I have the luxury of being able to go back in time if I need to and I need to. If I were writing a real honest to goodness book made of paper with pages, I would get everything in chronological order before it was published but there are a few things you must understand about blogging my life story:
- The chapters come as I think of them.
- I could go back and insert a chapter where it would be in the proper sequence but no one would know where to find it.
- It would be possible to just go ahead and tell it here as if that’s where it belonged but I’d know it wasn’t in the right sequence.
Which brings me to a confession. DD’s nose was broken the year before I related its happening. Not that it alters the story one bit but I needed to get that off my chest.
The year I’m concentrating on at the moment is 1994. We had been living next door to my in-laws going on seven years. Every fall, my father-in-law would say he wasn’t going to make another garden. The following spring would find the spots (he had three big ones and several small ones) plowed. He continued to grow enough food to feed this end of the county and he expected none of it to go to waste.
As usual, I would get home from work and go to their place to help my mother-in-law with the canning and freezing of the produce. She was getting more and more exhausted. I tried to tell my father-in-law she couldn’t keep up the pace but he didn’t comprehend she was getting older. He was 92 and could work hard all day with no problem. Along with his age, he was getting more stubborn. I learned to go along with him if I could.
MIL was having terrific headaches. She would describe them as a band around her head that was pulled much too tight. Their house didn’t have air conditioning but even in the winter, she would “per-sweat” as she called it until the hair lying on her neck would be drenched. She would wear a towel to soak up the moisture. Another thing was her dizziness. Staggering wasn’t unusual. There were visits to several different doctors to try to get relief but none of them could make a definitive diagnosis. She was on Ativert for the dizziness but it didn’t seem to help a whole lot.
I took her to one of the doctors in the valley and he prescribed Treximet for the headaches. Being a nurse, she would be able to give herself the shot if she felt a headache coming on. The sad fact was, her headache never went away so that didn’t help, either.
One night DD and I were getting ready to go to bed when I heard a sound that made my hair stand on end. It was a blood-curdling scream and it was coming from my in-laws’ house. In hindsight, I should have gone over there but my father-in-law was territorial and set in his ways. The phone seemed to be a better choice so I picked it up and called. FIL answered. He said everything was okay. “Doll” had one of her headaches and momentarily lost it. She was going to bed and so was he. I told him we should take her to the emergency room but he refused and said she’d be okay. I still blame myself for not insisting but I can’t do anything about it now.
The next day, I called my brother-in-law (the oldest in the family) and told him I needed help with his folks. He came up and succeeded in getting my MIL into the car and he brought her straight to the hospital. From the emergency room, the doctor put her in an observation bed, then to inpatient and from there to a swingbed.
Now a note about the swingbed. When I first went to work at the hospital, I heard about patients in swingbeds. I had no idea what that was and pictured a hammock across the corner. What it actually is, is a bed that’s Medicare certified as either an acute or a skilled level of care. I guess it can “swing” from one to the other. A patient who goes from acute to swing doesn’t even have to be moved from one room to another. It amounts to an extended stay.
Back to my story. My MIL was declining rapidly and was to the point of seeing people who weren’t there. I asked if it could be the medication she was on but she wasn’t taking anything that could cause it. Then she started “picking” at the air. I was sure the end must be near but, carrying out the family’s wishes, the doctor did what doctors do and used medications and therapies to bring her back. The damage was done, though, and she never came home.
From the hospital, she went to a private home where the couple was set up to care for one or possibly two patients. DD and I would go out as often as we could to visit with her. She knew us but it was hard to see her in that condition.
One morning, DH’s uncle-in-law came to get me. He and the wife lived in the house on the other side of us. His better half (my MIL’s sister) had fallen and he couldn’t get her up off the ground. When I got there, I could tell she shouldn’t get up. I had DD go to our house and get something to cover her while I called the ambulance. When the EMTs got there, they loaded her onto a backboard and took her to the ER.
The x-rays showed a fractured pelvis. No wonder she couldn’t get up! She went down pretty much the same road my MIL did and was in a swingbed for several months. One afternoon, she was more lucid that usual and she told me, “I know I’m losing my mind and it’s scary.” It was so sad. She didn’t go home, either. Eventually, she ended up in the same place as my MIL. The sisters were living together again.
My father-in-law was still next door to me. I’d leave food for him to eat during the day along with his medications and instructions on when to take them. When I’d check on him in the afternoon, the medications wouldn’t have been touched. The food might or might not be eaten. One day, there was choking smoke when I opened the back door. He had put a plastic container in the oven to heat his food and it had melted everywhere. I opened the windows to air the place out and did the best I could to clean up the disaster.
It was the middle of the night when there was a pounding on my front door. I was jolted awake and when I opened my eyes, I could see flashing lights. I turned on the porch light and there were uniforms and badges. What on earth??