Elinore’s choice

Elinore pushed her walker to the table and slowly settled into one of the chairs. “So, are we playing cards or dominos?”

Then she turned her attention to me. “Are you going to join us?”Seasons

“I’ll watch.”

Elinore nodded and picked up the cards. “I’ve been here for over a year now.”

Here was the nursing home where we sat. I was a visitor with a chip on my shoulder. Nursing homes were necessary evil – no more.

“I put myself in,” Elinore said. “I had fallen again, in my apartment, and came in for a couple of months. For therapy. Then I went back to my apartment and I fell again. That was enough for me. I decided I’d rather live here.”

Rather? I leaned forward. “So you left your own apartment?”

“Oh, yeah,” she said, sliding the deck of cards against the card shuffler so she could pick them up. “I just couldn’t be falling all the time. They cook for me here. And they have a lot of things going on.”

To choose between cards or dominos? I wasn’t sure I approved.

“Don!” She pointed the top of her head at an elderly man shuffling past the table. “Don, you should join us. You like cards, don’t you?”

Don ignored her but Elinore didn’t stop. “Oh, come on, Don. This would be good for you.”

He stopped, raised his eyes to meet hers, and then grunted. “Ok.”

“So, Don, did your daughter come today?” Elinore said.

cardsDon shook his head.

“Well, that’s a shame. But you can have some fun with us.” She dropped the cards in the shuffler and pushed the button. “I can’t shuffle anymore.”

Shortly, she had invited Clara and Martha to join her, too.

They were still chatting and playing cards an hour later when I left. As I stood, the four wished me a good evening.

Maybe nursing homes were evil. Maybe not. But these residents found a way to care for one another and Elinore led the way.

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Just drain the waterbed

I knew I had an issue when I looked out the back door of my new office to see my trailer house rolling down the highway.

Story_squareI had been commuting 30 miles a day to the new job, waiting for a moving company to relocate my  little trailer house closer to my work.

The nice thing about moving a trailer house is that you really don’t have to pack much. In fact, I hadn’t even bothered to drain my water bed.

I had instructed the moving company to give me some advance notice before they hauled the house to the new place. I’d drain it then.

They’d promised they would.

And they didn’t.

I jumped in my car and raced after the trailer house, which was being backed into its new home by the time I arrived.

The crew hooked up all the lines and the foreman wandered over.

“I thought you were going to call me,” I said.

He shrugged. “I guess nobody did.”

“Yeah, well, there’s a full waterbed in the back of that trailer that I intended to drain.”

He studied the house for a long time. Then he shrugged again. “I guess that explains why it was so goosey in the back end while we were on the highway.”

Good news: the bed didn’t come out the back wall of the trailer. Bad news: it was pressed against the wall after sliding off the pedestal.

There is a moral to this story.  When you’re 20-something and think you don’t have to drain your waterbed till the last minute, sleep on the couch a few nights instead.

Waiting out surgery

I was the obvious choice to drive my mother to her surgery. We had to leave for the hospital by 5:30 am and my father couldn’t, at that point in his life, be ready so early in the morning.

He came later with my brother, as did the rest of the family.Seasons

So Mom and I had an hour’s drive in the dark as I wondered if I’d be the last person to see her alive. The surgery was serious.

Doctors would open an incision from her throat to her stomach, break ribs and peel back everything to insert a new valve in her 81-year-old heart.

I don’t recall what we talked about. You’d think it would have been deep and meaningful, but it had more to do with who was coming and when they’d arrive. Details that would mean nothing to her whether she survived the surgery or not.

We walked through the brightly-lit hospital lobby to the admissions desk with the air pressing on me like a smoky fog. I couldn’t breath deeply and I wondered how my mother could take another step.

But she settled at the desk and calmly answered all the questions.

My throat was stuffed with cotton.

We were escorted to the pre-surgery area where she traded her street clothes for a surgical gown. I got the bag of clothes.

Souvenirs, I guessed, just in case.

Then the surgeon came to me and asked if I had questions. I’m not usually emotional but tears rolled down my cheeks as I tried to talk to him. He ignored the tears.

“I’m not worried about the surgery,” he said. “We’ll get her through that. It’s the next three days that are of concern. She’ll need to be a fighter.”

“She’s a fighter,” I said. Tears kept running.

A surgical liaison connected then.  “I’ll give you updates every half hour or so. You’ll know how the surgery is going.”

Tears flowed.

The anesthesiologist called me back in to Mom’s cubicle. “She’s had a mild sedative and she can talk to you but she won’t remember any of this.”

But I would. I held Mom’s hand, kissed her cheek, assured her of my love for her. She patted my shoulder like a mother comforting a four-year-old.

And then she was whisked away.

I wasn’t long in the surgical waiting room before my sister arrived. We cried together. Every time the liaison came to report that the surgery was going very well, we cried.

“The doctor is pleased with her vitals,” the liaison said. We cried.

Both brothers arrived and they didn’t cry, which helped us a little.

After four hours, the surgeon met with the family to report everything had gone well and she was in recovery.

All good news on that day. And we cried again.

The brownie problem

Story_squareI didn’t usually slice a sample of brownies as soon as they came out of the oven but I did this time. Good thing.

The brownies were for our evening Bible study and they tasted like I had drug the eggs through the gutter. I shoved the pan aside and threw together another batch.

And, if it hadn’t been for our older son, that would have been the end of the story.

We were in a hurry that evening, with the meeting plus my husband and I with the younger kids were leaving first thing in the morning for a two-day trip.

Our older son, at 17, was staying home. I didn’t have time to even clean up the bad pan of brownies.

“Don’t worry about those brownies,” I told him. “I’ll take care of it when I get home. Just ignore them.”

“Ok.”

He was trustworthy and I knew he’d be fine home alone. Except for one little problem.

The little problem wasn’t that he got sick. Or that he’d poisoned the dog with the bad brownies.

When I got home, the brownies pan was still setting on the stove. Empty.Minolta DSC

“What happened to the brownies?”

He shuffled a little. “I tasted one.”

“Yuck. Those were bad.”

“They were,” he said. “But after the third piece, I got used to the aftertaste.”

“You ate them all?”

He shrugged.

I guess a cast-iron stomach wasn’t too big a problem.

Harry’s hobby

Harry dialed his son. “The neighbors came over to scoop off the front walk.”

His son, Dean,  lived across town and hadn’t made it out yet. “Oh, good. Thanks, Dad.”Seasons

“Just wanted you to know.” Harry hung up. Within minutes, Dean got another call. This one was from his sister.

“Dad says you didn’t scoop off the front walk.”

“Well, the neighbors did it. When did he call you?”

“Just now.”

Dean calculated. His father must have immediately dialed his sister after calling Dean. In fact, while Dean talked to Sharon, his phone buzzed with a new call. It was Harry.

“I better see what Dad needs now,” Harry told Sharon and switched the call to his father.

“Yeah, Dean, I wanted you to know that the neighbors also scraped off our windshield. But I don’t think we’re going to church anyway. It’s cold, you know. I just wanted you to know.”

cell phoneHarry could no longer scoop snow or carry out his own trash but he could dial his phone. His children had given him a cell phone and it proved to be Harry’s new hobby.

He called all his children regularly and passed on news from one to another.  Harvesting news and passing it on the the rest of the family became his daily goal.

Dean learned only to tell his Dad news that the whole family should hear but that was a small sacrifice in the long run.

Harry had a new purpose and it involved his favorite people: his family.

A potato discussion

Story_squareOur younger son looked up from his computer to land yet another fun fact in the midst of the living room.

“You know about that idea that putting a potato in an exhaust pipe of a car keeps the car from running?”

Well, it hadn’t been the first thing that popped in my mind when I got up in the morning. In fact, I hadn’t thought about that in years.

My mind flashed to the stories from junior high school about the boys who had shoved a potato in a school bus exhaust, or was it the math teacher’s car? Maybe it was the opposing team’s school bus. Maybe it was the home ec teacher’s pickup .

In any case, I was sure it was successful.

Somebody had said so.

So I told our son, “Sure. That works.”

He laughed. That’s never a good sign when you’re the mom and he’s the one with the computer in front of him. “Nope. When you put a potato in an exhaust pipe, what you get is a great potato launcher.”

Oh.

This is the son that I bought the book Backyard Ballistics for many years ago. The idea in the book was to let boys be boys as they were growing up.

This boy built catapults, tennis ball mortars, a paper match rocket, and a potato cannon that didn’t even involve an exhaust pipe.

Still, he was going in the face of junior high legend and I wasn’t sure if I could let that go down without a defense.

“Are you sure?” I asked. It was a feeble defense but I had to try.

“Oh, yeah. They’ve done studies on it.”

I decided to let it go. I really didn’t want to follow him outside to stuff a potato in our car’s exhaust.

“There’s a box of fruit by the fridge,” I told him. Changing the subject was better than admitting defeat. “Oranges, apples, grapefruit. Help yourself.”

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “I could make a fruit cannon.”

“What?”

“The neighbors deserve fruit, too.”

It would have better to concede defeat.