Tag Archives: Mom

Patty

I had an idea earlier today for a post and time this afternoon to write it, but meanwhile the news came of my cousin Patty’s death. I call her Patty but for most people she’s been Patricia for many years now. I can’ t help it. We were closest when we were kids and she was still called Patty by everyone. By the time she was an adult named Patricia we didn’t see each other very often.

She wasn’t much for traveling. She came out to California once that I can remember. I went through Denver every few years but never as a destination. Unlike many of us, she never lost her staunch Catholic faith. She was active in her church and in her retirement I believe she attended Mass daily.

Still, after many years of declining health, when the news came last week that she would not live much longer, we also were told that she feared death.

I talked to Mom about it last night. (Mom is my chief conduit to the Denver relatives.) I saw parallels between Dad’s final days and Patty’s. Patty was 20 years younger but the long decline was similar as were the mixed feelings I had when death was clearly imminent. Do we wish for a return to health? Of course, but often, as in these cases, we know it’s not going to happen. Mom was pretty tough about it. She said the best thing was for Patty to die. Her ‘life’ was just pain and agony now.

There had been some discussion a few weeks ago of her going back to Patty’s funeral. We don’t know when that will be but Mom already decided she will not be going. She had already made plans to go to Denver in June to put Dad’s ashes in the ground there. She will pay respects at Patty’s grave then.

I believe Patty is in heaven. She led a good life.

Dad’s hangers

I guess it was about a month ago that Mom invited me back to her and Dad’s bedroom to pick out what shirts I wanted from his closet. We wore the same size.

They’ve been coming up in the rotation for the last week or so and I noticed that the hangers they were on were built like tanks. Nowadays if you take your clothes to the cleaners, they come back on wire hangers inside their plastic bags. It wasn’t until I felt Dad’s hangers that I realized how much these simple little things have changed.

No picture, because they look exactly the same. Well, not exactly, because Dad’s old hangers have some kind of black coating on them. The newer ones are a brass metal color and can be bent rather easily. Dad’s black ones weigh about 50% more and are much tougher.

Someone probably did a study and found that clothes hangers didn’t need to be so strong. Kind of like modern cars compared to cars from the ’50s and ’60s. My Corolla has dents that my old 1964 Valiant would laugh at.

At our house we are using mostly the new plastic hangers. I like how they give the shirts a little more area to sit on.I’m going to keep Dad’s real steel hangers, though. Like the shirts themselves, they are a reminder of him.

‘Christopher’

A year ago when Sepi and I were new to each other, she told me she already had a friend named Chris so I couldn’t be Chris to her. This other Chris was a woman so she was actually Christine, but no one called her by that name.

After a little discussion, it was determined that Christopher was a good name and I would have to be referred to that way. It was a little weird because I have always gone by Chris as well.

Sepi stuck to it. She calls me Christopher all the time, not just when we’re around Chris or talking about her. She does it in a loving way which is nice. I suspect most people who have nicknames think, as I did, that the only time they hear their original names is when they were younger and their mother was mad at them.

Now I’ve noticed recently that I have been introducing myself to people as Christopher not Chris. I like the sound of it! It’s a bit clunky for all the time use, though. Actually, I like that Sepi is still about the only one to use it regularly. Even the other Chris calls me Chris most of the time. We get a chuckle out of it. If someone were to call ‘Christopher’ across a room I was in, my first reaction would be to expect my mother to be that person and that I had done something wrong.

I guess I’ve been good lately, because Mom’s been calling me Chris.

24

My mother was about two weeks short of her 24th birthday on the day I was born. My father was about a month from his 25th. Whenever I’ve compared my age to theirs, it’s always been 24 years that I’ve used.

Now Dad is dead. The age comparison, facile as it is, surfaces again. What will my next 24 years be like? I made a bucket list once but I don’t remember where it got to. Should I do another one?

Mom is in relatively good heath. It seems likely that she will survive beyond the next year. What then for my facile comparisons?

I have the daytime off today but must go to work in a couple of hours. I had some ideas this morning of what I could do today but almost none of them have gotten done. I see parallels.

Sepi and I have been talking about taking a trip to Colorado to see Abe and May. I only met them at the wedding and thought they were very nice people. I would like to get to know them better.

It’s possible Mom may come with us and we would all go up to Denver to inter Dad’s ashes there. Sepi and I want to go visit Jeremy and Ashley at their new house. That might be a separate trip or it could be a big circle. The big circle implies two weeks on the road. Do any other sibs want to be in Denver for the interment? When can they get away? Does Mom want to go with us to Washington? Do Jeremy and Ashley want to have such a mob?

All last fall, Sepi and I talked about a honeymoon to Europe in the spring. That would be a minimum two weeks but a month would be better. When can we actually do that? Can we really afford it?

At a certain point, this is all rationalization. Seize the day!

Yes, but in reality we aren’t going anywhere for at least a couple of months. Work tonight, then a couple of days off. Band Monday, dentist Tuesday. The drumbeat of life goes on.

Work this week has been preparing for SoundBox. We opened last night. It was a fairly easy show for sound so I had plenty of time to think about what I was doing there. There are some reasons to give it up but there probably wouldn’t be backsies if I did. It can be freaking awesome. Denise floated an idea the other day that would change my role yet still keep me involved. I’m not sure if, a) I want to do it, b) the symphony would go along, or c) it would work even if the first two conditions were met.

Things to think about.

perfect is the enemy of the good

I’ve been busy lately, but the truth of the matter is that I just haven’t sat down to write posts much over the last few months. I realized this morning that I’ve been waiting for that perfect moment when I can clear my head and concentrate on writing something worthwhile.

I want to give my readers – few though they may be – value for their time. With very few exceptions, I am proud of the writing that I’ve put into this blog over the past 2 1/2 years. It may be that by writing in less than ideal circumstances I may not write up to as high a standard.

So, this is a try.

Dad is gone. Mom is alone in her – their – house. Sepi and I are going down today. There are some more insurance papers to work through but mostly it is just to hang. She is busy, she says, but the nights are the hardest. Last week I went down by myself and ended up staying to about 9 pm. At the point of leaving, the fact of her alone-ness at night in that big house hit me. I almost offered to stay, but I realized that she had already been alone for several nights since Dad’s death and it was a fact that wasn’t going to change.

It’s Presidents’ Day so no band tonight. SoundBox starts tomorrow. Life continues.

time and sadness

It’s been ten days since Dad died. Many people have expressed their condolences to me. No doubt many more have done so to Mom and my siblings.

Yet we’re all pretty dry eyed and matter of fact about it – at least in my company. We Wood’s are famously even tempered but this is our father, for god’s sake!

So I’ve been thinking about why. ‘He had a good life.’ ‘He was ready.’ ‘He had been in a long decline and wasn’t really who he had been for a long time.’

That last is kind of my best answer. He really died a long time ago. The weird part is that it wasn’t a clearly defined event like last week. The breathing stops, the heart stops – he’s dead.

But that begs the question of who ‘he’ is. Preparing for the funeral, Tom created a slideshow for people to watch. We started with 20 or 30 pictures but it quickly grew to nearly 100. That was Tuesday. As of yesterday, it was up to nearer 150. We’ll probably keep working on it right up to when we have to leave for the church Monday.

What was interesting to me was that the exercise brought back into my mind the man who raised me – without doubt the most influential man in my life. Over the last four years that man has slowly slipped away.

I can’t help but contrast Dad’s death with the death of Zach. Two people who were as close to me as anyone could be and yet my reactions couldn’t have been more different. The circumstances were vastly different, of course, so that must be why.

The time that has passed since Zach’s death has muted my feelings. Life goes on. I still get angry about the actions of the two drivers and will approach the DA once more about reopening the case. But the overwhelming sadness that I felt for months afterwards hasn’t shown up for Dad.

The funeral is Monday. We’ll see how that goes.

Dad’s passage

Dad died yesterday morning. He hadn’t eaten nor taken water for several days so it was not unexpected. At some level, we are all relieved. The phrase I used on FaceBook was ‘His torment is over.’

‘Torment’ might be a bit overstated. He never complained of pain, although in truth his ability to communicate was pretty much entirely gone. He would sometimes react to our attempts to move him by making a grunt of pain. Towards the end of last week he was not sleeping well and twitching a lot.

‘Torment’ could also be applied to Mom’s experience. It was bad enough to be losing her husband of nearly 66 years but her home was being invaded by not only her children but her children’s spouses, hospice nurses and technicians and other helpers and visitors. She will have to endure that for a while longer – ten of us were there yesterday – but hopefully she will be able to sleep better. We’re back to the dilemma we had with Dad: how do we respect their independence yet give them help when needed? This is especially difficult when they say they don’t want the help.

So, we muddle through as always. We do it for love, which helps.

Mom called me at about 5 with the news. The phone ringing woke me from a deep sleep and my original reaction was irritation. I had been getting a lot of sales calls lately so that was my first thought. When I saw ‘Mom’ on the phone, though, I knew what it was about.

We got down to Santa Clara about 7. Tom and Mary Lou had been staying over so they had been with Mom. The hospice nurse had come over right away and done some minimal clean up. He was lying in the bed as he had been but he was still. His mouth had a slight smile, we all thought.

Teresa and Jane got there a little later. Teresa wanted to clean him more thoroughly so she did that. Mom and Dad had made arrangements long ago with Trident for cremation and they were coming at ten so we all took some time before that for reflection and community.

The Trident people were respectful but professional. They were in and out of the house in less than ten minutes. We were left with memories only.

So the rest of the day was about memories. Mary got there about 1. Julian and Lisa came. Sarah came. We all sat around and ate and reminisced. We talked about funeral arrangements and other quotidian things. There were some tears but a lot of laughter.

Dad

The other news this new year is about Dad. The week before Thanksgiving he was out with Mom and tried to get out of the car on his own and fell. Mom had gone into the store with the understanding – her understanding – that Dad would wait for her.

It was a perfect example of how we are all living in the past to some extent with Dad. He thought – as near as we could later find out – that he was to go in as well. He got out of the car and promptly fell. A passer by saw him and called 911. His injuries were not severe but in the course of examination at the ER, a chest X-ray was taken revealing a golf ball sized ‘mass’ in his lung.

Normally a biopsy would be conducted to verify what this ‘mass’ was but neither Dad nor any other member of the family was in favor of it. It would be very stressful and the likelihood was that it would in fact be cancerous. That begged the question of what would be the next step. Surgery, radiation, or chemo? No, the consensus was to let it go.

At the same time, the doctors said there were some ‘abnormalities’ in his blood work. My own view of the progression of information was a bit skewed as I was busy working during those first days but about a week later I asked Mom what she had been told.

Leukemia.

The doctors recommended we begin hospice care. It took a while for me to figure out what this exactly means. Evidently, this implies that life expectancy is 6 months. Kaiser brought a hospital bed and some medicines and supplies to the house but the extra care Mom needed was not part of the deal. She had to call providers and set up a schedule.

Of course all of the children were involved in all of this. My own help was minimal but all of my siblings made major contributions to the changes. Teresa, Mary and Tim are in the medical field in various ways and were able to understand what the doctors were saying. We all came to the house and filled in the cracks of care.

Mom has gone from having help 4 hours a day 3 days a week to 12 hours a day 5 days a week. Only a small part of the cost is covered by insurance. To save money, we sibs have promised to cover the weekends.

Dad’s only indication that he is in pain is when he is being moved out of the bed. He doesn’t say anything but we notice the strain in his face. As far as I know the only medication he is taking is a stool softener. He still uses the walker to get down the hall to the living room. He likes to watch football on TV. He eats meals in the dining room. He listens to the conversation around him and occasionally tries to say something but he cannot construct sentences any more.

Mom had his favorite priest come and say Mass for him. He also got the Sacrament of the Sick. I believe this is the same as what we used to call Extreme Unction, or Last Rites. Mary actually got him out to Church on Christmas Eve which he enjoyed.

As for the future, death awaits us all. Dad is likely closer than the rest of us. We are doing our best to make his remaining days as comfortable as possible.

numbers

This past week I was going to write a post on numbers: 3, for years since Zach died. 53, for speed of the truck that killed him. I still want to write to the DA and try to get the case reopened. Every time I stand on a sidewalk and watch traffic speeding by I think of how fast they are going. Sometimes I estimate they are going about 50 and I think how it would feel to be slammed against their windshield.

53 is pretty fucking fast for a city street and it’s no wonder Zach was killed instantly. When I went back to Baton Rouge last January, very few cars were going that fast along that little stretch. I think both drivers were driving recklessly and should be cited appropriately.

But I haven’t written that yet. Sepi reminded me that I had told her last summer I was going to let it go. I don’t remember that. I just remember that i want to try one more time.

Meanwhile, Dad was out last Wednesday with Mom and fell when she wasn’t looking. 911 was called and they spent the afternoon in the ER. Blood tests and X-rays showed no serious damage to his bones but revealed a mass in his lung. The doctor say she’s 99% sure it is cancer. Te be sure involves a biopsy and the consensus is to not do that.

Coincidentally, Tim came to visit Thursday so we were able to get 4 of the 6 of us in the same room as Mom and Dad to discuss what to do. Dad didn’t say much of anything. We’re not sure how much he understands but he really doesn’t want to spend another afternoon like Wednesday.

The doctor talked of hospice which evidently can be triggered by a six month time frame. Now we’re all coming to terms with the likelihood that, instead of wasting slowly away from Alzheimers, Dad will be dead much sooner.

Everyone was pretty calm Friday when were all discussing this but I feel sure that we are all in some kind of denial.

We will all gather again on Thanksgiving. We will rejoice in what we have and what we have had.

at Mom and Dad’s

I came down here yesterday because Mom had an issue with vertigo and was going to the doctor. I had the day off and didn’t want her to drive if it could be avoided.

The doctor said basically that there was nothing to be done about the vertigo except rest. Mom had taken some expired medicine she had for sea sickness and thought it had helped but the doc said no, don’t do that.

Anyway, she’s better now. She has an appointment with her dentist this morning to put a permanent crown on so I decided to stay and drive her there as well. Her original plan was to drive up to Jane’s tonight for a Pampered Chef party which worried me. Last night, though, she decided she was not going to go so I feel better.

The weather was warm yesterday, in the 80s, and it reminded me of the air conditioning battle I had waged and lost six months ago. It’s a little after 7 now and I’ve been up for about an hour. It’s beautiful outside but it promises to be warm again today. Mom and Dad close their house up tight every night religiously so this morning the first thing I did was go around and open up some windows and doors. (I had the window wide open in my bedroom.) The temperature in the house has gone from 73 down to 71 in that time. All the fans that were running last night were shut off during the night.

When I lived in Grass Valley, we would set the fans in the wide open windows running full blast at night. The house would be almost too cool in the mornings but we would button everything up by 8 or so including keeping the drapes closed and the house would stay at a reasonable temperature most of the day. I know Mom and Dad want their house to be secure but comfort is a thing too. I am going to try to convince them that there are not burglars going through the neighborhood every night looking for open windows.

Mom did say last night that she will be proactive about going to the library or the movies (for air conditioning) if it gets really hot. I’ve been in my coastal cocoon lately so it was good to get a reminder that it’s summer time in Santa Clara. I’ll watch the weather more carefully.

Jane is finished with school as of tomorrow so she’ll be able to come down more easily for a while.