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» Saturday, April 24, 2021The Fun Before the Rainstorm
It was kind of a blah week. It still doesn't seem quite real that James' mom is gone. I keep thinking that he hasn't called her in a while and should give her a ring. James went back to work feeling more than a bit shell-shocked, and I spent most of it cleaning up from the weekend’s events–washing the clothes, sanitizing and then putting up the suitcases, etc.–and cooking daily dinners.
Thursday we went to Sam’s Club and James found something he wanted: a new Fitbit. Not only was his old “Bit” (the "Alta" that included a heart-rate monitor) quite beat up–he caught it in a door at least once and it had a big scratch across the screen–but he couldn’t read it in sunlight. Sam’s had Fitbit’s “Versa 2,” which is more of a smartwatch, and it has different home screens, some with real clock faces. So he bought it and I got severe Fitbit envy. Unfortunately they only had the black one at Sam’s, not the “rose gold” (read: “copper”) one. I ended up ordering one next day on Samsclub.com.
When we got home that afternoon, we started work on the closet project. Our bedroom closet is, frankly, full of junk. Because the kitchen is so small, we have to keep a lot of kitchen things in there, like the turkey platter, our electric skillet, some Corningware, etc. Plus there's lots of clothing James just doesn't wear anymore. His stuff is a mixed-up mess anyway: he has something like two dozen pairs of pants on a shelf rather than hung up, and he can never find a particular themed T-shirt he wants to wear. (I know why this is: most of them are either hung inside out or “backwards”–facing the back of the closet–or both!) So, Thursday we started with the pants. Most of them were too small for him, and about a third of those were not wearable due to patches. So the worn ones got thrown out and there is a stack of other pants to go to Goodwill. I will need to tackle the shirts next week.
Thursday we also finished up the grocery shopping with trips to Lidl and Publix, so Friday we could actually go out and have a little fun.
According to an old classmate of mine who thinks you can’t have fun without alcohol, this probably counted as minimal fun, but it was good enough for us! We had lunch at West Cobb Diner with Alice and Ken and Aubrey Spivey, and saw Mel and Phyllis Boros for the first time since our wonderful Christmas Eve that turned into trouble when James got the fever from the foot infection. They both were two weeks out from their second vaccination and finally felt safe enough to go out in public. Phyllis said it was so good to finally talk face-to-face with other people besides Mel and her daughter and son-in-law!
After a nice leisurely lunch, we stopped at Staples to hunt up the new set of Sharpie colors, which Alice tipped me off about, and then went to Barnes & Noble. I picked up the second of the Brontë sisters’ mysteries; still say with their new remodel there are not enough books in the stores! On the way home we stopped at Baskin-Robbins for ice cream. The weather was gorgeous both days, and we were quite satisfied.
The reason we wanted to get all our chores and fun done on Thursday and Friday was because it was supposed to pour fishbuckets on Saturday, 100 percent chance of rain all day. James decided he would use the bad weather to make some more burritos for quick breakfasts, as well as do his ground meat for the week. He gets a mixture of ground turkey, right now the “beyond beef” we got for $1.50 at Lidl, and TVP (soya) soaked in chicken/beef/vegetable broth, and cooks it up with carrots, celery, and onion minced fine in the food processor. Then he takes four servings of that and adds eggs to it to cook up for breakfasts on work days, adding different spices each day to individualize them.
While he cooked, I took advantage of a break in the rain (we'd had the hardest rain between four and eight, and by the time I went out the sun was struggling to get between the clouds) and went back to Sam’s Club, and of course on Saturday they had the copper Fitbits. Unfortunately my Samsclub.com order had already processed through and I couldn’t cancel it; I’d just have to wait for my mail order to come on Tuesday. I did go to the Walmart across the way and bought two camisoles, a shirt to wear when dog-walking in the heat, new pants’ hangers and wire hangers, and a few other things. The hangers will help me continue the closet project. When I got home I did the vacuuming, and it did rain in the evening, with thunder and lightning, but nothing like what they'd predicted (which was good, because they were talking hail and possible tornadoes).
Saturday evening we started watching season 3 of Star Trek: Discovery. The first episode had such a Star Wars vibe I wondered if we'd wandered into the wrong series. Goodness, Mary Wiseman (Tilly) looked so pale in the first episode. Had she been ill?
» Sunday, April 18, 2021Saying Farewell
If the news on Monday hadn't been bad enough, life threw us another curve on Wednesday (the 14th). James got up about 2 a.m. to use the bathroom, dozed off on the toilet, and once more pitched forward and hurt himself. I woke to him bellowing for help, and he had another lump on his right forehead, a bloody nose (he hit his nose this time), a scrape on his left arm near his elbow, and, of course, sore shoulders. It was 911 time again. This time it was a different group of firefighters, who got him off the floor, and two paramedics who got him in the ambulance to be taken to the hospital to be checked out. They suggested Kennestone because if he had a brain bleed due to the head injury it was the best place for him (they have the best trauma center around), and we didn't argue. They were allowing one visitor, so I got dressed and "saddled up" Butch and followed them there.
Thankfully, the CT scan showed no bleed, the x-ray showed no bones broken in the shoulders, and the nurse let me mop up the dried blood on his face. We got home about six in the morning and immediately decamped to the futon and ended up sleeping until ten. Hurrah for five hours of sleep instead of two. James called Kaiser and got a followup with Dr. Mobley on Thursday, and I washed the dog, packed some more, and by the time Jewel came for her weekly visit, we were sort of coherent.
Up to a few years ago, we went down to Warner Robins to visit James' mom and sister (earlier visiting his dad and sister Sabra and niece Nicki, too) fairly often, at the longest every couple of months, usually about once a month, which eventually dwindled to every six weeks. We'd visit Maggi and Clay for a couple of hours, too, and arrive home a few hours before bedtime, having caught up with what was going on. The drive took about an hour and forty minutes, and before James needed the power chair we would take the car. Twilight was a delight to drive long distances, even as the years wore on we would creak a little more emerging from the front seats.
The operative word here is "was." Initially the only traffic problem was near Southlake Mall, but as the mall died, you'd figure the traffic would get better, but no. More stores appeared around Southlake, and then there was the endless construction at the I-675 split down in Henry County. The "hour forty" became "hour forty five" and then "hour fifty" and got progressively worse, especially at times of the year (Christmas week, school winter and spring vacation weeks, and steamy, sucky, sizzly summer) when I-75 south was clotted with tourists descending on The House of Mouse.
Anyway, Friday morning we went to James' appointment at the podiatrist, then came home and loaded stuff in the truck until it was all down there except for the fids, came back upstairs and had lunch (chicken salad sandwiches), and then loaded up the kids (yes, it's actually easier to cope with Snowy because Tucker gets overexcited and will not be still) and were on our way about 1:15. This should get us in about check-in time at three.
Yeah, like that happened. Mystery traffic jams all the way down (the I-675 split excluded!) and it took us three bloody hours to get there—so long to get to the I-475 cutoff that we had to stop at the rest area so we could both use the bathroom. Even I-75 northbound was backed up. Tucker finally settled down and lay quietly, and Snowy sang for a straight three hours as he attempted to mate with the bell toy in the carry box. Finally pulled into the La Quinta on Watson Boulevard about 4:15, towed all the stuff upstairs on a luggage cart, got Tucker set up in his crate, Snowy set up on his cage on the folding tray, and just collapsed on the bed to get the full effect of the air conditioning as one hundred miles south was a temperature difference of ten degrees more.
A bit later James got ahold of Sabra and we decided to meet for supper at Zen Japanese Steakhouse, which was right behind our hotel. This was a typical place like a Benihana, where they cook the meal on a grill in front of you, and the food was pretty good. I know the steak in my steak and scallops was meltingly tender! Sabra was there with her husband Lee, James' sister Sherii with husband Bobby, and Sherii and Bobby's two daughters Katie and Jessicca, and Jessicca's husband Tom. We chatted through dinner and then after dinner at the hotel everyone else was staying at, the Courtyard by Marriott.
When I was first in Warner Robins, GA, it was still a small city, and things pretty much ended once you got past the mall and Corder Road. In the last thirty-five years everything has built up west of the city going toward the freeway. The place our hotel is, heck the place where they eventually built the "old" Publix (the new Publix is near our hotel) on the corner of Houston Lake Road, was mostly country dotted with a few houses and some small businesses, and, going toward the freeway, lots and lots of peach and pecan orchards. Now Watson Boulevard is solid traffic from U.S. 41 about a mile west of the our La Quinta all the way to the old mall, which is now a health center. It's like Barrett Parkway up at Kennesaw, lined with restaurants, supermarkets, hotels, stores like Best Buy and Hobby Lobby. In fact, judging by the traffic this weekend, it's like Barrett at Christmastime. Good God.
We had a bonus at our La Quinta: there was a dog show, the Peach Blossom, a few miles south in Perry, at the fairgrounds and Agricenter. Every hotel in town that was pet friendly had dogs, and ours was not an exception. We saw lovely pooches everywhere: a smiling Samoyed, a boxer, a pair of Westies, a Corgi, two huge Swiss Mountain dogs (looks like a Bernese, but with a short coat), an Aussie, a couple of pugs. (According to the desk clerk on Sunday, we missed a beaut: he was brought here from Russia. Something called a Caucasian Shepherd Dog, originally bred to hunt bear in the Caucasian Mountains. Like a "St. Bernard on steroids" was how he described it; he could see the top of the dog's head as it walked by the check-in desk!!!)
I had not asked for a handicapped accessible room because none came up when I searched Petswelcome.com's listings, so we had to take it slow getting James in and out of the bathtub/shower. This hotel had the craziest diverter (the gadget that switches from the faucet to the shower) I've ever seen: it was the round spout where the water came out—you pulled it down to get the shower to turn on! Then I had to do treatment on the remaining blisters on his leg. No wonder we don't like to go anywhere anymore: we have to bring more and more medical supplies with us every time we go anywhere.
Saturday morning we got up in time for the breakfast buffet. This was back to being a normal buffet unlike the Country Inn and Suites for Atomicon: eggs and sausages, a waffle maker, a pancake maker, four kinds of juice, a toaster and several kinds of bread, bagels, muffins, and pastries, oatmeal and grits (packaged), several fruit choices, 2 percent milk in a dispenser, also skim milk, butter, margarine, cream cheese, and even cheese slices (which James really appreciated) in a fridge. Hot coffee and tea were available, too.
At this point we had nothing to do until the service, but neither of us had slept well—the pillows were like rocks and two were too many and one not enough, plus they keep the parking lot brilliantly lit so you won't feel like you'll get mugged, but the light completely overwhelms the white "blackout curtains" they have on the windows and glows all around them, and the bed is next to the window, so you can see how that goes. So we just sort of lolled there until we decided we'd better have lunch before the service. Guess what we had seen just down the road when we returned from the Courtyard last night: an Uncle Maddio's Pizza! We went down there and got individual pizzas to go, then ate until it was time to get dressed for the service. Dress was "nice casual," so I wore the black blouse I'd worn to Juanita's wedding with black work pants and my Mom's Trifari bird of paradise pin, which is the nicest piece of jewelry I own. James wore a blue Oxford cloth shirt over his Navy-plaid kilt, with a Trifari green- and clear rhinestone sword pin as a kilt pin, and just regular compression socks instead of the white socks that go with the kilt. I polished our shoes and put on a little blush, and we wore our hats, as it was sunny, warm, and clear with a brisk breeze. Traffic was terrible going back to Magnolia Park, so we weren't as early as we wanted to be. Clay and Maggi had just arrived, and we walked up to the marquee with them only to find out that Alice, Ken, Aubrey, and Juanita had driven down all the way from home to attend the service. I nearly cried. Terica and Ben, who live in town, came, too, but could not stay long as they had to get back to her father, who has dementia. Several friends of James' family were there, like Edwin, and James' Aunt Sandy and her daughter Crystal had also driven down from Kennesaw in that horrible traffic mess!
Sabra did the honors at the memorial ceremony. We were touched because she had asked James if there was anything he wanted read at the ceremony and he asked her to read the Henry Scott Holland piece that had been used in an episode of Remember WENN, a beautiful quotation that goes
"What is death? Death is nothing at all. I have only slipped away into the next room, and I am I and you are you. Whatever we were to each other then, that we are still. Speak to me in the easy way that you always used, laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together, let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Life means all that it ever meant; there's absolute unbroken continuity. Why should I be out of mind because I'm out of sight? I am waiting for you, somewhere very near, just around the corner. All is well."
Sabra liked it so well that she read it at the opening of the ceremony. Then she started to tell "Mom stories" that made us laugh and cry all at the same time. It was not a long ceremony, but very touching, and Mom's casket was surrounded by beautiful baskets of flowers, which she would have loved.
Sometime during the ceremony James' sister Candace showed up, having been driven up from Dublin, GA, by a friend. We have not seen her since she developed the terrible infection in her foot last year, and the wound got so bad that she had to have her leg amputated at the knee. She is now in a Veterans' Administration facility in Dublin, supposedly having therapy so that she will be strong enough to be transferred up to New Jersey where she can stay with her daughter Nicki and her grandsons and son-in-law. We know she has not been doing well there, but we were shocked by her appearance. She looks old before her time, thin and wan. I hope she can get out of there soon!
After the ceremony, we went with Alice, Ken, Aubrey, Juanita, Maggi, and Clay to the local Cracker Barrel to have a little snack and decompress. Juanita couldn't finish all her meal so I had a very nice pancake, and James had a slice of chocolate cake. Cracker Barrel is usually SRO, so I was shocked that we found a table almost right away. Then they went along home, and we went back to be with the fids. About seven o'clock we ordered some teriyaki wings from Buffalo Wild Wings and had them delivered to the hotel. They were good, but the sauce was rather salty.
We had a sort-of better night's sleep on Saturday night, were up in time for some packing and the breakfast buffet, then packed up the luggage, the crate, the cage, and finally the fids, got in the truck and got on the road. The GPS was saying a little over a two hour drive, to get us home a little after one, and we didn't do badly in traffic until I noticed James was blinking a lot and sounding tired as we approached McDonough, so we got off at exit 212, hoping to go to Chick-Fil-A, then remembering it was Sunday and they were closed. Sigh. I could have used the waffle fries. I told James we could go on if he wanted to, after using the bathroom at Books-a-Million, since they wouldn't let us go in at Wendy's, but he really needed to eat, so we went to McDonald's instead—at least they'd let us in to use the bathroom. James asked for a quarter pounder without cheese for me and a plain hamburger without cheese for Tucker, and guess what...cheese. Thanks for nothing, McDonald's. I still ate half. Tucker didn't care.
Yes, Snowy sang all the way home, too, but by the time we got close he was starting to look a bit exhausted!
Of course by the time we left McDonald's, the traffic at the I-675 split had built up. At one point the GPS took us off the freeway, a couple of miles on local roads, then back on the freeway. The shortest way home was through I-285, so around downtown Atlanta we went, got home an hour later at a little after two, hauled stuff in and pretty much left stuff that didn't need to go upstairs downstairs, changed clothes, and took a bloody nap until James' furosimide alarm went off at four o'clock.
Spent the rest of the afternoon watching documentaries on Curiosity Stream: one on red pandas, one about the Magna Carta, and finally one called Sherlock Holmes Against Conan Doyle.
At last, back to feather pillows and a firm mattress and lights out.
Until we get an alternative safety method, I have pulled the two foam wedgies that we used to use on the old, non-adjustable bed to prop up our heads from the spare room closet and set them opposite the toilet in the master bathroom. God forbid if James falls forward again he will hit foam rubber.
Tonight it's My Grandfather's War and part three of Atlantic Crossing.
» Sunday, April 11, 2021Loss
James’ mom's condition continued to deteriorate this week. She was having difficulty breathing and they made the decision to put her on a ventilator and sedate her. Later in the week they withdrew the sedation, and were ready to take her off the ventilator when she regained consciousness. She has not yet come to. Late in the week the hospital called in hospice services.
So, it has not been a good week here. At least the side effect fever from the COVID vaccine is gone.
Well, at least that side effect went away. This weekend I had another. It didn't much matter.
At least we were able to have lunch on Friday with Alice and Ken.
[James' mom passed away Monday night, April 12, at 9 p.m.]
» Saturday, April 03, 2021Vaccine Fever
You know me, dentist phobia. So I figured I'd give the gums a good week's treatment before I called the dentist. This was really painful Monday and Tuesday. I had a low-grade fever both days and I had to quit using the water flosser because it hurt so much. Even my upper and lower palette swelled up and the salt rinses were painful; they made my sinuses hurt. My glands were swollen, too. Oddly, at no time did I have any type of toothache; I have had sore gums before, but it has always been associated with a toothache. Instead I flossed with regular floss, which was painful enough, and kept up with the salt rinses along with peroxide rinses (I looked at a $12 tooth rinse at the supermarket; the active ingredient was, guess what, peroxide! I figured to save $12 I could stand the bad taste.) Tuesday I was asleep most of the afternoon. Wednesday I felt better and the fever never came back.
Thursday morning, when I resolved I would call the dentist if things hadn't improved, the swelling was down almost everywhere, and brushing and rinsing didn't hurt much anymore, and by Friday everything was fine again. So...beats me. I didn't think peroxide and salt would take down real infection. I did remember my strange reaction to the Zostavax, though, and looked up reactions to tetanus vaccines online. And there were bleeding gums and swollen glands. Hmmmn.
The rest of the week went by smoothly for us, but not so for James' mother. On Monday she had a very mild heart attack, which I guess was linked to the slow heartbeat? We're getting the reports from James' sister, and she can only visit Mom on limited hours, so she doesn't know everything the doctors are doing.
Friday I did my usual quiet three hours between noon and three, reading the Mass readings for Good Friday, then listening to all six BBC Lent Talks for this year. This year's theme was "hope." I finished out the three hours with Madeleine L'Engle's And It Was Good, the first book in her Genesis trilogy in which she covers the creation through the almost-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham. Said prayers for Mom and hoped things will turn around.
And, finally, today, O finally!...I got my second vaccine! We made a day of it: I-285 was backed up at one in the afternoon, so after I was "shot" and waited the regulation thirty minutes reading Ben Aaronovitch's What Abigail Did That Summer, we drove home overland through (mostly) Holcomb Bridge Road. Had lunch at Zaxby's and stopped at Trader Joe's for chicken sausage and chocolate and other goodies.
Tonight I had a fever of 100.3. Why am I not surprised? They say it means you are building antibodies, so it's a good thing.
[The fever, incidentally, lasted through Sunday and Monday, and then vanished as if it had never arrived.]