Today is Ken’s birthday. He would have been 58. How tortured he must have been that he could no longer live in this world. It’s been three years since he decided to take his life. The world seems so empty on these special days.
The book arrived from Amazon Sunday. “How Not to Die” by Michael Greger, M.D. My favorite topic: health and nutrition. Dr. Greger presents scientific evidence that a plant based diet will not only prevent disease, but also reverse it. He shows what to eat for specific diseases and he gives a checklist of foods we should eat every day, which he calls ‘the daily dozen.’
Convinced that food is the best medicine for healing, I’ve been collecting a library of books on the subject for years. Two of my favorite experts are Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Weil. I’ve followed the DASH diet, Paelo and Gaps. I have shelves and shelves of books on Hashimoto’s, hypothyroidism, diabetes, heart disease, and a large mix of others on general health. I acquired two degrees in nursing and became a nurse practitioner. I’ve combed the internet and collected additional information.
I guess I’ve always been interested in how to be and stay healthy. I was a sickly child. Had scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, strep throats, pneumonia, and all the childhood diseases. Rheumatic Fever left me with a mitral valve prolapse, and consequently, occasional paroxysmal atrial tachycardia. I’ve had other problems as an adult.
I’m in my 90th year, and I’m still searching for ways to keep on living. It’s been my main focus in life, while two of my sons chose to end theirs.
I wouldn’t say my adult life has been a happy one; far from it, yet, you’ll find me kicking and screaming all the way to the grave. I’ve made mistakes, have regrets. I’ve closed the door on sorrow and love, lost faith and hope. Yet, I jealously guard my right to occupy space in this world. Why? What do I have to live for?
I know there’s beauty in the world and I want to experience it before I die. I want to feel again. I want to do some good. I want my existence, and all existence, to have meaning. I want to accomplish what I was put in this world to accomplish.
One thing I do believe, without reservation, is the body’s ability to heal itself. Perhaps I can build on that and find my way once more to an open door.
Today Chris and I enjoyed our new TV that Mediacom installed in the living room. It’s our first smart TV. Chris put wi fi and netflex on it and we’re in business. We have four televisions now. One each in my bedroom, Chris’s bedroom, the sun room and the living room.
Maybe the new TV will draw me out of my bedroom and off my bed. I’ve used the excuse that I stayed in my bedroom because there was no TV in the living room and the sun room was too cold in winter and too warm in summer.
Although I do spend time each day cooking and fixing meals, filling and emptying the dishwasher, feeding the animals and letting Jenny out, most of my day is spent on my bed watching television, computering, reading, or talking on the phone. I order groceries and put them away once or twice a week. And my hair dresser and housekeeper both come every week. Unless I have a rare visitor or have to keep a doctor’s appointment, it’s a good bet I can be found on my bed in my bedroom.
I hope the new TV will change that. Better to sit on the couch in the living room than on my bed in the bedroom. Leaving my bed will certainly lift my spirits. Maybe I’ll feel like a normal human being again.
Another call. Hope again. The other cat was not Niles. This one wasn’t either. The other cat was larger than Niles and not neutered. Today, the cat was neutered, but the wrong color.
A week or so ago I saw a cat taking refuge under a pine tree in my front yard. I called animal control but was informed they don’t pick up cats. Unable to go out and get the cat, I was left frustrated and fearful for its safety. It was cold and I live not far from a busy street. The cat I learned about today was the same color as the cat I saw last week. I hope it is the same one. I’ve thought about it so much and hoped someone took it in out of the cold. I wish someone had seen poor Niles and taken him in.
It’s so weird, getting a call about Niles three months after he drifted away. And even though we found one close to home and had him cremated, I still hoped we’d made a mistake and Niles is still alive.
I remember when, 40 years age, someone lost control of her car and veered into my yard, hitting and killing my dog. Until we could have her cremated, we wrapped her in her favorite blanket and placed her in a box in the garage. That night I couldn’t rest until Forrest went out and unwrapped her to see if she was really dead. I could hear her footsteps behind me as I climbed the stairs to the bedroom.
Funny, how reason goes out the window when it comes to love and grief.
Today I got an email from someone on Facebook where I had posted an ad about my beloved orange tabby, Niles. Niles slipped out of the house early one morning when my son, Chris, opened the sun room door to take out his dog. By the time I discovered he was gone, six hours had passed. We posted flyers and made signs. I posted ads online and in local papers. Put a litter box, food and his favorite blanket outside. I changed the food every day. I even left the sun room door open all night for five nights so he could get in if we were sleeping. Every time I opened the door to let Jenny, my dog, out, I called his name. I felt trapped in my wheelchair, unable to go out and look for him, dependent on others. I hired someone to make the signs and it took her two weeks! My stomach was in knots. I even hired a dog finder who was scheduled to come and search for him, but we found him (we thought), bloated, by the side of the road not far from where we live the day before she was due to arrive. We had him cremated. That was two and a half months ago.
Today I talked with someone who found an orange tabby about two miles from our house. She said he had cuts on his ears and was very dirty. And he is very friendly, just like Niles. I sent her pictures of Niles. She said she believes he looks like the cat she found. She is willing to show him to us if we can come and look. Karen, my sweet niece who is here from Arizona, said she would work it in (she is with her sister, Susie, who is in the latest stages of cancer). Chris works all day but said he would go if Karen was unable to. He warns me not to get my hopes up. I know, but …..
Did we make a mistake when we assumed the cat we found was Niles? I so want this one to be him. This call has brought back all the old grief and it’s like Niles just now disappeared. If I was still driving, I’d have been over there by now. It’s so frustrating, having to give in to old age and ailments. Hard to stay positive.
My latest book, “That’s How I Roll,” was released on amazon yesterday. It’s in memory of Ken who died in December, 2013. It’s a combination of prose, poetry, haibun and haiku. It was hard to write, but I wanted to keep Ken alive, if only in a book, just as I did for his brothers, Scott and John.
Ken once asked me when I was going to write a book about him. I told him, jokingly, that he’d have to die first. Except for one volume of poetry, which was published about a year ago, the books I’ve written are memoirs about my sons who died. Today I am haunted by those words.
Last night, Karen, my niece, called to ask me exactly where the house was on Scott street where Bud, my brother (her dad) and I used to live. She shared with me some memories she had of the exterior and interior and some things that happened there. It got me to thinking about the years we spent there. Dad bought the house when I was nine (the first house my parents owned); and except for a brief year at the edge of town where my father could have a larger garden, I lived there until I was eighteen when Dad, who was a contractor, built Mother’s dream house.
Before I turned nine, we moved five times before Dad bought the house and three years after we left, until I married Forrest. So Scott street is the home that is a part of me and I remember the most with nostalgia. I even remember the number. 609 West Scott.
After Karen hung up, I opened my laptop and googled the place. I was delighted to find pictures! Not only of the outside but of the inside! Pictures of every room, the yard, the neighborhood. The house was for sale and the realtor had posted them. Everything looks so much smaller now than it did when I was young . I stayed and visited and remembered for hours! So many many memories.
Before I dimmed the light for nighttime sleep, it occurred to me, I am the oldest living member of my family. There are so many things I could share with them that they might like to know. I have always regretted not knowing more about my parent’s and other relatives in the past. Then and there I decided that I’ll collect some writings I’ve done over the years about those times and write more if I have time and put a book together for the family. I’ve been working on two other volumes, but this feels urgent to me. I want to finish all three, but I do so want these family stories to live on.
I’m thinking about Lucy. She’s 92, the mother of my ex-daughter-in-law. She became my new friend after I reconnected with Donna, her daughter. By phone. She lives in Texas; I live in Missouri. I love Donna dearly and I grew to love her mother.
After the divorce, Donna moved into Lucy’s home. They were a loving, compatible couple, sharing work and recreation. As Lucy grew older and acquired several ailments, she depended more and more on Donna to get things done. Donna developed some serious medical problems of her own, but she continued struggling to shoulder the greater load of day-to-day tasks that kept them going.
On September 1, I called to wish Donna a happy birthday. Lucy answered, said Donna was in bed. I knew Donna had been having back pain for a long time. I called the next night to see how she was doing. Still in bed. I asked Lucy if she needed help. I begged her to call someone. She said they were fine. Next night I called again and found them both in bed. I called Donna’s brother’s shop but no one answered. I left a message that I thought someone should look in on them. When I called the next day, Lucy said Donna was in ICU in a hospital in Dallas.
To make the story short: the paramedics found Donna cold and unresponsive. They said she couldn’t have lasted another day. They found she had a large stone in her only kidney. Her urine had backed up and she had developed sepsis. She was air-lifted from the first hospital she was taken to to another one. On a ventilator and a dialysis machine. In very serious condition. She’s been there since, ventilator and dialysis machine now removed, but still in serious condition. They are not even talking about removing the stone yet because she isn’t strong enough and she still has the infection.
The family has decided that after Donna is released she will go to live with her son in Dallas and Lucy will be sent to a nursing home.
Lucy doesn’t know this yet. It will kill her. Literally. As a nursing student, I worked in those places and I can’t tell you how many perfectly alert, fairly able folks I saw folded themselves up and died. Your spirit dies first. Then your body.
That is my own worst nightmare. No one can know, until they live it, how very difficult it is to leave your comfortable, familiar surroundings to exist in a strange, sterile setting.
We who are old. We can’t explain our need to hold onto what we know. Our memories that are in everything that surrounds us. It’s how we hold onto those we have lost. How we hold onto ourselves. When that goes, there’s nothing left. No reason to go on.
I’ve seen online several rescue dogs who needed a new home because their owners had to go to such a place. How very sad. Not only for the dogs. But for their owners. Loosing not only their homes, their possessions, but their companions, in many cases, the only members of their family they have left, the loves of their lives.
I recall something Ken said to me days before he took his own life, “You’ll outlive us all. You’re too stubborn to die.” It hurt. I had given him so much. I know I wasn’t a perfect parent. I made some wrong decisions, some mistakes. But they were honest mistakes, never coming from a place of meanness.
Yet, I knew that’s how Ken felt. I know it’s how many folks feel. Maybe even my one remaining son. We oldsters, many of us know we’re seen as someone in the way, a nuisance, a drag to those whose lives are hectic and in a hurry.
Don’t we have a right to be here? Haven’t many of us spent a greater part of our lives caring and sacrificing for our children? Often giving more than we could afford? Wanting the best for them? Is this how we are to end our days? Many of us dying alone in a barren room, lonely and forgotten?
Oh, dear Lucy, I wish I could help you. But I am as alone as you are. Just not quite so helpless. At least, not yet. Lord help me to hold on.
Trying to find gluten free food that meets all the other requirements of my condition is like searching for a jewel in the ocean. I’m allergic to soy. Sensitive to sugar. Have to watch fat and salt because of hypertension. Some foods that are gluten free aren’t marked. Others contain one or more of those risky ingredients. I’ve spent the past three days online doing research on processed foods. I know whole untouched foods are better for everyone, but I can’t meet all nutrient requirements with just fresh veggies and fruit. Grains must be processed. And fat.
Some things that are okay on a gluten free diet aren’t on a thyroid or Hashimoto’s diet. Some foods are not good for thyroid patients, for instance the cruciferous ones–cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli. Some of my favorites. Some say that if cooked, they are less toxic. Others say don’t eat them at all.
I’m tired, discouraged and confused. I think I’ll hang it up for the rest of today. Look forward to watching “The Voice” on TV tonight. I hit my head on the open door of the microwave last night and got a huge bump on the top of my head. It’s sore today, but not as bad as it would have been if I hadn’t immediately cooled it with an ice pack. Anyway, I’ll give it a rest, and start in on my search again tomorrow.
September 18, 2014
At last I have a name for many of the physical problems that put me in a wheelchair and shrunk my world. Hashimoto’s thyroditis. My immune system is attacking my thyroid causing it to become underactive.
My fatigue, cold and numb hands and feet, dry scaly skin, muscle and joint aching and stiffness, weakness, depression, motion sickness, nausea, dizziness, high blood pressure, rheumatoid arthritis, and losing my hair are all probably caused by this disease.
My doctor doesn’t want to prescribe medication at this time because the side effects could worsen other problems I have, namely paroxismal atrial tachycardia and osteoarthritis. But I can do a lot with diet and supplements. I’m reading up on it now.
It took me six years to convince my doctor that something was wrong with me. He thought it was nothing but anxiety. I finally asked him to do a thyroid test, which he did.
I don’t like having this disease. But it’s good to finally know what’s wrong so I can fight it.
Really, I have much to be grateful for. I’m in pretty good shape for a woman in her late 80’s. I can still take care of myself. And my animals. I can see and hear and appreciate. I have my mind. And the sun still shines most of the time.