Monday, November 28, 2011

Tonsil Exam - From the Bottom


Ever had a colonoscopy? This will be my first, unless you count the sigmoidoscopy I had when I was 40 when they were ruling out other causes and homing in on a diagnosis of gall stones. I was awake for that one. I got the ask my doc if he'd found my tonsils yet.

Hah! The joke's on him: I haven't had tonsils since I was 5.

This time should be better. They tell me I get to sleep through it.

I've been putting this particular procedure off for years. It was a combination of not having insurance, or having $3,000 deductible insurance, or not having insurance again, and not having another driver to bring me back home. Now that I have good insurance and Steve has moved in, I'm out of excuses. Today's the day.

Of course, this doesn't just involve one day. There's a whole lot of fuss and bother beforehand.

First there's the shopping. You need just the right items to give yourself diarrhea, and it's got to be good enough to leave behind a colon nobody would be embarrassed to have on camera. There's Dulcolax, a stool softener, which supply we threw out after Daddy died since he was the only one in the household who needed it - we thought! Then there's MiraLax, 8.3 ounces of it to be precise. Luckily, the stores carry that as a standard size, unlike the Dulcolax which only comes in boxes of 30 or more. The 10 ounce bottle of magnesiun citrate is also standard. Again, 64 ounces of Gatorade isn't - or in my case, G2 for low carbs. I settled for an 8-pack of 20 ounce bottles, in the blue since you're not allowed anything with red dyes in it for a couple days before the exam. I had the blue when I was recovering from surgery this summer and found it tolerable. I hope after enough time passes after this I will again.

Three days out you need to start monitoring your diet. No high fiber items, and no Olestra. We had Brundy Thanksgiving over here that day, and once you eliminate high carb items and high fiber items, like raw fruits and veggies, there's ... uh, well, uh... turkey?

Two days ahead you stop aspirin and ibuprofin. Since we'd also thrown out the bottle of Tylenol that only my dad used, that was another thing for the shopping list. I fully expect both that and the Dulcolax will sit in the medicine cabinet unused until well after their expiration dates now. It doesn't work as well on my knees as the ibuprofin, but luckily I haven't need to do a lot of walking like I did getting ready for company by cleaning up the house and clearing off the table which had morphed into the all-family dumping station. You are also supposed to start drink lots of sports drink, like 8-10 glasses throughout the day.

Yeah, with what's coming up with that stuff the next day, don't press your luck.

The day before, you switch to clear liquids. Coffee, bouillon, water are on my list. At noon, take two Dulcolax tablets. Nice lunch. I found myself thinking I could just pop into the kitchen and fix myself a... No! Stop thinking that! You can't have any. Whatever yummy thing is left over from Thanksgiving, you can't have it. No turkey, no stuffing, no pumpkin pie (minus crust of course)! Not even a banana sitting on the counter or a piece of string cheese! Stop! Thinking! Food!

So I did the only thing logical in that situation: I started beading. When you are concentrating on a pattern - well, trying, since I had to restring twice for mistakes - you are not obsessing about the food you can't be eating. I'd stopped in at Jeff's (Non Necessities) in Taylors Falls on Black Friday for their 40% off one item sale, and had a bagful of new beads burning a hole in my brain. I even dreamed about stringing one set of them the night after I bought them. So I started with those, reworking the pattern a couple of times ( that was not counted as one of the mistakes!) and wound up with a necklace for me with small round gold tiger eye, larger faceted tiger eye in gold, red and blue, a gold tiger eye leaf pendant, and silver beads necklace. Then I did a jade one, using a large carved barrel bead and a bunch of very small carved round beads, all in tones of brown and black, again with silver bead accents. I was on a roll! I worked out another three I won't describe here, as all of the recipients (X-mas) read this and I won't spoil the surprise. Luckily, I finished the last one just before I could no longer stay at the table.

At 4:00, dump 64 ounces of the G2 into a large pitcher and stir in all the Miralax. Stir some more. And start drinking 8 ounces of it every 15 minutes. All of it. Every drop.

It seems unnecessary for the instructions to warn you to plan to stay near a toilet after that. After about an hour, the stuff started working, coinciding with ending beading. You're still taking the stuff, setting the kitchen timer for the next 15 minutes, and finally just park in the bathroom with book, lap blanket, cup, pitcher, and timer. Oh: and fan on.

I'd expected to find it difficult to drink that much liquid that fast, but it wasn't. However, by the last cup, I was starting to feel less than splendid. It's a good thing my toilet is right next to the tub, because I threw up at least the last cupful almost as soon as it went down, along with whatever else was left from earlier. Luckily, tubs are easy to clean: just knock the hand-held shower down, turn on the water, and hose it all down. All without lifting an inch off the toilet.

So no, I won't be finishing off the unused G2 for quite a while.

Just because you think after about three hours on the throne that there can't possibly be more in your system to clear out doesn't mean there isn't. Eventually I was able to leave the toilet unattended for brief periods of time, enough to watch TV with pauses. By then the book was finished, and I was just not in the mood to start another one.

I managed somehow to get through the night without an accident, but there's still liquid passing, just enough color in there to let me think something is still left to be cleaned out. I've not slept well, and finally decided to get up early and kill time here. But surgery is at 11, and it's just about 7 now. Four hours ahead of surgery you drink that bottle of magnesium citrate. I doubt I'll have time for blogging until tonight. I'll post an "After". Hey, maybe I can then report another smidgeon of weight loss!

Just one question though: after taking this next laxative, how do I then find the time to shower, dress, and get through the drive to the hospital without an embarrassing incident?


Staying awake, that's the issue, long enough to come back and finish this.

The magnesium citrate claimed to have a lemon flavor. I'll give it "acid", but not lemon. And it quickly did its job, producing ample product of brilliant yellow color, but that's not a flavor, or not one I'd want to try. So mark it "Fail" on lemon. We had plans to make a couple stops on the way to the hospital, but after the first change of clothing before even leaving the house, decided it might be prudent to postpone at least one of them. I did hit the post office for stamps, and found out after getting home and sorting through them that our postmaster can't tell the difference between pine and Madonna themes in stamps. Oh well, X-mas is coming and I have friends who'll like to see those on their cards.

It's both amazing and reassuring how many times people asked me to confirm my name, birthdate, and procedure. Occasionally the same person repeated. At least I knew I could expect to get the correct procedure. After all, the view from the start of the procedure is not exactly one that someone can base an identification on. Imagine: "Hmmm, this looks like Heather's rectum."
They haven't started putting vidoecams in public toilets yet, the way they have at ATMs and in convenience stores.

I was offered a chance to use the restroom before changing into hospitals' perennial fashion statement. They kept the scale in there, so I weighed in sans shoes and found myself 5 lbs. under my last weighing. Just how much is real weight loss and how much recovers after the purging ends and eating resumes remains the question. But, hey, I'll take it where I can get it.

It only took two stabs and one nice hematoma for them to get the IV line in the back of my hand, much better than previous tries, say in the last 25 years. And this nurse was thoughtful enough to inject a tiny numbing agent first so I wouldn't feel the needle go stab, withdraw, wiggle wiggle, stab... got it!

I was concerned about my shoulder, since they roll you onto the left side for the procedure, but once I was laying on their bed with an extra pillow, the shoulder never hurt. Not even before the painkillers. Or at least they said they used painkillers. I can testify that they used some kind of tranking agent, although not enough to put me under completely. Dang! I wouldn't have minded missing feeling the procedure. They certainly go through like you can't feel a thing, and I felt the whole herd of wild stallions stampeeding and cartwheeling corners through my gut the whole time. Apparently my grunts and groans of pain were not sufficient to warrant more painkiller, and frankly I just didn't have the energy for screaming. For some reason I was still trying for dignity.

Keeping my eyes closed for most of it seemed to be the way to go, although I did open them long enough to get a clear view of the polyp they found and removed. It looked much prettier on the TV screen than in the little picture they showed me later. It'll take until next week to find out what exactly it was, and even not knowing that, they want me back in for another one of these in five years.

Good luck with that one!

When they finally wheeled me back into my "room", a nook with a curtain, there was finally time for that nap I couldn't quite get before. Or so I thought. They kept waking me up telling me to breathe, "a couple times, Heather, in through the nose, out through the mouth." Well screw that! If the nose is good enough for the "in" part, it's good enough for the "out" too. I cocked an eye at the monitor and noted that my blood oxygen levels were hovering around 85 when they were saying that, with the monitor beeping, so they probably did have a point. But I felt fine, no indication of being low on oxygen. It seems the meds used can slow down your diaphram, "make it lazy" as they put it, and I was warned they'd be telling me to breathe quite often.

Finally a nurse arrived with cranberry juice and two slices of buttered banana bread. (They know I'm diabetic and bring this?) I couldn't have the banana bread until after I started passing gas, so I started right in on it. I qualified. For that matter, I still qualify. Where can all that gas come from? How much can one gut hold when there's nothing in there making more? Well, at least it doesn't stink like "real" gas does.

I also grabbed the book I was reading before the procedure, and was challenged on whether I could even remember what I was reading. Sure, no prob.

Hey, maybe because I didn't get quite enough of the meds in the first place, eh?

I was out of there under my own power just at noon, after being warned it could be much later than that. I felt fine. I might even have been tempted to drive, but Steve was there with his truck and I yielded to everybody else's better judgment. I still felt fine all the way home, including the auto parts store for Steve's truck's tune up, performed by Richard after we got home. Since then, however, I've had two very nice long naps, and trust I can get another one tonight when there's nothing on the agenda tomorrow to worry about other than work.

Oh, and calling up that other insurance company and bitching to them ABOUT NOT HEARING FROM THEIR ADJUSTER YET TO ARRANGE TO GET MY CAR FIXED! Maybe I'll just sic Farmer's on them, eh?

Saturday, November 26, 2011


There are many reasons to be grateful this Thanksgiving season. Here is one of them:

Letter to the Editor:

I would like to express the gratitude of our whole family for the excellent care my father, John D. Maxson, received from the County Public Health staff, headed by Randy Green, with Patty Mattson and Chi-Chi Shipley, his two home health aids, during the last two years plus of his life.

Randy made sure she was always accessible for crises, or to help me sort out what was and wasn't a crisis, as well as the appropriate care response each time. She assisted in sorting through the bureaucracy of dealing with Medicare, gave information on medications and their negative side-effects, shared practical ideas for his care, helped us with scheduling his home health aids to best meet his changing needs, assisted us through his dying process. One relative started referring to her as "the Sainted Randy."

He looked forward to his visits from Patty and Chi-Chi, appreciated their willingness to work, their unfailing kindness towards him, their helpfulness and matter-of-factness which never allowed him to become embarrassed about the many ways his body and mind were failing him. When they were here, he was always the center of their world.

Before moving in with my family, he'd had private home health care, and it was our dissatisfaction with that which prompted us to switch to the County. We were so satisfied that when the time came to switch him to home hospice care, we decided to stay with the team we knew instead. I would like to strongly commend the county for keeping such an excellent team in place, and unhesitatingly recommend them to anyone else.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gaining A Second Perspective

The last couple weeks I've had a chance to compare perspectives with my brother. It's been enriching.

While preparing to do our separate eulogies of our father, we discussed a childhood memory from when we lived on Pleasant Ridge Resort. One bright autumn day a large flock of monarch butterflies passed across our lake. We all stood and watched it for the five minutes or so that it took. My remembered viewpoint is from up on the hill, the level the cabins are at. It offered a clear view, and I was awestruck at even such a young age of this once-ever experience. But I missed something. Steve's viewpoint was from down on the dock, much closer to the migration. He remembers also seeing almost as many large dragonflies flying alongside the monarchs.

When giving our eulogies, I discussed the major events of his life, adding in the stories I'd heard him tell about his childhood or WWII. Steve talked about hunting and fishing. Most of the stories I'd never heard, and somehow missed knowing that my dad was a very unsuccessful deer hunter over a long period of years. It didn't stop him from having a great time, however.

The story I do recall was what became known as "The Swamp Buck". In the early 50's, Daddy shot a huge buck out in a swamp. It was tremendous trouble dragging it back to camp, even field dressed. During the (professional) butchering, the butcher "butchered" the process: he cut through the bones, rather than severing the joints. This tough old deer's marrow so strongly flavored the already pretty gamy meat that pretty soon nobody wanted to eat it. When even our golden retriever, Goldie, turned up her nose at the offering, the rest of it was tossed out.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

When Idiots Attack

They're out there, all right. And even when you're expecting it and have your guard up, they can wage a successful attack. I have reason to know.

It was the first real snowfall of the season for the metro on Saturday. I had to drive down for my Aunt's funeral - kind of a big double-funeral-duty weekend. In the cities it started as freezing rain, then got covered over by wet slick snow. When I'd left home there were a few flakes, but it hit for real by the time I got to Hugo/Centerville.

My speed dropped to 65, then 60, and by the time I hit my first exit for a bank deposit at County Rd. E, 45mph was pushing it on the freeway. It got worse as I hit Stillwater and headed south, and today's weather summary showed a small band of heavy snowfall right in my idiot's target - or should I say targeting? - area. I was southbound on Stagecoach, less than a mile from my destination, and maintaining 30 as a safe top speed. It was slick. Just as I came up to 19th street, I saw a green SUV coming down the hill to the stop sign, showing no indication of stopping whatsoever.

Now I've learned that in these conditions when one is driving downhill on icy roads, one starts slowing and gently testing one's brakes at the top of the hill. If you still can't stop at the sign at the bottom of the hill after that, well, there's not much hope for anybody and you should have reconsidered your errand before starting.

I was watching out for everybody around me, which at that time was nobody. Good thing. When she popped into view, I was fairly close to the road she was coming down on and knew there was almost no chance of making a safe stop. If she couldn't stop before entering my roadway, we were going to get really well acquainted. Still, I braked gently, as safely as possible without throwing my own car into a spin and possibly heading down the hill on the other side of the road or hitting her with a rotating car. I steered gently out into the oncoming lane, thankfully empty.

There comes a time when you know there's nothing left to do but just get ready for impact. It's the kind of moment that inhabits my real nightmares. Brakes don't work. Inertia triumphs over traction. You watch the two vehicles getting closer, feel the bump, hear the crash. Eventually you stop.

My front passenger side hit her driver side just behind her door. She moved her car onto the shoulder, but not far enough forward that there was room for me to get off the traffic lane as well. I had to ask her to move forward more, but that was after she'd gotten out to come back to me and explain how it was the road's fault and not hers. Funny, but in the 40 minutes we sat there afterwards, several other cars came down that hill and not one had trouble stopping.

Not one.

One kindly lady stopped and asked if I needed a witness. She clearly saw the other woman not stop and plowing right into me from her vantage point in the oncoming lane, well enough back so as to avoid the accident. The other driver shooed her off, stating that that was what she intended to tell the police and we didn't need a witness. I got a slip of paper with a name and phone number from the witness anyway.

I do admit to losing my temper with the other driver - can we just call her "idiot" from now on for brevity? - and yelling at her as she first approached my car, "Can't you tell you need to slow down in these conditions?" Then she was busy hand-wringing and asking everybody -that's me and the witness - what she needed to do now? I just whipped out my cell and dialed 911. It was much more productive than a few other ideas that flitted across my mind. She did apologize to me after a bit, several times, but it didn't do much to soften my attitude.

In a lucky bit of timing, my brother happened to pass us on his way to the same funeral and stopped to see what was going on. He keeps his cell off except when he needs to use it, so I was wondering how I was going to let anybody know I might be missing the funeral. I gave him a quick summary and asked him to relay word to the others when he got there. As it turned out, I had planned on giving myself a lot of time due to the snow, and wound up missing only 22 minutes of the service. Since it was all Bible readings and nothing much about Nina except how she agreed with everything that was being read, I consider it the only good thing to result from the impact.

The Idiot's car had a tiny ding behind the front driver's door. It was Honda CRV vs. Hyundai Accent, after all. My car - visual inspection only so far - has a banged up front passenger quarter panel (rubs the tire on bumps and left turns), crunched front bumper, and headlight cover glass cracked but intact in several places. The light still worked, though I found out later that the right headlight points way down on the ground. I might need a front end alignment as well.

I left a voicemail message with my insurance company, and will likely hear from them early tomorrow. Meanwhile I'm wondering how much this idiot will cost me, starting with the deductible and adding days of lost work while repairs are done. That's what has really put a damper on the weekend. Both funerals are over, duties discharged, Steve moved in and working on settling and unpacking. I should be relaxing right now. Instead I'm coping with the dread of what tomorrow brings.

As a final note on idiocy, as I pulled away after everything was done, I made sure to clear the rapidly accumulating snow off my windows, lights and mirrors. I noticed as I passed her that she had about a 2" clear spot in her side mirror, and she was bending and trying to peer into it to see any oncoming traffic as she pulled out behind. She never bothered to roll down her window to clear it off.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Prologue / Epilogue

Just after Mom died, I had grandiose ideas about writing a book on dealing with the aftermath of a family death. I thought I might guide others through it, help prepare for Daddy's (surely-soon-to-come) death, and tell about their lives so they wouldn't be forgotten. While I soon became way too busy caring for my dad, who lived 34 months longer, and the grandiosity drained off, I did write and preserve the following.


The girl started, quickly coming to full alertness. Something, somewhere deep in the vessel within which she dwelt, had CHANGED.

A quick inspection confirmed her suspicions. The bindings holding the great circuit breaker up, already worn and weakened by long age, had broken. It had started slowly, inexorably, to close.

It was too soon. There was still usefulness left to this vessel, still a strong purpose to fulfill. But no matter, she knew, for once started, there was no stopping it. The only thing left was finishing her last duty, emptying its last compartments, a job she’d been working on for years now. Once completed, she would leave, return to her beginnings, there to wait for her companion vessel to finish as well.

She marked the movement of the circuit breaker, judging its speed. Likely she had just over a day to finish everything.

It was time to hurry.

- Click -


The boy stirred, feeling his vessel shudder slightly, veer off course again. It had been happening more often lately, since he’d felt his companion vanish. The two had made a great team, each supporting the other, assisting each other around obstacles, keeping each other on course. He unfolded himself from the corner where he had paused a moment to rest, arms hugging his knees for warmth, something unpredictable these days. His vessel’s navigation systems were damaged, and propulsion was faltering. Now his vessel, proceeding on its own, was starting to founder.

- Click -

Other vessels approached, offering guidance for a time, trying to offer companionship. It just wasn’t the same.

- Click -

He moved into the next compartment, emptied it out, flipped off the switch. He’d already been doing this for years. He was very efficient.

- Click -

He had become busier than usual since the companion left, wandering the long and tangled corridors, emptying out the compartments, storing the contents, flicking the switches, moving on.

-Click -

More compartments were getting shut off, some still flickering off and on a bit first, but the shutoffs were growing in frequency. He was keeping very busy.

- Click -

He wasn’t sure how long his vessel would continue, alone. The companion had been there so many years, he almost couldn’t remember the time before she was there.

- Click -

But of course the memories were there. He was the collector and keeper of the memories. That was his primary job these days.

- Click -

- Click -

He stopped occasionally to look at the bindings holding his vessel’s great circuit breaker in the up position. The sudden vanishing of the companion had upset the equilibrium of his vessel, and that had caused some of the bindings to snap, others to grow ragged. Soon they would fail and it too would start its descent. There was no telling if it would be fast or slow, only that it would be soon, and his job was daily bigger. There was much preparation before that time.

- Click -

- Click -

He was getting better, accomplishing more, traveling further distances each day. He understood the distress of the vessel, but that couldn’t be helped. If he managed to empty enough compartments before the great circuit breaker fell, the distress would ease as the vessel would slowly quit attempting to navigate and begin to simply drift.

- Click -

- Click -

He nearly stumbled with the vessel’s next shudder. It hadn’t quit yet. That was good. He still had so many compartments to empty, so many bits and pieces to store. The wait would soon be over. Then it would be his time to leave his vessel, just before it too vanished. It would be time to rejoin HER.

- Click -

- Click -

- Click -

He hurried.

-Click -

- Click -

- Click -

- Click -

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Afterwards

Since I wasn't sleeping well Thursday morning, when I saw the clock read just after midnight, I decided to get up and check on Daddy. I was so sure he was likely to die during the night that I wanted to know whether it was going to be Wednesday or Thursday. He was still breathing. He'd reached his 97 1/2 birthday.

Not that he was going to appreciate it, like last year when we celebrated the 96 1/2 birthday with steak and cupcakes.

I woke for good just before 6:00, my usual for a work day. He lay awfully still, but I wasn't going to fully turn on the lights and verify my suspicions for a few minutes. I had a routine to go through, and I've learned from the last couple years that if I don't go through it a,b,c,d I'm likely to forget b. Never a, since that's the relief stop at the bathroom, but b might get skipped, and then where would I be? Once my pills were taken, the dogs let out, let in again and treated with their Milkbones, coffee made, apples prepared and put in the fridge to cool and all those other things done that I usually do before tending him, I was ready to deal with whatever I'd find.

Elvis, as they say, had left the building. Daddy was no longer breathing, cold, and his arm was stiff when I tried to lift it. OK: time to implement Special List A. This is my mental list of procedures to go through once he was gone. First, turn off the oxygen concentrator. Save on the electric bill. Appreciate the first silence in the house in over a year, since he's been on it 24/7. Second, call "My" Steve, letting my own personal support network be the first to know. Third, call the head of his care team, aka the sainted Randy. Since it was only 6:20, I left a message on her cell phone, giving her the details and asking whom do I notify to make it official. (I also thanked her and the team for their wonderful service.)

Then I turned on the morning news to catch the weather report while I had coffee and waited. Strangely, I remember almost nothing of what I saw, most especially what the forecast was. The snow I saw later was a complete surprise. The bits and pieces that later filtered through were at best confusing. Something about rioting at Penn State, over a coach firing and not the molestation scandal that preceded it - can that possibly be right? And Perry tripping over himself at yet another GOP primary debate. He wants to eliminate Commerce, Education, and... and... oh yeah, Energy. Just perfect! Kill the agency than can protect consumers so those poor corporations can do whatever they want to whomever they want, stop educating us so we won't be informed citizens and more likely to notice what they're getting away with, and... and... oh yeah, stop finding ways to give us clean energy and put the brakes on global warming so there are still things like, say, a viable food supply. Stop what can help deal with the most important long range problem on the planet. Sounds just like another Texas oilman.

Randy called back promptly: call the sheriff on the non-emergency line and inform them there had been a death in the home during the night. When I did, the dispatcher and I discussed whether the First Responders needed to be sent out as procedure dictated. I told her that he'd been dead for hours (doesn't matter) and that the last time they had been out they'd gotten a copy of his DNR orders. It sounded like she found a record of them, once she verified his middle name. She wound up, I found out minutes later, sending a single deputy, followed shortly by the coroner.

While I'd waited for someone to arrive, I woke Richard, informed him that the house would soon be filling with people and why, and that I needed him so I could go take my shower. (I was scheduled for my allergy shots that morning, and wasn't going to miss them. I had, however, called work and informed them I'd not be in.) Rich has his morning routine also, which includes dressing warmly enough to step outside onto the screen porch for him morning cigarette. Just after he stepped out, the deputy arrived, and verified the situation. While waiting for (a) Richard, and (b) the coroner, I chatted with him about some of my dad's WWII history, and about the mounted Walleye on the wall (Steve's - fiance, not brother). I hadn't thought he was quite that young, but every so often he'd react to what I was saying with "Awesome!"

By the time I was showered and dressed, the coroner had arrived, and Rich had moved my car out of the driveway so I wouldn't be blocked in. I answered a few basic questions, like the last time I knew he was alive, and the long list of what was wrong with his health. I referred him to Randy if he had any other questions about his health or care. I was informed that he'd be sending the funeral home a death certificate and instructions to pick up the body, and he was given their information. He stated he'd be taking away Daddy's medications, which relieved me of the job of finding a safe and proper disposal for them. I headed out the house as he was starting his examination of the body.

I still haven't remembered to ask Richard what he determined.

While on the road, I called my brother. I'd been keeping in close touch with him these last few days, and he figured why I was calling that early before he answered the phone. I told him I'd keep him posted as the day went by, and during one of several phone calls that day we temporarily settled on next weekend for the funeral. My Aunt Nina's in that Saturday, and I thought we could catch some of that side of the family in town the same weekend, as well as let Steve's family come down on just one trip. Steve agreed to make that call, since we knew the family would gather for her burial this weekend out near Wilmar. Burial first, then service. Interesting choice, but it depends on the family situation and who's out of town/the country and when.

I also called Steph, and she offered to inform Jordan, my granddaughter, her niece, and for them to be her transportation for the funeral. Paul got voicemail on his cell, since you can't reach him at work. His cell is off and in his coat, but he's reliable about checking it once he leaves work. I wasn't sure whether, leaving earlier than I do, he'd just done everything quietly and in the dark and just hadn't noticed that his grandfather wasn't just sleeping, or he had noticed and decided to let me sleep. (It was the former.)

Then, finally, minutes to stop doing and just start feeling. When I had thought about it, I figured that I'd feel an immense relief that Daddy was finally gone, all that extra work and scheduling and arranging finally done with, getting my space back for my stuff and room for Steve's as he moves in. None of that had happened yet. What's there instead is the tremendous sadness that he's gone, that his final weeks were so difficult. Somehow, with all the long dying process, I hadn't expected that much sadness.

Arriving back in town from my shots, I saw the hearse turning the corner of our street heading toward me. Rolling down my window, I flagged them, confirmed that they had the body, and they'd left paperwork and a phone number to arrange my coming in to deal with the details.

Details, details, details. First I called the funeral home and got a 1:30 appointment. I confirmed cremation, gave them his social security number, DOB, Mom's name so they could get his information from her file, etc.

Then tackle the stack of paperwork on the table. I knew the funeral parlor would notify Social Security, and they in turn would notify Medicare. He also had Blue Cross ( "Medigap"), so I dug out a phone number and called them to cancel his insurance. No, I don't have his account number. I got forwarded quickly to a person.

Apria furnished his oxygen equipment, so they were called. They'd be out Monday, likely in the afternoon, since we're so far away. We varified the list of what would be returned: concentrator, 2 portable tanks with a carry bag and their filler, large tank on a stand. I took a few minutes and picked up all the used tubing around the house, coiled it up into small rolls, and put it in the trash. It's not reusable. Then Anodyne, who supplied the wheelchair, a cushion for it that we never opened, and his hospital bed. It takes Medicare 13 months to pay enough rental on that for it to be paid for and become property of the user. He'd only had them 12 and 11 months, so they'd be picked up Monday around 10:00. Something else we didn't have to worry about getting rid of.

He had a pension of $18.39 a month from a job he held before WWII. It was supposed to be wonderful, back in the day when it was earned. Now it was just a blip in his financial picture. But they had to be contacted. Our problem was years ago when he changed bank accounts that nobody had any information on who it came from or how to contact them. Not even the bank could trace back to its source for us. It eventually got straightened out, and I now recognized the letterhead when the annual mailing arrived and kept it for future need. They were the first, and so far only, contact that informed me they'd need a death certificate, although it could be faxed or scanned and emailed to them.

I still had time to kill, and Rich was back sleeping, since I'd awakened him so early. There were things to clear out of the bathroom. The remaining single use catheters could go back to the store which provided them: I'd checked on one of my visits. There was a full box and a half, and while that box was opened, the contents were individually sealed. Add it to the list of errands while I was down in the cities for funeral arrangements. Some stuff went in the trash, some in the bathroom linen closet, some in the stack to donate to Randy's team. They had brought bunches of stuff over for him, and we could sent the remainder back as well as other things that other clients on tight budgets could use. His raised toilet seat could finally!!! be gotten rid of instead of kicking around the bathroom as we either put it on the toilet for his use or took it off for ours. The plastic parts were trash and the aluminum recyclable. His bed was stripped and those and other linens stacked for laundering, folding and storing. I'd need more storage containers, something to put on the shopping list - just not this day. His clothing and other personal items needed to get sorted and donated too, again just not today.

One errand definitely for today was his walker. I cut the strings holding his bag on it, emptied that out, tossed most of the contents. The walker got folded and put in the back of the car alongside the catheter boxes. Mom had gotten one on "six month loan" from Goodwill years ago. It was way past time to return it. Since I was the one who'd picked it up originally as she by then had difficulty driving to places she didn't know, I knew all the details.

I also grabbed a bag of nuts to take on the trip, along with my ice water jug. I'd need to eat and didn't feel like fixing anything or trying to maintain my diabetic diet at fast food joints on this day. These had been prepackaged weeks ago for brown bagging during a phase when I wanted something different than cottage cheese and apples. Apples, apples, apples! Easy to get sick of them when there's an abundance of "free" fruit. I also got Mom's urn down, and took their 60th anniversary picture from its frame so there'd be a picture to go with the obituary.

Oh yeah, add "his" checkbook to the stack. There would be bills to pay. Since I've been managing his finances since Mom died, and my name is on the account, no problems with needing to close it out or being unable to write checks. First, however, I sat and balanced it (roughly) through current checks, adding in estimates of outstanding bills, so I would know whether there would be enough in it to pay for the funeral. The good news was there should be, as long as this one cost something similar to Mom's. And a couple grand plus besides.

Finally time to wake Rich, bring him up to speed, and head out.

I was, of course, on the cell phone most of the time while driving. There were calls to make, people to update, incoming calls. (By Friday evening I got suspicious when my new cell battery ran out, and checked my usage. Oops, ran over my 1500 minutes for the month with a week left to go. Haven't done that for ages, not since... well, Mom's death, actually.)

The funeral parlor visit took over an hour and a half. There were calls to some central location out of state (I was told where, spaced it) to arrange his burial at Fort Snelling. In the process I learned that they are not open weekends, but would be open this Saturday since Friday is Veterans Day when they close, and they are legally prohibited from being closed three days in a row. You can't keep some bodies out of the ground that long. They also close at 2:30 each day, and with burials being strictly limited to 15 minutes each, you have to schedule by 2:15, or 2:00 if you want full military honors. We did. We would be adding Mom's urn at the same time, so they needed information on her as well, including her death certificate.

They found us a time slot of 12:45 on Friday the 18th. If we started the service at 10:00 that morning, asked the minister to keep it short, held the luncheon immediately after, say 11:00, and were lined up in our flagged vehicles promptly at noon, we should make the drive in 45 minutes and be in aisle 5 right on the dot. Late? Tough. It's November, so dress warm.

I had to sign papers affirming that he had implants, such as a pacemaker. It seems they might explode during cremation. Not a good thing. There were also clauses I needed to initial acknowledging that his body would be irreparably damaged during the process, that they couldn't guarantee every single speck of his ashes got included, and we'd likely get some specks from others, etc.. Duh!

The obituary had to be written, placed in three papers, and paid for that day. They took a check and gave the papers the routing number. There was a later call to my voicemail giving me the final price of each. At the end, I wrote a check for the final costs of the funeral, minus luncheon. The checkbook will have to come back next Friday.

There were the funeral folders to select, both picture and verse. The picture I chose was of a deer standing in the green woods. He loved hunting. The verse you'll have to read for yourself, if you attend. It talks about finding him now in the trees, the wind, the rain, but not in the old body. It says it much better than that, of course. There were a whole lot of schmaltzy or overwhelmingly religious choices, but I went for this one. Since he spent so much time in the outdoors, it seemed to fit.

There was also music, flowers (same bouquets as for Mom, only $8 more now), food (chicken stroganoff and two salads, brownies and cookies, coffee and punch). I need to bring one piece of music on CD, and we are encouraged to bring pictures. An easel will be provided. Irritatingly, there were repeated spelling corrections that needed to be made to his name. Over the phone she'd taken down "Dufty", kept missing the f for an s. That wasn't the mistake. The bar on the "t" was so short after finally putting the "f" on there that the "t" kept being read as an "l". Dufly. Nope, doesn't fly.

When I finally left well after 3:00, it was time to drive! First stop was Goodwill, since they closed earliest, at 4:00. That was in the Midway area, dodging the Central Corridor Light Rail construction on University that closed off the connection to Fairview. Work took me there last week, so I knew how to go. Made it with 4 minutes to spare. Then up to Fridley to the medical supply place near Unity Hospital. Made that. Finally a personal errand: I'd located a JoAnn store in Maple Grove the other day, after thinking they'd closed for good. I wanted to hit them for wedding trims, and wound up with headpiece fripperies, notably the feathers I had been looking for.

On the way home I hit a KFC for hot wings. One near work has a Thursday special on them, and 10 wings fit in to my carb limits. By the time I arrived home, I decided top put off the duty of calling relatives for another day. After all, we had a week to the funeral, and three days until the obit came out. I could veg out in front of the TV and get ready to go to work the next day. I must have been more tired than I realized, since I fell asleep in front of the TV by 9:30.

I made up for it by waking an hour early and starting this post. Even then I was on the road 45 minutes earlier than I have been since Daddy moved in. Maybe the relief part is starting after all.


John Dufty Maxson, age 97, WWII vet, died peacefully in his Shafer home on the morning of 11/10/11. He was preceded in death by his wife of 67 years, Gladys Muriel Brogren Maxson. He is survived by his son Stephen John Maxson and wife George-Ann, his daughter Heather Maxson Rosa, five grandchildren and one great granddaughter. Services will be held at Holcomb Henry Boom Purcell, 515 W. Hwy. 96 in Shoreview on Friday, November 18th, at 10:00 AM, visitation at 9:AM, followed by a brief luncheon. His remains will be buried alongside his wife's at 12:45 at Fort Snelling National Cemetary, with full military honors.

This says a bit more than appears in the newspapers, where you pay by how much content you put in. But just like those, it says nothing about who he was.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Not Much Longer

I sat and held my dad's hand for a while tonight. It was cold as ice, though for the last few days this normally heat-loving guy has fought his blankets away. I pulled them up again while holding his hand, and he didn't fight, me or the blankets. He was pretty unresponsive in all respects. I expect they'll be pushed to arm's limit away again by the time I finish this.

It's hard to get any water into him now. He doesn't get fully alert, and swallowing anything under those conditions is risking choking. There's barely enough lung left to enable him to cough something out. Yesterday was the last day he got any food in. We had him drinking juice for a while to get him some nutrition, more than the two bites of food a day he'd been taking. We had been able to get him awake enough to say he was hungry or thirsty, but if the food or drink wasn't there immediately, he'd be asleep again before it arrived. If it was ready, he'd fall asleep after a couple swallows. With his current low alertness level, anything we offer is just water. Aspirating juice would be worse.

Breathing is the one thing he's still doing well. It's rapid and shallow, but strong and regular. He was good at moving his face away from the nebulizer this morning - even when we hold it for him he still hates it - but I just move it so he's still inhaling the mist regardless. Yesterday he pulled my hand away from his mouth with both of his, and I just plucked the nebulizer away with my free hand and held it in place while he was holding my other hand in his lap. This morning he closed his lips so I held it under his nose.

I'd been noticing how the flesh on his face has sagged, so that there's now a fold of skin over the front of his ears. This morning I was struck by how sunken his eyes have become. I'd heard the phrase, but this is the first time I saw what it meant. The eye is actually in the same place but everything around it but bone has wasted away, leaving a dark sunken ring around the eye. It's slightly cracked open, just enough that you can't say it's fully closed. He doesn't track light or sound with his eyes any more, however, so I suspect it's just lack of muscle tone that it isn't completely closed.

Sunday was his last active day. He kept asking for water every ten minutes or so, or if vocabulary failed him, just call out, "help". His voice was hoarse and raspy, as though he'd been using it for hours, when he'd been mostly quiet for days. By yesterday he was just making sounds, and we'd have to ask and guess what he wanted. Today I haven't heard anything from him at all, even when talking to him. They say hearing is the last thing to go, so I did talk to him for a while. I told him we all loved him, that he'd had a good long life, and when he decided it was time to go and join Mom, it was OK. I remember saying the same thing to Mom minutes before she died, telling her we'd take care of Daddy for her, and it was OK to go. I don't know if either of them heard me, but I felt better for having said it.

Yesterday was unsettling. I had another medication run to a nursing home at the end of my work day. I was feeling pretty nostalgic already, having driven through woody countryside in the dark - hyper-alert for deer, 'tis the season - and smelled somebody's wood and leaf smoke, a particular combination remembered from my childhood. It struck me how seldom we'd had our own bonfires this year with Daddy unable to go out with us and enjoy them, and by extension of that line of thought, how little of anything I'd actually done this year. I hadn't let myself notice or miss them, though I've fought with cabin fever on occasion, but now I was feeling it fully.

Walking into the nursing home, I had a few minutes to wait for the authorized nurse to sign for the meds, and noticed the residents. They were walking with an assistant, or watching TV, or holding a card game. It struck me how different it all looked this time. Most times I'd walk in to one and think to myself how much better Daddy was than any of the people I saw. Last night I realized how much better every single one of them looked than Daddy. For a moment I even had the ridiculous thought that he was to sick to be in a facility like this! It was a complete shock to realize how starkly my perceptions had swapped positions.

It's one thing to tell yourself he's in the process of dying. After all, he's been in "hospice" status for 11 months now. It's different when your gut slaps you with the realization that it's imminent.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

First Progress

The initial beading is done. I'm referring to the forehead band of the headpiece.

The first strand was easy. I did a pattern, after starting and ending with two pinch beads, of three pearls - small, large,small - three pinch beads, three pearls, and on, until the right length was reached. I want it to extend to just past my ears. Both ends were finished off with the thread protector looped on a jump ring that's a closed double spiral. Picture a key ring where you split it and feed the key around the circle until it's no longer between two pieces of the ring. They make jump rings like that. It's safer than the cut ones which bend apart and back with two needlenose pliers, might not close perfectly and some day might gap, and bye-bye strand of whatever you were wearing. When you connect to this kind of jump ring while in the process of threading everything through and before crimping, your connection is stable and safe.

The first strand was the center strand, and meant to run straight through the center of the other two, which were to wind around it. They needed to be longer, so I cut my soft-flex about 12" longer to give plenty of working room. Yes, it meant some was wasted, but it also meant I could start with all strands secured in place around the same jump ring.

I spent about an hour, subtracting extra time for interruptions, duplicating the first strand's bead pattern, then tried winding both strands around the first. There was just no way they didn't squirm out of the pattern and start winding at irregular intervals around whatever. So, five minutes to unbead, meaning now the beads were all mixed up and I had to look for the right next bead rather than just dip into the cup each kind was in.

The only cure for the winding around all over the place was to make loops with "x"s, by stringing both strings at the same time and at intervals putting both pieces of soft flex through the same bead. The same color pattern wouldn't work, so after again starting with two pinch beads, I did four pearls, 5 pinch beads, four pearls, and on. The pearls were small, large, large, small, and the central of the five pinch beads was the one double-strung. I now had loops, and the straight center string could weave back and forward through each loop. I thought I could make the loops extra long and have wide loops, but what I got instead was droopy loops hanging off a straight top string.


After removing about 5" of looped beads, the lengths matched once the straight string was woven through. I knew it was too late to think straight about the final finish, so let it sit overnight. This morning I figured out that if I taped each loop with masking tape down on the kitchen table so nothing twisted, I could keep it all straight for the finishing linking through the jump ring. The looped strands ends needed to be on opposites sides of the center strand, with the back end of the ring clear for the elastic to go through. As long as I did it right, and thereafter kept the elastic straight, the bead pattern would also be straight. A bit of a touch here and there in the mirror to even out the loops just before heading down the aisle will be all it then needs.

Of course I still need to add the ruffles and a side centerpiece, but not today. Today I remove more stuff from the bedroom Steve is moving into. The good news is it looks very rich as it is. I'm not adding roses onto the beads. They'd just mess it up. The rest of the beads are in a ziploc awaiting further use.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Spool of Tulle

A spool of tulle, freshwater pearls, fabric roses, feathers, glitter, pinch beads....

I've been shopping. Wedding stuff. This is just the stuff for making the headpiece. Add a tiny wicker basket, spray paint, some ribbon, and some more of the above, and it's stuff for the flower girl's basket as well.

Just because it was there and I've been in the mood for wedding shopping, add a garter, a ring-bearer's pillow, napkins, plates, cups and plastic silverware, all in the wedding colors as well. Or close anyway. Items for the table settings will be in white instead of ivory, and red and pink instead of fuschia, colors easier to get for a Valentine's Day wedding than fuschia. At any rate, that much is done. Now I get to get "crafty".

The wicker basket was originally shades of brown and held a Christmas centerpiece. It's now ivory and stinky. So are the tips of my shoes, areas around my fingernails, spots on the backs of my fingers, and large collections of spots on the driveway and in assorted leaves. I was in a hurry for the first paint spraying and didn't go for the rubber gloves although I did remember to remove my glasses first. (Bad experience years ago on another windy day.) The paint remover does a half-assed job. Good thing I started early, eh? Gives the stuff time to wear off.

The basket will get lined with ivory tulle which will extend out over the lip of the basket and down on the right side a bit, held in place with glue, and with stitches which will also hold the fuschia ribbon in place along with fabric roses in fuschia and ivory. The ribbon is 3/8" with two outer bands in satin and a center band in tulle, or a good imitation. There'll be a bow at each handle. If I think it's justified I'll add glitter.

The headpiece steals a lot of ideas from the pictures my friend Joan sent me of her wedding headpiece, which she also made herself. There will be a forehead band of beads in three interwoven strands, in some pattern of freshwater pearls and pinch beads. I'll explain the pinch beads, figuring that since last night was the first I ever heard of them, this may also be your first time. (Hey, I can't always be the last to know everything, right?) They are glass, 4mm in size, smoothly rounded with a cross section like a triangle with a hole in it. The name comes from looking like they were pinched while being made. In color these vary from mostly clear to bits of fuschia, with the surface being irridescent. The latter helps them blend in with the pearls. The coloring is subtle, which is perfect.

I started looking for colored pearls, but nothing was the right tone and they were too big. I toyed with the idea of crystals, but while the colors were OK, the thought of their corners digging into my head all night put me off. After searching on my own unsuccessfully, I finally popped in at Jeff's last night, better known as the Taylor's Falls bead store, Non-Necessities. They've always been good at directing me to what I want, even when I'm not sure what that is. It's a few doors north of the light on 95, should you want to pop in yourself. You can usually find a curbside parking spot in front.

Back to the headpiece, I haven't decided whether to give the front more of a garland look by adding some of those fuschia roses or not. They're only about a half inch across. I'll see later, looking at it both ways. It'll be held in place, relatively parallel to the floor around my head, by elastic, upon which two layers of that same ivory tulle are gathered into ruffles, It's 10" wide tulle, and the layers will be offset just a bit and gathered from the middle so it will look like four ruffles, shortest on top with each layer a tad longer, varying between 4 and 6 inches. The edging will have glitter added, some combination of iridescent clear/white and light and dark fuschia. I have glitter, glue, and glitter glue. I'll experiment on some of the extra (10 yards total) tulle to see what works. I bought it all while I was shopping so I don't have to run out and risk not finding what I want if the first attempt doesn't look right. Where the middle of the tulle is attached to the elastic I'll be adding fuschia roses. Some of the color will show through.

It needs something of a side centerpiece, just one side. Poofy. For that I have feathers, a few larger fabric flowers, and whatever is leftover in beads to work with, possibly strung on wire this time. Not sure what that's going to look like, but we'll figure something out. So far all those centerpiece things are mostly ivory, so maybe the fuschia glitter will make another appearance. Or an appearance from fuschia roses. I bought lots. Whatever is left will get added to the trim on the ivory vest, tying it more into the color scheme.

And I still have to start the silk tunic.

Hmmm, good thing I'm starting now, eh?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Challenge

My friend Joan sent me another picture along with a challenge. She'd read my posting on the bats cartoon and wondered if I could paint a word picture of this one as well. I have to say, however, that while this picture may not require a thousand words, the picture is definitely better than them.

The text mimics a MasterCard ad:

This is the new Miss Kentucky.
The picture that will stay with her for the rest of her life:

Make-up and hair style ................... $500
New dress for the show ...................$700
Giant stuffed bear .........................$300

(Insert picture:

It shows our beauty queen on stage, spotlights in the background, holding a giant stuffed bear which is clad only in a purple t-shirt. Her top arm is behind the bear, out of sight, gripping it firmly, one presumes. The other one supports it from beneath, between its legs. The microphone also in her hand is, unfortunately, undeniably phallic as well as cordless. The camera angle is ... strategic. The mike appears to be part of the bear and a convenient handle to grip him with.)

Not knowing how to hold the bear with a microphone in her hand .....

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Passing Along the Joke

I received this as a picture email from my friend Joan. Don't know where she got it, but I have to assume it's being passed around on the internet. I do words better than pictures - takes me less time for one thing - so I'll summarize/paraphrase, with apologies if there are any copyrights being violated out there.

Two elderly, wrinkled bats are handing upside down on a branch, wings folded around their bodies. The first one asks, "Do you know what I hate most about growing old?"

"No, what?"