Left: a 7 x 7 inch (approx.) sketch on Gutenberg paper, stuck in my last journal. It was easier to sketch on loose scraps than to whip out the journal in the emergency room. Staedtler Pigment Liner. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
I seem to have a pretty good track record on predicting when the other shoe will drop. On January 17 when I got ill I told myself it was going to fall in April. I was off by 7 days.
In March after being sick myself for over two months at the start of the year I was just recovering when Dick fell ill. I had been thinking that I shouldn't make too many plans because "something didn't feel right." And that was fed by the vague unease I always have over Dick's father CR caring for Phyllis—two 91 year-olds, frail and "frailer."
On Saturday March 23, I came home from the second outing with friends since my illness (there had been some emergency friend meetings before this but this was the first week in 2013 that I'd gone out with no constraints), to learn that CR was in the emergency room at North Memorial. Dick's sister in California had called the service we use for parttime nursing help for Phyllis and arranged for a full-time temporary caregiver to stay with Phyllis. (CR and Phyllis already lived in assisted living but the facility offered no nursing care and no fulltime companionship, which is what Phyl needs.)
I rushed over to the hospital where I stayed for most of the next 4 days until CR was released to a recovery unit. We don't know what caused his collapse (he couldn't walk for 2 days) but tests showed his carotid artery was 90 percent blocked. He opted for surgery in 10 days. That stretched to almost 2 weeks, or maybe it was three. Time doesn't have much meaning to me right now.
In the interim I moved CR's belongings from the assisted living apartment he was in with Phyllis into a new studio apartment connected with the care facility he was recovering in. (It's a really nice space at Iris Commons, and I can recommend the Minneapolis Two Men and a Truck who sent 3 young men and a truck to move stuff with less than 24 hours notice!)
Dick and his sister Lisa arranged for Phyllis to go into long-term nursing care in the same facility through a series of phone calls. I then turned around and moved her from the old assisted living apartment to a temporary room in the new facility. Lisa flew into town to be with her father for his surgery. She was able to help her mom move into her permanent nursing care room, which became available during Lisa's visit. Lisa also got movers to take the rest of their furniture (that won't be used) at their previous apartment back to their house, which will soon be sold.
Left: I turned my journal on its side to paint on the recto page of a spread in this 7 x 9 inch journal (so it's 9 inches wide by 7 inches tall here). CR's forehead got a bit elongated, but you get the general idea. Staedtler Pigment Liner. Magnani Annigoni Designo. While sitting bedside in the transitional care facility. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
The best news of all, CR had his operation on Friday and he's making a good recovery. There's some vascular damage that we knew would be permanent but he looks better already and he's working hard in physical therapy to get back to walking strongly. He won't be able to take care of Phyllis going forward, but he will be able to share meals and days with her, and be rested and enjoy the company of the new friends he's already met at the new facility.
I had a few moments to sit and think about everything this week. (We had another snow storm so running errands wasn't possible on Thursday, or rather it wasn't prudent so after an appointment of my own I stayed put.) There's a long recovery yet to happen, but I feel like we are all breathing again.
I'm a pretty stubborn person (if you've been a regular reader you've already noticed that). During this time I threw myself into my 2013 fake journal (because International Fake Journal Month is April). Sketching CR during our hospital time and rehab time kept the real Roz calm (actually in emergencies I'm so calm you might almost think I'm asleep, except that all sorts of shit gets done—I have really low blood pressure). Working on my IFJM fake journal in "character" while all this was going on pushed me right to the edge of insanity—which is exactly where I needed to be to stay sane.
Think about it the next time you're in a stressful situation. I'm writing about this today so you'll understand that all my pre-written blog posts are exhausted (I usually have two week's worth in the can). There won't be a lot of posts on this blog until after IFJM ends (because I'm using what little free time I have to post over there this month). But I'm also writing about these personal events to remind you not to forget that in times of stress you need to hang on to the things that center and ground you (and if that sounds new agey, well OK).
I also wanted to tell you the following: walk all the time, get lots of aerobic exercise, get your heart rate up, take care of your joints, work on your upper body strength, do balance enhancing exercises, eat right, don't smoke, drink plenty of water, plan how you want to spend your extreme old age, and act in your current life like you really want to get there.
And surround yourself with friends who can make you laugh and don't offer up banal little platitudes. People who don't mind literally pitching in and wiping someone else's ass.
Shit is going to get really messy, a lot sooner than you thought.