Friday, April 09, 2021

“So what do you do”

I gotta be honest. I hate that phrase. I hate it because it automatically classified us based on our jobs.

So what do I do? 

I avidly follow the Atlanta Braves and pray every year for a World Series title. I live - or more often, die by paper cuts - with the Gamecocks. I listen to all types of music but primarily 90s alternative and can tell you more about the Big Four from Seattle (and others) than you would ever want to know. I love live music and missing all those shows this past year has made me cranky. I sing in my church choir and with an a capella group and in the shower and the car and any other place it’s allowed. I love to go in thrift stores to see what I can find and if I had the whatever to see my grandiose Flea Market Flip momentary whims come to life, I’d need a 6000 square foot house. I write, not all that well, but I write because I can’t imagine not writing. I paint, nothing that will ever hit a gallery but purely for the love of creating something. I play piano incredibly poorly and guitar even more poorly. I laugh at horrible puns and can quote so many movies it’s unreal. And there’s so much more that I do.

In order to pay for the things I do, I work in customer service. It’s not a glamorous job, but I’m good at it and I get paid nicely to handle other people’s problems. Some are easy, others complex. They’re all paying the bills and allowing me joy in my life. I have awesome customers and awful customers but they’re all waiting on my assistance. One of my technicians asked one day how I managed it all and I laughed and said, “overwhelming anxiety. Fear I’ll mess it up. That’s how.” I wasn’t joking but I was laughing.

I’ve learned through doing this work — and in 16 years of experience at this company — that my ability to think ahead and consider all the components of a service call come into play.... what do I need to make sure that accounting or billing or inventory or purchasing will need to know about this customer, this location, this technician? Because I’ve been the person in accounting going back asking why an invoice is unpaid, and I’ve been the purchasing person ordering the same part over and over for the same customer.....

And while I’m proud of what I do and the work and knowledge that goes into it, it doesn’t define me. It’s not the only thing about me. It doesn’t even touch the surface of who I am and such. 

So I really do think we need to reframe “so what do you do” into something else entirely....

Monday, February 22, 2021

Five Years Ago Tonight...

Five years ago right around this time, on another Monday evening, I was getting home from our monthly a capella group practice. I walked into what I thought was a normal evening at home. Suddenly from the bathroom, I heard my dad yelling, “Sit up! What’s going on? Hey! Sit up!” 

I looked into the room where my brother was and said “let’s go. Something is way off.” Mom had apparently slumped forward as she was TCB. My dad was in there with her because she’d become such a fall risk — and with a glass-paned corner shower, he was very afraid of her falling into it and cutting herself badly. After she slumped forward, dad sat her up against the tank but she kept sliding down. The three of us managed to get her into a seated position but it didn’t last long. 

We decided to try to get her up and out to the car for a trip to the ER. Herding jello would have been easier. Mom had zero ability to stand on her on. We got her on her feet and to her rollator. She remained hunched over. When my dad pushed on her hips to get her standing straight, she started going straight down to the floor. I had Dad and Richard sit her back in the floor. I looked at Dad and said, “I’m calling EMS. There is no way the three of us can get her out of this room and into a car. They’ll have to take her on a gurney.” I knew dad would be worried about the cost (as would mom) but I looked at them and said “as long as my tax dollars are paying for your Medicare....”

The EMT’s were there soon and at least got her out of the floor. They got her seated onto the chair part of the rollator — long enough to get her onto a gurney. About 10:20 the ambulance drove away.

She didn’t ever return. They sent her from the small community hospital she adored to the larger hospital in their chain for additional cardiac care. I called twice a day, always on the way to work in traffic, to speak with the nurse to see how she was. On Wednesday night I went to visit and she’d gone way downhill from when my brother saw her that afternoon on his lunch break. I’ll never know for sure but my dad and I think she had some sort of stroke or something else. She was pretty much non-responsive most of the time after that.

By Saturday, her kidneys were failing. The doctor moved her to cardiac ICU for additional monitoring but also told us to start thinking about our decisions. We did a lot of crying, a lot of praying, a lot of pondering.

I called my boss to tell her and let her know I wouldn’t be in — she said to take all the time I needed. She cried on the phone with me. Within five minutes, I had texts from all my coworkers offering their kindnesses.

Mom had some lucid moments. She spoke with some of my dad’s relatives that next week. But she slept more often than not — 23 out of 24 hours. I logged into work that next Wednesday, when Dad rang me: the doctor wanted to meet with us. I rushed down there as soon as I dressed. Mom greeted me with a big “Hey Annette!” And it was all I could do to hold it together. Those were her last lucid words to me. The doctor met us: the tests were not improving and her kidneys were kaput. Dialysis wasn’t an option — if we couldn’t get her into the car in the shape she was in that week before, how were we going to ever manage getting her to a dialysis center? And for what? Was her life going to ever be better? Our other option was hospice, and in her shape, at the local Hospice House. With very heavy hearts, we agreed to have her assessed. 

I was there when the nurse checked her out and said, “yep, she’s a prime candidate for hospice care.” It weighed so heavy on me. Dad and Richard had gone home to rest. My cousin showed up with dinner for me, and she was the first person I told of our decision. 

I remember her going to Hospice House the next day. It turned SO cold and I came home to check on Maddox (and have him say his goodbyes to his Nanny. I walked out onto the carport and flurries fell. It was freaky. I took him into the room and mom — all drugged up in morphine patches and Ativan — reached for him to pet him. He sniffed her for a while, went down to the foot of her bed, and whimpered. He knew.

i went back on Friday afternoon, taking shifts so Dad and Richard could rest. I sat with her, I sang to her, I talked to her, I sat in silence and discomfort. At 5:00 she started to rouse and I felt all my anxiety surface. Was I watching the end? Would I have time to call Dad and Richard? 

She said one last word: “aaaaahhhhhhhmmmmm.” Her arm. She had dislocated her shoulder back on the 22nd somehow. They found it on an MRI later in the week. They couldn’t operate on her, so they had no alternative except to manually pop it back into place and constrain her on that side. And in all she’d been through in 10 days, her arm still bothered her most. 

I found the nurse and she brought morphine. She had to massage it down mom’s throat; she could no longer swallow on her own. And she had an accident in the meantime. A couple of nurses came in to fix her up. They were so patient and caring even in the mess and muck.

About 20 minutes later, one of my mother’s cousins stopped by for a last visit. I was so drained I looked at her and said, “I’m going home. She’s just been changed, they just gave her morphine so she won’t be too responsive. I’m exhausted. Bye.” I couldn’t even muster the words to be a gracious hostess. So to speak....

The call came the next morning, 6:04 am. When they asked to speak to my dad, and I offered to relay a message and they said they’d hold, I knew.

She had passed around 5:55 am. It happened more quickly than the nurses realized, enough that they knew it would be useless to call us in.... we wouldn’t make it in time. Mom was not in a family-sized room. They only had one bed left when mom was admitted, and we were lucky to get it. So they held her hands as she made her last flight.... I don’t have any guilt however. Our first moments there, one of the nurses told us, “don’t leave this room without saying anything you think you need to say. You may not get another chance.” I had said everything I needed to that day before.

 And in five years, I still miss my mom. I miss her, but I do not wish her back. She is fully healed. She isn’t beset by the aches and of old age, of heart disease, of fibromyalgia, of unacknowledged anxiety disorder (because oh noooo, no one in HER family was crazy, noooo sir!). It is different with my brother: he was taken too young and I would wish him back. Not that he would come back.... but you know.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Family Memories

My aunt’s passing has gotten so many of the cousins talking, in the best way. We are sharing memories that go beyond just our own immediate families but into our extended ones as well — even the “other sides.”

i must say that this is a time when social media has been a blessing rather than a curse. It’s brought up those “oh yeah, that’s right!” kind of things — like when a cousin reminded me a few weeks that his uncle-by-marriage on his other side was the attorney for a large state university’s board of trustees, and had more or less authored the severance deal when one of their high-profile coaches found himself on the wrong end of the NCAA’s investigative arm. 

And today, another cousin reminded me how much my other grandmother had been loved by my dad’s family. I’d often heard over the years how “Miss Prince” was so well-regarded by my dad’s mom, siblings, and their families. She and I were talking today about my aunt and her amazing strength — and I mentioned that I’d been there before too (having to be strong for others when I wasn’t feeling it myself). We started talking about my grandmother and she said, “oh yes, you were her shadow when you were a kid.”

I suppose I did, in many ways. My granny was my world. She was my first roommate and always made me feel like I was the only person in the room. And I probably repaid the devotion. I felt protective of her because of her disabilities.

And my dad’s family felt just as warmly toward her. I know they knew about my grandfather’s untimely passing, and how my mom and grandmother had been making it work as best as they could. They may have felt just as protective. 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Fading, fading

Earlier this week, my cousin texted me to let me know his grandmother (my aunt) was in the hospital. Today I got the text: “when you get a moment, please call me.” 

I’m no dummy. That’s never good news. For roughly the last 11 years, my cousins calling direct has almost certainly meant bad news, and too often the worst kind. And so it was today as well. My aunt suffered an unexpected cardiac arrest, and was unable to be resuscitated. My dad’s only remaining sister is gone, almost 3 years after her other sister. Now out of the seven, only four remain, all boys.

My aunt Peggy was my Shero, in so many ways. I could tell a million reasons why but suffice it to say that it was her outlook. My dad’s family is notoriously stoic. Up until they all got older, they didn’t say much (but my cousins and I can attest to how CHATTY they’ve gotten in old age). Each of my dad’s siblings have taught me something, and for me, with Peggy it was resilience. She has overcome things that would drive lesser mortals to their knees. She did it with this sense of one deep breath in, one long exhale out, and “okay, now we know, what comes next?” attitude. A moment to reset and then come up swinging. 

And she did so with tremendous love and caring. You were always welcome at her house, around her table. She was a sharp cookie and no pushover but she had a lot of empathy and care. 

That’s who I want to be: a woman of strength, resilience, empathy, love. I have a long way to go to get anywhere in Peggy’s league. 

Godspeed Aunt Peggy. After you have seen your husband and son again, please give all the relatives my love. I can see my brother laughing it up with you already. And I’ll see you one day.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Some Sunday Evening Thoughts

So let’s just start out with this: I have a lot of opinions about a plethora of topics, all from just this week. And I mean a lot. Probably enough for a novella. But right now, it all feels so raw and so sharp that I’m still processing it. Until I can and do so in a rational, better-thought-out manner......

I saw a tweet that I’ve seen for a few days and it brought a pleasant childhood memory to my mind. Right now, I need a little soothing so I wanted to discuss.....

Kristen Arnett @kristen_arnett

when find myself in times of trouble

mother pound cake comes to me

speaking words of wisdom

sara lee

Sweet little memories of dinners at Granny B’s house where the dessert was almost always Sara Lee pound cake, with strawberries and cool whip. Granny B was my next door neighbor and really was like another grandmother to me. My mother’s mom lived with us until I was 7. My dad’s mom was always at least an hour away and didn’t have a car. I’m not sure either of them had a driver’s license. But Granny B was there. Her grandchildren were much older than I was. Her great-grandchildren were more my brother’s age (and younger). Her daughter was my mom’s best friend. The house had been built originally by my grandmother’s cousin for my great-grandmother. It was a lot of interlocking parts. 

Usually on Saturday nights, once or twice a month, we’d go to dinner there. Usually nothing terribly fancy but just the joy of getting together and we’d have to be done by 7:00 because Lawrence Welk would be on, at which point we’d all gather in the living room to watch. Children of my age have memories of only two shows on Saturday nights: Hee-Haw and Lawrence Welk. And most of us got varying levels of exposure to each. 

I loved those Saturday nights for a lot of reasons. When I was there, it felt like I had a bit of a Norman Rockwell childhood. Of course, I have some differing thoughts about Rockwell’s portrayals than I did then .... but it felt safe and normal. I was a kid missing one grandparent already when I was born and the next one would die just months later. I didn’t have any aunts or uncles nearby (except my grandmother’s siblings or their widows). I felt almost feral sometimes, in part because I truly don’t think my parents knew quite what to do with me. Not in a bad sense, mind you; I just wasn’t

At her house, there was genteel guidance, presented in such a way that I wanted to do those things right, so that they wouldn’t be disappointed in me. Things like saying please and thank you all the times, or no elbows on the table. Even little things like learning to say, “may I be excused?” instead of jumping up saying “I have to pee!” At 4 or 5, that’s an important thing to know in order not to appear completely uncouth at school. My mom could have said these things to me a million times and all I would have heard was blah blah yadda yadda. When Granny B said it, it had far greater importance. I don’t know why but it did. 

I can still taste the pound cake and thawed strawberries all these decades later. And maybe I need to think of the words of wisdom imparted to me lo those many years ago at Granny B’s house.



Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Well Dammit, Part 2

So two weeks ago (November 11), dad had a rapid-results COVID test that came back positive. He has been a good boy and isolated himself.  I had a test the next day (November 12), and it came back negative. WHEW, right?

In the words of Lee Corso, "Not so fast, my friend."

On Sunday the 15th, I had a sudden nausea attack, leading to sweating profusely (lying in the bathroom floor between upchucks because it was nice and cold).... and being so tired that I went to bed. I woke up four hours later, then went back to bed. I slept off and on for a few hours (with snippets of the football game playing on my SiriusXM app). I assumed it was an awful migraine because of head and neck pain, and the lethargy. I luckily had taken the week off work so I didn't have to worry about that, at least. 

On Monday the 16th, I more or less slept all day again -- or at least I lay in bed all day. Zero energy, still some residual head and neck pain. Finally around 1:00 PM I got up on Tuesday, shaky and hungry to a small degree. I ate a half-sleeve of saltines. It was all I wanted. And back to bed for a while. By the afternoon I felt I had had enough of this and forced myself to at least sit up in bed while I watched old episodes of The Addams Family (don't ask how many times now I've seen pretty much the entire 2 seasons). 

On Wednesday, I finally started feeling human again -- a diminished appetite, but human.

By the weekend I was feeling much better. Until yesterday afternoon. Around 2:30, I noticed that the candle I'd been burning all morning -- about 3 feet from my office chair -- was not as potent as it normally would be. So I lit another candle. It too lacked a certain potency. So did the Watermelon candle. And so did the Bath & Body Works hand cream. 

I told my dad, "I think I've lost my sense of smell....." He asked me to smell some various essential oils. Peppermint? Didn't register. Breathe Easy Blend? Nothing. Another blend I had at my desk? Nothing. Then he brought out the ultimate test: an old bottle of Brut left in the bathroom by my brother. Brut, the stankiest ...... stank there is available for sale. Brut, which makes me gag because it just reeks.

Nothing. Not even a hint. 

I went to the bathroom. Lavender hand soap? Nope. Lemon hand soap? Well, at least my hands got extra clean. Bath & Body Works Raspberry Sugar shower gel? Nothing. 

This morning it was only minimally better. If I leaned deeply into my cup of coffee, I could pick up a very faint hint of coffee. Same with the lavender soap - but I almost had to put my hand on my nostrils to even get a tiny aroma. It's like a volume knob that goes zero to 100 -- mine is at 5, at best. I still have to breathe super deeply to even get minor hints of scent. I have a pack of cinnamon-scented wax melts on the desk as well...... barely moves the needle. 

So I talked to my doctor this morning, and she had me go to the hospital for a re-swabbing and re-testing. It's drive-through testing and I got there at 11:15. I left at 12:30. I felt awful for the occupant of a car a couple up from me. It was a small child getting tested and he or she did not like having their nasal passages probed in the least. I wasn't crazy about it either kid. But on a positive note, it did make my left eye water..... 

I'll find out within 24-48 hours. But I'm already pretty sure I am COVID-positive and that what I had last week was probably the manifestation of it. Different, to be certain, than what others have experienced, but definitely in line with it. And I'm betting if they tested the city's wastewater, they'd find a much higher occurrence in the general population.

Our county has the distinction of the fastest growing positive rates in the state in the last 2 weeks. FORTY percent jump in cases. And while we are home to a large university, our county administrator (a high school classmate of mine) advised us today that student positives are not counted in the county totals, but go to the student's home area -- whether across the state, or in another state. I'm not exactly sure how all that works (since chances are they contracted it here) but it's not my say. 

At any rate, I'm staying put for another two weeks. 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Well dammit....

After months and months of taking every precaution and doing everything we could to keep ourselves safe, someone else’s carelessness has resulted in a positive COVID-19 test for Daddy. Mine -miraculously- was negative. Maybe being in another room facing a computer screen all day has its advantages.

I am feeling a complete rollercoaster of feelings — gratitude that dad’s case so far has been fairly mild: just a low-grade fever, a horrid cough (along the lines of a really bad case of bronchitis) and tiredness.... I have had a scratchy throat (a la post-nasal drip) but that’s it. 

But I’m also feeling a huge amount of anger and frustration. People are treating this virus so cavalierly and after months and watching figures jump exponentially.... how? How do people justify acting so nonchalantly? I’m angry at people who’ve put their own selfishness ahead of others. All it has taken is someone somewhere not caring.....

I can’t say it enough: WEAR THE DAMN MASK! Wash your freakin’ hands. Cover your mouth when you have to cough or sneeze. And be a responsible human being.  

“So what do you do”

I gotta be honest. I hate that phrase. I hate it because it automatically classified us based on our jobs. So what do I do?  I avidly follo...