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NURSING HOMES…AND PARENTS


MY 94-year old father was released from hospice care today because he’s just doing too well to qualify for that designation. His life in the nursing home will continue as usual, only now there’s no extra nurse, aide or social worker checking in. I get it and I’m actually rather hopeful that the doctor is adhering to the rules of Medicare and the spirit behind those rules. Although nobody can predict how long my dad will actually live, they also can’t limit it to the 6 months required by the Feds. I’m hopeful because the news is filled with too many stories of Medicare and Medicaid fraud it worries me that the health care marketplace is fraught with tricks and loopholes to bleed money from the government and us taxpayers. It’s nice when I see the law adhered to.

So my father is off hospice but still stuck in the nursing home he hates. Now I’m talking about a gold star nursing home with amenities to match. Book clubs, sports groups, activities, musical concerts, religious services and beautiful grounds that he can see from his private, spacious room. He’s stuck because that’s how he sees it. He’s no longer able to walk to the parking lot, get in a car and drive home. And none of his kids will do it for him. He doesn’t participate in any of the activities other than services and the periodic entertainment.

He’s been there for more than a year and I really don’t think he hates it anymore. He’s adjusted, knows the people, enjoys some of the food and complies with the regimens. He’s clean, is well groomed, has gained weight and is the epitome of robustness for a 94-year old man who’s been disabled by a stroke 25 years ago. Left to his own devices, which he desperately yearns for, none of that would be true. It’s the rules and the regs that bother him the most. He feels like he’s in prison, and he’s right. He’s being held somewhere against his will and that’s the ultimate in lack of control, especially for a very controlling person who’s quite macho and has always been in charge.

He’s sad a lot and lonely and that makes us, his children, equally hurt for him. We can’t fix it. We’ve sent in a social worker and rabbi to see if they can help him adopt a different attitude. Sometimes it helps but only temporarily. We’ve explained how he requires the care of skilled people more regularly than he can receive at home. And how he’s actually less lonely than he was in his bedroom where he interacted with many fewer visitors and just his TV for entertainment.

My father thinks his daughters have betrayed him, that we’ve turned our backs on him now that he needs our help. That he financially and emotionally supported us as children and provided a comfortable livelihood so we could enjoy what we were provided. He is unable to consider different points of views outside himself. His heart won’t allow it and his pride won’t release. As he sees it, he is the rooster and we are the eggs and we need to do what he wants as he did when we were children.

That makes us sad too for we haven’t betrayed him. Quite the contrary. Each of us plays a role in my father’s life at the nursing home. One sister closely monitors his care there and takes care of his domestic needs. One overlooks his finances. The third sister researches the law, his business history and gives him feedback and the last cheers him up, makes him laugh and brings him her delectable dishes. He knows it, and doesn’t notice it. That’s just a given; we’re his daughters.

It’s a learning experience for us all. He has to accept life as it is and we have to live with the knowledge that we’re keeping him where he doesn’t want to be and doing our best for him in the background.

Sigh …

Beware – A Little Venting


I’ve been struggling with some newly learned information today from a close friend. It’s put me in a funk while I search my brain trying to understand her reasoning. Understanding and reconciling are different from acceptance. I accept what she’s doing but my system is out of sorts with it. To say the least. I’ve been consumed by her decision all day.

My close female friend is voting for Donald Trump. I hyperventilate typing that sentence. She’s an intelligent, kind, talented, lovely person with high emotional intelligence I’d say. I often gain a different perspective of things when we talk. But not today. Today I’m flummoxed, deflated and depressed.

She’s a devout Christian, one who participates in Bible study each week. And she believes that Jesus chooses broken people when he wants his work to be done. And that belief allows her to vote for Donald Trump to be President of the United States. Yup.

I’ve tried to counter that argument, haven’t and won’t succeed. After everything she knows about what kind of person he really is – how he cheats, scams, avoids taxes, demeans women, forces himself on women, cheats on his wives – not to mention his temperament, bullying, lying viciously, multiple bankruptcies, lawsuits, knowing absolutely nothing about economic and foreign affairs and not having the patience, or interest to learn – she’s voting for him.

So now it’s my problem to handle. I’m a person fiercely driven by principles. While I’m not sure I could ever have an abortion, I absolutely believe that others should have the right to make that choice themselves. I’m not gay or a transsexual, but that doesn’t pre-empt my feeling that those gender identity people have the same inherent rights I do. I think that’s what Jesus taught – love, compassion and forgiveness.  I know she feels differently. She’s a bible literalist I think, though I’ve never been to her bible study group. And it’s those issues and other “family values” that’s driving her vote. Never mind that Trump is not Christian and that he’s the antithesis of Jesus Christ. There’s nothing noble about that man. And yet he will get her vote.

This election season has agitated my constitution. Other than Trump’s cult members I can’t understand why anyone would think he’s fit for the highest post in the world. Donald Trump? Are you kidding me? Would the same people vote for Charles Manson if he ran on the Republican ticket? Or Hitler? Even the Republican brass is renouncing him as their choice.  Where have we gone as a country?

Alas, this is my problem, the need for people to look at the facts, objectively. Maybe if we had a less divisive opponent, someone other than Hillary, maybe it wouldn’t be so hard for people to take their heads out of the sand. I won’t go into why there’s such hatred and distrust directed at Hillary – just suffice it to say that the smear campaign lasting years and years has been effective.  Forget all her years of family and children activism, and her successful track record.  The haters hate.

I put this out to the universe from the depths of my soul….

Please let the vast majority of people and delegates elect Hillary. The planet is in peril otherwise and the rest of the world knows it.

Home Again


housebegoniasI sit here on my deck amidst dense trees and window boxes lush with flowering red begonias. The wind is blowing gently and there’s a faint rustle in the air. Life is good here in the woods. I’ve missed you.

Gone is the endless hustle bustle of the city. The traffic racing past, cyclers, skate boarders, runners, horns blowing, sirens shrieking – whew! The sounds of nature once again fill my psche and renew my soul. I’ve become a country girl. 20 years of living like this has changed my constitution, literally. Everything inside me has slowed down. I can once again hear myself think, sense my intuition and feel joy. I’m not racing anymore.housewoods

Some people thrive on the hectic and energetic lifestyle of a city. I used to. Back in the day when I lived in Pittsburgh I longed for a more active environment. When asked if I liked living there I’d say I don’t intend to die there. I was after more action. And later in Chicago I got it. Though we didn’t live in the city I was there every day and many evenings after work. I loved Chicago. It was rich in all categories: sports, theater, food, shopping and entertainment.

woodsneighborhood1Moving to Knoxville, TN was a culture shock – for years. But we bought the right house in a perfect neighborhood and it’s been home for 20 years now. And I’ve come to realize that it’s the woods that my body craves. It’s very much alive in different ways than the city. There are birds that sing and insects that talk and squirrels that bark if you get too close. woodsneighborhood3And the rain sounds delicious, rather than bothersome. I’m home here, and though I truly love Boston, I’m not home there anymore. I used to be. I used to get off a plane, smell the salty air and smile from ear to ear. I still love that city and the whole of New England.woodsneighborhood2

But one thing I now know for sure. Though I don’t have to always live in Knoxville, I do need to live within nature. It’s become who I am. Ahhhh…. I’m home.

Bye Bye Boston — For Now


The condo is in disarray, the van is partially packed and in a couple days we’ll be waving goodbye to our favorite city on the east coast. Summer in Boston has been both energizing and over-stimulating, an odd combination of paradoxical states to exist in one body. But for me, both are very real.

harvard-square-coverWalking around MIT and visiting their museums, hibernating in the Harvard Coop and shopping the Square, walking on the Esplanade while Bella swims in the river and chases squirrels, attending concerts and shows by world class performers – and being able to go everywhere on public transportation – all very energizing experiences. MITThere’s an intellectual aliveness in this city, the home of a couple hundred colleges and universities – including ivy leaguers. And athleticism is everywhere and represented by all age groups. It’s flat out invigorating to be in a city where intellect and fitness interact so organically.

New England is a diverse vacation spot too. 90 minutes from Boston you can be on Cape Cod and an hour’s ferry takes you to Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket. Then, of course, rural Maine is right up the road and pastoral Vermont is just a couple hour’s drive. GingerbreadHousesNew Hampshire, close by too. I had the opportunity to spend a week on the Cape and take a short trip to a friend’s sheep farm in Vermont that offered million dollar views of rolling hills for miles in all directions. VermontI love this part of the country for all those reasons.

I’m also exhausted from the experience. City life is loud, busy, fast and relentless. We were staying at the intersection of two very busy throughways in town, and in front of a bustling expressway. Those are also reasons why it’s so easy to get around town. But the non-stop cacophony of traffic, horns, sirens is trying on the nerves and my patience level was tested to the max each day by cyclists who think they’re above traffic laws and buses speeding past cars and just assuming the lanes belong to them. BostonTrafficStraying from a walking path by a foot or so might cause a rear end collision from a roller skater, runner and cyclist in a real hurry to go somewhere but who doesn’t think it’s necessary to alert anyone he’s about to whiz past. And this was during the “off” summer season. Imagine the craziness when kids come back to school, soon.

Once upon a time, this lifestyle was my lifestyle and Boston was home for a few years. It felt perfectly normal then to be part of the hustle bustle of this busy town. But somehow, as my system has adapted to warmer seasons, so too has my need for peace and quietude. Since living in a heavily wooded community in a much smaller southern city – or as I call it, a town – I seem to thrive on living life more slowly. I’m happier, more content and, frankly, feel more at home. So while Boston offered a really fun summer, it’s time now to come home and resume a life that’s a bit more ratcheted down.

HouseSpring

Maybe age has something to do with it, though many active folks my age in Boston thrive on the go, go, go. I think my go, go, go years are behind me. After a very fortunate, fulfilling and successful career, I’ve retired. And now it feels time to live life a little smaller. A bit more pensively, experiencing adventure in a slower, richer way.

So – bye bye Boston, for now, anyway. My husband keeps devising ways to spend more summers here – maybe we will, maybe we won’t. But I do know that living here for good is likely not in my cards. And I love this city. That would be my paradox


Pat SummittToday was a day of national mourning that Lady Vols Coach Pat Summitt died, succumbing to her horrible Alzheimer’s Disease. She was one of the greatest women of our time coaching 38 consecutive women’s basketball victories – the most winning-est coach ever. She was a strong, tenacious and fierce, yet loving, leader who wouldn’t take no for an answer. Men, women and children can learn a lot from her examples of leadership. Her players loved and respected her. Fans adored and revered her. And she leaves a legacy that few mortal people can touch. Not just as a coach, but as a person who helped build strong young women for tomorrow.

Yet she was fallible, as we all are. Death will befall us all. And death by Alzheimer’s Disease is a particularly insidious affliction that affected her family as much, if not more, than her. You see, after a while, it stole her memory and her identity, ultimately leaving the shell that “used to be” the famous and very personal Pat Summitt. I have no intimate knowledge of her days with the disease and without. I do, however, have first hand experience with Alzheimer’s – from afar.

My perspective is different than most. Certainly I knew of Pat Summitt. Everybody knew who she was and what she accomplished during her productive lifetime. But as a former hospice volunteer whose last patient lived 10 years with that disgusting disease, I watched a person diminish and a family devote their waking hours to making her comfortable and trying to engage her. Cajoling her to eat, to walk, to converse, to show some semblance of the wife and mother they remembered. Ultimately, this patient became mute and bedridden for the last five years of her life. I saw her blank eyes stare into space during the hours she didn’t sleep. She was as close to a vegetative state as I’ve ever witnessed. The photographs of the woman she used to be didn’t even resemble the woman I visited. She was no longer that person. Her husband was “trapped” (my words) in a marriage to a woman he’d lost years earlier. Yet he was fiercely devoted to her care. He talked to her as though she might answer. Cracked jokes. Reminisced. Showed her photos of the travels they’d taken in their RV. Offered a litany of his day. Prepared meals he thought she’d enjoy. Scrupulously cleaned her, lifting up her dead weight out of the bed and onto a toilet or the tub or the chair. Delicately, lovingly, devotedly.

He was housebound until I came to relieve him once a week to shop, run errands or, with my prodding – have some fun with family or friends. His wife showed no signs of life except breathing in and breathing out, eyes sometimes open and staring and sometimes closed for sleeping. That was his life. For five years! Five years before that he’d gone through the stages of Alzheimer’s progression. Unpredictable behavior, walking out the door to head somewhere though she didn’t know where, unexplained outbursts of anger and tears. Life had been a roller coaster. Until she finally, thankfully, succumbed. He admitted he’d lost his wife years earlier. He didn’t know who this woman was that she’d become. Yet he lived on memories and devotion until she was freed. And so was he.

From my perspective, it’s a blessing that Pat Summitt died. Her diagnosis five years earlier had been her death sentence. There is no cure. There is only disintegration. I say she’s free. Free to be the Pat Summitt we all loved and respected. No more pity, no more tears, no more wondering. She’s free. May the great and unparalleled Pat Summitt rest in peace. Her legacy lives on.

BOSTON CYCLERS


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Maybe it’s my age. There’s no way I’d bike in heavy traffic without a helmet and casually meander out of my bike lane into one filled with cars. Oops, a horn on my tail, sorry mister, I’ll casually wander back. I look at those kids (and kids they are) and shake my head.   Their parents would plotz if they saw them.   If any of you are somewhat familiar with the Mass Ave Bridge or Beacon Street or Comm Ave you’d know what I’m talking about. Boston drivers are a mess unto themselves. cycling2Put a 20 year old on a bike cruising in from of them and that cycler is lucky he or she doesn’t go flying ass over teakettle. Maybe some do; I don’t know the injury rate – death rate – of those cyclers on city streets. I know that 35+ years ago my husband was one of those casualties, landing him in the hospital with a concussion and lots of cuts and bruises. He was lucky; except for about 5 years later when he needed a tumor removed near his brain stem which docs think may have been caused by head trauma. He doesn’t ride bikes anymore and I only ride safe greenways that are far away from speeding traffic.

It seems that everyone on Boston streets is a dare devil, even in the evenings. When I walk my dog at 9pm there are kids on bikes, also no helmets, no lights and no regard for traffic laws. Hit me if you dare. Or maybe they think they’re invincible. Even at 20 I had a healthy respect for safety and my mortality. At my university in Pittsburgh I walked everywhere, maybe because of all the hills but also because it just felt safer. This city is teeming with colleges and thousands of students, even in the summer. I can’t imagine what it’s like during the school year. Maybe they keep the hospital row ERs in business. Drive down Longwood & Brookline Avenues and you run into Mass General Hospital, Brigham & Women’s, Beth Israel, Children’s Hospital and the medical buildings associated with them. Those are big Harvard hospitals and streets are packed with people going every which way they please. Cars are incidental. And bike lanes are in the middle of the street packed with cyclists who also pass the cars! And nobody seems shocked, except for me. Am I the country bumpkin?

esplaade&bikesI walk Bella down at the Esplanade where there are long stretches of grass on either side of paved asphalt paths filled with skate boarders, cyclers, baby strollers and roller bladers – everyone weaving in and around those of us walking. On the dirt path by the river we have to move out of the way of dirt bikers racing each other. Nobody even calls out when they whiz by. Luckily she’s adjusting and doesn’t seem fazed. Maybe that’s because I pull her out of their way. We have to abide by traffic and safety rules; they don’t.EsplanadePeople

Boston is a great biker town; it’s flat and you can get anywhere. You can also rent a bike at many street corners if you don’t have one of your own. Pick it up at Beacon at Mass Ave and drop it off in Brookline for class. It’s a great system and a novel entrepreneurial venture that’s hugely popular here.

bikeRentalsIn the next day or two I’ll get on my bike too. But I’ll be riding the asphalt path next to The Charles River, safely away from traffic, with my helmet nestled on my head. I’ll likely make it to Harvard Square for a visit to the Coop for coffee and book perusing and then continue on the Cambridge side along Memorial Drive, again on the asphalt path. Call me an old fogy. And alive.

NOT IN KNOXVILLE ANYMORE


bostonBikesIt’s hard to believe we used to live here in Boston. Oh, the scenery is, mostly, the same (though construction sites are always changing) and everyone is as active as I remember – from college on up it seems that everyone bikes, runs, skateboards, rollerblades, rides Segways, strolls, & walks dogs and babies. Everywhere. And the traffic is still crazy busy, especially where we’re located, on The Charles River at the Mass Avenue bridge into Cambridge. Our living room and dining room windows offer sweeping views of the river and Cambridge beyond. That’s the same. roofview

The trees on the Esplanade are bigger and more lush and the Pru and Hancock Tower beyond are as grand as ever. BostonBikes2PruThe energy is electric and that’s infectious. But my sensibility and stimulation electrodes are on overload. We’ve been gone long enough for my innards to have slo—w—e–d down. I feel like a country girl taking on the big city again. I’m in ramp up mode, slowly adjusting to city sounds instead of chirping birds, crickets, and wildlife noises. My brain is speeding back up, but until my batteries recharge my nerves are on edge. And my soul screams for woods and solitude. And yet I love Boston as much as I ever had. It just takes some getting used to.

MadisonBostonOur cat Madison has surprised me. She’s been on an adventure since we left home, staying in three different places before settling into this fourth and last abode until the end of summer. Our shy and reserved beauty has been car riding very well and has been adjusting quickly everywhere she’s taken. She shows no signs of stress and does very little hiding. She eats, sleeps and finds her litter with no hesitation as though she’s enjoying this unique trip without her feline sisters and brothers. Maybe she feels like the chosen one. Who knows?

BellaRiver1It’s Bella, the dog who has to learn the most. Here there are city rules to abide by. No more meandering on or off leash, no more wandering up to every person and dog to say hi or to provoke into play. Lots of new sounds – honking horns, trucks and cars whizzing past, people dashing by, lights to stop at—whoa “where am I?” her expression seems to say. But I’m proud of her progress. Each day breeds more familiarity with the unexpected. Even our daily walks on the Esplanade are finding her (periodically) off leash and obeying commands. We’re both becoming more comfortable in the “new wild” together and we’re both enjoying our morning ritual more. She’s teaching me patience, never my strong suit. And I’m teaching her discipline, never her strength. And we’re falling in love again here on Mars.

Our latest challenge is the 6am pee and poo time. At home in Knoxville we have pet throughs and a fenced yard for her to accomplish her business without my help. Here we have to board an elevator down 5 floors, out the front door and walk a block (or 3) to the nearest large patch of green. 6am! She wants to casually experience all smells and sights along the way. I want to get the job done and go home. I just rolled out of bed without coffee, after-all! Lately she’s been picky about WHICH patch of green is suitable! I have to convince her that this early piece of business IS business. Get it done and leave! We’re arguing about that. Grrrrrr! My next strategy is to try training treats for a quick potty time. Yeah, that’s the ticket! Wish me luck. I’d like this event to be a non-negotiable.

More to come as I rediscover Boston.

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