forcing me to look around the neighborhood a bit. Fortunately her elimination is working and for that I'm grateful and I'm happy to pick up the poop in the pink bags. Now if Dad can just successfully eliminate, too, everyone would be happy. Well, not really, but you often does just come down to the bowel and bladder. It's good to remember that.

Goodbye to Holidailies. Let's hope I can keep up a bit of blogging or writing without it. Have a great 2010, readers. I hope mine does not consist of 80% of the days taken with doctors, emergency rooms, etc. as the first five have been. Gotta get better.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

If Only...

If only shop window reflections really were art and a reasonable (and financially lucrative) avocation for a sixty-something lady.

If only meeting the Holidailies promise of posting every day from Dec. 7 to Jan. 6, were a real accomplishment you could take to the bank. (Today is the penultimate day of the challenge.)

If only knowing words like penultimate were a real skill.

If only I felt at the peak of health so that shepherding my dad through a very rough patch health-wise didn't feel so much like a rehearsal for my own decline.

If only when I found time when I wasn't doing Dad's stuff or year-end, quarter-end financial stuff for multiple individuals and a business, I would not watch mindless TV but, instead, maybe clean the house or write something significant or exercise.

If only I'd known then, what I know now.

Maybe tomorrow, the last day of Holidailies, will bring something significant to this space.

[Thanks to Mercury on Second Street for this shop window.]

Monday, January 04, 2010

Life's Rubber Bumpers

I used to love leaning into a six-foot-long tilted board lighted garishly and covered with lots of lights and rubber bumpers and roll overs and flippers you controlled, trying to guide a silver ball to defy gravity and rack up win a free game or beat an opponent or just to listen to the score being counted with dings and clicks, the thunk of the free game counter. No video game ever gave me this feeling. Also, the Atomic Fireball which featured Norse gods was where I learned the names Odin and Wotan. The former is often useful in crossword puzzles.

Life isn't unlike an old school pinball experience. There is the inevitable decline, the lights and color and score-keeping. And the random way the rubber bumpers and roll over poppers send the arc of things careening here and there.

Last night a couple at a party we attended told the story of their meeting, how they both went to a dance club on a certain evening. How she asked him to dance, he refused her because he was in the process of buying someone else a drink, how he found her later and danced. Our lives are like that. FFP and I once wrote a version of our paths through life that improbably brought us together and packaged it up as our holiday card, masquerading as a board game called 'IF' I believe.

All those moving parts of our lives, the world, everything mattering in ways we never expected. All the little accidents, the happy ones and the tragic ones. And you with just the tiny control of a bit of table English (not too much or TILT!) and the flippers (relax, use them separately, careful, timing is everything).

Holidays is drawing to a close...ends Wednesday. Maybe I'll keep writing in this particular space. Or not. Put another couple of quarters in and see.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Anger, Grudges, Euphoria and Memory

I am sitting here with a cup of coffee, typing on my blue tooth keyboard on my iMac (a physically pretty computer that hasn't lived up to its beauty). I'm leaning back in my chair. I usually use the wired USB keyboard because I'm usually doing numbers and it has a number pad. The blue tooth one doesn't have one. This little keyboard is light and magical. There is that great cup of coffee nearby. Maybe I'm 'just typing' but it is always a euphoric moment for me, using a computer that is working at the moment to write something to store forever (or while blogger archives it) and sipping good black coffee. My life is full of these moments. Moments of reading or visiting with friends. Completion of a task. Just walking my friend's dog this morning on a dreary, damp day felt good. Toasting with friends with some great live music playing gives me a rush of well-being.

Lately I've had lingering anger and attendant grudges to deal with. The good news is that the euphoria of moments of reading, writing, visiting with friends or listening to music stick with me. A sip of coffee takes me there and makes me happy.

But my memory for other things grows vague. Rude comments and slights, behavior that I found offensive, someone taking advantage of me? I hold onto it but then it slips away, a victim of the vagaries of memory. Perhaps because these things are inspired by the memory alone and not, like my moments of euphoria, fueled by the smell of coffee or the clink of ice cubes in a Manhattan or a sight of a red wine twinkling in candlelight.

I'm not sure how it came to be that good memories were associated with these readily available triggers, but I'm glad it's so and that my grudges and anger are more easily put aside, having to maintain themselves out of brain stuff alone.

[Today's photo is an untitled shop window reflection portrait of FFP taken with an iPhone at Let's Dish on South Lamar.]

Saturday, January 02, 2010

My Thoughts and Prayers

When someone is ill, people pray, send good thoughts, send cards and letters, visit, call, bring food. bring plants and flowers and other presents and volunteer to help any way they can. It makes a difference, of course, that support and help. But it isn't a cure. It's not that support might not help you get well. It's just that the support that truly might help is the diligent relative or caregiver managing the real problem. In the end, no one can save anyone. Not forever not from everything.

If you think inserting yourself in pre-op patient prep room to pray helps medically you are wrong. You are in the way. If you think bringing a plant, a green jello concoction and telling relatives that they don't know what they are doing vis-a-vis the patient's care is just the ticket to restore your friend to the healthier person you enjoyed...well you are wrong, too. You might give your friend a nice visit and some hope but you aren't saving the day.

Cards and letters are appreciated and sometimes give the person the spirit to fight on, but they're not a cure. I was surprised that my sister saved funny letters I sent to her while she was fighting to recover from hemorrhagic and ischemic strokes. They were fun and she liked them which pleased me, but it was therapists, the family close to her, the docs and her will that got her somewhere, that helped her recover to a certain point. I sent the letters because I was far away and helpless to help her.

And when people say "if there is anything at all I can do?" Yeah, most don't mean anything really. Particularly not the tough hands on patient care. Certainly when I say it I don't mean it. It's hard enough when you are the primary caregiver and can't avoid it.

Dad's last ditch fix appears to have failed after three weeks or so. We went to the emergency room for the second time in the new year today. I am tired of being asked to speculate on what is happening inside him, what his doctors think. Yes, it' moderately helpful having me around to recite his facts since reading a chart seems to be a lost art. So I may actually help him get better or at least get comfortable. My thoughts and prayers, though? My opinion is that they are at best placebos. Maybe yours are more effective. But really I don't think so.

Today I will write a sympathy card to someone who is grieving. It won't really help the grief process but it is the right thing to do. Just like all those cards, letters, prayers and good thoughts coming my dad's way. They are mostly the right thing to do. Except get out of the way and don't second guess the caregivers.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Finally All Will Be Revealed

My dad had some news about his health issues today. But it wasn't the first, or even the second, thing that he talked about when I called. The news seemed a portent for the future to me. But he's begun to look at the future as a series of moments, I think. Maybe not. Maybe he's really striving to reach his 95th or even 100th birthday. (As he claims in jest now and then.) Maybe it's me that is living moment to moment. Not accomplishing things while waiting for a sucker punch. And it isn't even his situation, per se, that makes me feel this way. It's knowing that my own decline has become inevitable as well. Really, honestly, we expect those things with those older than us. But situations blindside us and finally we just linger in this fog of anticipation for the next changes.

We partied last night. But in a calm way. I had a few drinks. Ate some food. Listened to music. Chatted to friends. We didn't bother with the fireworks, instead listening to some bonus tunes. Fireworks seem sort of out of place to me right now. Festive in an over the top way that doesn't seem fitting somehow. Not that the amounts of my drinking and going out befits a solemn period of some kind. Things have happened to people at the periphery of my circle (accidents, death, serious illness) in the last few weeks that served to reinforce the unknowns. Dad's situation has been a roller coaster. When I get some time, I think "I need a drink." In a way that sometimes scares me. (No interventions needed. It's just that the idea of the drink is the idea of just idling away in a bar or restaurant and pretending you don't have to figure out the rest of your life.)

The year 2010 since the birth of the Baby Jesus will hold surprises and stunners along with the things we've come to expect and the things we should have come to expect but somehow never do (terrorism, economic cycles, celebrities acting badly, the good dying young, the good dying old and on and on). So what? Big deal. That's the future rushing at us like it always does.

I'd like to keep better track of my year this year. Maybe that is a resolution of sorts. And I'd like to keep track of the stuff that maybe isn't effectively conveyed in a public forum or should never be aired there. I won't do that, keep a daily journal offline whether typed or hand-written. But I should. Because I think 2010 will be one to look back on. Although I might not be proud of my performance in many areas and so it might be a year better forgotten, better misted over with the vagaries of memory with the convenience of not having a solid record, even one written by a party with bias toward herself.

[Another shop window reflection from Let's Dish. Even the mannequin has a mask although little clothing. To convey the theme of today: future as past, revealing what has happened but leaving much in the fog.]