April 20th 2003,
Easter Sunday and I am home. Ciro, Zoe and Lola have varying degrees of affection for me punctuated by periods of hostile, back-turned-to-me ignoring. This has been the way to treat pet mommas for as long as two leggeds have left the 4 leggeds home alone for the day. And in their case, they were without me for 17 days. But now, I am more sensitive and take the cold shoulder personally. It’s embarrassing to me how much I crave their cuddles and loving, attention and touch. I am so different today. Fortunately, all three aren’t cool towards me at once and the whole drama doesn’t last more than 24 hours. Taking care of the 3 of them and running my own mechanics of daily care, that is my life this Easter. I had two big events in my homecoming that exemplified the new me.
- I was so excited to be home. The sun was out. It felt a bit like spring. So I “ran” around the house and threw open all the windows. I swept the wood floors. (I guess I did not sit down and plug into the food drip immediately as I was supposed to. Oops.) And then I set out to water all the plants. I have 20 or so plants, from before and with all the new ones that were gifts for my stroke recuperation. I had plants everywhere. My mom was there, urging me to sit a bit, rest, save some of this work til tomorrow. She tried valiantly to get me to slow down, but no luck. I had been a pretty compliant patient in the hospital. But now I was being a pretty bull headed daughter at home. Sorry Mom. So the plants were everywhere, as I said. One new plant had been set down on top of the TV in the living room when we were unloading me from the home. There it was. And I watered it. I watered it real well. A very liberal dousing it got, so did the TV. TV’s don’t like to be watered, FYI. (Although, now with flat screens, you couldn’t set a potted plant on top of a TV, however briefly.) The TV made a not very TVlike sound and then died. I tried to use the hair dryer on it. Nope. No luck. No resurrection for my TV. I told my Cuzzin about it. She laughed and assured me that we would find a store open when she came up for Easter and we could get me a new one.
- The second big event of my homecoming was the shower. I had quite come to rely on my showers at the home for comfort, even in my short stay there. I was safe and independent in the shower. I felt warm and soothed in the shower. I thought of showering, self-care, as a way to help myself. So of course, I wanted a shower at home. It was Saturday evening. Lola was all set for the nite with her trip outside and bedtime cookies laid on. Proper cookies now for my angel. It was wonderful to give them to her. I had bought special treats for her on my way home from “the home.” Mom had taken me to the Pharmacy to get medicine, local pet supply for food and treats for the 4 leggeds, then the medical supply store for the pillow, and the specialty food store to get things for Easter Sunday. What did I need food for? Well, Mom and Deb were going to come to my house for a visit on Easter. The wonderful local specialty food store had been there forever. Mom helped me get wonderful sandwich fixings and fruit for Sunday. It was simple, easy, no fuss and going to make a nice meal for Easter. (I was so uncomfortable standing at the counter, ordering the foods. It was obvious to me that I was sick. I felt that everyone there was staring at me and wondering I was out, when I should be in a hospital, away from everyone else. I was so self involved, I quite forgot that Mom and Deb would need more than what I had for myself. I had my lovely food drip.) Fortunately, all these shoppes were nearby and with Mom’s help, we got all the bits and bobs home.
All my 4 leggeds were sorted for the night and Mom had helped me organize and find spots for all my new necessities. I had starting keeping a calendar of times and amounts for all my machines. I needed that to have a place. The kitchen counter was the spot to lay all that stuff out. I mean, what was I going to use it for? Mom went home to her house, and her kitty, to have supper, rest and relax. I had reassured her that I was all set and gonna be fine until morning, and wasn’t she exhausted and needing to get to her nest.
And so when I was there alone and it was getting dark outside, then I decide I want to take a shower. But I was terrified. I did not feel safe. There was no nice health aide to check on me and make sure I was ok. Uh-oh. I thought and thought. I could cover the PEG site with the same stuff we used at “the home.” And, to be extra safe, I would add a layer of Saran Wrap over the top. Overkill, but it reassured me that I would not take on water in the shower and sink like a stone, and be found drowned in the a.m. by family there for Easter. I tried out getting my leg over and into the tub for the shower. I did it slowly and could hold the sink and the window sill in turn. That felt ok. My machines were all set in the bedroom for right after I got out of the tub. I could collapse into bed and rest to get some energy back. Lola was following me around closely, and that was such an incredible feeling. I talked to her. And she listened. And she stayed.
So instead of screaming inside my head, I talk to Lola. “But what if I fall? You always hear about invalids falling and they can’t get up. What if I tip my head back and hurt my artery? What if I slip? What if I burn myself with the water? What if the tube jiggles bad? What if I stroke out and no one knows?”
My solution was to call my mom. I asked her if I could put the phone on the edge of the sink, near the shower, and leave the line open while I showered. If something happened, I could yell to her for help. Or if I couldn’t yell, she could just call 911. It was embarrassing to ask. But I did. She listened while I showered. I was fine. And when I got out, I told her I was fine, and we hung up for the evening. I took my shower, on my own. I took a quick one. But I did it. I was utterly exhausted from all the activity. I had the TV in the bedroom on and reruns of the Jeffersons were on all night. (love that show. I knew so many episodes by heart.) I was cozy in my own bed. Lola and Ciro kept a careful eye on me from inches away. (My independent Zoe was a bit of a cold shoulder that night. But I saw her check her head in the doorway regularly. She’d come round.) As wiped as I was, and as cozy as I was, there was no way that I could sleep. Vigilance was my code that night. I kept watch, over myself.
And I made it through that night. I took care of all my medicines, feedings, fluids, and bandages. I made sure Ciro and Zoe and Lola had their breakfasts. I made sure the house was ready for my mom and Cuzzin. When they arrived, I was ready. I had taken care of things, just like I said I would. Cuzzin took me out and helped me get a new TV. The guys at the store laughed at the tale of the watered TV and helped us to the car with the new TV. (Inside my head, I was screaming again. What a freak I was with my stroke, my tubes, my weakness, my screw-ups. The guys knew I was a freak. Ugh. This sucks.) But I was so grateful that Cuzzin helped me. She somehow made it a fun adventure and I was smiling at home with her, Mom and the new TV. They made sandwiches for the Easter meal. I puttered around, getting them plates and stuff. I smelled the food and helped lay it out. But it was not very interesting to me that day.
For a long time I stared at my Cadbury Cream Eggs. My dad had brought them for me from England. He brought them to the hospital, just like Farmer Ken and yet not. See, my dad and I have a Cadbury Cream Egg history. English Chocolate, made in England is different than American. The first ingredient in most chocolate here, is sugar. In England, the first ingredient is the milk, resulting in an entirely creamy dreamy sweet gift. Every year, if my dad was not here, he mailed me my Cadbury Cream Eggs. They had the smooth creamy milk chocolate egg with the white and yellow filling, not sicky sweet, just divine. I waited all year for the chocolate box. And while I wanted to be a good ambassador for the right Cream Egg, spreading the word and educating Americans, I wasn’t ever big on actually sharing the chocolate for a live taste test. But this year, the eggs just sat in a basket on the built in. Actually, the basket had to be in the built in cupboard. Zoe loved to rocket the eggs expertly out of the basket with her paw and crash them around the house, at 2am. So I put them in the cupboard every night. And there they sat on our Easter table. And no one ate them. But I stared at them, dreaming in my mind’s eye of what it looked like under the foil wrapper, when I would get my first whiff of the chocolate cream combination and how many bites it would take to devour it. Six bites was my dream number today. But then I heard Mom and Cuzzin chatting and I was back to reality, back to watching the holiday meal.
The colors of the goodies Mom and I picked for the food were brilliant to see. But I saw it more as a pretty painted landscape than a consumable foodie meal. I watched them eat and we chatted. And so it seemed to me, that I became a part of the landscape painting that day. Not very active, hardly decorative, but rather just a part of the scenery.
April 20th 2016
Wessyfoo is where I want to be today. And I am there, with Tim and Jason. There is wonderful warm spring sun and lively crisp winds blowing. It was supposed to rain yesterday. And we need it. But it didn’t. My aunt and uncle are in the barn when we pull up the driveway. They have a new foster cat in residence. An inordinate number of strays find their way down our road every year. A dozen or so make their way inside our hearts and the house. A most glorious display of feline breeding has graced Wessy over the years. All the cats are taken care of at the vet, if you know what I mean. Each cat becomes the last of their bloodline. And yet the stream of cats never ceases. Maybe there is a sign on the Pike letting strays where to go? We wonder.
In town, there is a friend who fosters cats and rehabilitates them. When she comes across a cat in need of a quarantine rehab, for whatever reason, she calls Wessy. My uncle has built rooms in the barn of chainlink fencing. Each room has all the comforts of home for the inmate or patient, whichever term you like for the cat guest. Some of the cats have become domesticated enough to be adopted and others are released to be barn cats at local farms. What a labor of love from my aunt and uncle for these lucky, lucky cats. My uncle is manning the door of one room, while my aunt takes care of food, water and bed fluffing. With the rounds complete, my aunt is let out and the door securely fastened. We hug and head to the house for coffee.
“The Mens” decide, with Jason’s power of suggestion to my uncle who needed no nudge at all, to head up to the golf course where my uncle works and “practice putting.” Well played “mens!” I get to follow my aunt on her rounds of the yard. We are on the lookout for the evil red beetles that devour and destroy the lilies. The warmer weather is bringing them out. Everyday she goes among her plants because they change everyday. These are not showy plants. They are indigenous wildflowers. You have to get down to their level and know what to look for. Ma, her grandmother, taught her names of the beloved. And my Jean Granny taught me and now my aunt continues the legacy with me. She touches every plant, and tells them she loves them. She thanks them for their beauty. And they thank her every day with their glories. There are Mandrakes AKA May Apple and the blood roots have come on fast. And there are he trout lilies, AKA adder’s tongues, wood anemones AKA wind flowers, the little white violets, deep purple violets mixing with Jill o’er the ground, proud skunk cabbage, trilliums, one jack-in-the pulpit coming out, blossoming quince, flowering almond-in bud, bluets AKA piss-a-beds (according to Ma, don’t ask), star of Bethlehem just poking out of the ground, and poor forsythia that will green without blooming bright yellow thanks to an ill-timed storm . One wild bleeding heart is out on the terrace. The taller garden bleeding hearts, like my tattoo (tell ya later) will be here in a few weeks. We notice several dogwoods, maybe that have taken hold in the side yard near their elders.
Our rounds end and the “mens” return. We take time to play with the recent “tag sale find” of a horseshoe set. Jason and my aunt, more Jason, set scoring guidelines and then work on perfecting their moves. Play is followed by a Skype chat with my dad AKA Grandad in England. Jason requests my aunt’s garlicky, buttery, salty popcorn. (I eat most of it before Jason can get to it.) And lunch follows from there. We gather around the table to feast on the Vegetarian Chili my aunt made from last summer’s bounty over quinoa. I try my aunt’s suggestion and have my chili over cottage cheese. Holy Yum. I have brought oatmeal with dark chocolate peanut butter cup cookies for dessert. But we already sampled them with our 11’s coffee. Jason always has ice cream in Wessy for afters. The freezer never disappoints and a cone is found for the mint chocolate chip icecream. My aunt brings out her Ginger Orange “cheesecake,” which is neither cheese nor cake, but rather almonds and coconut oil and other really good for you ingredients. No one tells Tim the real nature of what the dessert is. And he loves it. And I love him. I love Wessy and all who live there. I am grateful to be a part of this family and this yard. We made a beautiful day together. Thank you.