Friday, July 24, 2009

Sleeping Beauty

As I write this blog post from Ari’s coffee table on Saul’s laptop, I will not immediately have photos to go along with this story. I will post them later when I return home. Some of the photos will not be posted for a month… and that is part of the story. This has been a week of dramatic ups and downs, which only serves to remind me that I really should continue to live my life as much in the moment as I can and not stress about the little annoyances and downers that take away from the great moments of joy and satisfaction. Izzy developed a horrendous dry croupy cough and a fever of 102.4 after our wonderful trip to Hersheypark. After Debbie, who is taking care of Mom at night, awoke us at 4:00 a.m. to warn us that Izzy had been coughing a lot and was feverish, we began monitoring the kids room at night and did not sleep very well all week. I began getting up at night when the coughing awoke me to give her liquids and occasionally, children’s Motrin. The real fever only lasted a day and she was up and around in no time, but we had to be careful all week not to overtax her energy. In addition, we wound up with a gap in Mom’s caretaking one night because Debbie developed a high fever and Stacey could not fill in for her. That night, Saul stayed up with Mom until 2:30 a.m. when she needed to use the commode, while I slept. Then I stayed up with her until Stacey arrived at 10 a.m. the next morning. By the next shift, Debbie was feeling better and was able to fill in so that we only had one really horrendous night of no sleep. Only Larry and Faith joined us for dinner on Friday. Debbie was already sick and did not want to be at the table with us at dinner. I took a chance keeping her on duty that night because I had been up the previous night with Izzy and did not think I could do it two nights in a row. Luckily, Mom did not catch either virus. Debbie is really fanatic about sanitation. For Shabbat dinner we had homemade challah, homemade baba ganoush with chips, cream of cauliflower soup, seared sesame-crusted tuna, potatoes au gratin, and delicious sweet, white, corn-on-the-cob that Faith brought. For dessert, we had chocolate and raspberry-nut rugelach from Costco, and chocolate-chip cookie ice cream sandwiches also from Costco that were a brand called “600-lb. Gorilla.” Saul took Sami to services with him on Saturday while I stayed home with Izzy and we watched children’s movies that I had TiVo’d curled up under the covers in my bed. Saul was extremely proud of Sami who was a star with her singing voice and knowledge of the Hebrew prayers on the bimah accompanying Cantor Josh Gordon. At 1:00 p.m., after a quick lunch, we all walked with Adele and Brenna, who had come for a play date, across the street to the Roth Living Museum Farm where they had a program about farm animals and butter-making. The girls were very taken with the small bunnies they were allowed to hold and caress. Luckily, there were three. We also met the two “teen-aged” draft horses, a maiden cow, sheep, lambs, goats, and chickens. I learned more about chickens than I ever knew, and I know quite a bit about chickens. We then went into the old farmhouse where the farmer was seated at a table, churning butter in a large glass jar with a cranking attachment in front of the antique fireplace hearth. He let the girls crank the butter and then taught them how to paddle the results with wooden paddles to remove more of the buttermilk. He was kind enough to provide us with small plastic bowls of the butter we had made to take home, which we thoroughly enjoyed on warm bagels during the week. We had a lovely afternoon. In the evening, we took the girls to dinner at Moe’s for veggie burritos and cheese quesadillas, topping it all off with ice cream from Maggie Moo’s next door. Sunday afternoon, there was a “Thomas the Tank Engine” program at Morris Arboretum. Extra trains had been added to their outdoor miniature train exhibit with lots of the characters from the t.v. show. Although the weather was not unusually hot on Sunday, walking around in the sun took its toll and we were not able to stay very long with Izzy a bit under the weather. Early Monday morning, Saul took the girls to the big playground, which they call “the castle playground” at the Upper Gwynedd Township municipal park as it was supposed to begin raining in the afternoon. It did. We began baking the cakes for Haley’s wedding in August on Tuesday and Wednesday. The girls, especially Izzy, are really into cooking and baking and were a great help. The first largest layers of cakes came out beautiful. We leveled them and had intended to make trifle with the trimmings, but most of the trimmings disappeared when Haley came on Wednesday evening. I had been dreading Tuesday. After Mom had fallen last week and was becoming too weak to support herself, I had discussed with her hospice nurse, Kathy, ways to keep her from getting out of bed without assistance. We decided to replace her queen-size bed with an adjustable hospital bed with side rails. Monday, Kathy and I spent a half hour discussing the change with her and she was not happy. Monday evening, Beth came over and helped remove all the extraneous boxes from the sitting area of her bedroom along with a leather sofa that had been covered with clothes, towels, and bedding. We brought down a queen-size futon that I had in the attic so that the aides could sleep right in her room if necessary. Tuesday morning, Saul and Beth disassembled her bed and moved it up to the attic to make room for the hospital bed. Ken and Adele both came to ease the process and provide moral support. We set her up temporarily in another room until the bed arrived. Although she is comfortable with the mattress and the adjustability makes life easier for both her and her aides, she constantly complains about her “jail.” She is sleeping more soundly now and for longer hours. Her food intake has really dwindled and she chokes easily on anything other than liquid these days, but she is still consuming enough to subsist. Kathy weighed her about two weeks ago and I was surprised to find that she still weighs 126 lbs. without any swelling of her legs or feet. Randi’s sister, Sherrie, gave her a beautiful short haircut a few weeks ago. No longer having patience for having it dyed her usual dark brown, she has, for the first time in her life, begun showing white hair and it is striking with her naturally pale skin. Most of the time, she has a dreamy and relaxed countenance. Everyone that sees her comments on how incredibly smooth and unwrinkled she is for someone 87 years of age. Her face has an elegant, high-cheekboned structure. Gazing on her face in repose, it is hard to believe how weak and ill she truly is. Wednesday evening, Haley came from her final fitting of her wedding gown to take photos with Mom in her gown so that Mom will be in the wedding album. All of us were around Mom’s bed trying to awaken her for the photos—Haley, Stacey, Randi, Sami, Izzy and me. She just was not waking up. Izzy asked me to pick her up so that she could try to wake G.G. and as I lifted her over the bedrail, she bent and gave G.G. a kiss on her forehead. Even that kiss of love did not waken her. As we were about to give up in defeat and disappointment and leave, Saul joined us, and with his deep, authoritative voice and gentle touch brought her around. For the first few minutes, as Haley donned her wedding gown in another room, Stacey and I had an awful time trying to dress Mom for the photos in a pretty pink blouse and suit jacket. She was so weak that she could not even sit up or move her arms into place. Eventually she rallied and we were able to get her into the wheelchair and set her up in front of the hearth with Haley. She thoroughly enjoyed seeing Haley in her gown and complimented her lavishly. She mustered smiles while Saul and Randi snapped photos and while Izzy was placed upon her lap and Sami posed behind her. The photos are truly exceptional, but cannot be shown until after the wedding. Haley exacted a promise that no photos of her gown would be leaked before the wedding. Mom will be there in Haley’s wedding album to be remembered in her beauty for years to come and perhaps that is the reason she is still here with us at this time and going through this long ordeal.

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