Put Your Own Oxygen Mask on First

February 26th, 2022 – Post #35

The short version: My mom’s doing better – pain is manageable, and she’s been able to sleep.

The meandering version: Thank you for all the kind words you have sent our way. My mom had another pretty good night, and her pain seems to be under control. Since yesterday, she has been able to use a walker to get to the bathroom with assistance, though she looks like she’s auditioning for a V-8 commercial. We finally figured out that side stepping along the sink is the easiest way into the bathroom.

It’s been hard convincing her that the towel bar on the glass shower door is not really built to be a grab bar. Last night, while I was walking her out, she stopped suddenly and started reaching for a drawer at knee level.

*Can I just stop here and say I absolutely hate “soft close” drawers? By the time I wrestle one open, I really do want to slam it shut, but it won’t let me. I feel like whoever invented these was a decendant of the tailors that sewed “the emperor’s new clothes”, saying to themselves, “Let’s convince people these are some sort of luxurious convenience. They’ll fall for it for sure!”

Anyway, my back was against the glass door, while I held my mom up by her gait belt, and she started wrangling with the drawer. (She’d already asked twice if it would help me for her to take the gait belt off. I’d assured her it would not help at all). Anyway, as we were paused in a non-OSHA approved position, I was asking, “Mom, what are you trying to get? What do you need from the drawer?”

I was ignored, as she kept yanking at the difficult-to-open drawer, so I tried to explain I was in a rather precarious position – considering her stature was at half mast, bent at the knees and hips.

She finally got out an explanation, “I’m trying to get some alcohol!” The drawer opened right then, and she stuck her finger in the open container of Vaseline and rubbed it on her lips.

“I think you mean Vaseline,” I laughed.

“Yes, that’s what I meant,” she laughed, too.

“Okay, well let’s keep walking. Just let me know what you need, because it would be easier on my back, if I could get you seated on the walker and then get you whatever you need.”

She nodded compliantly, but I know her well enough to realize it will probably happen again. As for her walker, getting it to cooperate has been a whole ‘nother matter. For some reason it doesn’t seem to have a parking brake. For as long as I can remember, our house has sunk from one side to the other. Peeke is just up the hill from us, and it seems aptly named, because the house slopes from South to North. This made roller skating races in our basement more exciting when we were kids; but makes keeping a walker in place rather trying.

The walker is passive-aggressive – it either comes in like an uninvited close-talker; or rolls off when its assistance is most needed. Last night, I’d strategically chocked the wheels with a trash can.

My mom seemed a little exasperated that someone had left a trash can in the middle of the room, pointing out, “That will need to be moved, before we can get to the bathroom. It’s in the way of the walker.”

All I could do was laugh and agree with her.

Some of our funniest moments over the last few months have been while I’ve been trying to get her from one place to the next, and she’ll suddenly stop and try to start moving a misplaced item at a sloth-like pace. I’ve watched her try to scoot a stray twig or leaf off the front porch or driveway with the end of her cane. My first instinct is to feel like my head will explode with impatience as the object inch worms out of our path at two-inch increments, while her body bends off center, and I act as a counterbalance by holding her up by the back of her pants, hoping we won’t both fall.

Lately, I’ve given up protesting, and just plant my feet, completely humored by it. It’s no use to tell her, “Mom, we can take care of that.” She still wants to help somehow.

Whether I’m unloading the dishwasher or making the bed, if she hears movement from another room, I know what she’ll say:

My mom: “Jody, what are you doing?”

Me: (Fill in the blank with whatever needs to be done).

Mom: “Well, do you want some help?”

When I say, “Sure”, and make a suggestion, we both end up laughing. Right now, her smile is the best sort of help there is.

The other day in the doctor’s office, we were waiting before her appointment. She was looking at the wall, and said, “Now you don’t have to do this, but could you go over there and straighten that picture on the wall.”

Danny at Modoc’s in Wabash, Indiana – where my mom loves to order Mocha Lattes

I cracked up and did it, remembering how just before her brother’s brain biopsy he had been so silent. We’d been told Danny might not live through the procedure, or possibly would have brain damage. Searching for something meaningful to say in those last few minutes, I asked him what he was thinking, assuming he was contemplating his own mortality.

He lifted a weary finger and pointed to the dry erase board on the wall, a little put out by whoever had placed it there, “That thing’s kinda crooked.”

He was right, and it made me laugh knowing my uncle would much rather be getting out of bed and setting it to rights, than waiting to be wheeled off to surgery, or having people’s pity.

He and my mom are so much alike. A couple of weeks ago, she told me, “Lately, I just feel like Danny’s reaching out his hand for me to come with him.”

I asked, “Do you want to take it?”

Her answer was, “I do, but I don’t want to leave yet.”

There are still some things around here she’s wanting to straighten. Yesterday, my dad and I were both working to get her situated into a chair from her walker seat, when she paused, bent at the waist and started straightening the cover of the chair she recently told me she wants to get reupholstered. I told her we could fix the fold of material for her, but she insisted on doing it herself, protesting, “I don’t like to sit on wrinkles!”

My not-so-respectful response was, “Mom, you’re eighty years old – you have no other option but to sit on wrinkles.”

Her only comment was to laugh. I know if she’d felt better, she would have added, “You little brat,” while still smiling.

Anyway, she seems to be doing much better than a couple of days ago. The decision to sign up for Hospice was mostly made for the sake of mobility and pain management, and to give us back-up help to keep her at home.

In July, when she was first diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, she said, “Well, that’s a death sentence.” At the time, she said she was so tired that she wished she could just crawl into a coffin. She’s not as sick now as she was then, though she is a lot weaker. I can’t assure anyone of how long she has to live, but I want to say, just based upon her countenance, I don’t think ‘death is eminent’. I believe it would have been, had she continued radiation, and if we hadn’t been given the tools to get her pain under control and make daily functioning easier through hospice.

As a “caregiver”, I’ve been laughing about that phrase “make sure to get your own oxygen mask on first.” I think that’s good advice, but have been thinking, “What if my mask is entangled in somebody else’s carry-on, or lodged in the overhead compartment?” Sometimes taking care of yourself just isn’t an option, but I’ve learned in those times that even when I am overwhelmed, God is not, and can give strength.

Psalm 46 has been an encouragement to me:

(To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, A Song upon Alamoth.) God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.

There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah.

From what I understand that word “Selah” is a musical term that means to pause, or rest.

In the midst of this, I keep repeating in my head, Paul’s instructions to the church, “Be anxious for nothing,” but so often forget the rest of the admonition. In the Authorized version, the word “anxious” is translated “careful” – a reminder that as a loving Father, God doesn’t want us to be burdened down by cares – He wants to carry those for us. Phillipians 4:4-7 says:

Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

I’ve realized that when that peace escapes me, it’s usually because I’m just focusing on the first part – trying to tell myself not to be anxious, without actually going to my Heavenly Father with my prayers and requests – with thanks for what He’s already done. Last night, when I’d finally gotten to bed, I realized the reason I couldn’t fall asleep was because my face was sore. I hadn’t realized until I was still that I must have been clenching my jaw throughout the day, as if that would somehow help me weather through these circumstances. All it did was prevent me from the rest I needed. It was a good reminder to just relax and keep handing my To Do List off to God, asking Him to give wisdom for how to get things done, because I know, His yoke is easy, and His burden is light.

Erica was able to fly in last night and is staying until Tuesday. She’s been a big help to all of us. I’m happy to report she and I have both gotten our teeth brushed today, and I can hear my dad’s electric toothbrush running now, so things are falling into place, and I’m thankful for a reprieve to sit still for a little while.

We appreciate your prayers. Thank you for your patience on these long posts. Please never feel like you have to read them all – I just like to keep track of what’s going on in this crazy season of life without journaling my life away. Thanks for coming along with us in the journey. It’s been a blessing to have your encouragement and support. Love, Jody

Click here to read why my mom chose Hospice instead of going to the hospital.

*To read more on my mom’s cancer journey from the beginning, or share it, please click below:

Jody

I'm not sure what to say here: I once got second place in a dog-look-alike-contest? I know how to fold a fitted sheet? I'm pretty much a poster child for social backwardness - at least as far as social media is concerned; but I have some stories I think I'm supposed to share and am attempting to do that here, in this space.

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