Monday, November 05, 2012

Family Noises

Grief hits me in the oddest ways. Our schedule has settled down a bit; my work travel is done for the calendar year and Saturday soccer games find us staying around home.
Being home each weekend, I find myself feeling like something is missing. That life is not complete and I should be doing something else.
Last year this time, we were still in our “honeymoon” phase. Still getting used to a routine, what he liked, how he wanted his coffee made, what time he liked to get up. Sounds like a new marriage right? But no, I was learning how to be his roommate.
And then his health worsened. And we had hospital visits and nursing homes stays. The second to last time Uncle Bob resided at Stafford Healthcare, I visited every couple days. He was on a rigid physical therapy and dialysis schedule that left him pretty darned tired and not inhis room at night.
I stopped in one evening as his departure neared just to visit, coordinate times, and check in on him. As I was getting ready to head home, he said with so much earnest and gratitude in his voice, “Wendy thanks for coming by and visiting.”

“Well you’re welcome Uncle Bob. I’m just stressing out over your homecoming in a wheelchair, getting a little amped up by it all and didn’t want you to feel bad. I just want to make sure we can take care of you. “
“It will all work out, don’t worry.”


“You know, I really appreciate you coming by. They leave me to be pretty much, and once dinner is done and medicine, it’s pretty quiet.”
“Yeah, I bet it is.” We watched TV for awhile; I played on my smart phone. He didn’t need conversation, just being together was good. Looking at the time, I said “I should probably get going; got to get Reyde into bed.”
Not skipping a beat, he kept on his train of thought. “I kinda miss my family noises.”
“Your family noises?”
“Yeah. I know I’ve been spending a lot of time in my room, and not eating dinner with you, James and Reyde. But I know you are out there. I hear you talking, Nitro barking, Reyde playing. And one by one, all of you eventually check in on me through the evening.”
I laughed, because yes, we all did in our own way. Nitro checked his garbage basket multiple times to see if there was a snack to be had. Reyde would show him a Lego creation, and brush his teeth watching TV with Uncle Bob. James checked in every afternoon when he came home from work, and would say good night as he headed to bed. The first thing I did after work was visit with him, then get dinner going, and bring him his meal. After dinner we’d chat a few minutes about medical stuff that had happened that day or what was planned for the next day. Every Thursday was “pills and bills” day, writing checks and dispensing pills for the next week. His air was definitely interrupted from 4pm until 10pm nightly.
And so as the winter approaches and we come and go, I realize that I am dearly missing my Uncle being home, the house being warm and lights on. I miss the rigid schedule of pills and meals that kept us tied to the house. I miss the closeness of having Uncle Bob with us and adding more family to our family.
I miss the steady rumble of the oxygen concentrator, the country music playing every morning as I got ready for work, the NCIS dialogue drifting down the hallway in the evenings, his cowboy ringtone as his cell phone rang, the way he’d say, “Well Hello.” And each morning as I’d bring him his coffee, he’d say with gusto, “Coffee!”
Uncle Bob, I miss your family noises.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Pumeggnogging Pie

It's a rare, rare day that I bake. A couple weeks ago, wanting to free up space in my freezer, I decided to use the pumpkin puree that Mom had so kindly made from scratch a few years back.
We'd been home all day, I didn't want to go out in the rain and decided to experiment. I totally feel comfortable doing this in cooking, but baking is so foreign to me. Using two lifelines, and calls to Mom, my pumpkin eggnog pudding concoction turned out pretty darned good.

The next time I make this, I'll cut the recipe in half and use a shorter pan. This one is about 3" deep and the very middle didn't set as well as I'd envisioned.

Divide as needed for smaller portions
This is what I used for my experiment.

8 cups pumpkin puree
4 eggs
½ cup flour
1 ½ cup sugar
1 tsp salt
4 cups egg nog
2 ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp baking powder

Oil and flour pan with coconut oil for added flavor.

Mix all ingredients cold, whipping eggs first before adding to mixture. Heat on stove for 10 minutes or so. Pour mixture into pan, cover with foil and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. (Watch the time, using a shorter pan it will take less time I think.)

3 cups Bisquick
1 cup eggnog

In a separate bowl, mix Bisquick and eggnog.

Remove pan from oven, drop biscuits throughout the pan. Return to oven and bake another 10 minutes or until biscuits are done.

Serve with whip cream if you like.

Monday, October 15, 2012

"Din Din"

It's not like he was a bad father. But there was a disconnect that Amy and I could never mend. Had little to do with us, and more to do with his parents.

But we could always count on a meal bridging the gap. Dad loved to eat. Food delivered pure enjoyment to his being. Mealtimes brought us together, and sharing a favorite food connected us to him.

At the height of my troubled teenage years, when Amy was out every weekend with friends, or her boyfriend, or both, Dad knew I was upset and sad wondering why I didn't have friends and a boyfriend like her. I look back now and realize that he couldn't talk about my feelings or help me with feelings because of his upbringing. But what he could try to do was bring happiness to me by saying, "Let's go get some din din."

Because food brought joy to him, and therefore, food could make his youngest happy. It would fill the pit left by teenage self doubt.

Funny how grief hits. Been almost three years since Dad passed. For the last few months, as we sit down to eat, I hear my Dad say, "It's din din time." Or when we go out for dinner, I recall how he'd walk through the kitchen door, calling up to Amy and I, "Let's go get some din din!"

All his gruffness, and grumpiness, and lecturing, and hard to talk to on the phone, and crankiness are memories pushed back as I remember the things that brought Dad happiness. A respite for a brief moment, but peace nonetheless.

Dad, I've been missing you a lot lately. I know you're having some din din. Have some for me too.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Last Thursday

I spent with my uncle.

Mom called in the afternoon. Said that he wasn’t good enough to go to dialysis and that the staff needed to speak with me to cancel the transportation and appointment. Her phone was passed to the nurse and then handed back. I heard the tears in her voice.

Mom, I’ll be right up. She said okay and hung up the phone.

I needed to see for myself that Uncle Bob wasn’t up to going to dialysis. Because this was a big decision I was making for him. The day before he was lucid and talking. He trusted me to make decisions if we ever got to this point.

And I needed to be there for Mom. I heard it in her voice. This wasn’t her situation to bear alone.

Walking into his room, Uncle Bob was sleeping. I go over and hug Mom and tell her that it’s going to be okay. Donning a mask and gloves, I lean down and talk to Uncle Bob. His eyes flutter, but he doesn’t awaken.

The nurse comes in and administers a breathing treatment. He still doesn’t wake up. Mom and I sit and watch him, the vapors of the medicine escaping from the mask. I stand after a bit and tap it to get all the medicine used. Condensation drips down. Soon it is completed and I gently remove the straps from his head. His glasses are pressing into his cheeks and I tell him that I am taking them off.

Sitting back down, I look at the clock. I’ve been there for 20 minutes and no change. Mom, I’m going to sit here for a while and see if he wakes up.


Pulling my phone out, I began texting family; how Mom said he wasn’t well enough to go and I agreed. Stepping outside into the hallway, I called James; told him that Uncle Bob declined and that I wouldn’t be home after work. Do what you need to do Wendy. Thanks honey. I breathed deep, wiped my eyes and swallowed.

Walking back into the room, my Mom is watching over her brother. She is sad and upset and knowing that this is a big change.

Mom, does your church up here have someone that can come visit? Seeing her in such pain, I wanted her to be comforted as well as have some spiritual words spoken in Uncle Bob’s room. She said yes, I got the number and called. Someone would come over.

After an hour and a half, I couldn’t get Uncle Bob to wake up. Mom said she wasn’t going home; she’d stay until she needed to. I’ll go back to work then and get some things in order in case I am not in on Friday.

En route back to the office, Uncle Bob’s nurse practitioner called. Medicines, options, dialysis was discussed. We made a plan. And when Uncle Bob woke up, we’d talk to him as everything was still his decision.

I called Uncle Don and told him what was going on; asked him to stop by on his way home.

A few hours later, I arrived back at the skilled nursing facility. Mom, Don, Carol, and Sandy sat around Uncle Bob’s bed. No change, he was still sleeping and not very responsive. Uncle Don left and said he’d be back the next night.

I headed out to get dinner. Figured we’d be in for a long night. Upon my return, I see another person sitting by Uncle Bob’s bed. It’s the lady from the church. I placed dinner on the counter and joined the ladies. Quietly reading her spiritual words, Mom is comforted; Sandy, Carol and I respectfully listened. Soon we are sharing stories about Uncle Bob, explaining to the church lady what an amazing man he is, what a fantastic sense of humor he has, and how he accepted with such dignity and finesse the significant health issues in the last months.

I don’t know how much time passed. There were lulls in the conversation; 5 of us staring at him and wondering if we’d talk to him again.

Dinner was getting cold; I invited the church lady to join us. No thanks, I’ll be heading out. More small talk ensued, and I waited. Sandy said something, and I looked over the bed at her.

Uncle Bob opened his eyes, very alert. He stared at Carol sitting at the end of the bed. We all leaned in, waiting to see if he’d talk. Looking over at Sandy, he said, what? Are you waiting for the old fart to die?

Laughter erupted, Uncle Bob chuckled and we saw that sparkle in his eye.

I sat back and wondered, is that going to be his last words on this earth? They weren’t. We got a few more minutes with him before he went back to sleep.

Carol left, I cleaned up the containers from dinner, and Sandy said her goodbyes.
See you tomorrow she said.

Moving the chairs away from Uncle Bob’s bed, I sat down next to Mom and put my arm around her. You better now I asked? Yes, I am better; it was good to have her (the church lady) here. We sat quietly watching him sleep, peaceful and without pain.

You know James stopped by today.

He did? I called him and told him what was going on this afternoon.

Wendy, he is such a sweet man. He walked in and gave me a big hug. I cried and he cried.

And then I cried. And Mom cried.

Getting up, I held Uncle Bob’s hand and told him that I loved him and I’d be back in the morning. Mom said good night and that she’s going home to get some rest. And that she’d see him tomorrow.

Walking down the hallway, we say thank you to the staff for taking care of him. Mom was weary, and I prayed that Uncle Bob would understand our selfishness.

We wanted another day. We needed another day. We weren’t ready to say goodbye.