Stars in the sky

It has now been one week and one day since my Pop-pop passed away. My life has somewhat returned to normal (I am blogging again, LOL!), although it is definitely a “new” normal. I still find myself looking at the clock, wondering if it is too late to call him. I thought today that I needed to remind him that Saturday is my beloved Martin’s birthday, but remembered that he wouldn’t forget because his birthday is this coming Monday. Their birthdays are only two days apart.

Then I remembered that we wouldn’t be celebrating Pop-pop’s 85th this year, and it made me sad. Sad that my two favorite guys wouldn’t be together and sad that I wouldn’t be there with them. Losing one parent sucks; losing both parents? It’s hard to describe the emptiness.

This saying came into my head tonight, supposedly an “Eskimo Proverb” – and shouldn’t that really be called an Inuit Proverb? Anyway, I have always taken great comfort in the past when I read it, and tonight it is no different…

starsMaybe my Dad always knew this proverb was true. Before he became ill, many nights you could find him sitting outside my parents’ back door, on a tree stump that serves as a stool (it looks really cool, I promise), just staring at the stars. When I was younger, he tried to teach me all the constellations, although I never made it beyond the Big and Little Dippers.

He would sit in silence in the dark, looking at the bright night sky, content and happy. On the occasions when I was home visiting and this would happen, I would ask him if he wanted any company, and he always said, “No, that’s OK. I am just fine out here.” Now I guess I finally understand why. He wasn’t alone at all.

The sky is a bit cloudy tonight but Pop-pop? I’ll be out there very soon, looking for you and Mom. Give me a little twinkle when I find you two, OK?

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Pop-pop’s Fridge

I have been absent from blogging for a few days.

empty-deskThose of you who follow my little blog know that my father, Pop-pop, is terminally ill. Hospice has been called in and, as they say, “Now we wait.” It is a heart-breaking time and, frankly, it sucks. A lot. My siblings and I are taking turns staying with Dad now – he cannot be alone.

My father, once a robust, contrary guy with an opinion about anything and everything, now spends his waking hours – which are getting fewer and fewer – in an adjustable bed in the living room, watching TV for a few minutes at a time, sometimes with the sound blasting and other times with the sound muted, the closed captioning scrolling across the bottom of the screen. And all the while, my sister, brother or myself sit across the room in a recliner, or even closer on the nearby sofa, talking with Pop-pop when he feels like talking, making sure he has a drink or the daily paper (which he never reads, he just likes to “have it”), adjusting pillows and blankets and helping him with the TV remote. Increasingly, he just surrenders the remote and tells us to “Watch what we want.”

Did I mention that this really sucks?

I love my Pop-pop, and am angry that he is so sick. I am angry that doctors took so long to finally “figure out” WTF was wrong with him (why do we have to rule out everything before we arrive at diagnosis?). I am angry a bit with my Dad; seems he may have suspected he was sick over a year ago but, like all men I guess, we think he avoided seeking treatment or even a diagnosis, maybe because he was afraid of what he would find out. I get it, I do, but I am mad. And selfish, in a childish way – I don’t want Pop-pop “going anywhere…”

But now we are faced with the reality that is, well, reality. This past weekend, I went to my Dad’s house and spent the night, Sunday through late Monday evening. Pop-pop lives an existence without wi-fi, computers or internet anything – I mean, he really does still have a rotary phone at his house. So, no blog posts. Plus, I had more important things to do.

Rotary-Dial-Phone

We had a nice overnight, my Dad and me. We just kinda’ hung out, had a bite together and then he mostly slept. I slept on the couch right beside his bed. It was a beautiful time for me, sad as the situation is, but I am thankful Pop-pop and I had that time alone together. It was a bit surreal, though – I mean, I have always heard all the expressions, you know the ones: “Life is one giant circle. Parents become your children. In the beginning, parents give you life and, at the end, you help them exit theirs.” They are all true.

As the evening progressed, I helped my Dad eat – he wanted a Bacon Junior Cheeseburger, a few fries and a Frosty from Wendy’s. At this point, we are all worried less with nutrition and more with making Dad happy. He ate half the burger, about a half dozen fries and maybe half his small Frosty. As I pulled his bed tray away, I looked at him and told him how “good” he had done, much as he had done to me as a child when I ate my dinner. I wrapped the burger and fries (I ate the Frosty!) and put them in the fridge. Inside the fridge, I saw other recent left-overs – three McNuggets here, one KFC chicken strip and a barely-touched mashed potatoes on the top shelf, two-thirds of a Burger King something and a few onion rings on another shelf. As I nestled the most recent left-overs into the fridge, I stood crying silently in the kitchen, out of my father’s sight.

McNuggets

The fridge that had burst with food when my Mom was alive was now all but empty, save for half-eaten fast food meals. a bottle of apple juice and goat cheese.

Yes, goat cheese. Pop-pop recently mentioned that he had always wondered what the heck goat cheese tasted like. So, on my visit, I brought him some to try. I spread goat cheese on three crackers and brought them to him on a small plate. He ate one, said it tasted “all right” and now he would be able to say he had tasted goat cheese…

goat cheese

My sister is staying with Pop-pop the next few days. I wonder what she will think, looking past packets of honey mustard dipping sauces and shriveling French fries, when she sees the goat cheese. I hope maybe she gets the chance to share some with Pop-pop, too…

Comfort

As most of you know, my father (Pop-pop) is very ill; he will, in fact, probably NOT get any better. He is resting in a hospital tonight, recuperating from a small surgery today, a surgery with the goal of making him more “comfortable.”

Comfort is a word – a concept, really – that keeps cropping up in Pop-pop’s life…

comfort

My Dad’s illness has advanced to the point that hospice care is now on the scene. As many of you know, hospice does not “treat” illness, they simply make the patient more COMFORTABLE during his/her illness. As part of the hospice service experience, my Pop-pop now has a “comfort care” box of meds in his refrigerator, in case any of the hospice workers need medicine immediately. I helped my father take a shower during my last visit home and, as I was helping him get dressed, I noticed his pants boasted a “Comfort Waistband.” I assume this waistband somehow expands and contracts? Who knows? Finally, in getting updates about Pop-pop tonight, I was informed the hospital staff was going to send him off to sleep around 10P, after making sure he was comfortable. Comfortable. Comfort…

It is maddening to me that the medical field, and other related healthcare enterprises, strive so hard to ensure comfort. Heck, hospitals look like mid-range hotels now. So maybe this corporate pursuit of happiness is not all that bad. I do wish that instead of the pursuit of comfort – we could have a more tangible way to measure the level of comfort. And, I have to be honest – after more than a decade of sobriety – the “comfort” pictured below is looking pretty dang good to me right now… Good thoughts and prayers for Pop-pop, please. THX!

Southern Comfort

Why are days only twenty-four hours long?

I find I am constantly challenged by time, and time management  It is a daily struggle for me, and I think I have finally figured out why – every day is too “short.”

I mean, who decided days should only be twenty-four hours long? At the end of every day, I find myself wondering what I could have done differently to have made the day more “productive” – how could I have been more efficient? Then I got to thinking and actually analyzing the whole “day” thing and came to the realization/conclusion that it’s not me, it is the length of the day itself – it’s just too short!!! Let me elaborate…

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Every day is twenty-four hours long (twenty-four hours and a few minutes, I think, technically). Anyway, if I do “everything I should” and try to “be my personal best,” every day should look something like this for me:

Sleep – Dr. Oz says we all need at least seven (7) hours of sleep every day. Minus seven…

Exercise – Dr. H of The Biggest Loser fame says we should all “be active” (exercise) at least sixty minutes a day, or one hour. That makes eight hours of every day gone already…

Work – I typically work between seven and nine hours a day, when one factors in blogging, Facebook-ing and and managing the business I co-own. Let’s use eight (8) hours as an average. Sixteen hours have been allocated; now I am left with only eight hours a day.

Travel – On the days I work, I have approximately a 30 minute commute each way. That deducts another hour from my day. Now I am down to seven.

Personal Hygiene – Without going into any details, I figure I spend about an hour a day with “bathroom-related” activities. Bathing, other stuff – I know, but it’s true… Only six hours left.

Eating – If I eat the way I should according to Weight Watchers, I need to budget about 30 minutes per meal for planning, tracking, preparing and actually consuming my food. That’s another 90 minutes gone. I am down to only four and half hours left…

Mental Wellness and Spirituality – According to my therapist Jessie, I should try and spend about some time every day “…being with myself, alone in my thoughts.” It helps me lead a spiritually-balanced and mentally-healthy life. I try and schedule about an hour a day, 30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes before bedtime. Three and a half hours left.

Family – I call my Dad every night before bedtime. This is a routine I have followed since my Mom passed away a few years ago. Most nights, the call averages about ten minutes (we talk a lot about the weather) but sometimes my Dad gets an a jag about gun reform or medicare reform or penal reform (he is big to discussing reform) and he can go for maybe thirty minutes. I’ll budget a quarter hour here. Three hours and fifteen minutes left.

Activism – I am involved with a few political and social causes, but immigration reform is one area I am particularly involved in. To make it easy, let’s say I just average fifteen minutes a day in this category. Three hours left per day…

Now, in the three hours I have left every day, I need to schedule in paying bills, doing laundry, buying groceries, stopping for gas, my weekly Weight Watchers weigh-ins/meetings (every Saturday at 8AM for thirty minutes!) and maybe catching a movie  or watching some TV. By the time I factor in all the wild card variables, every day I am in the red… Then I think about Martin.

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Martin. My beloved partner, the man that makes every day worth getting up for. Martin, who never asks me for any time; in fact, he is watching TV quietly in another room while I am hammering out this blog post. He never says “I feel ignored” or “I wish you would pay more attention to me.” He is happy when we spend three or four hours together, taking down the Christmas tree or doing laundry and housework (some dates, huh?)

Martin supports all I do, sweetly and completely, and is honestly and unquestionably the best person I have ever known. I am lucky to have him in my life.

I know there is little I can do to make days longer but, in the future, I think I shall try and use each day to its best advantage. And I know that for sure, the best way to make every day worthwhile and memorable is to be sure to “budget” more time with my SBF, Martin…