Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Take Me for a Ride...

 We are so grateful for the help Richard has received from the physical therapist in town who took over from the home health physical and occupational therapists who came to the house during the early days of his recovery.

He has made so much progress. He is now able to drive my car (automatic transmission) and the pick-up (stick shift) around town. He can’t yet manage the Toyota (stick shift) because the pedals are too close together and he has trouble finding the accelerator because his right foot is a little wonky.

This means I no longer have to drive him to the twice-weekly physical therapy sessions or to church or to the other appointments that I don’t need to also be with him. We have discovered that I absolutely do need to be with him for even routine follow-up visits at the clinic because two sets of ears are required.

Today he was able to push a cart through the grocery store without any walking aids and without needing to sit down on the bench.

It is very liberating for him to be able to “do things” again, almost like normal, and liberating for me too.

Monday, May 09, 2022

Yes, We Have No Grape Jelly

The orioles arrived last week. I identified at least two types – 


the Baltimore oriole (photo by Magee Marsh - Ohio on Wikipedia)...

and the orchard oriole (Photo by Dan Pancamo, on Wikipedia).

There was a third oriole that I wasn't sure about, possibly a Bullock’s oriole. 

I had an  unopened jar of grape jelly left over from last year, which I opened and put out for them in two places, one outside my office window and one on the deck visible from Richard's office, so we could both watch these beautiful birds.

That jar lasted about 3 days, and so I headed off to the store on Saturday to buy more. I went to three stores, and all of them were out of the generic or store brand grape jelly. Three of them were completely out of any kind of grape jelly, but the fourth store did have some name-brand jelly. A small jar, which cost $3.00. I bought it and it lasted 1 day.

So that was that. No way are going to spend $3 day on grape jelly to feed birds.

I did fill the oriole nectar feeder that I bought last year, which the orioles ignored and I almost threw away. This year one oriole did land on it and use it, and the Downy and Red-bellied woodpeckers observed and started using it too, which is good because they tend to leave the hummingbird feeders alone.

I went to the store again today. and again, the shelves continue to be empty of grape jelly. Hard to believe there is a shortage of grape jelly but that seems to be what’s happening.

In the meantime, with nothing to keep them here, the orioles have moved on. Perhaps toward the end of summer, when there is no more demand for grape jelly, I’ll buy a few jars and keep them handy for next Spring.


Thursday, March 31, 2022

Tool Chest Adventures

The garbage disposal froze because something got jammed in there. Richard shined a light into the maw and it looked like there might be a nut in the center that could be loosened to free up the unit. We seemed to recall that our previous garbage disposal had one.

So he sent me downstairs to the tool chest in the garage to find a ratchet drive, an extension, and sockets that he might need.

He even gave me a list. I was supposed to bring up sockets in various sizes for the 1/2-inch drive. I got the inches correct but they were the wrong size for the 1/2-inch drive.

So he very patiently explained what he wanted and wrote another list and sent me back down to try again.

I succeeded this time, but then we discovered what we thought was nut in the center wasn’t. All my effort at retrieving these tools was for naught.

So he took the big dowel (think broom handle) that I use to roll out dough, stuck it in there, and shoved, and freed it up. The culprit was a popcorn kernel.

This experience was an eye-opener. Fact is, my inability to bring up the correct tools had nothing to do with lack of mechanical ability and everything to do with lack of familiarity with the tools because Richard always does the repairs and fixes things. It might be helpful down the road to become more familiar with the tool chest.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Walking Out of the Fog

Powdermilk Biscuits… [made from] Whole wheat that gives shy persons the strength to get up and do what needs to be done.

I do have some biscuits in the refrigerator, but the strength I needed to get up and do what needed to be done since Thanksgiving did not come from biscuits.

November 17, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Richard was on a stepladder tugging on something he was trying shift on a shelf in the garage, and it gave way suddenly. He fell off the ladder. Not far at all, maybe 2 feet or less, but far enough. At first he thought he was okay, but then he wasn’t. I had to have the ambulance and volunteer fire department here for lift assistance Thursday morning. The Emergency Department said they couldn’t find anything really wrong and sent him home. The ambulance and fire department had to come again Friday morning when he woke up without sensation from the waist down to take him back to the Emergency Department. He was operated on Friday afternoon to repair damage to L3 and L4.

I am still not sure what exactly happened as a result of the operation but apparently the surgeon discovered a pocket of infection on the vertebrae in his back. He cleaned that out, but it got into his blood stream anyway. So Richard spent about 10 days in the hospital on IV antibiotics trying to get this infection (MRSA) under control. He didn’t feel sick, he didn’t have any symptoms of a blood stream infection, he felt fine—the infectious disease specialist said on paper he was “deathly ill.” The extra physical therapy he received because they couldn’t discharge him helped a great deal to get him semi-mobile.

Once the cultures came back negative, they put in a PICC line and sent him home with 6 weeks of IV antibiotics that I had to learn to give him 3 times a day.

He also came home with a Foley catheter and no control over the other bodily function. The Foley catheter started to do some horrific damage, and the urologist finally convinced Richard that it needed to be removed and that the alternative (self-catheterization as needed) would be much, much better. He was right.

I found myself having to do things for him that I never in a million years imagined that I would have to do. But I did. I found myself having to figure out solutions to problems that ordinarily he would have taken care of. And I did that too.

A physical therapist came. An occupational therapist came. Both of them were worth their weight in gold. Home health nurses came. We had doctor appointments. Lots of them. The surgeon. The urologist. His primary care provider.

And then he finally agreed to go to the wound care clinic so they could treat the pressure sore that had developed on his butt, which apparently had started in the hospital but nobody caught it. We were trying to treat it ourselves and it wasn’t getting worse, but it wasn’t healing either.

Now 4 months later, he has improved a great deal. He still uses the wheelchair and the walker for some things, but he can now walk with a cane. He can negotiate the porch steps now to get to the car without using the wheelchair. 

I still have to wrap his legs with the Velcro compression garments to keep the edema under control, and I have to help him get his feet in his clothing. But now there is not much else that I have to help him with. 

The surgeon says it could take up to a year for damaged nerves to regenerate, and there is a possibility he will never fully return to where he was before the accident. But…every improvement is an improvement and I’ll take it and be thankful.

A couple of weeks ago, I finally felt like going to the library and checking out some books, which was the signal that I am finally walking out of the fog bank that settled over our lives on November 17.

A prayer as part of a devotion I read during that time became a constant:

“Please help me learn to appreciate difficult days, being stimulated by the challenges I encounter rather than becoming distressed.”
Stimulated indeed!

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Hunting the Elusive Gingersnap

I have had a bit of a problem with writer’s block, so this is an attempt to move past it.

One of the disadvantages to living in a small town is the limited availability of places to shop and difficulty sometimes finding what you want. We needed gingersnaps to make sauerbraten sauce, a favorite meal that I had not made in a long time. Richard remembered that we used to have this quite often and put it on the menu for this week.

There are two grocery stores in town. He went to one of them on Sunday to get gingersnaps. There were no gingersnaps. Really?

I went to the other market on Tuesday to look for gingersnaps, thinking I would find some. Silly me. That market also had no gingersnaps.

Today I went to the Dollar General Store, which is not my favorite place to shop because of the weird way its aisles are laid out and some other strange policies. 

Yes, they had gingersnaps! If DG can stock gingersnaps, why can’t either of the two grocery stores?

I was very happy to find the gingersnaps, but the best thing about that experience was when I thanked the clerk for helping me find the cookies, she said, “Of course.”

Of course.

A pet peeve these days is service people—bank tellers, clerks, etc—who respond “Not a problem” when I thank them for helping me.

Not a problem? Helping people is their job, why should it “be a problem.”

Okay. I get it that “not a problem” is a perfectly acceptable response in some situations when someone is being thanked for going “above and beyond” and that language is fluid and new words, phrases, and expressions are added all the time.

I suppose people my grandparent’s age reacted the same way when a whole new vocabulary came along with the “hippies” in the late 60s. I guess I am just showing my age.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Terms of Endearment

I imagine most couples, at least at the beginning of their relationship, refer to each other with terms of affection: Honey Bunch, Snookums, Poopsie, Angel Face, Sweetie Pie and the like.

I don’t remember Mom calling Dad anything but his name, but Dad frequently called her “Mus.” This was short for “Muscles.” Mom was rather frail and not a robust woman. I think this was a result of scarlet fever, which she contracted when she was 9 and was seriously ill. She, her mother, and grandmother (who lived with them) were quarantined in the house. She couldn’t leave her room. She writes

 I was really sick with scarlet fever, had big nodules up and down my neck and swollen lymph glands. My ribs looked like a washboard and scared mother and grandma when I was finally well and stood up because I was so thin. The doctor came to the house but all he could offer was bed rest and a very strict diet…

Antibiotics were not available in the early 1930s, so the disease had to run its course. I don’t have any real proof of this, but think the disease probably damaged her heart.

I think dad started calling her “Muscles” when he was teaching her to drive and then shortened it to “Mus.” She probably had a struggle turning the steering wheel and shifting and pressing the clutch pedal to the floor and all that business.

We used to own a big, old pickup truck that did not have power steering, so I can appreciate how much strength it takes. So “Mus” made sense to us.

This brings me to Jack and Ruth, who are both in their 90s. When she is able, Ruth comes to the monthly Bible study at church. She requires a walker, is tethered to an oxygen tank, and does not drive, so Jack ushers her in and gets her settled and then returns and picks her up. Jack is a “character,” which is a story for another time.

Ruth publishes a newsletter that includes stories, anecdotes, historical facts, poems, and jokes, that sort of thing. Some she writes and other items are things people have sent her. On occasion she has printed (with my permission) things from this blog in her newsletter.

In the most recent newsletter, she writes, “I used to call Jack “Dear Heart.” He evidently didn’t like the endearment because he started calling me “Elk’s Liver.”

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Birthday Surprise

 My sister has a remarkable gift for giving us presents. 

We look forward with great anticipation to the boxes she sends for birthdays and other important days in our life. Sometimes it is clothes—every shirt Richard wears to church is one she sent him, and likewise, most of the nice clothes I wear to church were gifts from her. Almost always there is something interesting to eat she has bought from Trader Joe’s (the nearest one is 300 miles away in St. Louis) or World Market, which does not have a location in Missouri. 

About 3 weeks before Richard’s birthday, which was earlier in the week, I received an e-mail from her wanting to know if there was anything Richard would like for his birthday.

At first he said, “A card would be fine, she doesn’t have to send anything.” He is of an age now where if he needs something he just buys and it is hard trying to think up things that someone else can buy him. 

But then he thought about it: “Tell her she could send me a 63 Corvette if she happens to have a spare one lying around.”

Richard has had a love affair with the Corvette Stingray. The first one he owned was a 1963 with a removable hard top. At the time he was a student at Chapman College. The Homecoming Queen rode in it during a parade.

He tells me he took it on the freeway once and got it up to 110 mph, but then realized that if something went wrong, he was going to die.

The car had a special racing carburetor, and he could not find anyone to work on it, so he let it go.

But after we got married, we drove at least two different Corvettes. One of them was a miserable car. It had exhaust pipes running on both sides, which made getting out of the car without getting burned very tricky. The last time I remember riding in that car I was about 8 months pregnant, and Richard had to help me get out.

We replaced that one with a 1978 model that was a lot of fun to drive. By then we had a baby. The car did have a back seat, but trying to get the baby in and out of the car seat was too hard.

That car made way for a regular family-type station wagon, and there have been no more Corvettes. 

Until now.

As it happened, my sister did have a 1963 Corvette lying around.

It was hilarious, but I guess you had to be here.