Thursday, September 4, 2008

Summer's End

A good deal of time has gone by since I last wrote and, unfortunately, there is a good reason for that. I spent Thursday with Mom at the hospital waiting for an answer as to whether all the tests had been finished. She was miserable the whole four days she was there and despite all the good results on her tests, she continued to grow ever weaker and more distressed. A physical therapist was able to coax her out of bed on Thursday afternoon and, with great effort, she managed to walk with a wheeled walker out into the hallway and back into bed. We lobbied hard to get her released as the tests had all been completed and everything appeared to be normal. We managed to convince everyone that Mom would be cared for at home much more easily than in the hospital. Anxious to get back to her own bed, she smiled sweetly at everyone who was involved in the decision and told them she was feeling much better. They released her at dinner time and Saul, who had joined us after school, drove us home.

Friday, as usual, was spent shopping for and preparing Shabbat dinner. We were very excited because Ari was leaving work early, picking up Sami and Izzy in Baltimore, and coming to dinner. Because everyone was free for Labor Day Weekend and wanted to see Mom, we wound up being 14 people for dinner. My cousin Bob joined us along with Adele and Larry, Erica and the kids and Ken and Randi. It was quite a juggling act to care for Mom, shop, and get dinner on the table for 14. Ari got caught up in a tremendous traffic jam and was rear-ended by an elderly man who was unable to write down the information and asked Ari to do it. Miraculously, there was not even a scratch on either car and everybody appeared to be fine. The man did have a small cut on his forehead from bumping his head. Ari did not arrive for dinner until 8:15 p.m. having spent a total of seven hours on the road. Mom was too weak to come to the table and we all took turns sitting with her in her room. Dinner was strawberry soup, tilapia lamaize, Israeli salad, incredible corn on the cob and ice cream. We also had a few unfrosted Pinkalicious cupcakes and that is another story.

We were worried that Izzy would not want to come for the weekend after she had opted to stay home the previous week. She told her mother that she would be really happy to come if Bubbie would bake Pinkalicious cupcakes with her. Bubbie baked the cupcakes and on Sunday morning we made cream cheese icing and dyed it pink for Izzy and purple for Sami. Sami likes the book Purplicious better. Brenna joined us Sunday and helped decorate the cupcakes also.

Randi came to stay with Mom on Saturday while we went to synagogue with Ari and the girls. Adele relieved her at noon while we made the hour-long drive to Lion's Gate to visit Saul's mom as promised. We had lunch at a Cracker Barrel nearby. The girls were a little apprehensive and had lots of questions about G.G. Sima's new living arrangements. She was as delighted to see us as the previous week and the girls warmed up immediately to both her and the surroundings. Saul's mom immediately remarked on how big and grown up they both looked. She has not seen them in almost a year. She also did not seem too sure about Ari. They tossed a beach ball around in the atrium and played monkey-in-the-middle with G.G. When they discovered that the unit was laid out in a big square around the atrium, they did laps about five or six times. They found lots of playthings in one of the common areas that contained a mock kitchen with plastic food, a crib full of baby dolls and a box containing cheerleaders' pompoms and plastic hats. They put on a show for us pretending to be cheerleaders. After an hour, we could see that G.G. was becoming a bit anxious and we said goodbye.

Shortly after we returned home, I gave the girls dinner and put them to bed early. Saul drove Ari downtown to a western-themed pre-wedding barbecue at the Ethical Society. While I slept, Saul arose at 1 a.m. and brought Ari back home.

Sunday morning, Ari attended a brunch at his friends' Josh and Shira's house. After the girls frosted their cupcakes, while Adele stayed with Mom, we went to Beachcombers and had an absolutely glorious reprise of summer. Michael and Jennifer gave us a bunch of ground cherries from their garden, a fruit we had never experienced before. We liked them. We returned home by 5 p.m. so that Saul could drive Ari to the wedding at the Betsy Ross House downtown. After showers we all had macaroni and cheese and leftovers for dinner. Mom and Adele slept for most of the afternoon. Saul left again to pick up Ari around 1 a.m.

Labor Day morning it was time to pack up all of Izzy's summer things to send back home. I rushed around giving the girls breakfast, tending to Mom, finishing laundry and cleaning up the house. By noon, most of Izzy's stuff was packed and Adele arrived with Brenna, Ava, Erica and Larry. Eighteen-month-old Ava had surgery on Friday to remove tonsils and adenoids and to correct a problem with her foot. She was sporting a baby-sized cast and looked very unhappy. Beth joined us all for lunch and since it was a beautiful day again, we decided to squeeze in two hours on the last day of summer 2008 at Beachcombers Swim Club. Ari needed to get on the road and saying goodbye on this last glorious day was one of the most difficult things I have had to do in my life. Sami was teary as she sat in Ari's car and we hugged and kissed her goodbye.

Tuesday morning, Mom's nurse Eric came and examined her. Over the weekend, a fill-in nurse had come twice and had advised him of Mom's deteriorating condition and the fact that we had decided to discontinue all her medication when she was released from the hospital fearing that she was having a reaction to all that they had been giving her. Her list of medicines included: Lipitor, Cozaar, Actose, Glyburide, Metformin, Lopressor, and Leviquin. The endocrinologist had suggested replacing the Actose with Prandin. All of us have a history of over-reacting to medication and since nothing else had worked we all decided to try this. Mom was feeling so awful that she preferred to take a chance on possibly having a stroke or heart attack rather than go on living the way she was. Saul checked her sugar every morning to make sure it did not go too high or too low. Sunday morning Izzy watched the whole procedure while Saul explained to her what he was doing. She wasn't the slightest bit squeamish and all the while patted G.G. Evelyn's arm gently telling her that it would only hurt for a second like getting a needle. Since we had discontinued her medication and had promised her that she need never return to the hospital, Eric asked if we would like to switch to hospice services. We all decided that there was no down side to this decision for us and Wednesday morning, we were visited by a hospice nurse.

The hospice nurse discussed all the services that were available to us. Under the circumstances, and according to Mom's wishes to never return to the hospital and never again have an invasive procedure, Mom decided to opt for hospice care and was able to sign the hospice papers herself. Adele participated in this meeting on a speaker phone.
As we were finishing up, a home health aide named Kimberly arrived and the nurse and I sat at the kitchen table finishing up while Kimberly sponge-bathed Mom and finally washed her hair. Mom refused to get out of bed to be taken to sit in her shower saying that she was afraid of falling. We learned that we would never have to prick Mom's fingers again and that she could eat anything she felt like eating. Mom and I talked about her decision after the nurse left and she seemed to be quite at peace with it.

Today, her whole demeanor was different. She just seemed more relaxed and comfortable than she has been in weeks. Ken came over at lunchtime and met with the social worker who pretty much gave us the same information as the hospice nurse. Her physical therapist came and coaxed her into walking a few steps with a wheeled walker. She immediately went back to bed.
This evening, Ed, Beth's ex-husband, came for a visit. Beth ordered pizza and at dinnertime we were joined by Adele, Larry, Erica, Beth, Brenna, Ed, Jamie, Ken and Randi. Mom was able to feel Jamie's baby moving inside her and Erica gave her a much-needed manicure. Ed has been in Kuwait this whole year and is on leave and about to have knee surgery.
Larry left for his trip to the Galapagos Islands this morning and sent us a website where we can check up on the progress of his group.

I also called one of my biggest clients to relinquish an upcoming job that has a hard deadline. I gave them the electronic file for a large job that I have been doing for them for 20 years. I felt that, should Mom take a turn for the worse at the wrong time, I would not be able to handle the pressure of meeting the deadline--another ending to something that has been going on in my life for a very long time.

I can feel that enormous changes are coming that will change the comfortable and pleasing rhythms of the last 15 years of my life when I built my dream house, expanded my business, entertained and cared for my family and friends, and grew old along with my sweetheart. I have always greeted change with optimism and excitement and I hope to effect an even better future this time as well. Change is inevitable and adapting to new situations is a fact of life. I hope to create an even better 15 years to come, but with summer's end, it is difficult to imagine that autumn and winter can be anything but cold.

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