Monday, August 26, 2013

There and Back Again

After work today, I'm off to the Big City to take my mother to her orthopedic surgeon. I'll be back home for a couple of days and then return to take her to the oncologist. It's not really surprising that I've put nearly 11,000 miles on the Dogmobile since May. Each trip to the city is about 350 miles there and back, and then there are the interstitial trips when I go to Smalltownland to see my dad and do things around the house for him.

This saga began on June 23rd when Mom fell and broke her leg, and while she was in the hospital, she was diagnosed with cancer as well. As of this writing, I've been pinballing between my house and the city as much as two or three times per week.

On about four separate occasions, I've dragged Hopkins to improvisational comedy shows featuring my friend and sort-of-like-a-godson Stefan. Other than going to see "The Great Gatsby" with Stefan, his roommate, and younger brother during one of my longer stints in the city, that's pretty much been my only recreation for several months. Normally I trail off to see my best friend in North Carolina, but it's five hours away. I can't do that with Mom in this kind of shape. She lost her mother quite suddenly a few years ago, so I know she understands...but I do miss seeing her.

At the end of the week, I'll pack Mom up and bring her home from her rehab stay in the nursing home. We still don't know how we're going to manage, but manage we will. Everything else will have to wait.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Progressive, My Hind Leg

Yesterday heralded one of those milestones no woman of a certain age likes to reach: bifocals, or as they are euphemistically called now, "progressive lenses".  Just exactly what progress are we talking about here? Toward blindness? The grave? One shudders to think.

Glasses are pretty much obscenely expensive to begin with, but progressive lenses require the sacrifice of a kidney. What I've seen so far ranges between about $150 to upwards of $500 just for the lenses, depending on a number of factors. Jeez. It's pricey to lose one's eyesight. It's not as if I didn't know this- I'm a Lion, and we raise money to provide glasses assistance- but good grief.

Not that this was the worst of it: in addition to the changes in my prescription, the optometrist had one other not-so-hot piece of news. I have glaucoma.

Irony: I'm not a diabetic. My mother is diabetic. My sister is diabetic. I. am. not, and yet, *I* have glaucoma.

I am not amused.

One of my greatest fears has always been that of going blind. The eyes that are my best physical feature have not worked exactly right since I was twelve, and now...

I walked out with the prescription for my contact lenses (with a recommendation for stronger reading glasses for evening and work), one for my "progressive lens" glasses, and, well, two prescriptions for special eye drops with a couple of new, different ones for the glaucoma to follow next month after I see the optometrist again.

Crap. Just, crap. Not too happy, but what can I do? Meanwhile back at the ranch, I am plotting for some pretty kick-ass reading glasses because I'm not going down without a fight.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Once Upon a Time in Glasgow

When I was a little girl, I spent a great deal of time at my aunt and uncle's home in a town called Glasgow. I had three male first cousins who were teenagers when I was born, and they ran me up and down the neighborhood in a big black English perambulator (buggy) showing me off to the neighbors. I was adored. I was spoiled...and I loved them all wildly.

Then when I was nine, and the boys were all grown and married, some with children of their own, my uncle died suddenly of a heart attack. To say that the family was damaged is an understatement- we imploded, especially my father. They'd been like brothers and it turned my father's world inside out. He changed. He became dark and angry. It was a bad time, one that didn't change or abate for an entire decade.

I won't elaborate on exactly what happened, but at the end of my sophomore year of high school, I almost went to Glasgow to live with my aunt. The public reason was that they had advanced biology classes that my hometown high school didn't, and that it would be a great academic opportunity (which it would've)...but the real reason was something totally different. In the end, I decided to gut it out and stay with my friends, particularly Hopkins, because I figured we'd never get through our respective personal Hells without one another. In retrospect, the observation still stands.

Again, for many reasons that I don't want to commit to a public forum, my aunt decided toward the end of my senior year that she would move to Phoenix to live with my grandmother. She left a chair with us that was a favorite of my uncle's...and most of the family besides her didn't know that when the chair was moved from his office to the house after his death, that's where I was when nobody could find me. What very few people know is that I often sat in that chair when it was in his office, watching him work. The chair is in the formal sitting room at my parents' house; the chair stayed with me, a physical reminder of the happier days in Glasgow.

When her health failed, my cousins brought my aunt back to the Greater Nashville area, close to where they live. She wasn't happy there. It's cold. It's damp. She didn't have much independence, and her health continued to decline. My other aunt would come to visit from Indianapolis, and we met them a couple of times at a restaurant in Glasgow when she was visiting. The last time, my older aunt was clearly very deeply depressed. She'd always carried a degree of sadness since my uncle died, but this was different.

A few days ago, the cousin with whom she lived returned home at lunchtime and found her dead in her bed.

That morning, I'd been to the animal shelter in Glasgow to pick up an Airedale for rescue. It's about two blocks behind their old house, and for the first time in my life, I felt an eerie disconnection from the place. Later that evening, I found out why when the eldest cousin called to give me the bad news. With her death, a chapter of my life closed, one that was not entirely happy, but one that was not entirely bad, either, and certainly one that held a lot of profound memories for me.