Thursday, June 25, 2009

Like a Poke in My Third Eye

I'm out of sorts today. This would be described by my brothers as "hormonal," back in the days when we all had some.

Does Medicaid cover personality transplants?

Dad picked up a bagful of equipment to dispatch sleep apnea from the VA this morning. Reminds me of a story about a father who was also an engineer, and how he almost killed himself modifying his sleeping apparatus.

Yes, duct tape was involved.

With a poked Third Eye, the future is mighty blurry.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, Baby Brother!

My little brother is 45 years old. He was born with Down's Syndrome. He lives with us, as he's always lived with the family, then just my parents, and now Dad and me.

He began life, as all Down's Syndrome people start out; happy, musical, outgoing, a joy to be around. He graduated from a special school, had a job, and was living in a group home.

Something happened.

In the mid-80s he spent several months in the psychiatric ward, in a semi-comatose state.

My mother did a remarkable job investigating possible causes, seeking help and counseling, finding a medication mix that worked well for her youngest.

My mother died in 1998, and there have been some diagnoses made, some treatment given, some attention paid since then.

For the last five years, once I was involved full time, we've tried to figure out what may help my brother to have a better quality of life. It's difficult to find self-reported issues, as he is only a little communicative.

He's been doctored/medicated for depression. Maybe four different prescriptions so far. He's been diagnosed/medicated for schizophrenia. A couple prescriptions so far.

He's now being medicated - without diagnosis - for Alzheimer's Disease.

But he just came from the dentist today, who reported that he is wearing out his teeth grinding them. His knee is moving nonstop again. And he's biting his nails. He doesn't focus on anything in the room, and he is not interested in his favorite activities. Listening to music, watching Star Trek episodes (original series only, please!) or doing crossword puzzles.

I wonder if what was diagnosed as schizophrenia might have been severe obsessive/compulsive disorder. Maybe the voices in his head weren't other voices, but conversations he heard in another room repeated, sotto voce. A speech repetition tic.

We wonder a lot.

Even with all he's been through, he still smiles when I sing along with the radio in the car, and he can still beat his companion at bowling with his very own monogrammed bowling ball.

I love you, little bro.

Who Watches the Watchers?

My maternal grandmother waited until her children were married and had children of their own before she left my grandfather. I'm sure it was a long wait for her.

Grandma went to nursing school. She got her license, and cared for newborn infants in the hospital nursery until her hands got too bad to work with tiny bodies.

When she could no longer work with the newly-arrived, she nursed the soon-to-be departed.

She worked in her 50s and 60s as a live-in nurse for seniors preparing to move to the next plane of existence. She lived and worked in southeastern Michigan, near her children and grandchildren.

When her mother was ready for some company and caregiving, my grandmother moved back to Drummond Island to take care of her own.

Today I'm wondering if Grandma knew she would be the primary caregiver for Great-Grandma Tillie and that's why she got a nursing degree. My grandmother was the eldest daughter, and single, and remained single until she passed on in 1987 at 85 years old.

I wonder if she thought about what her future might hold when she was 47, and a nursing student, recently divorced. I wonder if she planned on the training, knowing she would care for her mother at the end of her life.

My great-grandmother Mariah, lived until she was 93 years old. The picture shown is at her home on Drummond Island in the summer before her birthday in 1969.

Isn't she beautiful?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

Dad is still "The Best Dad a Kid Ever Had."

I'm going to remember that truth more often.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Vicious Vandals

Last night, in the dark, sneaky vicious vandals broke windows on 10 cars in the parking lot. We live in a senior community. The people whose cars were trashed range from 60 to 88 years old. Our people have had strokes, hip replacements; lost friends, spouses in the last year. They want to live their remaining time in peace and safety.

One man, still weak from his last stroke, is cleaning up the glass, while his wife, who struggles heroically with rheumatoid arthritis, can only watch.

I try not to be vindictive; struggle to be nonjudgmental, decry revenge in all its vile forms.

I struggle not to hate.

But I want the thugs who committed this mass crime to learn what their reprehensible deeds have done. If they are young, I want their parents to know what's been perpetrated; what they have failed to teach their children.

Old people are sweeping and picking up, with weak hearts and fragile musculature. Old people will have to report this to insurance companies that will probably raise the premium on those policies. Old people on fixed incomes will have to pay a deductible. Old people will have to get their cars to the repair shops and wait for their only form of transportation to return.

Old people will now have more trouble sleeping, listening for felons in the night.

Old people are crying, fruitless rage weakening already frail bodies.

I hope you are found, sneaky vicious vandals. I hope one day you understand the fear and loss our people are feeling today.

In Praise of Night Nurses

Midnight shift nurses have 7 senses. The 7th sense is an action sense. It lives in that nameless place which connects heart and brain, and allows night nurses to do precisely the best thing to make their patient feel better. Beyond the palliative stuff that medical staff does anyway. Night nurses possess the sparkling essence of caregiving.

My friend Beckie has been in surgical intensive care for a month. She is heavily medicated and in and out of awareness.

The night nurse braided her hair.

Night nurses are mythological beings come to real life. Like fairies, unicorns, wizards and pixies, they practice their magic just outside the white noise of everyday living.

Most humans cannot detect their specialness.

A night nurse, years ago, rustling about her IV-checking and pulse monitoring, found my surgery bear, Paulette Goddard, had fallen off my shoulder onto the bed. Unaware she was observed, she picked up Paulette and tucked her back in the crook of my neck.

Night nurses are human beings elevated on earth to the next plane of existence.

Friday, June 5, 2009

To Beckie: In This Life or Any Other

My best friend Beckie and I met on August 12, 1995 at 8:30 a.m. Before lunch, I offered an introduction, as bold a move as anything I'd done since 3rd grade.

It was a bad day for me. It was a first day at a new job. I was grieving about my youngest niece starting day care, after being in my care for 3 years. I was close to tears all morning. It was a job I did not want, for a company I could not possibly like. My workspace was isolated, in a big room that was gray. It was hot and humid and I was miserable.

And there was Beckie. She had bronze hair, and purple-brown eyes. She was serene and glowing. She will laugh to read this, when she can read again, but I'm sticking to that word. She emanated. I walked right up to her and asked "Would you like to go have a cigarette?"

We meet people occasionally and wonder if we haven't met somewhere before. Years later, raising a glass of congratulations to each other on the anniversary of our meeting, we are bemused at how quickly the friendship formed, grew deeper.

Beckie and I didn't think about that in those early months. We enjoyed as much time in each other's company as we could. We ate lunch together, we finagled our workspaces to be together, and had breakfast on Sundays at Clairpointe. We shopped for shoes. We laughed.

We talked. Beckie has a functionally thoughtful, deeply grooved brain. If we have met before; if reincarnation is true, Beckie brought the previous brain with her each time she showed up on Earth again. Supernumerary brain. Her life view is ancient; her responses, fresh. Being in her company is like taking a sunlight shower, a moon bath. She is wise, reasoned, and soft-spoken.

She is a humanist, and an excellent human.

We are both women of strong opinion, and commonality of opinion makes our relationship satisfying, but we are unconditionally devoted to defending each other, whether we agree or not. People who choose to counter Beckie have both of us to face, and vice versa. Beckie has the better diplomatic skills and has physically stood between me and the object of my ire more than once. Where I am volatile, she is steady; my weakness is countered by her strength.

She has a scientific mind, analytical and crystalline. And a warm, accessible soul. She can multitask with each of her otherworldly brains separately, and in combination with her soul. With two young sons growing fast in her home, she could still focus on designing and laying out a college textbook on ancient Greek papyrii. In Greek.

Beckie is quietly accepting of my dabbling in metaphysics and general Piscean goofballiness.

Yet it was Beckie who wrote a note suggesting that perhaps we had met in another life, and more than once, and maybe I might want to write about that?

For two years after I was diagnosed with cancer, Beckie carried my consciousness for me; a sacred and profound oath of friendship, to be there in the world for me while I was not capable.

I love her unconditionally. Fiercely. Eternally.

Beckie is our Mother Earth; majestic, mysterious, magical. She is the rock that will take on the hard place if someone she loves is in between.

I wonder if the ancients may have assigned to their deity of choice the qualities Beckie embodies in her human form.

She causes me to want to be the best possible person I can be.

Two years ago she survived an aortic dissection, and another valve replacement (she had heart surgery when she was four) and she has stoically dealt with the medications, the body weakness and sleeplessness she has endured coming back from those surgeries.

Today, in the surgical intensive care unit, she has just been taken off dialysis for the day, and we are profoundly grateful for this good news. She is still entubated, struggling with pancreatitis, quietly fighting to control her body once again. She has been there for three weeks.

Without asking her permission, I will carry her consciousness for her, when she is unable during this journey. Hopefully, we will raise our water glasses to each other in August, when the anniversary of the day we met again arrives.

As she has taught me, I will focus on being stronger, accepting, and radiating hope; abandoning anxiety, false control and rage. If I've stuck one hesitant toe in the waters of heavenly energy before, now I will immerse all and summon the light to be at her bedside with love.