nana

Suck It Up Buttercup

There are responsibilities taken in life that you never expected or wanted. That is how the last 6 weeks have been. My grandmother had her knee replaced and that meant I had to step up and try to fill her duties while she was gone. No biggie? Wrong.

The matter of cooking and cleaning at her home was taken care of for the most part by my uncle. He made sure Papa was fed and the dishes/laundry was kept up. It was all of the other things that became my burden, I was happy to do it because  it is my family and I love them. When a bill came in I would get out Grandma’s check book and forge the checks to make sure the water and the ‘can’t live without’ cable was paid. I ran errands and picked up meds.

Every other day I would go out to the managed care rehabilitation place and visit Nana to see how she was doing and keep her abreast of what was going on at her home and mine. Often bringing at least one of my three kids along so they could regale her with their tales of summer exploits. After a half hour to an hour we would leave so she could rest, go to therapy, etc.

Her being in the care facility post surgery was a God-send. She could have all of her needs met at the moment she needed them. She didn’t need to be taken to appointments doctor or therapy. It was all right there for her which made it easier on everyone and took the worry and strain off of me. There was no way I could be taking care of her at her home and still be able to take care of my family at mine.

The hardest thing, the responsibility I did not want and somewhat begrudgingly to admit hated was the care of my mother. Do not get me wrong I love my mother and there is always my familial duty towards her.

The relationship I have with my mother is complicated. Complicated by our past as much as the present. I shall give a heavily abbreviated history to give a little insight.

My parents separated when I was three. My mother left Sheboygan Wisconsin with me and came home to Iowa to be by her parents. My father an engineer would visit Iowa one to two times a year my whole life. He would come home for my birthday and a holiday such as Christmas or Easter, bringing me gifts like a bike, barbie ferrari or a radio boombox. Those visits were hard on me and I would be weepy and moody for a week or so after he returned to Wisconsin, I didn’t realize at the time how much it hurt not having a father but that realization came years later.

I grew up living in low-income housing developments as my mother and I lived on child support payments of $330-something a month. Sometimes food was a bit lean but we never starved and my mother would not apply for any food assistance and the like. I never had the fashionable clothes or the latest (you name it). I had regular visits and stays at Nana and Papa’s which was like some glorious holiday. They had cable, a yard full of green grass and trees to climb, and she always cooked big delicious meals and deserts-she also expected you to take seconds!

It is funny that as a kid you do not fully comprehend when things are not quite like they should be. Once you get older and looking back you can see the wrong that was in front of you all along. My mother slept a lot, I mean a lot. The appartment was always blacked out from the sun with thick lined curtains. When she was awake she could be loving and quickly change to teary or very angry. I spent as much time as I could playing outside rather than being inside in the dark with her. She could be abusive but I did not realize that it was abuse at the time. I would be spanked, a few times with hangers, for the smallest of infractions. Compared to the marauding gangs of near delinquent unsupervised youth in the ‘project’ complex I was an angel.

She would let me get some new to me (often thrift store) clothes and I would feel so good until she would make on of her regular down putting comments leaving me feel like I was fat or unattractive. She tried to instill religion in me by the fire and brimstone method. So I feared any misstep under condemnation to burning in hell. I never did sleepovers with friends or get involved with any extracurricular school related activities. We didn’t have money to spend on those or a car to get me there. All this and more left me so socially inept that couldn’t even talk in front of class at school without tears forming in my eyes.

As I aged I saw the irregularities of my home life compared to my peers and I saw injustice that was put upon me. I grew quietly angry. Internally I would steam over the fact that she never did anything. She never tried to better our life, get a job or education. She seemed content to hide away from life and responsibility. As soon as I graduated high school I moved out, not even telling her ahead of time for fear she would try to stop me with anger or more than likely guilt.

You may wonder about my father through all those years and why I didn’t reach out to him. Well, he was mostly an acquaintance, granted one that I loved and craved affection from, but we didn’t know each other very well. When I was nearing my teens he had remarried to another woman and my relationship with her was more than a bit strained. She came with her own set of issues and I already had more than my fair share. At that point the few visits a year were enough of a strain.

Over the years my view of mother changed, not that the anger completely dissipated but it was largely replaced with pity. She had been suffering from undiagnosed depressive disorders for years. She never sought any help with them so I in part still held some contempt for her inactiveness in even caring for herself. Then some 11 years ago my mother suffered a stroke. At that point and still to this day she was living with her parents, again a way of dodging responsibility for herself. They found her on the floor of her roonmin a near vegetative state which would last for a long while.

I was at my in-laws house having a pleasant visit when an uncle called with the news. When I hung up the phone everyone around me was hugging on me and showing genuine concern. I feel guilty about it but I was angry. It was her own fault…sleeping away her life, never doing anything to get the blood pumping, sitting and eating, getting heavier and heavier…she did it to herself-right? We left the kids there and my husband drove me back to town. During the 45 minute drive to the hospital I was quiet, trying to convince myself that I should not be mad I should be worried, that’s what a good daughter would be.

Over the weeks and months she slowly came back-somewhat. She eventually regained her ability to talk, remembered my name and gain her movement to a certain extent. These days she can talk and walk but with some definite disability. She hit the jackpot of not having to be responsible. Monthly disability payments, her aged mother to care for things at home and people to chauffeur her where she needs or wants to go. It frustrates me but at least I didn’t have to be responsible for her or feel guilty, she had all of her ducks put in a row by somebody else.

That was until Nana had her knee surgery. All of the insurance stuff and changes to Medicaid that happened this year became my job to fix and figure out. The fact that she never filed for Medicare when she turned 65 has created such a complex mess I cannot tell you how many hours I’ve spent on the phone trying to get things sorted out. Then there are all of the errands to appointments, pick up prescriptions, or going to the store to spend her money. Granted I was usually the driver for her and Nana for these day trips. But now my health issues, the kids out of school for summer, Nana’s surgery and all the rest it was seriously becoming the straw that was threatening to break the camel’s back.

I fully believe as I write this that I just may be an awful person. I am tired and tired of feeling put upon. I have gotten to the point where I am letting responsibilities at home slide. When I do get to just sit I want to do nothing but lose myself in a book. Then the phone rings and I dread answering it because what in the world does the world want me to do now. I answer it of course and wait for the next piece of straw to be placed.

I am glad to be able to help my family and I love them. So even when I am worn out and resentful of the phone ringing I take a beep breath and tell myself (often out loud), “Suck it up buttercup and get to it.”

 

 

 

 

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Me-centric and the Rest

I like the term ‘Me-centric’, I believe I came up with the word of the week. Unlike egocentric which the dictionary says it means thinking of oneself, without regard for the feelings or desires of others. ‘Me-centric’ is a bit milder than that. Me-centric would describe most all people. In this day and age we can be a bit self-absorbed. I do not intend that it in a mean way but we have our health, we have our jobs, we have our goals and so on. All of things in our lives that we do, feel, think and are is our ‘ME-ness’.

There is another part of ‘ME-ness’ that may sound awful but everyone’s favorite subject in life is themselves. Think about it, of all the things in the world you can be an expert on philosophy, art, seaslug biology, macrame, etc. the subject that you know more about than any other person in the whole entire world is you.

It is not all about you…and you know it.

With my illness I am definitely into my ‘Me-ness’ and I have to be. I have to be always aware of how my body is feeling. Is it too warm, did I take my pills, how much water have I drank, is the drop-foot increasing, and so on and so forth.

There are times when the ‘Me-centricities’ have to be set aside. Today is one of those days. I am sitting in the waiting room at the hospital as I write this. Nana is having her left knee replaced and she needed me. I picked her up at 5:10 this morning and brought her to the hospital with all of her stuff. This is more important than me. Does not matter that I have been unwell. It does not matter that yesterday my head hurt so bad that I kept no food down. None of that matters. She matters.

In our lives there is the ‘Me-ness’ and then there is ‘the Rest’. The Rest is the important stuff. The Rest is listening to you son drone on about Minecraft because it is important to them. The Rest is dragging your neighbor’s trash can back after collection because they have a hard time doing things. The Rest is when you say yes I can watch your kid for you while you go to an appointment. The Rest is putting others needs before your own.

‘The Rest’ is what makes us human. If it was just about you and nothing else there is no reason to even be here on Earth. It is our interactions with others and our environments that make a life. There is no point to life if it does not better, aid, or have an impact (great or very small) on this world. We were created with the capabilities to learn, love, adapt, and nurture.

So when we are busy in our lives with our ‘Me-centricities’
let us all try try to remember all ‘The Rest’.

No More Petting Zoo

Why we stopped going to the petting zoo.

Being that my husband Tony was at work and I was at home with [at that point] two boys, ages 3 and 4, we needed to get out and do something. I called up Nana, the boy’s great-grandma, to see if she wanted to go with us. As is often true Nana was stir-crazy and game to do anything. It was a wonderful warm sunny summer day, the kind that is perfect for being outside. I decided to ask if they wanted to go see the animals at the local petting zoo. Nana a farm girl through and through enjoyed the petting zoo as well so away we went.

We had been to this particular petting zoo a couple of times and the boys always enjoyed feeding the donkey carrots and tossing ice cream cones of seed to the ducks and chickens. Nana loved the lazy old sow and my favorite had always been the goats.
This petting zoo is not huge but has a lot of varied animals. Kittens from the animal shelter, a cow, a couple llama, a pony, as well as the fore mentioned animals. When we arrive my boys were so excited they ran ahead of us and nearly trod on some chicks that had escaped through the chain-link fencing of the poultry area.

We had a routine that we went through each time. First and foremost we had to buy the bird seed cones and go to the poultry enclosure. The closure was of a decent size with a shallow cement pond in the center, a roosting house off to one side and a chain-link fence around it with a latching gate to enter and exit. After they had good hold of their bird feed I opened the gate and all of us went in. Being well accustomed to people and the ways of the zoo the birds all recognized what the little boys had in their grasp. The chickens, ducks and that friendly old turkey with a bad foot came upon them like a clucking quacking beady-eyed feathered flood.

Ian my three year old took it all in stride, never the least bit unsettled by the fowl around him. Then there was my poor four year old Malcolm. He started out with a beaming smile until he realized the birds were really insistent on getting the food. One particularly determined white duck hopped up and took a piece of the cone he was holding.

He, in an instant freaked out and in one spastic motion flipped the remained of the cone and seed straight up into the air. This boy was heavily surrounded by birds and now he was being pelted with the seed falling from above. The raining bird seed drew the attention of the flock that Ian was feeding and now they too swarmed near Malcolm. He was definitely off put by it but I figured probably not scarred for life.

When I opened the gate to leave the area Malcolm had one thing to say,
“I think they were really hungry…too…hungry”.

I did my best to brush the seed out of the boy’s hair and we went on to the step of our outing. The larger livestock was to the side of the poultry area. With their carrots the boys eagerly headed to the miniature horse and mule with Nana in tow. That visit was short lived because Ian saw some of the other children walking around holding cute little kittens and we just HAD TO go see them right away.

While the boys pet the kittens Nana walked over to see the sow. She was away only a moment when the boys hurriedly handed me the two fluff balls they were holding to chase after her. After I got the kittens back where they belonged the other three were already moving on to the next thing, the llamas. They were apparently not very interesting and we ambled on to the goat enclosure.

The goats had a nice sized area with things to climb on and it was fenced in with chain-link. Getting into this area was a bit like passing through a lock and dam system. First you enter a latched gate walk a few paces and there lies another latched gate which lets into the realm of the goats. Once within this enclosure you can feed and pet around 15 goats of varying ages and sizes. I for some unknown reason do like goats. They always have seemed to me that they have personalities.

It was after about 8 to 10 minutes that my grandmother had enough and left the enclosure to sit on the bench just outside under a tree. While telling my eldest something about a nanny goat he was petting, unbeknownst to me 3 year old decided to join his Nana. Ian was always been a good-sized boy taller and stronger that his peers, despite that he he has never been supremely fast. He managed the first gate fine on his own.

It was at this time that I caught sight of him out of my peripheral. He had opened the first gate and not closed it behind him. He was opening the second gate with 5 goats in tow as I ran and yelled for him to stop. Too late. By the time I reached him (mind you it was probably about 3.7 seconds) one goat fully escaped. I managed to block one smaller goat with my leg and grab another by it’s horns before they breached the threshold.

So I hollered at Nana to keep an eye on the boys while I wrestled the goats back through the second gate, no easy task let me tell you. By this point my hair was a bit awry and I was sweating, but I needed to find the escaped goat. I didn’t see any of the people who attended theses animals anywhers but I did catch a glimpse of the four legged jail-breaker climbing up a half wall and going behind the small barn.

I take after it hoping that it would not leave the petting zoo and go marauding about town. With very little grace but a lot of determination I clambered up the half wall and wound around the barn. There I found the impertinent goat eating some flowering weeds that managed to grow back there. Not sure how I was going to get him back where he belonged I tried grabbing hold of him so that I may be able to steer him the proper direction.

The stubborn goat was enjoying his ill-gotten freedom too much to have any of that and maneuvered away. I attempted four more feeble attempts to get the goat to go where I wanted. For a fleeting moment I was considering letting him have his freedom. I mean he must really want it otherwise why would he have left his home in the first place.

No, I couldn’t just let this happen. I got closer and secured my footing, leaned in and picked the thing up. He wasn’t that big but he sure weighed a lot. By the time I got my self and the lead weighted billy back down and out from behind the barn. I looked like I went through war. I know because my dear sweet Nana told me so as I grunted by her carrying the goat. With the last bit of energy I had I plopped the goat over the fence. That whole goat fiasco took about 2o-25 minutes.

Now, from out of nowhere appeared an employee and wanted to know what was going on. I was tempted to tell her that we were trying to steal livestock but realized they wouldn’t fit in the trunk so we brought them back.  I did the reasonable and sane thing and let them know one got out and that it was back in. They thanked me and once again disappeared.

I turned around and there sitting on the bench swinging their feet was Malcolm, Nana, and Ian eating ice cream. Oh what a wonderfully sweet image, almost picture postcard perfect. That was it. I was done. I had grassy stuff in my hair, goat hair clung to the sweat on my body and I had a distinctive barnyard smell to me. We were going home.

I love my children but when one of them asked me on the way home, “Can we go there again tomorrow?” I almost questioned it.

They say when you look back on things they are seen in a different light? Well that is true I can see the humor in that day now, but you know we didn’t go back for a looooong time.