Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Meeting Emily

I've "known" Emily for almost seven years.  She friended me on Facebook six days after Melissa passed away.

I received a beautiful message from Emily.  She was extending her sympathy for our loss...and also introducing herself.

She first got to know Melissa through the article she wrote for the Cincinnati Weekly.  She was a genetics counselor, working as a sales rep for the lab that did the BRCA testing.  She happened to come across the article when she was in an oncologists office in Cincinnati.  Melissa's blog address was at the end of the article.  That's when Emily started reading the blog.  Then she realized that they had something in common...she went to OU too!  And they had mutual friends, although they didn't know each other.

Emily sent me messages occasionally over the last seven years.  When I moved dad into assisted living, I posted about it on the blog.  Got another message from Emily - she and her husband had just moved to Melbourne!

I had been there several times, but never had the chance to call Emily.  Always busy with dad.

We were going to wait and surprise dad on Monday morning when we picked him up for his procedure.  I just didn't want to wait - we were only going to be there for a week and I wanted to see him every day.  So right after we checked into our hotel, we went to his place.  We knew he would be at dinner, which was perfect.  We went up to his floor and sat in the lobby outside his room.  He spends a lot more time at dinner than I realized.  He goes to dinner at 4:30 - thought we'd only have to wait 10-15 minutes (got there at 5).  He finally got off the elevator at 6:30....and walked right past us!
As soon as he got into his room, I called him.  When I heard his phone ringing, I knocked on his door.  He answered the phone saying "hold on a minute, someone's at the door".  When he opened it, he had the BIGGEST smile on his face.  He was SO happy to see us.

All that worrying for nothing.  I was sure the first thing he would say was "did you bring my car?".  But it wasn't.  We talked for half an hour before he asked about the car.  It went a lot better than I expected.

We didn't stay too long because we had to get up early the next morning.  On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at Coasters Bar & Grill - the place Rob wanted to take dad. (Rob helped us find dad's assisted living place).  After I ordered, I sent Rob a message, thanking him for helping us find Victoria Landing, how they take such good care of dad and how much he loves it.  I hit "send" and literally seconds later he was behind me! He was there and we didn't see him.  I posted the story and the picture on FB.

One of the responses to the post was from Emily.  She and her husband were there that night too!!!!   Since I had never met Emily, I wouldn't have known her if she was sitting next to us.  I sent her a message and we decided to meet for breakfast.  

Wow.  Not only did Melissa have wonderful friends, she attracted wonderful people too...that I have the pleasure to get to know now.  Melissa would love Emily.  She's a lot like her.  I don't think I told Emily that in the almost two hours we spent together with her youngest son, Ryan.  We had a lot to talk about.    Found out that Emily knows Dr. Romer (in fact had been in Dr. Romer's office - kind of wonder if Melissa was ever there when Emily was there!) and one of her surgeons.  Small world keeps getting smaller.

I'm so glad that we finally got to meet.  She said "I have two friends on Facebook that I've never met. You were one of them."  So glad we changed that!

Meeting Emily was one of the highlights of the week with dad.  Spending time with him and his friends and my cousins from Utah & Texas - and cousins from Dayton who happened to be in Florida made the trip even better.  And exhausting.

Nick just happened to be in San Diego on business while we were in Florida.  He went to see the Midway (the aircraft carrier dad served on in the Navy).  He Facetimed us when he was walking onto the ship - it was really cool.  Dad loved it!

We got to spend some time with dad at one of the activities they have - they called it Karaoke, but it was more of a sing-along.  Although when we walked in the room, dad was front and center with the microphone in his hand!  The activities director very gently took it out of dad's hands so they could hear everyone instead of just dad!  

It was a great visit. And it ended on a good note too...I had a visit from Melissa the last night we were there!  Interesting thing, I got a message from her friend Misti that she had a visit from Melissa the same night!  She must have needed to see us as much as we needed to see her.  

Had lots to catch up on when I got home.  Lots of errands on Monday, the bank was one.  Wasn't sure if what I needed to do could be done at the counter or if I needed to talk to someone in the office.  So I stuck my head in the office door and ask if she could help me.  She invited me in and when I sat down, I realized she looked familiar - so I said that.  She said "it's because I was friends with Melissa".  She was Melissa's best friend in grade school.  Lived down the street.  I haven't seen her probably since Melissa was in fifth grade.  Always good to run into friends of Melissa's.  


And, as always, like Fort did, I end with Andrew. 

Before we left, we got to go to Andrew's last football game.  It was against the Firebirds.  Semi-finals.  They lost in OT.  Great way to start the trip too.

And it just keeps getting busier...went to OSU vs. U CONN women's basketball game last night, Versailles tonight for a basketball game and meet a friend and his wife for drinks, Thomas Windlow on Friday (I'll post after that) and a wedding this weekend.  

Probably good for me to stay busy this time of year.  If I stop to think about the holidays for even a minute...

Love you miss you Melissa.  Every minute of every day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Fun with Dad

I feel like I'm living in a movie.  Like Nebraska.

If you've never seen it, it's about an elderly man who gets tons of mail telling him he's won a million dollars.  The movie is funny and sad and true.  It didn't take place in a nursing home, but it could have.  Maybe he should have been in a nursing home where he might be protected from what I think is elder abuse.

Ok, before I start this story, I want to say that I am privileged to know many wonderful nurses.  And I know this is part of their job...because if they didn't give us all this information and something happened...just don't want to go there.  If we can't laugh about these things (after the fact) we would go crazy.  So on with the story...

My dad lives in a wonderful assisted living facility.  My sister Donna and I came down to visit since he was having a procedure that his doctor described as "complicated".  It was outpatient, and I'm wondering why they don't keep people at least 24 hours - since we were told "the first 24 hours are critical.  "Here is what you need to do when you get him home."

Really?  Critical and we (who have no medical knowledge OR training) are supposed to make sure that we know what to do if he starts bleeding.  "He can bleed to death in less than 5 minutes.  Here's how you stop the bleeding.  Press down on the bleed with one hand, press your fist on that hand and call 911" I even asked why they don't keep them - after they scared the shit out of both of us - Oh.  "Because it only happens in 1 out of 100,000 cases."

I realize that even with pharmaceuticals they have to list every side effect even if only one person had that side effect.  It's crazy.  I remember when Melissa would be on a new chemo.  The doctor would hand her a brochure that had information about the meds.  It also listed all the side effects (at least a full page of side effects usually).  She would hand it to me.  "Here.  If I read it, I will get all the side effects!"  If she got a head ache, a rash, or any kind of ache or pain, I could tell her - "it's ok.  It's one of the side effects".

That's why they scared the shit out of us.  Because dad might be the 1 in 100,000.
But I'm getting off the subject here.

This story is about my dad and his friends where he lives.  It is a WONDERFUL Assisted Living  place. And there is LOTS of material for a great movie.

It started with dad's procedure.  When it was done - he was in recovery for four hours.  That's when the nurse gave us the "here's what you need to do when you get him home" speech.  And oh.  By the way.  "Can you spend the night with him? You really don't want to leave him alone tonight".  He shouldn't walk very far.  He can't cross his legs.  Or his feet.  He can't sit in his recliner.  He can't bend at the waist.  If he does "it could break loose and he could bleed to death in less than five minutes" (that's what we kept hearing.  maybe she only said it once, but that's all I was hearing)
He has to sit in a hard back chair (he doesn't have one)  "How about a firm couch?"  "Ok".

Ok.  We are visiting because he is having this procedure.  We'll spend the night.  She hands us several pages of paperwork and helps dad get dressed.  I get his clothes out of the closet give her his shoes - which right away he picks his foot up to put his shoes on and she yells "NO. Put your foot down.  You can't lift your foot.  We don't want you to bleed! I will pick your foot up."  So she puts his shoes on.  Then his shorts.  Then shirt.

We are scared to death to even take him in the car.  Will a bump cause him to bleed?  Will the seatbelt cause him to bleed?  What if he coughs?  and oh my god, what if he has to poop?  "Don't bear down" How do you NOT bear down when you are pooping?  (I am laughing about this now, but it was NOT funny yesterday!)  I pray that he doesn't have to have a bowel movement in the next 24 hours.

Ok.  So we head to the hotel (the nice hotel on the beach with a balcony where we can see the sunrise every morning that we will be paying for even though we won't be staying there one night) to pick up our something to wear, our toothbrushes and some reading material.   They are gracious enough to loan us blankets and pillows since dad doesn't have any extras in his little apartment (which is beautiful by the way!)

We get to his place, they have a wheelchair waiting for him.   The nurse, the CNA, some of his friends welcome him.  They are WONDERFUL there.  We get him in the wheelchair...ok, he PLOPS down in the wheelchair.  I panic - OMG - look for blood....whew.  No blood. He's ok.  Start heading toward the elevator to his room, the CNA says "Where is his pendant?" (that's like a life alert)  "It's going off.  Where is it?"

I don't know.  Dad says "The nurse put it in my shoe when she took my clothes off  and put it in the closet at the doctors office.  Did you get it?"
"No dad. I didn't get it."
Did you get it Donna?

So we head up to the room.  His pendant is still going off at the nurses station.  It only works at his assisted living place.  It has to be here somewhere.  They take him up to his room.  It's STILL going off.

Alright.  I'll go down to my car. Maybe it fell out of his pocket. If he put it in his pocket. He forgets things sometimes.  I'll bet he put it in his pocket and he dropped it somewhere.  I head down to the lobby - search the lobby.  Not there.  Search my car.  Not there.  Where the hell is it???? It's got to be here somewhere!

I go back up to the room.  Donna says "I called the doctors office.  They are closed.  We have to call in the morning."

The thing is STILL going off.  It's here somewhere.

We are stymied.

Then I remember.  When we were walking out of the doctors office, dad says "My heel hurts.  Why would my heel hurt?"

"I don't know dad.  I don't know why this procedure would affect your FEET."

I go over to dad.  "Dad.  Let me look in your shoe."

And whadda ya know... there it is.  In his shoe.

Mystery solved.

And that was just the beginning.

Another side note.  Melissa started walking when she was around 11 months old.  Back then, you bought your babies hard soled white shoes (anyone remember this?) when they started walking.  Donny was putting Melissa's shoes, she kept crying saying "Cockadoodle!  Cockadoodle!"  as he was struggling to get her foot in the shoe.  Finally he pulled the shoe off and out fell the rooster from the Fisher Price Farm set - small enough to fit in a tiny shoe....History repeats itself.

ROUTINES & Hearing Aides

As we get older, we all get into certain routines.  My morning routine is a cup of coffee, read the paper, take a walk.

I think routines help our memory.  They give us something to look forward to.

Whenever I call dad and I ask him what he's doing, he always says "Let's see.  It's Monday.  Today I have..." whatever.  It's the same every week.  Mondays are trips to the grocery.  Tuesdays are doctors appointments.  Wednesday's are Mass and Communion in the morning and Happy Hour at 4.

He has something to look forward to every day.  When he goes to the dining room for meals, he sits with the same three guys.  Four branches of the service are represented, Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines.  They have something in common.

When Donny and I visited in June, we had dinner with dad and had the pleasure of meeting all of them at dinner.  As soon as we sat down, the question was directed to me "Where is Irv's car?  We need transportation."  (I brought dad's car home after we moved him into Assisted Living because he wasn't released to drive).  Not sure, but I think they must be planning an escape...although I don't know why.  I love where they live.  A view of the Indian River, a nice dining room with a chef, transportation to appointments and the grocery, entertainment, they do their laundry, clean their apartments, give them showers...I want to live there!

Another routine - sitting at the same table, same seat at every meal.  He gets there half an hour early to get HIS table.  And save seats for his buddies.  We got there for lunch yesterday, we were late, because he was sleeping and we didn't want to wake him up.  Someone was sitting at his table.  That didn't go over very well.  But we got the table right next to it.  After the people who were sitting there left, one of his buddies came in and sat at their table.  Dad looks at us and in a VERY loud voice says "his daughter must weigh 300 pounds. She can't even fit in the chair!"  Loud enough  that everyone in the place could hear him.  But no one seemed to notice.  Maybe none of them wear their hearing aides.  Maybe they just don't care.

There were five women sitting at another table next to us.  One of the women leaned over and said to us "your dad helped me with Wii bowling.  I threw three strikes after he helped me".  Then one of the other women got up, walked by dad and said "She was flirting with you".  Loud.  Dad didn't even react.  I'm sure he didn't hear her.

Donna was walking down the hall and two men were ahead of her.  The one right in front of her said to the guy in front of him "why are you walking so slow?  You got a load in your pants?"  No reaction.

That's what I am looking forward to when I get older.   You can say what you want because no one will hear you.

We are having such a good time with dad.  It's always hard to leave him.  Still have a big day ahead of us - my cousins from Utah, Texas and southern Florida will be visiting tomorrow.  I know it will be good for dad to see all of them.  A mini family reunion.

But I also know as good as it will be to see everyone, when we go, he will go back to his routines.  He isn't even asking about his car much anymore.  He is settling in.  And nothing makes me happier.