Outside inside the box

Don’t stuff me in a box and paste labels on me.
I can think inside – over- and outside the box.
I want homes for the neglected people who sleep on US streets and for refugees who come here.
I am flawed and need forgiveness — and I will do what I can for those who need my caring.
I advocate for those not yet born, and for the elderly and those individuals who live with intellectual and physical difficulties.
I pray and believe I am heard. Loved. — and my appreciation of science lets me know the composition and names of the constellations.
I want businesses to succeed and provide jobs for people of my community, and for our leaders to address the challenges to our environment.
I comb through fragile documents for vignettes of the past — and welcome news of increasingly better current medications and treatments.
I am a human being who appreciates dialoguing with people from North America, Europe and Japan, Israel and Africa.
With each new encounter, I grow.

— Mary Louise Van Dyke

(C) 2017 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved.

Caregiver duties wrap up for now

Being on active duty as my mother’s caregiver/spokesperson is wrapped up – for a time.

I hope.

How long this period will last is one of those unknowns dumped on us by life. Although only in her 70’s, her health is nowhere near the robustness of her parents who were taking trips, still living in their house, and making weekly treks to mow their son’s lawn.

I always imagined Mom’s journey would run on similar lines. Strong genetics. However, I should have factored in the fact that life lobbed many emotional projectiles at her. She’s coped as she could, creating a soft-colored environment in her home, buying dozens of “pretties” for the joy of it. Seeking quiet spaces and focusing on collecting reams of ancestral data.

So the cycle of active worry and care ends for a time. Life seems changed since November when Mom’s being unable to manage to walk and care for herself, pitched her and myself into a flurry of lists of agencies to contact for help, and visits with and from health care providers.

What alterations will stay, I wonder?

The final visit with a home therapist is scheduled for later this week and the focus will be on helping Mom learn how to use the bath bench that arrived by mail last week. I hope – I will encourage her – to use it.

The prescribed walker is still hanging out unused in the living room. Sometime soon I’ll be faced with hauling it back to the local Lion’s Club where we got it.

A Meals on Wheels volunteer showed up yesterday morning with another bag of food. I deliberately retreated to my room so I wouldn’t have to watch Mom struggling to slot the culinary offerings into the freezer, filled already with her treasure trove of frozen meals. The service with freshly made meals will continue. And the frozen meals will stay . . . .

Later in the day, Mom and I tackled the challenge of finding her a supplemental dental plan. Mom dialed the number but got overwhelmed by the automated instructions. She handed me the phone and I switched it to speaker mode so we could both hear.

A male representative came on line and I explained what my mother needed. He lavishly praised me for the great job I was doing for my mother – with Mom hearing every word.

I buried my face in my hands. Those words were sweet to hear – but Mom was trying to speak for herself.

Will she be able to do that more now as part of the changes? I really don’t know. Being able to advocate for ourselves, voice what we want, need, think is such a basic part of life.

So here we are – and I’m hoping for calmer days ahead with Mom relishing her life – and me, her daughter, being glad she can do so.

© 2017 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved.

November train wreck

Oh November. What a train wreck you proved to be!

I switched my calendar to you, November, with glowing bright ambitions to complete writing a novel in one month. Struggling to hope that somewhere out there was an affordable home meant to be mine. Content to be a caregiver during long weekend shifts and to chill out in my room during my off-hours.

Well, November, you had other plans for me. Smashingly, derailing plans as I discovered.

train-wreck-november

The writing contest I was participating in dared me to write 50,000 words in one month, or approximately 1,667 words a day to meet the goal. That’s a lot of words – and a lot of energy.

But I felt up for it. Hungered for it. Time to reclaim my inner novelist.

Well I made my start, kept on track for the first week or so. But then my mother got sick suddenly and couldn’t walk or manage life details without needing my assistance.

I had to stop. Focus on her needs.

I should have been more prepared for that, I suppose. Part of middle age is reluctantly giving up the illusion that ones’ elderly parents are hearty, and will remain healthy and be around for a long time to come.

But November, you definitely slammed that illusion. Each of my parents has health challenges. My dad struggling to recover from bypass surgery. Mom and mobility challenges – and well, having her associated life issues popping up.

Holing up in my room and staying on track with my writing wasn’t possible.

So I learned Mom prefers drinking water that isn’t hot or cold. Found myself sitting with her in waiting rooms, hoping medical staff would call mom’s name soon. Wheeling her down corridors to the examination rooms.

At home time was spiked by health care workers knocking on the front door. Sitting down with them to discuss the details of mom’s illness and how to make life more accessible for her.

I told them while I play a role in her recovery and ongoing health concerns, I want to be my mother’s daughter. Not a paid caregiver for her.

I’m still unclear on where the boundaries between those two are.

Even with December here now, there’s still so much to do. Paperwork for a caregiver program for which thankfully she qualifies. Getting a walker for mom to use – even while I fear she probably won’t use it much – and it will sit in a corner of the already overcrowded living room. Perhaps she’ll use it to hold  bags of groceries yet to be eaten or drape it with scarves she might wear some day.

The novelist inside me is stirring. Visions of characters and the next chapter to write  simmering. Waiting to emerge as my energy grows to encompass the newest realities of my mother’s life – and of mine. No home of my own for now.

So November, no, you don’t get the final word. But I cannot say I will remember you fondly.

© 2016 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint go to: m.vandyke_speer@yahoo.com

Parental concerns

Highs and lows. This past month has conjured up  both extremes on the parental front.

A few weeks ago I wrote about my elderly dad’s quintuple bypass surgery. It was a very difficult surgery for him, followed by a second operation to stop internal bleeding, and since then he’s been back to the hospital again. And is home now, hopefully with no more complications.

This week spilled out fresh challenges (no, I’m not talking about our elections). No, this time occurred Wednesday with a soft knock on my door and Mom saying she was experiencing numbness in her legs and feet.

“All right, we need to go see your doctor. Today.” I said.

Mom refused. Nope. Seeing her doctor would cost money. I phoned Medicare to verify her coverage with them and the fact that she’d satisfied her medical deductions. It took a few minutes even then to reassure her that it was safe to go.

The coin flipped when I called the doctor’s office and asked for an appointment. Upon hearing mom’s symptoms, the nurse told me to get her to the Emergency Room. Fortunately my sister was with us through a very long afternoon of waiting to be seen, tests and more tests, and finally the news that mom had neuralgia, meaning an intense nerve pain in her lower joints and feet.

An E.R. nurse advised Mom to begin wearing warmer socks to help circulation in her feet, instead of her usual nylons and delicate shoes. “I can’t do that, none of my shoes will fit,” Mom protested.

I wanted to laugh, to groan at the same time at her determined expression. We will see her doctor next week and hopefully the cause of the pain can be identified.  Possible medications include pain killers and topical creams. However, Mom won’t use a topical cream, because it’s a sticky substance and would “ruin” her nylons and shoes.

So it will be my role to advise the doctor of that particular concern. And to make sure the office has my name and phone number as the contact person. They called mom the day after her E.R. visit, and she lost the notes (taken during the call)  in her piles of “must keep papers.”

All of this is concerning and draining. Somewhere between the parental concerns, I’m scraping together enough energy to forge on, for my two “paid” caregiving jobs and for writing, and staying sane.

Wish me luck..

(C) 2016 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved.