Friday, July 30, 2021

All the Things

It's been a month since I last wrote a blog post. Usually that kind of a delay is because not much is going on. This time it's because so much is happening.

Art had his back surgery about seven weeks ago. 

  • Yesterday he drove for the first time in six months. His right leg is strong enough now, and he's not in any pain. This achievement will free me up a bunch. Yesterday he had a massage appointment at the end of a series of errands we'd run, and he would be late if he dropped me off at home. If I went with him I'd be sitting in the massage waiting room for an hour. Instead, he dropped me at an intersection a half mile from our house, then went on his way. And I walked home. It was wonderful to have him out and about without me! 
  • He has cooked breakfast for me twice in the last week, and he stacks the dishes after dinner each night.
  • He has repotted tomato starts and watered the garden.
We are rehoming many things stored in the garage. I spent three days going through correspondence I'd saved:
  • Letters from my grandparents to each other between 1912 and 1925; I gave them to a cousin who carries the family name. Both of those grandparents died before I was born. 
  • A box containing all the letters I wrote to my parents when I was in college; my mother saved them. I read them all, then threw them away. I was a little chagrined by their common theme: I had been too busy to write, and I was overloaded with work, and I was dating various guys, and I needed more money. 
  • Cards from a man I'd loved between my marriages; he died in 1989. I saved all those cards and also the journal I kept during that time.
We donated 15 cans of latex paint to Ridwell, a recycling organization we belong to. And Art will be contributing windshield washing fluid, antifreeze, three sets of snow chains, and other man things. He wants to be sure none of our kids wants them, but we only have one more kid to go through them.

I went through all the Christmas decorations. My older son was interested in "the ones we had when we were kids." I sent him pictures and he said yes or no. I have a box for him with about 20 ornaments and books. The rest I re-homed through Buy Nothing Brier, a Facebook group I belong to in my town. The leftovers went to Goodwill. I saved only four ornaments. I'll take them to Tucson and hang them on our little tree in the window this winter.


I contacted the Dispute Resolution Center in my county. I was certified as a mediator through them and wondered if they needed me, and they said yes. I was especially interested in small claims court, in which I've mediated many times. These mediations are currently being done on Zoom, so I said I'd log in next Tuesday as an observer to see how it's done, and then sign up. Small claims happens once a month, and I can do it remotely, from Brier or Tucson. The lady told me that when the rent moratorium expires, the State expects to be overwhelmed by court cases, so people will have to go through mediation before appearing in court. That will also happen on Zoom. It sounds interesting to me, so I'll attend one online training session before I start that. I love mediating - I've been doing it as a volunteer for over ten years, plus I use it just about every day in real life.

And then there's this story. A friend of mine has a son who's a drug addict living on the streets. One day last month she saw some unhoused people near where she knew her son was living. She showed a couple of them his picture and asked if they knew him. One man pointed at someone lying in the dirt nearby, sleeping, and said, "that's him." My friend walked over to her son and lay down on the ground beside him. She asked him if he'd like to come home and get some food and take a shower and he said yes. Later that evening he decided he wanted to get clean, so she found a detox center for him, and she and her husband drove him there. The son was there for four days and then transferred to an inpatient treatment center. My friend sent him a box of clothes, and a week later the package was returned. The son had left the treatment center after three days and returned to the same location on the streets. This happens a lot. The image I keep in my mind is my friend lying down in the dirt beside her son. I am filled with admiration for her courage and her love, and grateful to have such friends.

All the things. After five months of being Art's advocate and caregiver, I am gradually reentering my life in the world. 

And, three weeks from now, I'll have my hip replaced in a day surgery. Once I've recovered from that, I'll be able to ride my bicycle and walk my neighborhood or further. Maybe even hike in the desert this winter.


Tuesday, June 29, 2021

What the dentists said

I have a dentist in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico who takes care of my teeth during the six months we're in Tucson each year. And I have a dentist in Lynnwood, Washington who I see the other six months. I see the Mexican dentist in November and March each year (very good and much cheaper, but 95 minutes away by car.) I see the American dentist in June or July. Three cleanings a year, carefully scheduled.

In March I was at the Mexican dentist and I was told that one of my top right midway-to-the back teeth, previously fitted with a crown, needed to be extracted and replaced with an implant and another crown. I decided to wait until next season because there was a three-month lag between the extraction and the implant, and I was leaving before three months. The tooth was a little loose sometimes but I figured if I paid attention I could keep in my mouth for six more months.

In May when I returned to Washington, I learned that I need to have my hip replaced. I am scheduled for August 18. One of the pre-surgical requirements is a release from my dentist that I don't have any infections in my mouth. I decided to use my summer appointment for cleaning and a signoff by the dentist.

Yesterday I went for my checkup. The dentist looked at my mouth and said there was no infection, but my iffy tooth was a little wiggly and he was concerned that  when I was intubated during my hip replacement the tooth could break and I could aspirate it. He recommended removing the crown and filling what remained of the tooth so it would be stable for the hip surgery. Then I could have the implant done next fall in Mexico, and get the crown in Mexico in the winter. One advantage would be I could have the work done in two different calendar years, which would make better use of my dental insurance. 

We decided I would come back today for my cleaning and that tomorrow he would do the filling.

I arrived at noon today for my cleaning and there had been a cancellation right after my appointment, so the dentist asked if I would like to have him do the filling today so I wouldn't have to come back tomorrow. I said yes. 

He removed the crown and saw immediately that there wasn't enough tooth left to fill. The tooth would need to be pulled as soon as possible. My hip replacement is in about six weeks, so I only had a couple of weeks to get the extraction to have enough recovery time before the surgery. 

He said he'd give me a referral to an oral surgeon, or he could do the extraction today. It looked like a pretty simple job to him.

I said do it today. 

He asked if I wanted to have a bone graft. I asked why and he said it would increase the odds for the implant to work, since there would be a difference of several months between the extraction and the implant, and the remaining teeth start to shift after an extraction. He said it would cost $400 and that insurance wouldn't cover it. I asked where the graft would come from. He said a cadaver or a cow.

I said do the bone graft. If the implant didn't work I'd have to have a bridge and  I don't want that.

I got moved from the cleaning room to the extraction room. I got several numbing shots. The dentist and his assistant worked on my tooth for 45 minutes. The remaining half inch of root - which had had a previous root canal - gave up after a lengthy struggle. The dentist said, "I'm not going to charge you for the bone graft. This took much longer than I led you to believe."

I got stitched up and, with gauze pressed into my mouth, I left to have the antibiotic prescription filled. I looked weird with gauze sticking out of my mouth but I had a mask on so no one noticed. I go back in ten days to have the stitches removed. The dentist will make sure I don't have an infection and then he'll sign off on the dental exam part for my hip replacement.

That's the plan, anyway.

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Summer gratitudes

 A list again! 

1. Art's laminectomy was successful. The back surgery was done on L1-L2 and L3-L4. We checked in at noon and checked out seven hours later. He could already move his legs by then.

2. Art had been in a wheelchair since our return from Tucson to Brier six weeks earlier. Three days ago he put the chair in the corner of the room and is now using a walker. He be starting PT in a couple of weeks to strengthen his legs and walk on his own. He is off all his pain medications and his only complaint now is that his incision itches. I can live with that one!

3. We had help for the first three days post surgery, as I had planned. Everyone showed up and they were all magnificent. Thanks to Art's sister Mary, my sister Alyx, Art's daughter Melissa and his sons Jason and Peter.

4. I only had one meltdown, but I ran away from home for two hours and then I was over it. I had continued my caregiving role post surgery, and since Art could now get around without pain, he didn't need it to the same extent I was offering it, and he let me know. I've backed off somewhat now and no longer cater to his every wish. He's mostly reading the paper, working the puzzles, and watching TV as he waits for PT to start.

5. It's my turn! I have an ortho consult for my bad hip in just two more days.

6. Our two-family residence is exceeding even my best hopes. We see Jason and Kalei and Kaleb - the "upstairs people" - nearly every day. They are being really kind, picking up the mail and sharing their meals every few days. And when they have multiple loads of laundry on "their" days, I move loads from the washer to the dryer or I fold; it's only six feet from our door. The best part is when one of them comes downstairs just to chat. Jason told us yesterday that when he tells people his dad and stepmom live downstairs, sometimes they go "uh-oh", but Jason tells them it's really working out well. So it isn't just me thinking that.

7. Jason is doing yardwork now that it's summer and nearly every plant in the yard is going berserk. Yesterday he brought in a bowl of radishes and strawberries from the garden for us. I'm looking forward to later in the summer when Art and I can both spend time outside. Maybe we'll even be able to help out.

8. When we lived upstairs, we had two sets of Corinthian wind chimes and a  fountain on the porch. They're not being used now, so I've asked them to be brought downstairs and set up for us. I love the sound of the chimes. It's not windy here very often, so the chimes give us that notice of a weather change. And the porch fountain will provide a drink for the birds and bunnies and other critters who share our property with us. 

9. I have been doing the cooking for nearly three months now, and I have to confess I usually like it. If I'm too tired there's always scrambled eggs and toast or soup. What I don't like is meal planning and shopping, but we use boxes from Sun Basket, Hello Fresh and Home Chef. Once a week we go online, decide which company has the most interesting meals, tell the other two "no thanks this week" and order what we want. So the deciding is already done when the box arrives. It is a little pricey, but it's worth it for the aggravation I don't have, and the shopping. We've been doing this for three years now.

10. We're just about at the end of the rain and heading into Washington's dry season at the same time as the days are longest. That is wonderful.

For today, life is good.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

While we're waiting

My husband Art is having back surgery - a laminectomy - this coming Friday. He's got at least half a dozen pinched nerves in his lumbar spine that are affecting his legs. The surgery should relieve much of the pain and restore his ability to walk. Later this summer I will have my hip replaced, and possibly my knee. 

We're at home in our apartment in Brier, Washington, waiting. Here's what we've done this week:

  • Got our eyes checked. For me it's been two years. For Art it's been five. Here's how the morning went:
    • Backed my car out of the garage, then pulled it back in with enough width on the passenger side so Art could get his wheelchair from the apartment to the garage, then transfer from the chair to the car. Backed the car out again, then pulled it back in with enough room on the driver's side so I could get out of the car, open the trunk, fold up the wheelchair and put it in the trunk. We have not yet downsized and decluttered enough to reclaim sufficient width in the garage to have this happen in just one step.
    • Once at the eye clinic, find a handicapped spot, leave Art in the car with the morning paper, and get my eyes checked. No changes, no new glasses required. Yay! 
    • It's two hours until Art's eye appointment, so we drive to a Greek-American deli for breakfast. Open the trunk, get out the wheelchair and set it up for Art to transfer into it. Walk down the sidewalk to locate the ramp from the street we can use. Walk back to the car and push Art in the wheelchair - in the street - to said ramp, continuing on to the tables set up outside the deli. Two men offer us their table. I say, "Thank you! I will pay your kindness forward sometime today." One of the men says, "No need to do that. We're Republicans."(!?). I say, smiling, "There are good Republicans." The man says, "There are LOTS of good Republicans." We have a delicious breakfast. We do the getting-Art-back-into-the-car thing. We drive back to the eye clinic.
    • Once at the eye clinic, find a handicapped spot again, get the wheelchair out of the trunk, and get Art transferred into it. Push the chair in and out of the elevator. Note that the tire on the left side of the chair has come off the wheel. Once in the waiting room, transfer Art to a chair, turn the wheelchair over and, assisted by two friendly strangers, put the tire back on. (It was probably at this point that the "Help" button, attached to a lanyard and tied to the wheelchair, fell off. We called the clinic the next day but no one had found it, so a replacement has been ordered).
    • Art gets his eyes checked. No changes, no new glasses required. Yay again!
    • Arrive home and reverse the process to get Art and me out of the car and back in the apartment.
    • Take naps.  
  • Review the items in the storeroom. 
    • Notice six Kirkland (Costco) jars full of coins, from all the years Art emptied his pockets at the end of the day and put the change in a jar. Ask Art if he'd be interested in sorting them and putting them into coin rolls. Getting a yes, haul them out to the dining room table.
    • Two days later, put five Kirkland jars full of coin rolls into a rolling suitcase to take to the bank. Put the suitcase in the car. Do the get-Art-into-the-car routine and drive three miles to a Bank of America, which you have read accepts coin rolls. We don't have any accounts there, but we do have two Alaska Airlines Visa cards through that bank.
    • Put the rolls of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters into plastic racks provided by the teller. When finished, slide the racks under the plastic divider for the teller to process. Receive $490 in bills. 
    • Drive to the neighborhood Mexican restaurant. Do the getting-the-wheelchair-into-the-restaurant thing. Enjoy an excellent lunch indoors. Do the getting-Art-back-into-the-car thing. Drive home. Do the getting-us-back-into-the-apartment thing.
    • Take naps.  
  • Take Art to and from his presurgical physical appointment. He passed. Yay!
  • Get my first online physical therapy to prepare me for my upcoming hip replacement, so I'll be strong and the process will be easier.
  • Did the things Art has done for the last 25 years but can't now until he can walk after his surgery, plus the things I usually do.
    • Make shopping list
    • Shop for groceries
    • Prepare breakfast
    • Fix lunch
    • Cook dinner
    • Order what we need from Amazon
    • Send emails and texts asking for help during Art's first few days home after his surgery.
    • Listen to a family member having a personal crisis.
    • Talk to a friend having a family health issue.
    • Attend a Board meeting on Zoom for The Inn Project, a cause in Tucson I'm devoted to.
    • Attend two Olli classes on Zoom.
    • Drop out of two Spanish classes on Zoom for lack of time to do the homework.
I am grateful that I'm strong and healthy, even though I hurt. I'm grateful to have the financial resources we need. I'm grateful for a supportive personal and family network.

This, too, shall pass!



Thursday, May 27, 2021

Old folks at home

"Just this minute the surgery scheduler called. Art’s surgery will be Friday, June 11, and the surgical consultation for my hip will be June 22. Life is good!"

That's the email message I sent to a friend who asked how we're doing. We've had a challenging couple of months. My husband has half a dozen pinched nerves in his 78-year-old back. One of them controls strength and movement in his right leg. Others appear to initiate sciatica. He's been pretty miserable. In Tucson, we live in a park model (trailer) and the doorways are too narrow for a walker or a wheelchair. So he had a few falls while transferring from the walker to the toilet, or from the walker to the bed. We have four stairs which he could descend with difficulty, but impossible to climb back up, even with several helpers. So we were looking forward to being back in Washington, with wider doorways and no stairs in our remodeled-last-summer apartment.

I decided to talk to our doctor once we got back to Washington. I said, "I know my left knee needs to be replaced. My back hurts, and my right hip aches. I think they're all related. Can we figure out how, and do something about it?" So the doc ordered x-rays. And sure enough. My left knee has severe arthritis (which I knew) and so does my right hip (which I didn't know). I have struggled with that hip for a couple of years now, with no improvement. A front-view x-ray taken a year ago of my pelvis and hips showed mild arthritis. The new ones, taken from different angles last week, reveal the severity. I am so relieved! That's the reason for the consult on June 22.

My friend said she thought I'd be lunching with friends now that I'm back in Washington. But I don’t have a village up here like I do in Tucson. I’ve got a few friends I meet up with. I’ve seen two of them already, and am having coffee with another on Friday. It is much quieter here. I’m considering volunteering to mediate in small claims court, but I sent a letter of inquiry a few weeks ago and haven’t heard back. I suspect that agency is shuttered for now and that my records of certification and competence are locked inside the physical building, so the current assigners of work - if there is any - don’t know I’m qualified.

My friend wondered if I could go out and leave Art alone or whether I am a full-time caregiver. Yes, Art can be left alone. He is fairly self-sufficient except for things like shopping, cooking and driving.  I do the grocery shopping and the cooking. I run errands. I get massages. I bought a new pair of Birkenstocks last week. I bought a Lazy Boy recliner.  I’m the only driver, so I’m out and about. On Friday we went to IHOP for breakfast where I encountered people Not Like Me and observed unconcerned sexism. I gave our server an extra-sized tip and a few moments of commiseration. Last night we ordered pizza and shared it with our upstairs kids. I ordered peppermint oil spray to keep the spiders out. Next week we’re having a couple of dead trees cut down, and half a dozen cedar trees trimmed to let the sunlight in upstairs. After that we’ll have the windows washed. 

We have an enormous amount of stuff. I am rehoming them a few items at a time. Yesterday it was seven decorative pillows, a bag full of plastic containers with matching lids, two extra artichokes, and a silk ficus tree. I’ve come upon three vacuum cleaners in the storeroom. One of them is labeled with the name of the housekeeper we had until three years ago. I have to get in touch with her. I’m getting ready to rehome a set of Travelpro luggage we haven’t used in ten years. 

At the same time I’m making this place our home. I’ve ordered from Amazon: bench seat for the shower, bathmat for the shower, a right-sized coverlet for our bed, a light blanket exactly like one we have in Tucson, for naps. Picked up a set of pots and pans from Buy Nothing Brier, took what we needed and donated the rest to a family whose rented home burned down last week. I am busy all day. Most days my Fitbit says 5,000 steps by the end of the day - some days when I haven’t even left the house.  

My son James came by yesterday and installed a grab bar for the shower, two clothing hooks for just inside the bedroom door, two window blind gadgets so we can raise or lower the shades, one more security light for the path to our apartment, a brighter light for the storage room. He bundled device cords by my desk and by my recliner. All useful things.

I get testy with Art sometimes because he’s not in the fix-up mode I’m in. He’s mostly content to read the paper, work the puzzles, read, and watch "kill and maims". In the meantime, my knee and my hip make themselves noticed just about every minute, so I’m in some discomfort and I have a shorter fuse. This too shall pass, though. I’m grateful that neither of us is sick, that we have the financial resources to do what needs to be done and that kids are willing to help.

As we say in AA, “more will be revealed”.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Unexpected Transition

We live in Tucson between November and April, and in Brier, a Seattle suburb, from May to October. So there's a transition every year as we move between our little places.

Last summer we remodeled our daylight basement in Washington to create a no-stairs apartment for ourselves. The previous year I'd had trouble sometimes negotiating the stairs with a cranky knee. So Art designed a downstairs living space, and he worked with my son James on the remodel. It's a beautiful, warm and welcoming home for us, as well as being ADA compliant. Just what I'd hoped for.

We really thought the remodel was for me.

But last summer, while doing the wiring for the new apartment, Art strained his back. By fall he had to walk bent over to avoid the back pain he experienced when standing straight up. In late fall he had the first of three lumbar epidural injections. The last one, in early April, resulted in weakness in his right leg. Art fell several times. Two CT scans revealed multiple pinched nerves. The pain increased, requiring a trip to the emergency room in Tucson. He'd used a walker for several months to stabilize himself, but by May 1 he preferred a wheelchair. Two days after we returned to Washington we saw his primary care doc, who confirmed Art would need surgery. Four days after that, we met with the neurosurgeon. We're hoping surgery will happen by June.

We're adapting to Art's current disabled state. I'm doing the shopping and cooking, which Art has done for 25 years, plus most of the other tasks of living. Art is learning to maneuver in our apartment, becoming more self sufficient each day. And he has learned to stay ahead of the pain, with tylenol and ibuprofen and a prescription medication. 

We're getting great support from our family. Art's son Jason lives upstairs with his family; he brings the paper and the mail and spends time each day with his dad. His wife Kalei brings down food goodies. Son Peter is a nurse and went with us to see the neurologist, sending a summary email to everyone afterward. Daughter Melissa is a pharmacist and is a wonderful resource. Son Russ in Oregon is also a nurse, and has been very encouraging. Son James, who did the remodel, came over two days ago to install grab bars in the shower and beside the toilet. My sister Alyx is a nurse as well, and she's been actively involved; her husband Virgil flew to Tucson to help Art close up our winter place and then fly home with him, while I drove with a friend for three days to bring the car back. 

Really glad for our new living space, for Art as well as for me.



Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Hacked!

I'm an optimist by nature, but the last month has been a challenge.

On March 16, at 9:30 in the morning, I finished up my computer banking to look at my email. I had four messages from Facebook, sent within ten minutes of each other, while I was doing my banking.

(1) Someone had logged into my FB account using a confirmation code.

(2) Someone had changed my password.

(3) Someone had changed my email address from budsmom48@gmail.com to budsumommy48@hotmail.com.

I tried to get help from  Facebook for the next two weeks without success. I was apparently in some kind of loop, or at the end of a VERY long help queue. 

Then my brother-in-law created a new account for me from his computer. Five days later Facebook told me I had been deactivated for good for "violation of community standards". I have no idea what I did, and Facebook is not going to tell me.

I wish I hadn't lost 13 years of data, or 200 friends, but these things happen. And I wish I hadn't lost my 4500 completed levels of Candy Crush.

Now I am using my husband Art's Facebook account. His name has been changed to ArtLinda Myers. I'm spending much less time on Facebook now. There are a couple of groups I want to participate in. Especially the one in Brier, Washington, called "Buy Nothing Brier" where you can give things away to people in the community. I have a lot more downsizing to do over the summer, and I need that group!

I do wonder why some people hack into the accounts of other people. This one had nothing to do with money. My old account disappeared from Facebook on the 30th day after it was hacked. None of my friends were contacted by the hacker, and the day before the account disappeared there were no posts other than mine.

Oh, yes. I did send an email to budsumommy48@hotmail.com, asking the person to change the email account back so I could get into my account. That didn't happen.

Of course not.