coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

An Adventure in Time and Space

I am back home.  I spent a night stranded in the Detroit airport.  I never made it to Indiana because of multi-day, weather-related flight cancellations.  My Mom is doing better and has started eating.  She has left the hospital and returned to the nursing home.  You can stop reading right now if you do not want to hear the gory details. 

The Gory Details:
I flew to Detroit at 3:32 pm Monday afternoon, totally expecting to connect with my 8:05 pm flight to see my Mom.  Before I left, my sister called to tell me 1. There was a blizzard there with extreme, record breaking cold, and 2. My mom was eating, talking, and generally bouncing back well enough that they were moving her out of the hospital and back to the nursing home.  In retrospect, I should have cancelled then; but nonrefundable tickets being what they are, I figured I would take my chances and at worst spend a night in the hotel.  I am currently trying to change my life for the better by being more positive and trying to look on the bright side.   Plus, I really, really wanted to see my mother and my extended family.  

My destination is in Northern Indiana near Chicago.  When I checked in to start my trip on Monday afternoon I was told I had two options once I arrived in Detroit; I could either get a 5:45 pm flight out (for which I was on standby) or an 8:05 pm flight (the flight I originally booked).  I was thrilled to have two options – it gave me false hope that the weather in the Midwest was getting better, and as a control freak I like options a lot.  I was happy.  Once I boarded the plane, the stewardess came to tell me that the 8:05 pm flight was cancelled, so I should try to get on the 5:45 pm flight.  I was immediately less happy.  I was also little worried about making it because there was so little time between the landing of my plane and the boarding of the 5:45 plane. Endless games of solitaire on my iPad and a strong family tradition of denial helped me achieve a state of perfect calm.  Once we arrived in Detroit I ran to the nearest Delta information desk only to discover that all flights that day (Monday) were now cancelled.  I was not happy at all.  She sent me to “Gate 43” where all rescheduling was done.   I scurried to Gate 43, dragging my luggage with me.  It was quite the classic airport scene as people at the gate were told they were now stuck in Detroit overnight.   After waiting in line, a very sweet Delta airlines representative (I will call her Delta Lady #1) told me she could put me on a flight at 8:05 p.m. on Tuesday night.  I snapped at her and immediately apologized, saying I was sorry, but I was just angry.  She looked me in the eye with the liquid promise of loving salvation and said “Oh, don’t get angry!  Everything happens for a reason.”   In my mind my eyes were rolling towards the back of my head.   Ok, maybe they were in reality, too.   But at that very moment, I knew that Delta Lady #1 was on to something and that I needed to relax and try to enjoy the experience, because truthfully the only alternative was trauma and fear.  I had a choice to make.  I needed to believe.  Then I told her that my mother was sick and I really had to get there sooner.  Yes, I actually used the sick mother card!  I have no shame.  ‘Cause, well, I really do have a sick mother and I really have no shame.  Delta Lady #1 was super kind and caring.  She was able to put me on an earlier flight to Indiana leaving at 8:46 am on Tuesday morning.  I was thrilled.   I was also ready to find that reason and experience the bright side.   Who knew, it was so crazy it might even work.   Perhaps this awful experience was going to change my life?   Yes, I was alone in the Detroit airport and I was stark raving mad.    

The flights were cancelled due to “an act of nature” which is airline code for “the airlines will not pay for hotel rooms.”  However, they passed out discount tickets to motels surrounding the airport.  That, of course meant that one had to compete with the poor, unfortunate rescheduled masses and call one motel after the other until reservations could be made, arrange for a shuttle to pick you up, figure out how to get outside the airport to the right spot, and wait in the extreme cold until a shuttle has room to pick up up along with everyone else. All this is required to spend one fitful night in a seedy motel in the outskirts of DETROIT, for crying out loud.  I have had this “discount motel” experience before when flying through and getting stuck in Philly, thank you very much.   Back then, T and I ended up waiting outside in the cold for hours with many angry strangers until a shuttle actually stopped to pick us up.  It was beyond unpleasant.  I was younger then and with my husband, who is much more level-headed than me.  On Monday’s trip I was 62 years old, alone, and stark raving mad!  And considering this particular flying experience was in the midst of the 2014 Polar Vortex, I opted to stay in the airport’s Westin Hotel.   It is a lovely hotel inside the airport.  Way more money, but you know…I’m worth it, and all that crap.  

LOVED the hotel.  Maybe this was the bright side?  I settled into my lovely room at the safe and convenient Westin.   I was thinking how sinfully relaxing it was to be in a great room with millions of pillows and a huge bed all to myself when I got THE call from Automated Delta Man#1 - I was informed that my 8:46 am flight out was now cancelled and I would have to call a certain number to get another flight.   I sighed deeply and called, only to discover from Automated Delta Man #2 that there was an hour to an hour and a half wait just to get a call-back.  So I dialed my place in “line” and then waited for my call back.  An hour later I got the call and was helped by sweet, kind, compassionate Delta Lady #2.   These ladies are dynamite, by the way.  In truth, I congratulate their trainers because they simply ooze kindness.  By then I was ready to explode, so their kindness was the only thing keeping my bad temper in check.  I surrendered to their compassionate professionalism.  Delta Lady #2 softly and sadly informed me that the only remaining option was a Wednesday afternoon flight.   That meant I would have to spend two and a half days in the Detroit airport.   I said no, just send me back to NYS tomorrow.   She reassured me that she would but wanted to check into a few things concerning a refund for which she would put me on hold.  I waited for a long time (playing solitaire like crazy) and I was eventually disconnected.   I waited a few minutes but she did not call me back.  I called the same number and Automated Delta Man #3 put on the waiting list again for a call back.  This time it only took 45 minutes to be called back.  Delta Lady #3 was another treasure of grace and composure.   She confirmed that I was on a flight from Detroit to NYS at 10:00 am the next morning.   Yay!!!!   Delta Lady #2 had pulled it off.  Delta Lady #3 was happy that I was happy.   Happy?  By God, I was positively giddy.  I was going home.  I almost cried.   I tried to watch Swamp People on the History channel, but I was so exhausted that I had to just turn off the light and go to sleep.  

The next morning I got up and caught the flight home.   I only had to wait on the tarmac for an hour while they fussed with some mysterious mechanical problem.   I had my iPad and played solitaire.   I am only $750 poorer.   Sheesh.   This looking on the bright side stuff is really hard work. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My Mom

My mother is 87 years old and is experiencing the advanced stages of Parkinson's Disease.  Consequently, she has recently moved into a nursing home.   

My parents always owned their own house.  When my father died in 1996, my mother continued to live alone in the family house for a number of years.  Eventually, it became too much for her, she sold the house and moved to an apartment. When it became clear that she was no longer safe living alone she moved again, this time into an assisted living community.  There she had her own private efficiency apartment within the larger setting.  She is a quiet, private person, shy even, but she seemed to enjoy assisted living.  At first it was hard for her to be in a setting with so many other people around.  However, she became accustomed to the apartment-based living arrangement and it felt like home to her.   She would use her walker to go down to the dining hall for lunch and dinner, but chose to have breakfast alone in her apartment.  In the last few years she chose to stay in her apartment more and more, and she no longer participated in the social events that were organized for the participants.  She lived a simple life, and she did not socialize much.  She has never been a very social person, so her gradual withdrawal seemed fairly normal to the family.

Just before Christmas, she was moved into a nursing home.  She could no longer dress herself or go to the bathroom alone.  Walking with a walker had become increasingly problematic.  She needed more care than she could afford in assisted living, where each assisted task is charged on an individual basis.  Although her mind remains sharp, her body has been ravaged.   Parkinson’s is a progressive disease.  She now needs professional care round the clock.  It has become that time of her life we all knew would eventually come, but all tried not to think about it until we had to.   It sucks…

I cannot imagine any one wants to move into a nursing home.  The loss of privacy represents a loss of dignity.  We are a family of limited means.  For people like us once a parent’s money has been depleted, and if the children are not wealthy, nursing home care means a shared room and Medicaid.   In our capitalist society you get what you pay for.  I have no illusions about it being any different when I am old and infirm.  All of her social security and small pension now go the nursing home.  The difference between her fixed income and the total cost of nursing care and medication is paid for by Medicaid.  Theoretically she gets to keep a little over $50 per month from the income stream. Beyond that her children pay for her telephone, newspaper, and getting her hair done.  We try to pick up or send her cookies, pretzels, and hard candy for her room.  Her roommate does not even have a television, so my mother shares hers with the roommate.  It seems like a nice place in many ways, it is clean, the food is good, the aides are kindly, and the nurses are competent.  Still, the economics are such that places like this are routinely understaffed.  Waiting for help with basic needs is the norm.  Betty Davis once said “Growing old ain’t for sissies!”  Too true.  Under these circumstances elderly people are heroic, striving to derive pleasure and joy when they can.   If the food is prepared well and tastes good, they all talk about it.  If they watch sports and their team wins, they are thrilled.  If a family member or old friends comes to visit, they appreciate it.  A card in the mail screams “Someone cares about you!”  Every kindness is treasured.  

Apparently when the elderly get urinary tract infections (UTI) they can become confused and agitated, very much like dementia.  The confusion goes away after a few days of antibiotics.  It is apparently a common phenomenon in a nursing facility.  This happened to my sweet Mother last week, in the first month of her stay at the nursing home.   Mom has not displayed dementia previously, except for a short-term incident about 8 years ago related to and following major surgery.  So we were concerned last week when her caregiver, our sister ERB, stopped by to see her after work and found her to be a bit out of touch with reality.  Mom insisted certain things happened that did not happen and was seeing and talking to people who were not there.  When ERB reported it to the nurse, the nurse said it was likely a UTI and she would have the doctor check it out.  Sure enough, that is what she has.  However, today is day 4 of the antibiotic and she is still slipping in and out of reality.   Disturbing.  In the words of my sister ERB, “I want my Mom back.”  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Buying, Moving, and Selling

It is likely we will actually buy the house we have an offer on in Florida.  The offer has been accepted.  An actual closing date is being proposed.   We have been pre-approved for the loan.   Now the fun (NOT!) begins.

We are having some more problems with the Florida house re-inspection.  Sheesh.  I hate those *$#@! bankers.   They did a half-assed job of fixing something from the previous inspection (which resulted in us walking away from this house the first time around, back in November - and, by God, don't think we won't do it again!).  Now we have to fight nearly the same fight all over again.   The house is a foreclosure and unfortunately the owners are not in the picture.  It is Fannie Mae and the bankers are in charge.  They do not seem to care one bit about the house and the damage they will do to it if they do not fix things correctly.  Soul-less, limited vision, greedy, liars, cheaters, blah, blah, blah.   I really cannot get started on this right now.  Will get back to you with more on that later - too fresh to talk about without filling me with anxiety and provoking a full-on rant attack.  And it hasn't been resolved one way or another yet.   Hopefully tomorrow.   

I hate, hate, hate this stuff.  It reminds me too much of work but without the authority I was used to.  Work was not personal, so I could make decisions and play hardball and feel like it was a fun game that was mine to win.  This, however, is my life.  And I cannot just make all the decisions on my own.  I have to compromise and present a united front with my husband/partner, T.  If you have ever been in a relationship with another human being you know that rarely do two people ever agree on everything.  Or maybe anything.  But certainly never on how to direct a negotiation.  The inherent differences between two people's tolerance for risk are all too clear when they have to come together as one unit in the midst of an external negotiation process.  The struggle for two people to compromise in order to present a united front is mindboggling!  Seriously, it gets complicated.  It would probably be easier if one of us was a passive type.  But no, we cannot even slow dance together because I am unable to follow his lead.  I am not kidding.  We were both managers for many years and we are both used to being in charge at work.  This "buying a home" thing is good experience for us to learn to compromise and share power and authority in our old age.   Finally, after 42 1/2 years together!  We are making headway - mostly because HE is a rational person.  I will be so happy when buying, moving, and selling are all behind us and we can get back to settling into retirement.  

We want to interview a couple of realtors for selling our old house in NYS and get a few estimates from movers for moving our stuff down to Florida.   We had one well known moving company come and give us an estimate last week - really liked the estimator and we think we got a good quote.   Either this is going to be the easy part of the relocation, or it simply has not progressed to the part of the moving process that will drive me crazy.

We have been de-cluttering like crazy, and packing slowly but surely.   We are also painting some rooms, replacing things, cleaning, and generally trying to get the house to look good.  We finally met with a realtor the other day.  He is the son of a friend, fairly new to the game, but middle-aged and reinventing himself as a realtor after a successful career in the construction business.  I like his energy and enthusiasm (and sheer joy), but will also call a second, more experienced realtor and compare their services.  The more established realtor is someone our daughter used when she and MV lived up north.  I will confess to a worry about the more established of the two being motivated to sell a funky old house like ours out in the boondocks.  This place will not represent a lot of money for a realtor, and I worry the more established one is used to a different clientele and a higher profit.  The newer one seems "hungry" to make some sales and create a reputation.  He also grew up in this neck of the woods and understands the "rural life" and the people inhabiting the area.  If red flags are popping up in your mind, please do not worry.  We still have an open mind.  Really.   :)