Tag Archives: family

Watching Pablo .aug14

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August 14, 2013

There are times when it just feels like a movie or a book; reality takes on the nature of popular fiction.

Yesterday time and rhythm were sort of reinvented.  I’m not a person who naturally sits and waits quietly; I’m almost always multitasking.  But the last 24 hours I have tended to focus deeply on the one thing in front of me.

Yesterday it was watching Pablo.

Shortly before Rachel left for work around 2, I realized that Pablo had been on his feet for hours, slowly walking from room to room, panting heavily.  When he lies down, the pressure against his diaphragm is too great, so it’s easier for him to breathe standing up.

He’d lost his breakfast along with the medicine Rachel gave him. He’d had no water, or very little.

I went into the living room and sat on the sofa, not far from where he was standing in the middle of the rug.  Speaking to him quietly, and sometimes silently, I encouraged him to lie down.

The longer he stood, the harder I cried.  About the time I began to calm down, he sat and then lay down in his familiar sentry position.  He reminded me of Rachel as a baby, just simply not willing to give it up and go to sleep.  His head would loll nearly to his front legs, and then bob up again.  He was on the job as best he could be, listening for intruders or the sound of his people moving about the house.

Not long after Rachel left, I thought it might be a good idea for Elijah to come by after school.  He wasn’t due home for another 24 hours and that might be too late.  I sent her a text.

She called me and we had a brief conversation.  Perhaps it was hearing her voice on my phone; perhaps it was the mention of Elijah’s name; perhaps it was coincidence, but Pablo rallied brightly and went to the front door.

Pablo and Vincent

Pablo surveying his turf,
Vincent watching his back.

I walked out front with him and he looked to the street and then the driveway.  He was clearly on alert, for what I could not tell.

We walked back into the house, and with a burst of energy, he scrambled up the stairs and went from room to room, looking for either Rachel or Elijah.  I sat down on the top stair and waited for him to give up the search.

Between us, Rachel and I had managed to get him to take a half-pill of Lasix every 30 minutes or so by crushing it, folding it into peanut butter and wrapping it in a strip of turkey breast.  But he had so little appetite that he would only accept the one small bite and refuse to eat more.

When Christian arrived with Elijah, we were still at the top of the stairs.  I had placed a small fan on the floor on the landing, so he could stand in front of it.  I know when I’ve had breathing problems in the past, that always seemed to help.  It seemed to help him, too.

The four of us went into my room. Elijah sat on the bed with me and Christian sat in The Chair.  They asked questions and I answered them.  Elijah offered suggestions and we tried some of them.  Others, like encouraging him to eat kibble, I discouraged, explaining that I didn’t think he’d keep it down.

I showed Elijah how to make a pill pocket and gave him an extra bite of turkey just in case.  I could feel Elijah’s bitter sadness when he handed me the food that Pablo had refused.

Elijah was able to get him to drink some water.  We had a bowl stationed every few feet throughout the house.

When it came time for them to leave, I walked Christian and Elijah downstairs.  Pablo stood at the top landing, sides heaving, looking down.  The two of them begged him to come down and I gently explained that he was too weak, that he’d surely come if he could.  Elijah pressed his face against his dad’s shirt and they stood together for a long moment.  I told Elijah he would see Pablo tomorrow.  At that moment, I felt that he would.

Pablo had not been downstairs for several hours and between the water and the diuretic I felt certain he needed a trip outside.  So I began to persuade him down the stairs.  But he could not manage the first step.  And I began to cry.

I pulled the rugs off the bathroom floor and told him that it was perfectly OK for him to pee on the tile.  But I knew that he would not.  Always when he was ill and had an accident in the house he was so ashamed.  And I knew he would hold it a long, long time.

So I managed to get my arms around him and together we scooted down the stairs on our butts, one step at a time, resting every few treads for him to get his breath.

When we landed he was so exhausted he could not stand.  Minutes went by and I watched and waited.  I opened the door a bit so Vincent could come in and Pablo could feel the fresh air.  Vincent is a tuxedo tabby and an entity unto herself.  She and Pablo are great companions and are so sweet together.

I guess we sat on the floor for 10 minutes or so.  Rachel had taken up the area rug because Pablo had vomited on it that morning.  So the floor was bare and he could not gain purchase enough to stand.  I tried supporting his legs to no avail.  Finally, he dragged himself to the living room using his front legs only, and was able to find enough traction to haul himself up.  We stepped outside and he finally relieved himself of minuscule amounts of urine and waste.

I had met my afternoon deadline at work and headed out to the grocery. I returned home with bags of fruit for the humans as well as a big tray of ground beef.  I began every 30 minutes or so crawling up to Pablo on my hands and knees to offer him raw meatballs.  He accepted one and two at a time, and by evening he seemed stronger.

When Rachel arrived home, the rather flat and monochromatic scene became multidimensional and vibrant.  I’d parked myself for the night on one sofa; she made her nest on the other sofa.  She tuned into Netflix and booted up “Breaking Bad.”  She’s only started watching it and is in about season 3.

I’d brought Hannah in and fed her and tucked her into her crate.  Hannah is a basset-dachshund mix not quite 2 years old.  She is dynamite covered in fur and still trying to figure out how to sit quietly with humans.

She’d fussed at me all evening, but when she saw Rachel ministering to Pablo she wailed miserably.  Rachel put her back outside and from time to time Hannah would hurl herself against the door in protest.

In between scenes of meth lab mayhem on Rachel’s enormous TV, we took turns beckoning, cajoling, reassuring, pleading, soothing and sometimes feeding Pablo.  Sometime in the wee hours Rachel dragged Hannah’s crate into the garage and incarcerated her there.  Apparently some imaginary creature was trolling the back yard and Hannah was trying to alert the neighborhood.

About 6 am I began checking email to see what assignments were available at work. Christian texted me to ask after Pablo. I made coffee and made a Lasix meatball, which I handed off to Rachel.  We were both still fully clothed, so there was no need to get dressed.

It’s Rachel’s “weekend.” She has today and tomorrow off from work. Elijah comes home this afternoon and is here until Saturday morning.  I took my laptop back up to my room, brushed my teeth and settled in for my workday.

The house is quiet now.  It’s nearly noon. Everyone is napping while I type.  I am grateful for that.

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Watching Pablo .aug13

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It took me a while to muster the courage to walk into Rachel’s bedroom yesterday.  But I recognized the symptoms and I knew the outcome if we waited too long.

pabloprofilePablo followed me into her room.  He is a mixed breed brown dog with tan eyebrows.  He is about 14, I think, and is the best dog I have ever known, bar none.

I stood at the foot of Rachel’s bed for the longest time and could not speak.  Then Pablo began to cough, a deep, barrel-chested cough that left him panting.

“Pablo,” she said.  I nodded.

“I hope he has pneumonia,” I said.  “I’m afraid it’s his heart.”

She wept silently for a minute or so and then said, “I can take him to the vet.”

It’s a trip I know she’s been dreading.  So I told my editor I was leaving and made a bed in the back seat of my car.

Pablo weighs 50 pounds so it took both of us to help him into the car.  He was so weak he could not make it on his own.

As soon as the vet assistant heard him cough we were immediately ushered into a treatment room.  Mercifully there were two comfortable chairs.  Pablo stood the entire time. At one point I sat on the floor thinking he’d come over and sit next to me.  But he was simply too miserable to lie down.

Rachel and I pursued our ongoing conversation about relationships, trust, the difference between rejection and betrayal, and the parts of recovery we cling to, acceptance, service and Trusting the Process.

Woven into that were gentle (I hope) answers to her questions about why we were shuttled back so quickly (cough is a symptom of distemper), why a heart problem would make him cough (fluid builds up in the lungs because the heart is so weak) and what it feels like when your Coumadin levels are off (that’s another story).I was so grateful that the vet clinic had a full sized box of Kleenex in the room.  At one point Rachel just went over and got the box and put it between us because we were going through them pretty fast.

I was grateful for the intimacy of it all, the sort of miraculous energy around it. There was something remarkable about the way the vet looked directly into my eyes as he talked. It seemed that he recognized that I knew exactly what was going on and what we were facing.

I saw the color of Pablo’s blood as it filled the syringe and I knew he was in deep distress because he wasn’t getting enough oxygen.  A tech appeared to take him back for x-rays.

The room was quiet and I summoned courage once again to turn to face Rachel and say, “I need to ask you a question.”  She looked at me.

“Are you ready to put him down?”

She began to cry in earnest and said, “I want Elijah to be here.  He needs to tell him goodbye.”
The vet called us back to look at the x-rays, pointed out the fluid in the lungs and in the abdomen.

“So it’s congestive heart failure?” I asked, and he nodded.  He gave Rachel the names of two drugs he was prescribing and I said, “Lasix is a diuretic.  Is the other one a beta blocker?” And again he nodded.

Rachel asked him about life expectancy; the vet gently said it was different for every dog, and almost incidentally mentioned that it might be as long as a year.

“I want to do the drugs,” Rachel said, and I said, “Good.”

I knew even if we kept Pablo alive for another week it was worth it. There were family members to be rallied, a little breathing room in which to face the inevitable.

walking the dog

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So I have a regular gig about four times a year, spending time with Gustavo. He is an Italian greyhound who thinks he is actually reincarnated 17th or 18th century royalty. I haven’t quite pinned down the family yet, and I believe his demise was quite violent.  Hence he has alarming separation anxiety in this life.

However, he must have laughed a lot with his friends and family.  Stav has a great sense of humor and is the life of the party.  He’s a little subdued right now, because he’s trying to remember where he’s seen me before.  But it’ll come to him eventually.

So far it has been a bittersweet reunion.  We are both grayer and calmer than the last time I was here.  We both take more supplements with our meals.  He is positively portly and waddles when he walks.  I have acquired a muffin top from excessive use of chocolate to get me through the recent breaking news and subsequent long hours with CNN.

But somehow the heavens and the Mother called a truce with the calendar and gave me a glorious first day with Stav.  The sun was brilliant on our walk and the breeze just right, free of impertinent insects and subwoofers.  The sidewalk felt like carpet and my feet seemed to skate along the few blocks of our route.

I wanted more. I wanted to abandon work and throw my phone into the bushes and walk with Stav until we could walk no longer. But his folks left crab cakes in the fridge and experience has taught me I will eventually want my phone back.  So we’re back in the living room, sitting in the quiet that’s as rich and thick as cream cheese frosting.

It is enough. I am content.

Weasley Blanket

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I made a small blanket for Elijah when he was about four, and it came out as a distorted parallelogram.  If any of you use Photoshop, you know exactly what this looks like.

When I frogged it out it became a pile of small balls of worsted weight acrylic yarn, which I never use any more.

Now I hardly ever go to movies.  I think it’s because I watch them so much on my laptop that I get used to having a (mostly) purely cinematic experience.

Watching a movie in any of our local theaters is sort of like seeing them at a bus stop.  I just find it hard to tune out all the cell phones, the conversation in the seats behind me, the feet up on the seat next to me, etc., etc.

So one weekend I decided to catch up with the rest of my family by watching ALL the Harry Potter movies back to back.  By the time it was over I was sure I had been living at Hogwarts for two days.

Ron in his room at Hogwarts

every boy needs a blanket.

Then somehow when I was trolling my usual sites I came across a wonderful project by Jackie Wierzbicki— The Ron Weasley Blanket.

You can read about her journey at http://penguineerspurls.blogspot.com/2011/12/potter-pattern-done.html.

So I found yet another destash project, this time using those orphaned balls of worsted.  I’m averaging about three squares a week and hope to finish this by the time Eli needs a blanket on his bed.

I ran out of stitch pins, so I substituted whatever circular needles were hanging around, just transferring the squares and letting the needle tips dangle on either side.

I also had a hard time keeping up with where I was, since I didn’t QUITE have all the colors I needed in progress (Ravelry, Listia and eBay to the rescue, of course) so I stuck the squares up on the wall with pushpins.

My daughter likes the look of this, so I told her for my next project I will knit her a wall.

 

Log Cabin Blankie

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This was my first big destash project of 2012.  It started on a long road trip from Memphis to Wichita, in the back seat of my daughter’s vehicle, next to Hannah, her puppy.

I think it took on some of her characteristics.  It required much more attention from me than I originally planned to give it.  It caused me to spend more money than I had budgeted.  And it seemed to take over my waking life.

Log Cabin squares

The pattern for the blanket shows it bordered with black, similar to many of the granny square afghans I grew up seeing.

Not a fan.

So I thought I’d border mine with a blue to match my dorm pillow.

and the squares just kind of get lost.

So I’m frogging out the blue and I’m going to make some more squares.  Stay tuned.

aging parents

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My Dad has just become increasingly frail but continues to try to do things like put the trash bin on the curb and cut the grass.  He’s always been a hard worker and is happiest when he’s doing physical things.  He complains bitterly of being tired and when he does get up and try to do something it’s to be celebrated.  It’s just that he puts himself at risk so often.

The other thing is he has always been sort of reclusive and with each passing year leaves home less and less.  He is anxious when my mother leaves him.  And she is anxious when she leaves him as well.  She used to go out once a week and play cards and volunteer at the church but she has pretty much given up her social life to run around after him.

Decades ago my brother offered to build them a house near him where he lives, which is about 30-40 min from where they are now.  We’ve pleaded with them to move out of that house they live in now, that they bought in 1969.  It’s on a steep hill, so the driveway is as well. 

Both front and back steps are tiny little concrete pads with no handrails — the back is especially dangerous.  My Mom suffers from vertigo and recently fell coming down the attic stairs, knocking my Dad on the floor.  She sprained her ankle and he hit his head on the tile.

I think you get the picture.

Then there’s the mental illness part of this.  My mother is afraid of doctors and mistrusts all medication.  So she tinkers with both Dad’s and her own drugs.  She only takes a fourth of her antidepressant and she takes it like a tranquilizer.  She cannot comprehend that it’s not that, nor a narcotic, and that it needs to be taken just like her blood pressure medicine.

She has dismissed sitters, who would at least make sure they got their meds and would get her out of the house now and then.  She is unwilling to go up against Dad, who doesn’t want to move, to get them into at least a retirement community, OFF THAT DAMN HILL.

She calls us in turn, telling us all that no one else pays any attention to her (we all check in regularly) to say that she is very sick.  Yet when we manage to squeeze out 2-3 hours from our schedule to make the trip to visit, she either disappears into the kitchen or the bedroom or sits down and tells us every thing is fine.  This makes both of us crazy, and simply mystifies the rest of the family.

So my brother woke me up last week worried about Mom, and after investigation it was determined that she’s simply now picked him as her current rescuer.  She’s even called my ex from time to time.  It’s insane, and my brother and I have just had about enough.  So I took a day to talk to my peeps and even went to the church and ended up having a pastor pray with me.  But I think we have a rough plan in place, and have agreed to intervene with Mom and Dad AS A FAMILY, which is something new for us.

Mom has always been the gatekeeper of all the family relationships and she has always been threatened whenever any one of us appeared to have a relationship that didn’t include her.  She is very controlling while appearing sweet and guileless.  She’s a master manipulator. 

While she and Dad have very real issues that concern us all, she has sabotaged any attempts of aid, pits us against each other and has succeeded in alienating us all from each other until just the last few years.  It’s a real testament to her, though, because she’s always ensured that we meet at her house at least half a dozen times a year or more for family dinners, and over the years at least we remember who each other are.

And we love each other, all of us, through thick or thin, through the spats and the silent treatment.  We are family, and we all have that value in common – we stick together.

OMG

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Last night’s dinner conversation included a debate on the necessity and/or appeal of texting and instant messaging.

My date was mildly astonished that I’ve never met my boss or my coworkers.  As a matter of fact, I don’t even know what they look like or how they sound.

I’m a telecommuter.  I applied for work online.  I interviewed and tested via email and FTP. I get assignments via email, phone text and AIM.

I have fibromyalgia.  It’s an odd illness.  It prevents me from sitting or standing for long periods.  As long as I keep moving, I’m fine, but that has its limits as well.  Eventually my back and knees will complain, and after a while they demand bedrest and Advil.

So I ended up here. I do all my work on my bed.  While sitting in a chair becomes painful after a couple of hours, I can work long days sitting on a mattress, propped up with many pillows, and still be able to cook, exercise or hook up with friends at the end of my “shift”.

When I was a child, we had a rotary dial telephone, four television channels and a Kodak camera that shot 2-1/4 x 2-1/4 black and white film.  Dad was in the Air Force, and I grew up around tubes and solder and meters and stuff.  Mom was a public school librarian, and when the budget enabled the system to put computers in, she learned how to use one.  But they do not have a computer at home, and while she has a cell phone, she keeps it turned off most of the time.

It’s an interesting time we live in, and I seem to be squarely in the middle.  I’ve resisted using Twitter, because I already spend so much time on my Treo and Facebook and email and AIM.  But the Red Cross and the National Weather Service are finding that during an environmental crisis, satellite TV really bites, and when the power goes out there’s not even that. So status updates and tweets help folks find food, water and shelter — and loved ones.

I do have a Twitter account.  I check it online about once a quarter, if that often.  But methinks a more proactive path lies ahead.