Tag Archives: family

Death is so Final.

Argo

This is Argo in his prime. He was a good kitty. He had been abandoned in an apartment when his original humans moved out. It was nearly a month before the landlord arrived to clean up and found this poor frantic dehydrated starving cat. He was adopted by my daughter and her significant other. He had a year and a half of being the darling kitty of a childless couple. We got pictures and updates on every aspect of his life. We tenderly joked that he was their practice baby. They sure loved that cat.

Argo got out in the cold. His human went looking for him immediately but on his way home Argo lost an encounter with an orange Kia. His people did everything they could to save him but after a week (and more than $1000 in vet expenses) it became clear he was suffering and would never recover. They made the hard decision to give him mercy. Argo has moved on to wherever it is good cats go when they die.

For reasons I don’t really get, Argo’s death has hit me very hard. Maybe it is because we also got word this week that my mother-in-law finally lost her long hard battle with dementia and mental illness and passed on at the age of ninety seven. One of my friends who is a recent immigrant from China told me that when someone dies at ninety seven that is a cause for celebration not mourning. I kind of see it. My mother-in-law’s brain had been gone for a long time so her finally passing means death is a friend not an enemy. Now that she has passed everyone else is celebrating her life as if she were a perfect saintly mother and wife, which she certainly was not. When I die, no doubt people will celebrate me as if I were a saint too, even though I am far from it.

Our town has many feral cats. Several people in the town put food out for them. Folks try to find good homes for the ones they can catch. Locals take the babies first because if you can catch a feral cat as a baby you can handle it and get it used to people. Older feral cats cannot normally be tamed. Sometimes an adult cat will approach one of us in the cold desperate for help and then you know they are someone’s pet who was lost or abandoned. The truly feral ones just die. Each winter the feral cat population is dramatically reduced by our bitter cold. There is a lone female feral cat who has taken up residence in our neighbour’s gazebo who has resisted every attempt to catch her and get her in where it is warm. We are all afraid she is going to die soon as temperatures are going to -26C each night now. I watch those feral cats with their frozen off ear tips and they scarred faces and I think how few of them had even one single day as good as Argo had for that year and a half. Life is certainly not fair. Why does there have to be pain and suffering in the world? Does the great joy of good times in life really make up for that?

I do hope my daughter and her man take in another cat. There are so many cats that need a loving home and they have big hearts and they gave Argo so much after a really rotten start to his life. Argo is so happy and so fully cat in his memorial picture. They could give another cat the wonderful gift they gave Argo.

I think the real reason Argo’s death has left me awake all this past night is because of how close death came to taking my husband from me last June. I can’t help but think every time he hugs me or I snuggle up for a cuddle in bed “He’s still warm. He’s still with me.” I look in the mirror and I see the wrinkles and the marks of aging. Death is stalking me now too. So perhaps poor Argo’s unfortunate passing has served as a reminder I’d rather not have, the reminder of the mortality that is looking me in the face every single day that remains.

God has much to answer for. I have just enough faith to believe that at some point He will, at some point I will understand why.  In the meantime there is nothing to do but embrace the joy that comes with being alive while I can.

Rest in peace kitty. You actually were a perfect little furry saint. We don’t have to make things up about how truly wonderful you were, for a cat.

Then we cross the Rainbow Bridge together….. – GLOBAL SAFARI

Two weeks post carotid artery dissection and counting

IMG_1709

Hubby dearest had his two week post hospital release check up. We saw our new family doctor. This is a point of loss for us because I really liked our previous doctor but her practice is not geared to his needs right now. Fortunately, the new guy turned out to be a nice young man, personable, and knowledgeable and he works closely with the neurologist on other issues with other people. We left feeling confident about him.

I knew on a rational level that we were in for a long recovery but emotionally I was not ready for what this new doctor said. One thing that added to my hope was the slight weakness of the left leg and the occasional tremble of the left hand seemed to have pretty much gone away within the first two days home. I was hoping to get a “Yes, your life can go back to normal now”. I did not get it. Instead I got a reality check. The neurological exam showed the weakness on one side is still there. Life is not going to return to normal anytime soon. In three months we go for the update CT and a neurology consult. Then we see the new doctor again one week later. Meantime, we do nothing unless something changes. If something changes we are to come in right away no matter the time of day or the day of the week. Otherwise we carry on as is.

Because of how mild the possible stroke was we have no instructions for rehab. Basically he is to simply go back to life and ignore the tiny tremor and slight weakness on one side. They will go away or they will not. For the strange fatigue that hits like running into a wall, same thing. Rest when tired. Stop when you don’t feel like working and then work and live when you do. It too might go away in time (but not anytime soon) or it might not. This might be the new normal.

We brought up all the meds and some side effects, and got kind of a shock. Maybe in three months we can talk about changing or lowering meds but most likely not.  All he is allowed to do is change the time of day to a better time. On this new doctor’s advice we ordered our own blood pressure monitor. We got home and filled out forms for all those new meds and filed it with our insurance company and promptly got audited. Their computer noticed something new and now we have to prove this change is real. All the money we spent on drugs must now wait for fourteen extra days for the audit to be processed and then up to ten more working days for the refund. For the first time in years, we have blown through our deductible. And to think I was ready to cancel that supplementary insurance because of the cost of it. Thank goodness I did not!

We are in for a long winter in our little house because we won’t be able to travel south for at least one year. No travel insurance will cover him. Among our recent investments was a desk treadmill combination. In the past, cold weather meant we just didn’t venture out and we got fat and grumpy. That was the main reason we went south, to be healthier. This will simply not do in our new normal. The combination of desk treadmill should mean we can keep up with our walks in winter. Of course another friend told us he purchased a treadmill post heart attack and it is now a very expensive clothes hanger. His good intentions went nowhere. You get used to limitations, he says. Can I live with that? Right now today we are determined we won’t. I alternate between wanting to start blowing some of our savings to purchase everything we need to make the house perfect for winter right now, and trying to remain within a budget just in case we both live another thirty years. There must be a happy medium in there somewhere.

And then there is the fear. Every cough, every yawn, every bout of fatigue and I am watching him. If he naps for too long I go and check he’s still breathing. If he complains of being tired and goes to rest I calculate in my mind how long since the last nap. Is this worse? Is this a change? He grumbled about something ordinary and I found myself wondering, is this a personality change? He got impatient and overreacted to some normal family drama. I worried about what the stress was doing. Could this bit of drama, which forced his systolic blood pressure up 40 points for a few minutes on the damned machine, cause another episode? Please calm down. Don’t respond. Leave it. I didn’t want to nag him so instead I told the dog to leave it and she looked me all puzzled and hurt. Leave what? I was sleeping. Fortunately dogs are forgiving. A bit of cheese and all was forgotten.

It has affected our children. I got so angry at the grown son involved in the drama for that rise in blood pressure and then I was shocked to discover he has his own anger. Mortality and aging has come up and smacked him in the face from both his father’s near miss with death and his now adult son who is going his own way and doing something contrary to what Dad wants for him. The son is entitled to his anger too. The strong adult reaction and support we have received from the grown grandson during this drama simply illustrates what a very fine job of parenting the son has done but he isn’t in a place to realize that just yet. Children grow up and do not fulfill your dreams for them. Instead they pursue their own dreams. It is easier to understand when you have already been through that life phase yourself. For some reason it is also easier for grandchildren to accept aging of grandparents. I suspect it is because the young are still young enough to think they are immortal.

Our daughter and another son came to visit and I was surprised to see how long they held on and hugged their father. They too have had their world rearranged. Yes, their father got lucky this time but what if next time it doesn’t go so well? What has felt best for me from the family support? What has comforted me the most? The long generous warm hug from one of my daughters-in-laws whose eyes say she understands mortality with her soul of great compassion. Being one step removed, she can stay detached. I have no need to comfort and reassure her. She comforts and reassures me instead.

We are so much more tender and caring of each other as husband and wife. There are many more “I love you”s and little pats and moments of pausing for a hug and more loving looks. Today, he actually put up that hook I had been waiting for since we moved into the house four years ago. It doesn’t make up for the fear. It serves to emphasize how much we have to lose. I keep feeling like I need to have a good cry but there are no tears.

I did get a bit of good advice from another friend who had a far worse stroke though she has made a really remarkable recovery. I mentioned again how the doctor had said how fortunate we were. She said, yes, she knew that feeling too. While she was in rehab she saw lots of examples of how much worse it could have been for her. However, she advises that it is important to let yourself get angry. Yes, you are lucky it wasn’t worse but it would have been even luckier to not have a carotid artery dissection at all. You have to go through all the steps of mourning to get to finally accepting loss. It was strange to be told I had a right to be angry and feel loss but it certainly made me feel better. Our world has shrunk. So what if others have had it worse? We have still had a loss and we are entitled to mourn.

Grandma’s Holiday Shopping

christmas_shopping_2

It’s that time of year again, when we have to decide in what material way we will demonstrate our love for each other. Don’t get me wrong. I love the holiday season and I love seeing how little kids eye’s pop open as they squeal with delight while opening presents. However, shopping is problematic for this Grandma and Grandpa.

Reason one is that we go to the south for the holiday season so we aren’t physically around. That makes it difficult to wrap packages and deliver them and enjoy the holiday joy. Reason two is a bit more complicated. My husband and I practice as Jews but the kids of a mixture of no religion, Christian, and Jewish. Therefore it can be all too easy to mix things up and upset someone by saying or doing the wrong thing. Reason Three is I want some direct interaction with the grandkids and just sending a cheque isn’t good enough for me. Reason four is I know they know I love them and they love me but it still smarts when I get a present for them and discover they no longer collect those things or they have outgrown what I picked or their tastes have changed.

We have come up with a perfect compromise that is working very well for our family. We decided a few years ago that while we will observe birthdays for the adults, we do not get them holiday gifts. Instead we make a budget and decide what we can afford, and we divide that amount between the grandchildren. Since we are now up to nine in total including members who joined us by blending of their own families, we need to be able to concentrate our resources on the children. (We don’t differentiate between “step” and “biological”. A grandchild is a grandchild is a grandchild. No child can have too many doting grandparents.)

Each year, about a month before the holidays, we tell the parents how much we can afford per child. We then ask them to take the kids shopping on line to a place like Amazon.ca or Toys R Us Canada, and let us know what they want. We order, pay, and have it delivered to them directly at their home. This saves us the entire hassle and cost of buying presents, wrapping and mailing them over the border where they are subject to theft, confiscation and addition of import taxes and costs. Many companies will even send the package prettily wrapped with a special message from Grandpa and Grandma for little or not additional cost. And I get a message when it is shipped and when it arrives so I know it got there safely.

There have also been some pleasant surprises doing things this way. The kids are getting old enough to use social media and this year, I got to exchange a bunch of messages with one grandchild via Facebook as he planned his purchase. The other nice surprize has been that they sometimes decide on one big thing for the whole family. For example, one year, one family wanted an air hockey table and they all played it, including us when we visited. Now that is a good way to max out our limited grandparent resources.

The other wonderful thing is it gives me a yearly glimpse into what the kids are really “into”.  Letting them choose something they want on line, means when I order it I get to see what is special and important to them. This often leads to more conversations and insights about them as individuals. Each child is precious and any chance to learn about them as individuals is wonderful, especially for those grandchildren who were blended into our little clan instead of being born into it.

And there has been one other totally unexpected bonus. The kids have a budget and they have some special limitation on where they can shop. They take the shopping very seriously carefully combing the websites, comparison shopping, and looking for the best possible deal to stretch their money. So the experience is also a lesson in money management, addition, subtraction and prioritizing wants and needs. Now what grandparent would not want to spoil their grandchildren while also teaching them valuable life skills?

This gift giving method also sets us apart from the other grandparents. Children have four grandparents in their lives and with blending, that can grow to eight. One set of our grandchildren are fortunate enough to have grandparents on the other side who can afford very extravagant gifts, the best of everything and anything they might want. Even though they give much more, we give in our own way that is special because the kids shop and choose exactly what they want. Our gift stands out because they got to pick it themselves even if it is not the most expensive of the bunch. I always like it when a child picks a needed accessory for the big fancy present from the other side. It makes me feel like we are sharing the wealth in a way proportionate to our means.

In another family, we are the “rich” grandparents. Their other side gives things like hand made mittens and dollar store specials, made with love and carefully chosen but not costing a lot of money because they just don’t have it. The cousins on that side get very little for the holidays. We do not place our grandchildren in the position of having the modest gifts from the other side opened on Christmas morning next to ours, which are so much more expensive by comparison. Rather, the kids pick what they want from us, and they get it when it is delivered and not when the other side gathers to exchange gifts. And so we get to teach lessons like being compassionate and thoughtful of those who have less material goods.

Finally, with the parents guiding them, we know the kids get what they actually need, even the little ones. When children were very little Mom and Dad did the shopping for them. I learn too. I had this psychological block about playpens. I don’t like them. So I was perturbed when I was asked to send a baby fence to create a quasi playpen area. I trusted my daughter-in-law and ordered it anyway. Later, visiting their home, I could see how she was right. The baby had his safe space and the household had some peace, especially big brother who is very fussy about the special Duplo creations his toddler sibling has absolutely no respect for. My gift was not a playpen to confine my grandson. My gift made for peace in the family and respect for everyone. I would never have gotten him something like that because not being around everyday and living in that house, I either wouldn’t know or my personal prejudices might get in the way.

This is how we solved the problem of being grandparents during the holidays. Every family is unique and will find their own solution but if you haven’t reached it yet, perhaps this one might help you. Happy shopping!