Part IV: Closing the book

Mom was still in the early phase of her recovery but sufficiently healed enough by mid-December to travel and so, with great nervousness on my part, they got in the car and headed back home.   It was hard to release her – there were many tears  – but she was ready to get back home to her people and I had to remind myself that she and Daddy had successfully managed their lives for 80 years and they could certainly handle it without me.

One the lessons I learned is that seizing control of a situation comes all too naturally but I need to stop to consider that other adults are quite capable of managing their own lives.  I don’t think it dawned on me that I may have overstepped my bounds until we were several, several weeks into this process and I caught myself being a little bossy with my dad.  Craig had to gently remind me that he was a big boy and had the first right of refusal in making decisions about his wife of 60 years.  Sufficiently chastened, I backed off and let Dad have more of a say which was the best decision because, ultimately, Dad was going have to take point when they got back home and he needed to have that freedom because, again, ADULT and HUSBAND.

In the weeks since they’ve been gone, I’ve been processing the emotions of the experience and while some are sad (such as the realization that my parents aren’t invincible and the pain of seeing someone you love suffer), others are uplifting.  I always knew my mother was an incredibly strong woman (you don’t raise the Greenwood kids without some form of super-power) but to see her quote scripture while lying on a gurney strapped to a backboard carved new depths of admiration.  She didn’t complain and even apologized for the ONE DAY she was slightly cranky.  (In her words, “I’m putting myself to bed. I’m being a grumpy-head.”)

Other memories bring laughter when recalling the first Sunday Craig and I felt comfortable leaving Mom and Dad alone and Daddy locked himself out of the house when he took the puppy out for a bathroom break and Mom was laid up in the bed and couldn’t get up to let him in. Or when she, high as a kite on pain meds, felt very free to comment on my inability to put away the pile of folded laundry on the dining room table and gave Craig pointers on how to handle his recalcitrant wife. (Laws, that was hilarious to see C caught between his wife and his mother-in-law.)

The over-arching emotion, though, is gratitude for the extended time with my parents. I haven’t lived at home since the summer between my sophomore and junior year of college and to have those weeks of close fellowship served to reinforce the already strong bonds we have. There’s no pretending when spending that much time together and I think we all came away from the experience with a new appreciation for and deeper understanding of each other.  I got to learn more about who they are as people, not just parents, and it was a precious gift for which I will always be grateful.

Have a nice day.

Part III: What we learned in the waiting

Unfortunately, Mom’s visit to the spine specialist didn’t result in any magical cure.  He told her to expect an eight-month recovery process and to go home, rest, walk as much as she could tolerate, and wait.

My mom’s not what you would call “the waiting type”.  This is the person who jumps up when the dryer bell rings so she can immediately attend to the laundry so it doesn’t wrinkle. 

Meanwhile, her clearly-adopted daughter turns OFF the dryer notification because that’s why God invented the fluff cycle.

Can I get a witness?

I could tell Mom and Dad were a little deflated with the news. I don’t blame them – it’s hard being away from home and your support system in situations like this.  On the other hand, I felt relief because it meant that I could take care of Mom as long as she needed help, in my own home (that was already set up for someone with mobility problems), without worrying about being away from my own family. It was truly the best scenario you could hope for even though it was tough on my folks living in someone else’s house, sleeping in someone else’s bed, dealing with someone else’s PUPPY (that was festive), and sharing space with someone else’s kids.

But we adjusted.

And we learned.

About waiting….as over the weeks Mom struggled, first to sit up, then stand, then take slow, painful steps to the kitchen with a walker, then venture outside with a cane.

About grace…as our normal routines were thrown off-kilter and the stress of the situation sometimes caused folks to act out of character.

About patience…as Dad and I answered the same questions over and over and over because the pain meds made Mom forgetful from one day to the next.

About gentleness…as I had to bathe my mother and wash and style her hair.

About humility…as she had to accept her daughter doing things that she as a parent would typically do, or when I had to admit to friends that I really needed a meal or two and if they could please HELP A SISTER OUT.

About friendship…as twenty meals showed up on my doorstep and as encouraging notes filled the mailbox.

Seriously y’all, her friends.  In the 7 weeks she was here, only two days were without a card from Oklahoma.

And about love…as I watched her husband of 60 years get up with her in the middle of the night, hold the bucket for her while she heaved, sit with her for hours on end, and pray over her constantly. And as my husband of 18 years moved into the VERY COLD upstairs guest room (Dear everyone who has ever stayed with us, I am sorry, I had no idea), gave up any notion of having his wife’s attention, ate mystery casseroles for weeks on end, and celebrated his 50th birthday by having his in-laws live with him for two months, all without one single word of complaint during or since.

We married good men, Mama.

So many blessings, so many lessons learned, such a faithful Jesus who walked with us every day. I have a few more thoughts to explore, hopefully tomorrow, and then I’ll wrap this story up.

Thanks for the encouraging words, friends, and for sticking with me, even in my absence.

Have a nice day.

Part II: Hindsight is 20-20

In hindsight, I should have pushed back on Mom’s release. We were nervous and unsure about caring for her at home, she most of all. They’d  switched her from IV to oral pain meds in the afternoon just prior to discharge and without much instruction, we didn’t know how tricky it would be to manage the dosing and stay ahead of the pain curve.

She started throwing up Saturday and couldn’t get any relief from the nausea or pain. After many hours, we called the hospital and asked for different meds and because of the class of drugs she needed, Dad had to drive back to the hospital where they treated him like a criminal who was pill shopping to pick up the prescription. (AND I’M NOT STILL ANGRY ABOUT THAT.)  She was worse on Sunday, stopped eating, wouldn’t get out of bed (she’d been able, with assistance, to get out of bed at the hospital), and wouldn’t stop throwing up. I was starting to get very nervous that maybe the doctors had missed something but tried to encourage Mom to be patient and let the medicine build up in her system. When I got up Monday morning at 5:00, Dad was waiting for me in the den and took me back to see her.  In a trembling voice, she told me she thought she needed to go back to the hospital because she didn’t feel stable.  When I asked her what she meant, she told me her heart was beating erratically and she felt like her very life and being were in a precarious place. And so again, an urgent call to 911 and firemen and EMS workers in the house and standing on my bed to transfer her to another backboard and ride to the hospital. This time, though, given our negative experience with the first hospital, I requested they take her to a different one. And after we got her settled and medical professionals were in the room, I stepped outside into the hallway and had myself a little full-blown panic attack.

I don’t know how to describe what brought it on other than just feeling the full weight of responsibility for my mother’s life. I was scared that I’d waited too long to bring her in, that I’d given her the wrong dosage or mix of medicine, that I’d taken her to the wrong doctor, that it’d been my fault that she fell at my house, that I’d not done enough to secure her safety, that my brothers would blame me if she died, that I was the baby of the family and not old enough to make all of these decisions, that in times like these my default question always is “WHERE IS MY MOTHER???” and I was all too aware that where she was and what she couldn’t do.

After several minutes of flat-out bawling in a corner, I decided these feelings were too much to keep inside and so I called my brother Jonathan and did the ugly cry on the phone with him and told him everything I just wrote in the previous paragraph. And he listened so very well (and all of us will freely admit that he’s the best of all the Greenwood kids) and said, “You are not in this alone.” And I cried all over again. He encouraged me by telling me all of them believed and trusted in me to make the best decisions I could and that if I felt overwhelmed, not to keep bottled up but call a family meeting and they would help me.

Why I hadn’t thought about pulling them in earlier escaped me at the time but in the ensuing months as I’ve pondered what/why  I did/thought/said, I’ve learned (again) that I am intransigently hard-wired to handle things by myself without asking for help, and while that may be good in many circumstances, there are others LIKE THIS ONE where I can avoid a lot of grief just by saying, “This is more than I can handle.”

By this point, it was becoming clear that Mom was feeling better and the doctors determined that off-the-chart pain levels were to blame for making her feel sketchy.  They added some meds they thought would be helpful, scheduled an appointment with a spine specialist later in the week to see if there was a surgical solution, and sent us home to try, try again.

To be continued…

Monday Musings: A lot of stuff happened

Not sure where to start but I had a few minutes this evening and wanted to update my readers about what’s been going on at Casa de Carpool. A four-month absence is quite a bit of time and while some can be attributed to my brain cells being occupied with managing the planning committee for this spring’s women’s conference, the bigger truth is that I’m still in a wee bit of a shock processing all the thoughts about what happened last fall.

In October, my parents popped down to North Carolina as the last stop of a several-weeks’ trip through New England celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary. We enjoyed a few days of visiting, cooking favorite meals, taking walks around the neighborhood, doing laundry (Mom always catches me up while she’s here – it’s a blessing upon blessing) and going to the mall for some shopping at stores they don’t have in Oklahoma.

Wednesday, October 22, was the day they were scheduled to leave. About 6:15 that morning, I was in Travis’ room, helping him get dressed for school while Craig was in the kitchen making lunches for everyone. I was surprised when Craig poked his head in the bedroom and said, “I think you need to go upstairs and check on your mom.” I asked if she was sick but he said he didn’t think so. “Your dad is acting very strange. He told the boys that Nana wasn’t coming down to say goodbye because she didn’t feel well and when I asked if she was sick he said ‘Not exactly’ and told me that she’d fallen during the night and couldn’t get out of the bed.” I took off running past my dad who was still standing at the kitchen counter and ran upstairs to the guest room to check on Mom. Her breath was shallow with pain as she told me of falling down two stairs leading out of the guest room while trying to get to the bathroom in the middle of the night. She thought she might have broken a rib because she was having a lot of pain and asked me to help her sit up on the side of the bed but when I tried to help roll to her side to do so, it was clear that she was in too much pain to be moved.

I was afraid that she might have broken several ribs (or her hip given her inability to move) so I told her I was calling an ambulance and we’d get her to the emergency room. Being Mom, she told me to wait until the kids were off to school so they wouldn’t be frightened and I rolled my eyes and ignored her. By 6:45, I had a house full of firemen getting her strapped to a backboard and I was trying to answer EMS worker’s questions about medical history and medicines, all the while realizing I didn’t know much about anything. My beloved neighbor Rachel texted when she saw the ambulance and offered help with the dog (who was still in the midst of potty training) and so I put Stella in the crate, sent Dad with Mom in the ambulance and then threw on some clothes and poured travel coffee BECAUSE PRIORITIES and met them at the hospital.

We waited several hours for CT scan results to tell us the good news that she’d not broken a hip but the bad news that she’d instead broken her back. They transferred us to a larger trauma center for further evaluation by a neurosurgeon to see if she’d require surgery and after a couple of very long days, they determined that the break was fairly simple and would not require additional medical intervention other than pain management and rest. They discharged her into my care with very few instructions and I drove her home on a Friday night, got her settled into my bedroom, and together our family started a long road to recovery.

We never knew simple would turn out to be so complicated.

To be continued….

Five Minute Friday

In what can only be described as a complete and utter lapse of reason, Craig and I gave in to two years of begging and brought home the first puppy of our married life for these boys that we clearly love more than our furniture.

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Her name is Stella which wasn’t my first choice but all the menfolk nixed Miss Bennett as “too girly” and “too long” so we went with Stella so they could channel their inner Brando every time they called her.

She barked all.night.long the first week we brought her home and have I mentioned that I got the idea to get her while Craig was in California for the week and I was the only adult to get up three times a night to let her out for 4 days straight? And, of course, the first night he came back she didn’t make a whimper and hasn’t since.

As typical with the Scates children, she adores Craig and goes into our room every morning to greet him even though I’m the one who feeds her, walks her, trains, and treats her. BUT I AM NOT BITTER.

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We are in the process of socializing her and she adores little kids, is okay with the one dog she’s met thus far, and liked hanging out on the sidewalk at the corner bakery. She’s met the mailman, the neighbors, and several friends and, so far, so good.

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Car rides? Not so much.

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Sleeping? She’s a champ.

Welcome home, Stella. Please stay adorable and please don’t eat my couch.

Have a nice day.

Summer Catch-All/Catch-Up

Hello, my name is Susan and occasionally I write a blog post.

Since I’ve forgotten how to properly compose one, today I’m borrowing from Stephanie’s blog and using her prompts.

Outside my window….

I can hear the hammering of the work crew next door. They’ve been at it for a month, getting the house ready to sell. The previous owner recently passed away from cancer and the family is moving on. I will miss my neighbor. He was gruff, no-nonsense, plain-spoken and, interestingly, a former Israeli soldier who fought in the Six Day war. I would have loved to talk to him about the current situation in the Middle East and get his perspective.

Giving thanks….

Almost all of the leadership spots are filled on the planning committee for next year’s conference. Securing the volunteers for those roles has taken up much of my summer and available brain space. I’m looking forward to the kickoff next week and having a group of women help shoulder the load.

I am thinking about….

Seeing my family in a few hours! Craig forked over some of his frequent flyer miles and is sending me home SOLO this afternoon to soak up some time with the Oklahoma crew. It’s my dad’s 80th birthday and I’m happy that I’ll be able to celebrate with him.

I am also thinking about the chocolate pie I hope my mother is making.

Hint.

In the craft room…..

I finished a baby quilt from fabric a friend gave me.  It was fun finding a pattern that went with the vintage-y vibe. This was my first attempt at making half-square triangles and, for the most part, I was pretty happy with how it came out.

Like most things, though, don’t turn it over and look at the back.

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From the kitchen….

The boys have been learning how to cook this summer.  It has been nice to sit at the bar watching them manhandle knives and simmer sauces while I supervise.  They’ve learned how to make a mean Alfredo and that the idea of Chinese food is better than the reality of spending the afternoon chopping.  Tommy has turned into a baker.  He made a beautiful batch of Snickerdoodles that had to be tossed because Mom didn’t know the Crisco in the pantry was from 2009 until she took the first bite.

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So he learned to make them again.

I am creating….

Trying to do a little writing that isn’t blog-related but that furthers some personal goals.  I finished a short piece for inclusion in a friend’s book that took me longer than it should have for 500 words.  Creativity comes and goes but I’m trying to learn it’s useless to wait for the muse to wave her magic wand and that sometimes she comes while I’m going through the motions and just grinding it out.

I’m working on….

Trusting the Lord to provide.  We just finished an 8-week series in Sunday School that has smacked me in the face about how much I worry.  I don’t do a lot of it out loud but my brain is constantly churning over one thing or another.  It’s exhausting.  Last night we received word that Travis’ new one-on-one assistant had been hired for the school year and immediately I started thinking about all the things that could go wrong, wondering if he was going to be a good fit, worrying that he was so young, blah, blah, blah.  AND I’VE BEEN PRAYING FOR THIS PERSON FOR WEEKS.   I had to remind myself to turn it all into prayers of thanksgiving.

God has it all and holds it all.

I am reading…

Finished Crossing Oceans and cannot recommend it because SPOILER ALERT, the heroine dies at the end.  So annoyed and wishing I had those hours of my life back.  Happy endings, people, happy endings.

I am hearing….

Silence in the house.  The kids are soaking up the last two weeks of vacation.  Travis is making a movie, Tommy is on the couch with an ice pack on a tender shoulder (today was the first day of full pads and hitting in football practice), and JJ is looking at pictures of puppies on the Internet.  We are in full dog-search mode.  The kids want a Labrador Retriever, Great Dane, Dalmation (no), or  German Shepherd, I want a Giant Schnoodle, and Craig doesn’t want any of the above but is humoring us.

A few pictures from last month….

We knocked off six more states in our quest to visit all fifty.  This time we made the loop up through New England and visited Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut .  It’s a complete post in and of itself so for now, here’s a peek at what we did.

And I still haven’t figured out my camera, so hopefully these aren’t too blurry.

I have better ones on my iPhone.

Sigh.

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Forty down, 10 to go.

One of my favorite things…..

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Mushy, I know.

Have a nice day.

Five on the 4th

1. Happy 4th of July! We are grilling and chilling at the house. Craig has a brisket on the smoker, the macaroni salad is cooling in the fridge, the watermelon is cut and ready to go, and after we’ve had our fill, we’re going to watch the nearby fireworks display to cap off a fun, relaxing day.

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2. The kids have enjoyed a restful first week of vacation. We’ve been to the swimming pool, the barber shop for muuuuch needed haircuts, Toy R Us to spend birthday money, and to the bank to deposit allowance money the old-fashioned way. Yes, I know they’ll probably exclusively bank on-line for the rest of their lives but I’m old school and, much like my grandfather, enjoy knowing the tellers and bank managers personally.

Besides, I wasn’t quite convinced the boys knew how to fill out a form and needed to witness it firsthand.

3.  One of my summer priorities is to put more work into building the kids’ spiritual foundation.  We are faithful to take them to church and youth functions and pray with and over them here at home but disciplined daily Bible study time hasn’t been something that any of us has been doing with regularity.  I was challenged by a Sunday School lesson about a month ago to redevelop the habit and have managed to stay on track since then and now that the kids are with me a little more during the day, I’m trying to help them do the same.  I went to LifeWay and bought each of us a workbook and we’re going through the Henry Blackaby “Experiencing God” study together.  Each day after lunch, we do the lesson together and say the Bible verse to each other.  It takes about 10-15 minutes and some are more cheerful than others about doing it, but I’m praying the truths seep in and take deep hold.

4.  She will be mad that I blogged about this because she is not one to toot her own horn but I have to mention that my beautiful mother was recognized last week at an awards ceremony for her volunteer work with at-risk children. She continues to be an example to me of how age and season in life are no excuse to not be involved in the lives of others.  She is the most humble, dedicated, tenacious, committed, giving person I know.  Mom, I’m so proud of you.

Mom (left) receiving her award from the Director of Gabriel House.  Photo credit: Duncan Banner

Mom (left) receiving her award from the Director of Gabriel House. Photo credit: Duncan Banner

5.  In other news, I got a new camera last week that has a little more firepower than the iPhone.  I have a vision that it will improve the quality of pictures on the blog but don’t get your hopes up because in reality it’s a lot easier to upload phone camera images than the ones out of the real camera and we all know how I feel about convenience.  I’ve taken a few snapshots here and there (who’s interested in my lunch avocado?) to get a feel for how to use it and I’m still on autofocus because I haven’t learned enough to be comfortable in manual mode but I think I’m going to enjoy using it.

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Happy 4th of July.