Thursday, October 30, 2008

Our Matriarch

This evening, the family will gather to pay our respects to the life of Kathryn T. DeMars, who passed away on Tuesday, October 28, 2008.  Mom was 88 years old.  She is finally at peace after nearly three years of battling alzheimers, pneumonia, hip fractures and steadily declining health.  Mom wanted a traditional funeral.  This evening visitation will be from 6-8 PM at Memorial Gardens Funeral Home.  Tomorrow at 10:00 AM will be a Catholic Mass at St. Cecelia's, followed by burial at Memorial Gardens.  I've never had to go through this process before... buying a casket, a cemetary plot, a grave stone, picking out an outfit, prayer book and cards, writing an obit, selecting prayer readings and hymns...
Tuesday evening, brother Ken arrived from New York; yesterday, my two eldest sisters arrived from Columbus OH, last night brother from the east coast of FL arrived with his kids, and this morning brother from PA arrives. It's a command performance. The last time all the siblings were together was July 1997, when dad passed away.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The morning sun is shining like a red rubber ball

What a roller coaster ride this past week has been! I returned to work Monday and it was full throttle all week. Midweek, the aides determined that Mom had "plateau -ed" - no regress nor progress. So it was time to move her to a nursing home, which they did on Friday. My Tampa kid came home for the weekend, my niece from Orlando came down, and I had a nice visit Thursday evening with my two daughters (21 & 19) and two nieces (25 & 21). We made strawberry margheritas and nachos, looked at old pictures and laughed so hard we cried! When I returned to work Friday after a late lunch, my desktop computer was completely different from when I had left it - (Mark in IT was installing a DVD software) icons that I'd never seen before and files I had placed on my desktop just that morning were gone. I tried to open Outlook and it started taking me through reconfiguration. I knew that wasn't right, so I decided to restart. When it booted back up, my password was incorrect. I looked around for IT and couldn't find him, so I went back to my office and fired up the laptop... couldn't get on the internet and couldn't access most of the network files. I muttered a few four-letter words and walked in to the break room and pulled out the daily newspaper. I rarely read the newspaper, but when I do, I always scan the classifieds for weimaraner pups for sale - so rarely do you see ads for them. Lo and behold! Weim pups for sale, $650. I tore out the ad, put it in my dayplanner and went back to work. Friday evening, I spent several hours reading everything you ever needed to know about weimaraners and about training a puppy. Mind you, I've raised several puppies over the years - all labs - and I've read everything about weimaraners over and again. Then I pulled out the ad I'd clipped earlier and called the number.Saturday morning, my daughters and I drove to NW Cape Coral and bought a beautiful, 10 week old, blue female weimaraner. My life will not be the same. We brought her home, and since I had to go to Naples to co-sign on an auto loan for Sarah, Lauren agreed to stay and "puppy-sit".  The car thing took longer than I hoped, and I kept thinking about Gracie and noticed that across the street from the auto dealership was PETCO (Where the pets-go). When Sarah drove off in her Honda Element, I headed to PetCo.  I bought a kennel. (Vets and experts all say that's the best way to housetrain a new pup) I bought her brand of food, I bought chew toys, a stainless steel double feeding dish,  a bright blue collar and leash.  (ching-ching!!) When I got home, Lauren was sitting on the couch, with Gracie sleeping right next to her! (Lauren! I don't want her on the couch!! I know, but she's so little! she's not hurting anything!) Sheeshe....Gracie doesn't want any part of the kennel. Don't force her, experts say. Dogs like to have their own "den", experts say.  Well, I guess Gracie never read that stuff, or experts don't know Gracie.  She ended up in my bed last night (I know, I know...). This morning we went for a brief walk.  She's wonderful at following close at my heels.  She is not used to wearing a collar, and frequently scratches at it, but the leash?  NO WAY.  She just stands her ground, or sits down.   I have alot of work to do!  How I'm ever going to be able to go to work tomorrow morning is going to be quite a challenge, indeed.  But Gracie will be a wonderful companion.  It really is wonderful to see my dreams come true.  I made a point to speak of that to my daughters, so they will know that dreams really do come true, and to never lose faith or stop dreaming.  Lauren commented something about "Mom finally got her weimaraner!" to her friend, and I just smiled a knowing smile!

Friday, October 17, 2008

The night watch...

After a brief supper of California Pizza, I returned to Hospice house around 8:00 PM. Mom was sound asleep. My brother Norbert and his wife, and my brother Mark were there. Mary Anne and I chatted loosely while the guys watched baseball. I find TV offensive under the best conditions, sports tv offensive under most conditions. I was having to control my irritation. Mom can't turn over on her own, and because of the tendency to develop sores, we asked that she be turned every couple of hours. It was 8:30 and she'd been on the same side since about 3:30 that afternoon. The staff was unusually busy, with new admissions. They'd been incredibly wonderful - attentive, supportive, kind and compassionate. We hated to "press" them, so we waited and watched the clock. Shortly after 9, a nurse came in and she and I repositioned mom on her back, slightly elevating her head and feet, and added an extra blanket. She looked more comfortable than she had so far. She slept peacefully.
Norbert and Mary Anne left around 11:00, and Mark was snoozing in the lounge chair. The TV was still delivering pitches and play by plays - to no one. I sat patiently. Mark opened his eyes, and sat up and I suggested he go home. Reluctantly, he kissed mom good bye, telling her to "hang in there". Mark is emotionally challenged, and no matter how many times we remind him that it's better to "allow" mom to go when she's ready, and not ask her to "hang in there" - he doesn't get it. We all deal with dying in our own way.
Mark left, I turned off the TV, readjusted the room lighting, and sat down with a book.
The cooridor sounds carried occassional beeps and buzzers, chatter among the aides. Mom's breathing was steady with occasional gasps or gurgles. I would glance up from my book, observe the rise and fall of her chest or the twitch of her mouth then return to my book. I sat with my eyes closed, thinking about my first memory of my mother. I am seven in the line of ten children, and there wasn't much individual time. I remember being four or five and falling on a sharp object and putting a gash in my right knee. I limped crying into the kitchen where mom and my sisters were washing the supper dishes. My memory is of mom's white apron strings as she stood at the sink. "Go on in to the bathroom and I'll be right there" she had said. I was sure I was going to bleed to death before she came in and patched me up.
The nurse popped her head in the door, asked if all was OK, I gave a nod and a smile and she left. Eventually, I readjusted the lighting, pulled a blanket from the drawer, repositioned myself in the lounger and dozed. Mom would gurgle or mumble, bringing me conscious, only to be assured that she was fine and return to my dozing. Around 3:00 AM, mom's mumbling became more aggressive. She began what I call looped language, repeating incoherent phrases over and over. This time is was "please please please... " and then inaudible mumble and then "please please please.." I sat up, held her hand and stroked her forehead. I reassured her all was OK. The nurse heard her and came in. I was being soft spoken, to keep her calm. The nurse, however called her name strongly: "Kaye? what do you want? Kaye? can you hear me?" Mom responded, so I put the lights up. "Do you want some water, Kaye?" the nurse asked. "That would be fine" she replied, so we positioned the straw in her mouth. She drew a little. "She likes ice cream, doesn't she?" the nurse asked. Mom's love of ice cream was well known. "Do you want some ice cream?" the nurse asked "Oh I always would like that!" mom responded. We gave her a few spoonsful, until she said "no more right now" She drifted back to sleep, and so did I.
From my light sleep, I heard a familiar voice in the hallway. It was my brother Mark. "Is Shelly in there?" I heard him ask (he's one of the few that still calls me Shelly - if you ever call me Shelly I may have to hurt you!! ). I looked at the clock and it was 6 AM. I brought the lights up, and sat holding mom's hand. Her eyes darted wide open, just as bright as could be. She began talking incessantly. "I don't know what to do" she would say "Help me" she would plead. I stroked her cheek and said, "Mom. It's Michelle. I"m here..." she said, "My Michelle? OH!" and smiled. It warmed my heart to tears.
Mark came in like a bull in a china shop. Because of his physical and emotional disabilities, he's very indelicate in his movement. Right away he began fidgeting about, placing photos in mom's line of sight, fumbling with a quilt her brought from her home, kissing her on the forehead with such strength that she grimaced and said "stop stop!" Be gentle, Mark! I urged. He immediately took it personally and turned away near tears. I hugged him, told him we all know how much he loves her, and now that he was here, I'd go home.
I'm about to head back in. My nephew from Washington State comes in this evening. Who knows what the day will bring. These are indeed stressful times.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The dying process

The dying process is underway. Mom, who is 88 years old, was unresponsive in her care facility sunday afternoon. The aides did what they are instructed to do - call 911. The EMS immediately put her on a ventilator when it was determined that she was not breathing. She was taken to the ER, and then to ICU. After a series of tests, it was determined that there's "nothing wrong" other than she stopped breathing. The aides in her care facility "interrupted"the dying process. So then the decision is on the family to remove the ventilator. Mom bore 10 children, one of which is now deceased. That leaves 9 to weigh in on the decision.
Mom has a living will, and being artificially sustained is against her wishes. The decision was made to remove the ventilator. We were fully prepared for her to expire once the tube was removed. That was nearly 24 hours ago. She's still breathing on her own.
They moved her out of ICU and into a hospice house. No IV's. No needles, no tests, no tubes, no noise. Peace and comfort. It's just a matter of time, now.
Mom mumbles, gets anxious, loops language, calls out. She mentions names that we can associate with family members who have passed.
I have never feared dying, only the pain that might be associated with it. We asked mom if she was in pain. The nurse was ready with a shot of morphine. Mom said no. She's a tough old bird. Her maiden name is Kessler. Give a clue? She's a stubborn german!!
The dying process. Transition. Passing. All terms and expressions that have little meaning until you are thrust in the middle of it. What do we hold on to, and why?
This is a life-changing event. Undoubtedly. It will change the lives of all my brothers and sisters and of many people who have been brought together and kept together because of one frail little woman called Kathryn Therese DeMars.
May God Bless Her and Keep Her.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

There's no place like home

The only thing constant is change. I have so much constant change in my life, that to change my online journal is just another one of those things. Something else to learn... anew.

I just got home about an hour and a half ago, from St. Augustine. The ride home was far more enjoyable than the ride up. I guess knowing where one is going does wonders for your psyche. Clerk school was good...overall. Florida municipal clerks are a great group of people. The profession is unique, and in florida, with the sunshine laws as stringent as they are, and the overwhelming restrictions, it requires a certain personality to be able to be successful in this type of job. I did my 40 hours of class (woo hoo!!) and submitted my "Ideas to Action" report. Now is the waiting game, to get my certificate of accomplishment, to submit to the International Institute of Municipal Clerks for my designation of Certified Municipal Clerk (CMC) . Three long, hard years......

St. Augustine was fun. It is the oldest city in the nation. The cobblestone streets, and historic structures, forts, and just the city's history is enjoyable. One evening, I joined about 30 others on a tour called the "ghosts and gravestones" tour, where actors dress up and take folks to the "oldest home" the "oldest drug store" the "graveyard"... it was hokey, but gave me the opportunity to see sites that I may not otherwise see.

I have some pictures I'd like to share, but I guess I need first to figure out how to post them to this new blog. (If you know and care to tell me so I don't have to

Until we meet again,

Nice to be home.


Monday, October 6, 2008

Oh Help Me

I imagine it seems that the moment AOL announced that journals were closing, i stopped with journal entries.. That's  just a coincidence.  Truth be known, I"ve been incredibly busy.  Now, I'm at the Renaissance Resort at Golf Village, St. Augustine, Florida for the Florida Association of City Clerks' Career Development Institute. 

The resort is gorgeous, sumptuous, opulent.  I'm an internet junkie, and t hey want $12.95 a day - noon to noon - for internet access.  not that I'm cheap, but i couldn't even figure out how to connect.  I got bored with that.

Tomorrow, we're taking a tour of 'old town" st. augustine. ..Lots of history.  Lots of good people.  I can't believe it's only Monday night.

I'm bored.

The sessions are boring.  Our afternoon session ended an hour early, because the program coordinators feared a mutiny by the attendees because it was SOOO BORING...!  Project Management <<yawn>> by a monitone presenter who literally read his power point handout to us.... <<double yawn>>. 

Thank goodness for my trusty black berry...even playing "rooster" during boring sessions affords some relief....

Michelle welcomes e-mails to keep her entertained...