Monday, October 30, 2006

Good Samhain to all!

Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire, burn; and caldron, bubble.

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the caldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,

Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double, double, toil and trouble;
Fire, burn; and caldron, bubble.

--Thanks to Wm. Shakespeare....
And ably sung in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Catching Up

After dropping off the face of the blogosphere for the last couple of months, I thought I should at least drop a note.

So, it’s been quite a time, here.

Sept. 17-22, Mom came for a long visit. Erin, Rebecca, and Scott were also here between Sept. 16-18, and we had lots of good family visiting time. We also had a great visit with Mom. An all-time visit. She saw a bunch of her friends, she and I shopped, we went out to eat a couple of times, we watched movies, and she and Bill and I hung out a lot. Bill earned major brownie points by showing up after work one day with a mess of fresh trout from Bull Run Lake—we had a fish fry the next night. What a treat! On the 20th, Mom took Bill and I out for an incredible steak dinner at Ruth’s Chris to celebrate my book being finished. That was the best steak I have ever had in my life. I’ll probably never be able to afford to eat there again, but it was amazing.

That takes me back to the Gargoyles book. It had been due on Sept. 15, but I ran two days long with the final formatting. On Sunday evening, Sept. 17, I finished it. Bill and Mom were watching TV when I came out with all 299 pages atop one hand, and pronounced it done. Hoo-ah! [Update on the book: the editor is working with it, and I should have galleys soon. She “likes what she sees,” which I think is good news. It’s still set to come out in February 2007. You can preorder it from Amazon, where I'm proud to say it is currently #1,010,635 on their sales rankings-- not bad when you consider it hasn't been published yet. (grin) I am also so very, very glad that Mom was sitting in my living room that night, and got to see me carrying out the finished manuscript, and knew that I had gotten it done.]

On Sept. 18 and 19, I left Mom to her own daytime devices as I was on a workshop team for ten new First Year English GAs at PSU (right) . The workshop went well, and Mom kept busy in my absence. [Update: The Firsties are doing great!]

Also note that on Sept. 16, Loro was married, becoming half of the Lora & Mike Reilly team. Erin was in the wedding, and she and I attended together. It was a perfect Loro wedding—held out in the woods, on a beautiful autumn afternoon. We had a very good time, and also enjoyed seeing old friends from Scouting, who we’ve lost touch with except for events such as this that bring us back together. [See really good photos on Erin's blog.]

And, on Sept. 7, Ernie had eye surgery to remove a cataract and replace it with a replacement lens. This was in response to his increasingly destructive efforts to fly (see older blog entries for details). The surgery itself turned out to be the easy part. The hard part was taking care of an elderly postoperative dog who needed routine, round-the-clock drugs and eye drops for 4+ weeks after the surgery. [Update: He did very well, except for that one “eye juicing” episode, which—fortunately—caused little or no permanent damage. The surgery has definitely improved his vision, although it is mysteriously better and worse at times, a selective process apparently characteristic of old dogs. By the way-- he's subsequently bought a set of leathers and it looking for a canine Harley group. he's thinking of heading for Sturgis.]

Mom headed home midday on Friday, Sept. 22. We hugged, and I waved as she drove off. That was the last time I talked to her, at least in terms of her normal voice, the one I’ve known for so many years.

On Tuesday, Sept. 26, I got home from my evening classes to three messages from Joe, each one truncated by the stupid answering machine. Mom had had a stroke. A bad, devastating stroke. By the time I got all of the news it was late and dark, and those of you who know me know that I can’t/don’t drive in the dark. So I left early the next morning (Bill staying to take care of the poodle) and drove over to Bend—where she was hospitalized—myself. I spent three days, then came home, then went back again two days later with Erin and Scott, who had come down for a quick visit.

It’s been horrible since then. (By the way—I sent out email updates on Mom’s condition once or twice a week; I’m not going to go back through the details here, but if anyone wants to be added to that list, email me at and let me know that you want to be added to the list). Mom is improved, but she’s still very ill, and very impaired. At this time, there is absolutely no way to know how well she could recover, and what recovery she does make will take a year or longer. It’s very, very slow.

Mom spent a week in the IMCU at St. Charles in Bend, then moved to their inpatient rehab department, where she has spent the last 3 weeks. On Tuesday, Oct. 31, she’ll move to the Redmond Health Care Center, a multi-disciplinary facility in which she will continue her rehab and recovery. We (Joe and I) talked about bringing her home, but had to face the fact that she is simply still too ill, and would require an extraordinary level of nursing care beyond what Joe could manage. Mom still has very little movement of her right side, can't swallow easily, is aphasic, and sometimes can't understand what people say to her. The care center is a great place—checked out carefully by Joe and recommended by the St. Charles people—and it seems like the best option for both Mom and Joe right now. It’s also covered by her insurance, which eliminates one worry.

Mom had a clot-type (ischemic) stroke of the left hemisphere. She didn’t receive the “stroke miracle drug” (tPA) that they often give people in the ER immediately after it happened; she had also fractured her eye socket when she fell, and they were afraid that the drug might combine with the skull injury to cause bleeding into her brain, which would only make things worse. Bad luck for Mom…. They think that the stroke was caused by clot that settled in her heart in response to an irregular atrial rhythm that she’d been going in and out of for months, maybe even years. But, there’s really no way to know why it happened.

I have been driving over every week or so. In Mom’s more lucid and clear-speech moments, and on at least three occasions now, she made it very clear that I wasn’t to interrupt school. So, I’m hanging in, because I believe it really is what she wants. She’s always been my greatest fan, after all. And if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here.

As for school…. Through a fortunate twist of fate, I’m not teaching this term but am instead serving as the “Assistant Director of Writing.” It’s been good, because it’s meant that my schedule is very flexible, and that I can be free to see Mom, or deal with social workers, etc. on the phone, or squeeze in homework, etc., as able. Next term I’ll be back to teaching and the schedule will be tighter, but since Mom is now more stable, it should work fine.

I am still on track to finish both MAs this spring, and I’m going to try hard to do so, because the tuition is free until the end of spring term; after that point, I’ll be back to paying full price. Most of my work now is centered on finishing my MA in writing thesis and the MA in English portfolio. The thesis is in the form of a book—Writing Down the Moon—that is on contract with Llewellyn Publishing. The manuscript is due the end of June, which is a powerful motivator to get it done.

Otherwise, I’m just hanging in. Mom’s illness hit me hard. Some days I feel like I’m in a very dark place. Other times I can forget about what’s happened for a moment, and find that I don’t feel that bad. It always comes back, though. I know it’s a grieving process we all have to go through. Mom’s still with us, but everything has changed. It’s a struggle to understand that life will probably never be the same. And yet, life goes on. It keeps going on.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Keeps on tickin'

Here they are in all their glory: Mom and Joe-Honey.

This photo was taken in Mom's room in St. Charles' rehab facility. The window looks out on a little alcove with trees and tons of adorable little birds. Pine siskins, I think. Here's another look at M&J. You can see the remnants of Mom's black eye. She fractured her orbit (eye socket) when she had the stroke and fell, but it's healing well.

Below are a couple more pictures of her rehab room:. She had a roommate, but they moved that woman out a few days ago, so now Mom has a private space.

Looking down the hall... even though the rehab place is "homey," you're still most definitely in a hospital.

The rehab facility has private rooms, nursing spaces, offices (for the social workers, therapists, etc.), and lots of "gym space." Mom spends up to 4 hours a day in active therapy right now, but in reality, every aspect of her day-- eating, dressing, using the bathroom, etc.-- has a rehab motive. She has rest periods throughout the day, but in between she's really busy. Here's a look into one side of the main gym. Mom and her therapist are in the parallel bars, while Joe watches.

Some closer looks (note that the gym looks out on a courtyard.... trees, plants, more birds, horseshoe pit, etc.):

Right now, one thing they do with her is put her in this standy-uppy-thing. It starts out as a chair, and gradually stands and stretches the patient (does this sound kind of like a vertical rack, or is it just me?) until they're standing. This helps circulation and strength, and helps the body remember what it's like to be upright.

Official "Barny Caption Contest." Barny is thinking.... " __________________."

More therapy. (We're not sure about the dart board. They also have a set of boxing gloves in one cupboard. One therapist reassured us that these were only used for staff meetings.) The therapist put the foam blocks down on the floor and had Mom pick them up and toss them into the plastic tub. Joe said that her free-throw average made her better than any of the current Trailblazers. (nyuk nyuk)

Here Mom is working on posture and shoulder-shrugging. Therapy is often done in front of the mirror, so that the patient can see how their body is working.

Here the therapist has her paralyzed arm strapped to a kind of skateboard, and she's asking Mom to work to move the arm across the table. Mom was actually able to move it a bit, which is progress!

She practices writing, too. Left-handed. The therapists believe that Mom's abilities to speak, write, and read were all tangled up by the stroke. So a good part of her treatment is helping all of this sort itself out again. In this session, the therapist first had Mom trace, then copy, and then generate her own letters. It was really interesting. Mom works really hard and (amazingly!) doesn't seem frustrated.

Here, the therapist is helping her stretch her leg muscles so that they don't tighten up. He had her lay on her back, knees bent and feet flat on the mattress, then asked her to move her legs/knees from side to side. And she could do it! In other words, she could move her paralyzed leg! This was great news....

Driving back and forth between Portland and Bend or between Eagle Crest and Bend, I was always guided by Mom's mountains-- The Three Sisters. According to Mom, Grandpa Joe (her dad) gave her these mountains when she was a little girl.

For me, it's helped to see the mountains, and the forests, and the animals on those long drives to Bend and back. No matter what else is happening in our lives, these things endure. It comforts me.