Archive for July, 2012|Monthly archive page

Starbucks memories

My sister Laura visited last weekend. Poor thing arrived while we – at my house and at my dad and stepmother’s house – remained in the midst of our power outage, so she stayed at a hotel. At our first visit together to see Mom on Sunday afternoon, Laura arrived with a mocha frappuccino from Starbucks. Mom had always loved those, Laura said. Sure enough, Mom got the hang of drinking her frosty, sweet drink right away.

Mom didn’t hesitate to drink through the straw, though it has probably been truly years since she used a straw.

Mom was very animated, too. Talked quite a bit, telling various stories. I admit I don’t recall much – I waited too long to write this blog post! But she was funny. She sat on the couch and Laura and I sat in chairs facing her. We had a really nice visit. Mom continued to work on her frappuccino.

We may have had to help her with the lid. She knew she wanted every drop of that cold, sweet treat.

I do recall Mom said at one point, “God almighty, you’re killing me.” I think it was actually an indication of how much she was enjoying her drink. But it was also one of those old-time Bonnie phrases. She also started one sentence by saying, “Interestingly, … ” which we found amusing. Her language was a diverse mix of full sentences and nonsense multisyllabic sounds. Her mood stayed very good.

Mom was amused by the whipped cream on her nose.

Laura and I were so inspired by Mom’s good mood that we decided to try to take her out for ice cream – more frosty goodness. I retrieved a pair of Crocs from her room and Laura and I worked together to get them on her feet. Unfortunately, we hit a sore spot on one of her toes. “That’s terrible,” she said, very dramatically. We apologized and kept working until we got the shoes on her feet. A nurse took her to the shower room to change her so she’d be fresh for the road. Laura and I listened outside the door just in case Mom screamed – I thought Laura would be interested to know what it’s like since I write about it sometimes. But Mom was almost silent, just talking a little. No major objections. We walked with her to the lobby, and here I needed a stop in the restroom. When I came out, Mom was sitting on the couch. Laura had tried to keep her standing, but with the couch in view, Mom went straight for it. Laura took a quick restroom break, too. And then we tried to get Mom to stand so we could take her out the door to the car. And we hit a wall. Mom’s mood had soured a little bit with the shoe incident and the shower room change. She was basically silent, but she did not respond to efforts to get her to stand. And she seemed very drowsy. She closed her eyes. We had worn her out. And maybe she was experiencing a crash after a sugary, caffeinated drink.

Mom on a lobby couch, freshened up and wearing shoes, but not up for an outing after all.

This visit was the best during Laura’s stay in town. Mom enjoyed another frappuccino the next day. And the three of us took a walk through the center. But she was somewhat subdued and distracted, and not as chipper. Later the same day, we took her a scoop of chocolate ice cream right before dinner – I have to hand it to Laura for wanting to provide Mom with these pleasurable flavors – and Mom ate it while walking rather than sitting down to enjoy it. This is how it is with Mom – she has stabilized at this point where she can walk, feed herself and thoroughly enjoy tasty treats, and talk in a social way despite language difficulties. But her mood is a little less predictable. She thankfully is never weepy, but it appears she can hold on to some irritation and glumness. I sometimes think she also has a limit to how much social interaction she can tolerate – either because it’s physically tiring or a strain on her mood, or both. So I’m glad Laura saw her on a very good day.

Life lessons don’t always last

Ohio is part of this big storm damage-power outage-heat wave problem in the eastern half of the country. Our house lost power for five nights and six days. We threw away the contents of our refrigerator, freezer and a chest freezer downstairs. Our dogs panted each night away trying to cool off. We and our dogs stayed at a hotel one night and all four of us slept in our basement for two nights – which was surprisingly tolerable. The power came back on the night of the 4th of July and I was so energized and happy when that happened. And then last night, the power went off again. A circuit serving our house and 12 others in the neighborhood appears to have blown. And I have sort of gone off the deep end.

I think the forecast of 102 degrees today has a lot to do with that. I also had planned a full day of cleaning in preparation for my sister’s visit from California. I envision the house is coated by a layer of bacteria that settled in during the hot, breeze-less days. And there is much laundry to do. She booked a hotel earlier this week just in case, because my dad’s house has only partial power that doesn’t include air conditioning and it was hard to be hopeful about the power coming back on when we were in the midst of the outage. And as it turns out, there indeed is no comfortable family place for her to stay at the moment.

The realization that something was wrong began when I was listening to a voice mail from my stepmother last night on my way out of a movie at the neighborhood theater, which suffered through several nights of lost business during the power outage. She said our home phone wasn’t accepting calls. This concerned me. As we walked down our street, lights were on at most houses. And then there was our house, dark and quiet, the same as a few others on our side of the street. We walked around and could see the cluster of houses on our street and on the next street over that were dark. Neighbors were in their yards with flashlights. We made calls to the electric company and went to bed in our stifling bedroom. I tossed and turned for hours, listening to my poor 95-pound chocolate lab panting and panting, consumed with all the ways I hated the power company and wishing I could think of creative ways to express it.

During the first part of the outage, I tried to maintain perspective. At least I have my health, I would tell myself. I’m not unlucky like my mom is; I haven’t been stricken with a terrible disease. And I have access to an air conditioned office I could visit to get on the computer and charge our cell phones. There are many in my city and in other parts of the state who waited longer for their power to be turned on, or who still haven’t gotten their power – and we are nine days past the storm that downed trees and power lines. Some people in rural areas have no water because they need electricity to power their wells. Some people are in very poor health – so far, three people in Ohio who had chronic illnesses have been found dead in their homes. I am going to be fine. I am merely inconvenienced. But last night and so far today (it’s still early), I have been obsessed with how upset I am.

I so want to be a person who isn’t full of hate, who doesn’t complain, who can roll with the punches. Especially as I get older. I have tended to enjoy many aspects of aging because, though it isn’t apparent at this moment, I am more mellow than I used to be. A little less emotional and reactive. I am able to pause in the face of adversity and try to think before I talk. I’m still not great at any of this, but I do perceive myself as less explosive than I used to be. But I still have such a long way to go.

Not long ago, I posted about how I have learned during this experience with Mom that approaching the future with dread is no way to go through life. That good outcomes can follow the worst possible turn of events. So much of those lessons are lost on me right now, and I’m disappointed that I can’t seem to maintain that positive outlook. I will try to treat this trying time as a little case study once it is behind me, I think, so I can learn some more and hopefully figure out how to be the better person I want to be.