Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Dean, the Inviter

This past weekend, I was all prepared to ask friends over for dinner after church. Something Dean and I used to do regularly before his accident. I've been getting tired of cooking just for myself though, and now that Dean's in a care center and I don't have the constraints and stress he brought to the table, I thought this would be the first week I'd have someone over to share a meal. I had something in the crock pot, and knew just the foods I'd serve.

Earlier in the week I had been unsuccessful in calling some people to invite them. Just couldn't make the connections with the few people that I felt comfortable asking. But, I thought this was no problem. When we had people over for dinner in previous years, we always found that people would come at the last minute, when invited.

Driving home from church, I felt quite uneasy that I hadn't been able to get enough courage to ask anyone over to eat. What's wrong here? It always worked before for us. What was different about things now?

But then, it suddenly dawned on me. Dean was the one who always asked people over to eat in years past. He had such an easy time talking to people, even complete strangers. I had totally relied on him to do the inviting.

I can see that I'm going to have to re-invent some things in my life. I miss many things about my partner Dean. But my partner Jesus is still on the job. And I will need to lean on Him more than ever.

Dean, our daughter and granddaughters--at Waverly Care Center

Thursday, April 13, 2017

My? Birthday

Yesterday was my birthday, but as with most caregivers and even busy parents, the celebration centered around someone else. This fact by no means detracted from its pleasure for me, of course. Actually, there's no happiness like seeing someone else given joy.

My main birthday wish is to make my husband happy. It isn't easy when he's in a nursing care center, a placement that neither of us ever wanted to see happen. But with both our medical and health issues, the decision just doesn't seem to be ours any more.

The birthday was brightened by the fact that my daughter and our two granddaughters, ages 6 and 8, accompanied me to the Waverly Care Center after school. We whisked Dean away (our first time trying this since his last hospital stay for pneumonia in February).

Our destination was simple enough. We headed for a local Runza drive-thru and ceremoniously parked and ate our meals while watching the cars go by on the highway. Before heading back, we stopped and watched the girls play at a playground park near the care center.

In addition to this event, I'm also looking forward to Sunday, April 23, when there will be a "come-and-go" party for me in the afternoon. It won't be at home here though as we've usually had it; but you guessed it, it will be at the care center. I couldn't enjoy my birthday more than to see Dean happily visiting with his friends all afternoon.

I can fully understand the pleasure God will have someday, when His children are all reunited and enjoying a wonderful time with Him in heaven! It will be HIS day, but I'm so happy His chief desire is to see us happy there.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

The Nevermores

This week I have been plagued by thoughts I can only describe as a strange feeling of grief in my heart for my loving spouse. It's strange, because the event that is causing the grief hasn't even happened. And yet, I am feeling the suffocating impact on my heart already.

I want to cry; in fact, I become so close to crying that I can taste the saltiness of my tears, but the relief tears can bring escapes me. I try to keep the tears bottled up as a treasure, so I will have plenty to relieve me when they are most needed. When they will really matter. When they will celebrate his life and honor his death.

Those who are in the act of caregiving understand this phenomenon of grief. It feels like piecemeal grieving. Here a little. There a little. And it becomes apparent the first time a "nevermore" is introduced in our lives. These eventually may include:
  • nevermore will he drive the family car
  • nevermore will he work to provide for our household
  • nevermore will he climb up and fix the roof or mow the lawn
Then somewhere down the line, you are struck with others...
  • nevermore will he walk unassisted, or walk at all
  • nevermore will he sleep in your bed, or even in the same room or house
  • nevermore will he eat your cooking, or taste his favorite casserole
  • nevermore will he walk through the door of your home, and be greeted by his happy canine friend
  • nevermore will he sit by you in church, and hold your hand during prayer
How many more nevermore's can I bear?
  • nevermore will he tell stories or jokes to his grandchildren and friends
  • nevermore will he say "I love you" and "forgive me" at the end of each day
  • nevermore will he send his heartfelt feelings and petitions to God in prayer
The only way I can survive these crushing "nevermore's" is to embrace the "forevermore's". I know they are waiting to comfort me when I need them most.
  • Forevermore he will sing God's praises (with the voice he always wished he had)
  • Forevermore he will pray and worship with God's people (on a beautiful mountain far surpassing the ones he loved on this earth)
  • Forevermore he will never be parted from or have to say good-bye to his friends (making it the best "camp meeting" he ever attended!)
 Whether grief comes suddenly or like a slow-motion train wreck, it can only be endured with faith that brings these cherished rewards.

When I find myself avoiding the past, consumed with the present, and dreading the future, all at the same time, there is this welcome time realm of the "forevermores" that beckons me into its loving arms and buoys me up with faith and hope.

Yes, I can bear the "nevermore's" because there is a "forevermore" that outshines them all.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Dean's Mission

Dean had a dentist appointment this week to fill a cavity in one of the five teeth he has left in his mouth. It ended up that almost the whole tooth was lost, but they filled and capped it anyway. This seems to signify what his health care looks like these days. Just making the best we can of what is left of his old, shattered body. Having a tractor run over you when you're 54 doesn't look pretty on a 71-year-old man.

I met with his nurses and staff for another care plan after we returned from the dentist. The cafeteria manager reported that his appetite hasn't suffered with his dental issues (that provided a chuckle from most in the room, including me). He is asking for seconds less often though, so that is good to hear from the diabetes angle.

It was then reported that he is not using his bi-pap machine much at night, which is designed to help him get better sleep and provide him with more needed oxygen. I was afraid his use would be minimal. It probably accounts for his sleepiness during the day. We will see the pulmonlogist again next month to once again give him a pep talk about staying on the oxygen.

He is staying in the wheelchair though thankfully, and using the oxygen that comes loaded on the back of it. They really feel he should stay in the wheelchair while he's in the facility, because he's just safer in it, due to potential falls.

I repeated my desire for him at some point to be able to return to church services once a week. They understood that request and are continuing his physical therapy with that goal in mind. He seems to have enough strength to walk around in his room, to and from the bathroom. So there is hope he can walk in and out of church, especially with the winter weather almost over.

The highlight moment at the care plan meeting was when they showed me their small-town newspaper with a picture of Dean on the front page! It showed him being read to by five eager third-graders from the local school. They were celebrating Read Aloud Week by taking a field trip there and reading Dr. Zeus books to the residents. There he was with the kids, all of them wearing Cat in the Hat headgear. I'm sure he was a hit with many of them that day.

I had remembered to bring a green "leprechaun" hat from home that Dean had worn before on St. Patrick's Day. He immediately put it over his regular winter cap (which he wears day and night) and we headed to the dining room. It was so nice to see all the smiles he got from everybody there when they saw him in this silly green cap. His table mate remarked that he was the "biggest leprechaun" he'd ever seen.

This brought home to me even more that God has a purpose for Dean being where he is. I've been trying to tell him he's found a new mission field. But this day just verified it to me even more. If he can make life a little more bearable for others there, it will all be worth it in the end. I'm so proud of my missionary husband.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

A Break in Routine

I can't believe my last post was about how smoothly our routine was becoming. Well, this past week woke me up to the possibility of excitement that always exists when you care for someone with chronic problems.

All of us were seeing signs of something going on with Dean's health for a few days there, but none could identify exactly what it was. He was sleeping more, was showing more mental confusion, calling me at different hours of day or night or not at all. He even had a couple of falls at the care center. They first did a urine analysis, which came back OK.

But, finally last Sunday they decided to send him to the hospital. His blood pressure had dropped and he was not looking good at all by the time he got to ER. Come to find out, after many tests, he had pneumonia, fluid in his lungs. So, after three strong antibiotics delivered intravenously over the next few days in the hospital, he was able to return to the skilled nursing center.

For me, this meant five long days of being there in the hospital with him (well, from 6-8 hours a day). The only thing I can compare that to is if you were to sit in a doctor's waiting room for hours on end. It gets rather old, even though there are intermittent episodes of excitement. Like when Dean decides he's getting up, despite the fact that he's hooked up to umpteen monitors, oxygen, and IVs. And, of course, he bellows at me for going out to find a nurse to help. His bellow seemed to work faster than his call light, so guess he knew how to get service!

When he wasn't being exasperating though, he was also quite entertaining, at least when he was awake. Only an old man can get by with telling nurses how pretty they are and asking them if they are married. Of course, if I was in the room, he'd always point out my beauty too. "You're almost as pretty as this other lady over here. She's put up with me for 41 years." And on and on...he knew how to engage even the shyest ones and get them talking. That's just Dean's style.

So, it isn't all monotonous drudgery being a caregiver for my Montana cowboy/truck driver. Looks like we may have a few more years to put up with each other, now that we've cleared this latest health hurdle and are back to our not-so-routine-after-all routine. God is in control!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Abundant Life

After almost three months at the Waverly Care Center, there does seem to be more routine to our lives. Much more routine than Dean would like, of course. I've had him home for short visits and I make sure he gets to church every week, plus an occasional doctor visit. But life is naturally regimented at the care center more than he'd like.

My daughter and I both make sure we visit him once during the week, in addition to seeing him on Sabbaths. He still calls me pretty regularly with his cell phone throughout the day, and he is participating in the social activities they offer there at the center.

And now a report on my life, since it seems more like my own these days. I, too, have fallen into a routine. I keep relatively busy, as busy as I'd like, with my blogging, watching the grandgirls, church activities, and caregiver advocacy meetings.

Starting tomorrow, I will join a special phone conversation with several church friends, called "40 Days to the Cross". It's a discipleship-training event, consisting of forty consecutive days of short phone conferences, and I'm excited to be included this time around. We will share our insights on selected Bible verses, and I've been told it's a thrilling way to grow spiritually.

There are many ways to inject some newness to our lives, both physically and spiritually, no matter what our age. I hope you are looking for ways to heighten your life experience this new beginning of a new month and a new year.

Jesus has come that we might have life, and "have it more abundantly." John 10:10 That will look different for each of us, but it is attainable for each of us as well. Looking to Jesus is always a good place to start.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Our Many Bright Spots

Winter is moving right along, and so is Dean's nursing care at the Waverly Care Center. We have focused so much on his diabetes though, that a visit to the pulmonary doctor last week reminded us once again of another health crisis on the horizon for him. His COPD, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. His forty-year smoking habit has left its mark on his lungs after all.

We must make more concerted efforts to encourage Dean to use his oxygen and C-PAP machine more. His shortness of breath has increased, with Dean even noticing and mentioning it to me. The one bright spot is the fact that he has quit smoking as of 1999, when he had that near-fatal tractor accident. So at least we don't have to worry about efforts to make him quit or limit his smoking.

The Lord has blessed us with several things about Dean's care that I thank God for every day. All of them have made his caregiving possible...both when he was at home and now at the skilled nursing care center:
  1. He hasn't asked to drive the car (even though driving was one of his favorite activities, being a truck driver).
  2. He has allowed me, and now the nurses, to prepare and administer his medicines (his illegal drug use, when he was young, could have made this a hard one).
  3. He never balks or refuses to see a doctor (as many independent men are apt to do).
  4. He doesn't mind getting insulin shots and finger pricks for the diabetes now (perhaps because of his earlier drug use).
  5. He has never asked for a cigarette (which would have speeded up his lung disease drastically, not to mention the cost it would have been to our budget)!!!
 Yes, the longer Dean and I live, the more we see of God's work in our lives. When we put Him in charge, marvelous things happen. Even when they aren't readily discernible to us at the time, we can know that it will all work out in a way that most glorifies God in the end.