The Long Yarn
August 13, 2003


It has been such a crazy week that I am going to look around at this bit wad of tangled yarn to find an end where I can start winding it up into some kind of cohesive ball.  Even I don’t quite know how to make sense of it all.  It’s just… odd.


You know, I hear Katrina talk about miracles and read in her journal where she talks about them.  I myself am a very spiritual person and was raised by a mom who believes all things are possible if you can just catch the energy wave that is propelling you through life toward your greatest good and ride it out, staying low and close so that you don’t slow it down.  I’ve read every one of Katrina’s journal entries where she talks about how quickly her life has turned around at critical touchpoints, like little energy pushes that shove you in a particular direction (sometimes kicking and screaming) that looks like a dark cave of painful death but ends up being the warm, soothing light of your ultimate salvation.  With all that around me, I don't think I ever really "got it" until the past week.


Where to begin?  OK, on Wednesday, I think it was, god, it seems so long ago, I was in the hot tub with a drink and a bit of fragrant herb, feeling the tension leave my body and dissipate into the water and bubbles.  My #1 cohort, Coggie, sent me some beautiful aromatherapy candles and I had the ones for relaxation and renewal burning and they smelled so lovely.  There is a big stretch of honeysuckle and jasmine against one of our back fences and the smell of it was almost cloying, but it mixed so well with the candle scent and the night air and the smell of the water that it was almost intoxicating. 


I thought of how it had been over a month since my 45th birthday, which came and went with little more than a whimper, and I thought, as I imagine most post-forties do, of how by statistics, my life is likely half over.  I definitely have not had a life like most people experience, for the good and for the bad, but it’s mine and overall, it’s good.  The last year in particular has been so hard with mom being so out of it and getting more and more difficult to take care of.  I wondered how long she would live and more importantly, how much longer I could continue to provide her with the care she needs.  The sisters are all very determined that Mom remain in her home for as long as possible rather than going into a care facility.  I agree, but as anyone knows who has taken care of infirm parents, it’s very draining, very demanding and very all-encompassing. 


This year, more and more of the things that I enjoy doing and that I use to not only entertain myself, but in some ways, to actually define myself have been sacrificed to provide more time to take care of Mom and to keep her calm and as happy as possible.  Her dementia didn’t seem to be worsening, but it wasn’t lessening either.  She was still completely hysterical about any time I spent on the computer and her panic had extended to going a little nuts any time I leave the house.  If any of you moms know about separation anxiety in toddlers and preschoolers, the whole hanging on the legs, screaming and begging thing… it’s sort of like that.  Tension, much?


It got so that the only time I could even check mail or write my column was during the time when she was at Kye’s (once a week) or when she was sleeping.  She naps a couple of times during the day, then goes to bed around 8pm and has to wake up at 5am for meds again.  She has gotten better about taking her meds and accepting the necessary oxygen therapy and believe me, monitoring that has been a full time job in and of itself.  I really, really don’t mind so much because I figure she went through taking care of me when I was a child and the least I can do is take care of her now that she needs me.  Still, I found myself really missing the old days of watching the soaps with her, laughing together, working jigsaw puzzles together, playing Parcheesi and Russian Rummy, going to Reno and breaking all of the slot machines and working in the garden together.


Speaking of the garden, since she’s been down, the time that I haven’t been taking care of her, I’ve lately had to divide between harvesting the herbs and vegetables as well as working to try and keep up with e-mails and the Ranch message board and such.  I’ve felt frayed, to say the least.  I knew I was in trouble when I was in that hot tub at 10pm at night, smelling the aroma and knowing I had just finished bringing in the last pile of green beans for the day.  I’d been up since 5am and tired was so far into my bones that I wasn’t sure if I could even get out of the Jacuzzi when I was ready to finally drop into bed.  I had to change my life… but how?  We were at the end of our budget for hiring help for Mom.  The girls set up a credit card a long while back for me to put all of the co-pays for her meds onto and then they split up the bill.  That helps tremendously.  After her last bout with congestive heart failure and her subsequent time of hiding her meds and not using the oxygen as she should, she was also set up with twice weekly home visits from a nurse to check her oxygen saturation levels, make sure the doses of her meds are being followed and check her vital signs.  She (the nurse, Joanie), usually ends up being here for a couple of hours, talking with Mom and letting me know any changes to her care that are needed.  That has been a tremendous help.  I also think it’s what encouraged Mom into being more receptive to the meds and oxygen.  Joanie is a real sweetheart and has a way of persuading Mom when I can’t.


I leaned my head back against the tub and closed my eyes, feeling the friendly bubbles pushing away the cares.  When I opened my eyes, I could see that the kitchen light was on and I knew I’d turned off all of the lights before I came outside again.  Mom was dead asleep when I’d checked on her right before I got into the Jacuzzi.  I waited a minute and then started getting a bad feeling, so I grabbed a towel and got out.  Sure enough, Mom was collapsed in the kitchen floor with a broken jar of chamomile flowers all around her.  She’d gotten up to make herself a cup of tea.  She was breathing, but her pulse was pretty weak and thready, so I didn’t even wait for an ambulance.  I just grabbed her (no thinking of possible spinal injuries here, mind you) and threw her in the car and took off for the hospital.  Before I left, I called her doctor’s answering service and they told me he was already in the hospital (YES!!) seeing another patient and they would alert both him and the ER. 


I guess I don’t have to tell you it was a long night.  They got busy on her right away.  They said she had a lot of fluid on her lungs and her oxygen levels were really low.  Her heart was doing weird things, so they put her on IV nitro (I think it was IV nitro) and started her on some new medication to force her body to absorb more oxygen.  She was in serious oxygen therapy for most of the night.  The nurses were great.  There was an empty bed in the room with Mom and even though they weren’t supposed to, they let me pull it close to hers and snooze a bit once they got her stable, which took a few hours.  It’s mostly a blur to me. 


I was really, really surprised by how fast she got better.  Kye and Vince met us at the hospital early the next morning and she was already conscious and feeling much better.  Against my better judgment, they encouraged me to go home and get a few hours’ sleep, which I did.  I couldn’t even look at the computer.  I just fell into bed and blacked out.  I woke up around 3pm (yikes!!!) and immediately hurried to the hospital.  When I got to Mom’s room, I could see her still, little form tucked under the covers.  Awww.  Aren’t they so sweet when they’re asleep?  I was pissed that Kye and Vince had left her alone without calling me to come in.  >:<  As I got closer, I noticed that the body under the covers was too still.  My breath caught up in my throat as I watched for the covers to rise just a bit with her inhale.  Nothing.  Her back was to me, so I took a breath and eased over to where she was.  That was when I saw that the cardiac monitor (the blip, blip, blip, bleeeeeeeeep machine) wasn’t turned on.  I started to shake.  I reached my head out to touch her hair and pushed back the covers around her head. 


A scream literally came out of my body and I very nearly shit myself when that stupid fucking Head rolled off the bed and fell at my feet, revealing the rolled pillows under the covers on which it had rested.  >:<  Attached was a note that said, “They took your Mom for tests, geek.  She’ll be back around 4:30pm.  Oh, and... Gotcha.”  (If you don't know about The Head, click here)


Oh man.  He’d really gone too far this time.  I collapsed down onto the bed.  I couldn’t even move for a few minutes.  Then I grabbed the phone by the bed and angrily punched in about 15 different combinations of numbers before I was able to get an outside line and dial the bastard’s cell phone number.  He was waiting.  “You unmerciful, unmitigated prick, I should jam this damned thing up your ass head first.” 


“Oh yeah, mister ethics, YOU were the one who thought of putting a friggin baby stroller in my yard!!”


I pulled up abruptly.  “How’d you know about that???” 


“You posted it in your column, stupid.  And don't you ever watch TV??  When people die, they put them on their backs and cover them with a sheet?  They don't tuck the blanket around them!”


My anger and residual panic temporarily lessened in favor of a wave of ego.  “You read my column?”


He was silent for a minute.  “Of course I do, dork.  Don’t you know how proud I am of you?  Now if I could just get me some Ho’s…”


I was still mad at him.  I mean, how could I not be?  But I loved him too. 


“Yours was worse,” he broke the silence.  “At least you have a live mom getting a chest x-ray.  I wouldn’t have had a baby if you’d gone through with your stupid plan.”


“Yeah, but I just thought about it, then decided not to.  You actually did it and that was really shitty.”


“Yeah,” he said.  “But it was good, wasn’t it?”


Aside from the personal investment and BVD-filling shock, yeah, I had to admit it was a good one. 


“I’m so going to get you back,” I promised.


He laughed.  “I certainly hope so.”  Then he hung up. 


Mom came back into the room then in a wheel chair and the little oxygen canula up strapped to her nose.  She was chatting very animatedly with the med tech who was pushing her along and for a minute, it was like she was herself again.  As he helped her up into her bed, she saw the Head on the floor where it had rolled.  “Did that boy Kurt put one over on you again?” 


I smiled and told her he had and then we talked about how she was feeling.  As it turns out, whatever medication they gave her to shove the oxygen a little harder into her body or whatever it does, was really making a difference.  She was more bright-eyed and alert than I’ve seen her in months. 


We watched the Thursday night shows together and had a good laugh.  As Scrubs was going off, I saw she was drifting off (already almost an hour past her bedtime).  I kissed her on her pointy little head and went on home. 


When I got to the hospital the next morning, her doctor was with her and asked me if I’d like to take her home that day!!  He and the nurse explained her new drug regime to me and to her and said they were upping her daily oxygen intake as well.  The doctor also said he wanted her to have daily professional nursing care because she needed to be closely monitored for any change in her saturation levels.  I told him I really, really didn’t want to put her into a continuous care facility and that she seemed better now than she had in months!!  He said that for one thing, as far as seeming better, that could turn on a dime if she developed a resistance to the oxygen pushing drug and that (god, I hope I’m getting this right, I’m not good with medical lingo at all) sometimes, the heart actually is weakened by using it.  He then said that he didn’t think it would do anyone any good to put her into a care facility, but was thinking more of ongoing in-home care.  He thought she’d be OK for the weekends with my help and Kye’s, but he wanted in-home care, 5 days a week.  I told him there was no way we could afford that and he asked what insurance we carry.  When I told him, he said that he could probably work out something with them, so I was not particularly hopeful, but hey, it could happen.


Mom was discharged by lunch time and the doctor managed to get her care approved by the insurance company with a small co-pay that the sisters agreed to handle!  He told me that the day nurse would be stopping by later that afternoon to set her oxygen tanks with the new dosage, check her med supply to make sure we were good with it and get her ready for the weekend.  These guys are seriously on the ball!!


So I got Mom home and all set up with fresh flowers in her room and the soaps on her TV.  She was laughing and joking and didn’t lose touch with reality even ONCE.  All in all, it was a great day. 


At 3pm (I know it was 3 because GH had just gone on and we were starting into Dr Phil), the nurse knocked at the door.


But it wasn’t Joanie.  It was a guy in khaki dockers, a nice white t-shirt and a brilliant smile.


It was Colin.


Colin... Nurse Colin.


As it turns out, Joanie only works part time, like three days a week, and couldn’t take a 5 day a week job.  For continuity of care, they don’t like to trade off nurses, so we were reassigned from Joanie to Colin.


Who will be here 7 hours a day, five days a week.


And he’s a dead ringer for Julian Sands.  Here’s picture of him (left) with John Malcovich (right) in case you don’t remember what he looks like.  Look at him in this picture and you’re looking at Colin.


So he’s getting Ma all set up with her new meds and oxygen and stuff and made some suggestions about moving her bed because the best healing energy comes from the North and flows through from the head to the feet.  He’s a Reiki master (whoo hoo!) and knows Tai Chi. 


I thought my heart was going to pound right out of my chest and that he was going to have to do CPR (and mouth to mouth) on me!!


After we got Mom all settled (about 2 hours), we went into the parlor and started talking and it was like this freaky symbiosis set up.  Almost everything I’d done, he’d done as well in some form.  He’d been home schooled for a lot of his educational period, traveled in between, then went on to college, got a masters degree in history, all ready to teach, then when his mother died, he dropped it and started getting his RN license.  He’s actually about 5 years younger than I am and *gasp* was married for a year (to a woman).  No children. 


It was really weird because we had this great connection going on and I was totally mesmerized by this guy and had a lot of trouble focusing on what he was actually saying.  We were mostly talking about Mom, but with personal stuff thrown in here and there as he was telling me about his nursing qualifications and such.  Then, he was just *gone*.  :)


The next day, Saturday, I was in the garden and Mom was napping.  I was picking some green peas and green beans and had my jammin tunes on the boom box.  It was fairly warm out, so I was just in cutoffs and was pretty messy from the dirt and all.  I’m all signing along with Faith Hill and I stood up to stretch my back and there he was…just standing there.  He apologized and said that no one had answered his knock, so he followed the music around to the back of the house. 


He said he’d stopped by to see how Mom was doing (he wasn’t due until Monday) and I offered him a Coke and we started talking as I cleaned up and put on a shirt.  Kye was due over in about a half hour to pick up Mom for the afternoon, so it was time for me to come inside anyway.  I jiggled Mom awake to tell her that Colin was here to visit and that it was time to get ready for Kye.  She was already dressed, but I knew she’d want to fix her hair a bit (she has that older mom talent of sleeping with a hairnet, taking it off and having perfect hair left under all that hairspray) and reapply makeup, what little she wears. 


Kye showed up early (bless her) and I introduced her to Colin and he answered some questions she had about Mom’s care.  I could tell Kye was really happy with him and then off they went.  After an uncomfortable silence, Colin blurted out, “I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you since yesterday and I am not usually so forward, but would you like to go out, grab some dinner and get a drink?” 


I was completely stunned and I know my jaw literally dropped.  No one has even remotely approached me since I saw James at the resort months ago and it’s happened so little in my life that I seldom if ever know how to deal with it.  My heart was clogging up my throat in a big way and I couldn’t speak. 


Colin took it completely wrong and went ashen.  “Oh my god, you aren’t gay.  I’m so completely sorry.”


I barked.  I meant to laugh, but it came out as a bark.  All I could say was “Let me get my hat... oh, and change my clothes.”  I never leave the house without my hat and I still had on the stupid cutoffs.


We went out to a bar he knew and ordered greasy burgers and fries that were GREAT.  For all my home drinking, I don’t really have anyone to drink with, so I don’t really go out to bars much because to me, that’s a going out to hang out with someone activity rather than an “I drink at home alone in the comfort of my office or hot tub” activity.  This was a nice little dive with dart boards (yayyy!), pool tables and (bigger yayyy) karaoke.  Colin is a horrible singer, but so am I, so we sang “Summer Lovin” from Grease (he did Sandy’s part… I’m nobody’s bitch, OK?) and “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Riders on the Storm.”  Of course, we got wicked applause because we both just so totally rule.


I had to give him a hard time because he drinks gin (bleh) and he gave me a hard time for being a Whore of the Captain.  We did, however, have a moment of silence and clinked our glasses in honor of Captain Jack Sparrow.


That inspired us, so we ambled our drunk ass selves to the phone and called a cab, which took us to the theater to watch Pirates of the Caribbean again.  I said, “Want refreshments?” and he looked at me like I was from outer space. 


“Pfft.  YEAH!!  What’s a movie without candy???”  (be still my heart!!!)  We got a buttload of candy, two large drinks and a barrel of popcorn with lots of butter.  I showed him the junior mints (chew’em til liquid then throw in a handful of buttered popcorn amongst the mess in your mouth) and he said, “It’s true.  You are a God!” 


We had a grand time and when we took the cab back to the bar, we were sober enough to drive home.  I thanked him for a great time and he said he’d had fun too, gave me a kiss on the cheek and told me he’d see me on Monday morning.  I floated in, where Kye was waiting with Mom (what a sweetie, she had been so cool about staying longer) who was already sleeping.  Kye demanded details, so I filled her in.  :)~


I went up to my room and ordered a Pirates poster online right away. 


On Sunday, Kye and Vince came over and made a big Sunday dinner (one of those 1pm dinners) of roast beef and roast potatoes, homemade biscuits and some of those green beans I picked.  The girls were all giggly and sweet and Mom had such a wonderful time.  So did I.


After they left around 4 or so, Mom called me into her room and said she wanted to talk to me.  I was a little nervous, figuring she was going to chastise me for going out with Colin.  After the bitching out she gave me at the resort over James, I was more than a little apprehensive and NOT wanting to break my excellent, high-as-a-kite mood.  Still, she’s my mama, so I obliged.  She really surprised me.  She told me that she knew how hard the last year had been for me and that she was really very ashamed of how she’d behaved.  She said she wasn’t as far out of it as I probably thought she’d been and that for the most part, the part of herself that was the “real her” had seen her behavior and just not been able to stop it.  She said it felt like being possessed and that she could see all the hysterics and cruelty and couldn’t make herself stop it.  I told her it had been the illness and not to worry about it.  I’m made of pretty sturdy stuff.  She started to cry and told me how much she loves me and how much she appreciates what I do for her.  She also told me that she felt clear headed and at herself and wanted me to know that she would do all she could to stay that way and if she ever again got to the point that I felt she was abusing me, that she wanted me to put her in a home where other people took care of her.  I kissed her and gave her a hug and told her that I would always  be there for her. 


I asked her if that meant I could get in closer contact with my readers and meet up with some of my online friends and she barked out, “NO!”  She apologized then and told me that while I was free to do whatever I wanted as an adult, that she would be a basket case if I did and that she still stands by the premonition she had.  I promised her that I would honor that wish and not meet online contacts in person and that I just wished she wouldn’t get all freaky and hysterical when I’m visiting on the computer.  She said she would sure try and really, that was all I could ask of her.  I gave her my word and that I wouldn’t see online folks in person and wouldn’t post real pictures of myself and she said she’d trust me to be safe and thanked me for my promise.  I felt it was a great tradeoff.  As I was leaving the room, she said, "You're quite taken with that boy, Colin, aren't you."  I felt all stupid and girlly and said, "Yes, Mom, I like him quite a lot."  She smiled this very smug smile and said, "Well good.  That's a good thing.  I felt him coming for a few weeks now and I quite like him.  He's quite a handsome harvest for you."  I couldn't agree more.  :)


Monday was another great day with Colin, as was today, just hanging out talking and getting to know one another.  Mom really likes him and she has very much been herself since she got out of the hospital, just like old times.   Sage = happy.


It feels like I got this incredible harvest and that the madness of Wednesday and Thursday just turned the whole world around and changed my life in a really, really profound way.


So that’s the catch up and why I now big time believe in miracles.  Katrina, you’ve got a disciple.  School me in the ways of the miracles, girlfriend!!  I think I like’em a lot!!


Wow.  Nine pages of text.  Are you still awake??