29 March 2023

What Is Your Name

 My job partner's teenaged daughter is suffering her first heartbreak.  She's fifteen, a J.V. cheerleader and gorgeous.  He's also fifteen, a jock, and looks like he walked out of a John Hughes movie. They look like an advertisement for a yearbook.  They live in my old hometown and attend my alma mater (I hate that phrase but it's easiest)  

When she mentioned that the boy had broken up with her over the weekend, I was sympathetic.  I would not want to be a teen again, ever.  Then I flipped into Hometown Mode.  "What's his family name?"  As in, does he come from a founding family? a rich family?  a troubled family?  We ride at dawn!

Because when we were that age, you avoided certain families because you knew they were trouble. It doesn't just happen in a Nicholas Sparks or Sarah Dessen novel. (no shade to either author)

Or in my hometown's case, cursed.  There was one family that bad things happened to them On The Regular.  Out of four kids, I think only one is still alive.  The others died in accidents ranging from car accidents, accidental drowning, to job place accidents.  There was cancer and a house fire.  Somewhere they have some angry ancestors that need appeased.

Thinking about it more, I began texting her surnames.  "Don't let her date a ...."   She laughed and said "I'm writing these down so I have them!"  

Now, I'm not singling out a specific boy's family because I or my friends had a bad experience. I listed families who have been generationally troubled.  And, not just poor but: jail, domestic violence, sketchy.  Sure, things can change but not often in these situations.

You immediately thought of someone, didn't you?  Every town has them.  

Job partner did not grow up here, not even in this state.  Anytime that I can provide a little insight because rural, redneck, small town, then I do.  I have absolutely become the "In my day that building was a bank." or "This used to all be farmland" person.

Anyway, I just thought it might be something interesting to think about. What name jumped to your mind?  Would you have a reaction if one of your children began dating someone from "that family"?

23 March 2023

Penny in the Air

 Last Sunday Kevin and I went out to dinner, it was nothing special and not too far away.  It was just an hour to check out for a period of time and not be In It.  We tried (failed some) to keep the topic away from family and hospice.

After dinner, we went to the store because we needed some storage bins.  It's a store that I loathe but it was the closest.  We got what we needed then had to walk nearly the length of the store to check out because none of the register were open on the side we entered. (loathe that store)

We checked out and was walking back to the truck when I spotted a coin machine.  "Oh, Kevin, there's a coin machine. We should really get your parents coins and take care of it."  We parked far away from the store because parking at this particular store always results in door dings and scratches (LOATHE that store)  "I don't have the energy or want to walk all the way there and all the way back."

Kevin jogged ahead and got the grocery bag full of PENNIES.  He had seen them in the original container and didn't realize I'd transferred them into a bag.  "I'm not walking into a store, alone, with a bucket full of change."  He agreed that was wise.

As he's carrying the bag, he comments on how heavy it was.  "I wonder how many pennies are in there?"  

I said "I bet it's less than you think because pennies. It always seems like a lot then it's two dollars."

"How much do you think there is, guess."


"No" he says incredulously "There's got to be more.  "$9.37.  No, no. $12.  It's $12"

So we "bet" which amount it was and continued to the machine.  We're laughing as I'm trying to lift the slide full of pennies while he's trying to dump them out of the plastic grocery bag.   "Ooops, one fell!" I said and bent down to pick it up.  Upon rising, Kevin looks me in the eye and said "It's a PENNY. You just cost yourself money picking it up."  As in, if you valuate your time into money, I just wasted my money.  Only Kevin would think of such a thing.

Then there was the smell.  For some reason, they smelled terrible. Like moldy crayons, almost.  AND this is Kevin who can smell like only three things.  They were stored in a kitchen canister, in their bedroom, so I can't guess why they smelled so badly.

The machine was audibly slowing down so I reached down to make sure that there weren't any discards.  There was A BUNCH.  So I started scooping them back up into the machine.  Then Kevin stared just placing them on the side of the machine so I wasn't just cycling the same bad pennies again and again.

There were Canadian coins, tokens from Chuck E. Cheese and some pennies that were so deteriorated that they no longer looked like pennies.  Kevin said "Just leave them there, it will make some little kid's day to find them"  So we did.

We watched the screen as it continued to count.  I looked at the wrong number, the number that was after the fee was deducted.  Kevin looked at the right number and backed up with one finger gun "You are SO WRONG. I am right. You.are.a.loser" and I started laughing.  (it's one of those situations that I'm certain people think he's being a jackass when he's just being funny)

"Yes, yes, you were right. You're very smart. Let's figure out how to get our money."

We went to customer service and asked.  They said "You can put it on a store gift card..." I hear an emphatic NO from Kevin behind me "Or you can cash it out"  We walked to the register and explained that it wasn't our money so we needed to cash it out.

"ALSO" Kevin pauses then says "I need to point out..." and the cashier looked nervous  "I was right and she was SO TOTALLY WRONG." The cashier laughed but in that nervous way in which she's trying to decide if she needs to call security.

Then, he starts to figure out How Close he was to being Right versus How Far I was to being Wrong. "Too much mathing!!" I practically shout at him.  He continues "Carry the two, divide by five" figures it out and announces "That makes me EVEN MORE right!"

We're starting to laugh, the kind of laugh where you're precariously close to just absolutely losing it and needing the cashier to call security.  Finally, Kevin says "We should really go now..."

It was nice to have a tiny taste of normalcy.  Well, normalcy for us.  

Down the Drain - Metaphorically and Literally

 In all of my wisdom, I thought today was a good day to try to fix the slow draining sink in the primary bath.  I had already worked a full day, finished a gardening project, and had a telephone check-in with the hospice caseworker.  

I mean, could there BE better timing?


Oh wait, I have to mention that before I started I had to go get my little stool out of Monica's Closet, where I spotted my m-i-l's Christmas decorations that I brought home but hadn't boxed up yet.  Like a punch in the nose, I realized she wouldn't be here in December.  

So, yeah, Absolutely go take apart the bathroom sink.  Good choices.

It went as well as to be expected.  The shmamazon delivery guy probably heard me cursing a blue streak, dropped the packages and ran.  (probably not solely about the sink but whatevs)  What usually takes about twenty minutes took much more than that and I felt like I needed to shower afterward.  To add insult to injury, I'm not sure I fixed it.  It's better, not fixed.

Sidenote: I'd already done the baking soda, vinegar, boiling water trick.  No improvement, in fact I think it just made it mad.

I'm purposefully and methodically finding little projects to occupy my time in between work, chores, phone calls, and visits.  Everything feels unsettled...because it is...and I'm trying to exert the tiniest bit of control where I can.  Clearly, it's working out for me. *sarcasm font*

Oh, and there's a chance of snow on Friday.  Because, why not?

There is simultaneously a lot and nothing going on right now.  We're in the waiting space now, so time has considerably slowed to a crawl.  The big family projects are done, most of the tasks that we can do are completed, and now we wait.

An inappropriate story to lighten the mood. (Or not, TW: maybe)  There was discussion with hospice about reducing the use of the feeding tube last week.  The m-i-l still wants us to continue using it (I know) and that we can't try to kill her that way. (as quoted by the nurse)  Without thinking, my dark humor said "Oh no, we'd use a pillow for sure."  

LUCKILY, the hospice nurse laughed.  This tiny paranoia is part of the grieving process and it's Super Fun for the family.  Mix in a little denial and anger and we had just a fantastic week last week with the m-i-l. In addition to the whole dying part, I mean.

I think I need to go break something. Not the sink though. Well, maybe.

17 March 2023

The Worst Kind of Whack-a-Mole

 What day is it?  I mean...my dawg.  I have so not earned my $10 writing stipend this week.  If I sit at the computer, it's attempting work while fielding phone calls and answering questions and running errands and and and.  I just finished a twenty-minute call with Kevin, trying to get on the same page of Who Is Doing What over the weekend.  It takes charts and graphs, and a laser pointer right now.

We are one month and two weeks into the hospice adventure.  The estimate, if you will, was between one and two months duration.  We had a little episode that made us think that we were closer to the one month timeline.  Then surprise!  Just kidding.  

The parents house is mostly closed.  As mentioned before: the kitchen and bathroom are torn apart.  We're waiting on the repair estimate from the insurance so we're in limbo.  I will become my internet namesake next week if there's no progress.

The lion's share of closing the house went to me and it's completely fair.  Here's why: the sister-in-law is not only caring for the mother-in-law but now also the father-in-law.  She has her hands full.  That being said, she did help me pack up some of the kitchen because I didn't know what to do with most of it.  Also, this was BEFORE the f-i-l decided he wasn't staying.  As a result, some stuff was packed twice.

I boxed up the bedroom because I felt like that would be easier on me than anyone else.  Also, can you imagine her sons packing up her clothes?  She would be mortified.  I was a little wrong but it went smoothly mostly.  There was an initial moment where you get the whiff of perfume or spot a specific piece of clothing that took some breathing.  Mostly, it was interesting to see what she had.  Had vs. wore because she didn't wear most of the clothing she had.  There were lots of prints and some animal patterns.  Some grandma sweaters.  Lots of pants and socks. LOTS.  

Upon opening an upper cupboard, I burst out laughing.  HOLIDAY sweaters.  Sparkly thread, patterns, etc. Few of which she wore but if asked would deny it.  And more socks. Scarves that she never wore.  

The only Oh, Oh No thing that I found was a journal.  It was in a bottom drawer, off to the side.  I opened it, realized what it was, slammed it shut, then tucked in a box to come home with me.  I "hid" it away until I got a moment to ask her.  First, she thought there were two and now I'm searching my brain for where a second one could possibly be. Then she wasn't sure she wanted to see it.  I offered to just burn it, unread.  She considered it then asked if she could see it. WELL OF COURSE.   I saw it today, sitting on her bedside table.  

There was A LOT of WTF when I went through the bathroom stuff.  SO MANY COMBS.  Makeup...I have to mention: she bought makeup from second hand stores.  Ooof.  Lots of nail polish.  SO MANY NAIL CLIPPERS.  I recycled TEN bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and treatments. TEN.  All I have to say is Clean Your Bathroom Cupboards!  

A very long time ago I mentioned that nothing makes me clean closets and drawers like watching the hoarders show on television.  I have been having to TAMP DOWN the OCD so much during this adventure.  There have been moments where I felt like I was never going to be clean again.

As it stands, there is a big trailer full of junk and garbage in the driveway.  I have made four trips to the second hand store with donations.  I've spent HOURS sorting stuff and making sure that daughters, grandchildren, nieces, etc. get everything they want or that she wanted them to have. (those are two separate things)

Tomorrow will be the last, but like for real, packing.  We didn't do the upper cabinets of the kitchen and both of us forgot about it.  I'll do that tomorrow, with the plan that a cousin will take most of it.  The food stuff (spices, coffee supplies) will go downstairs.  The remainder will go to the second hand store. 

The "problem" with this being finished is that the Task Mode will transition into Wait Mode.  I kind of need that not to happen.  So the universe reminded me that the house still needs to be CLEANED.  Ugh. Be careful what you ask for.  

On a happier note, she had a lot of outdoor plants, pretty things, and windchimes.  None of which my sister-in-law wants.  My plan is to play with those tomorrow on the one sunny day that we're going to have in the seven-day forecast.

Then my office is a mess with paperwork and boxes and effluvia that has accumulated during this process.  I still have to put the photos in the albums and process all the sentimental letters, etc.  

So, thankfully? there's still stuff to do.  I mentioned to Kevin that it's the worst kind of whack-a-mole. We get one task completed and another, worse task arises.  

I still have to finish the obit and print photos.  The cemetery needs information, which is going to require a trip there.  It's 45 minutes away.  See? The fun is on a sliding scale.

11 March 2023

Five Little Aliens Jumping on the Bed

 Okay, so.  Only two family members have heard these stories and it just happens to be me and Nephew.

The topic came up the other day when Nephew asked if there were any diaries because he was curious about "the alien story."  I told him that I had only found one journal but didn't look at it.  Also, it was a newer one not a childhood one and that I would keep an eye out for anything else.

Now Kevin thinks we're both crazy.  He wouldn't be surprised per se but he's skeptical.  

The other day there was a break in all the craziness and I went downstairs to visit. (next door has become downstairs for those of you following along)  She was napping but my sister-in-law said to wake her up.  They're trying to get her clock turned back around because she's been up a little a night and that's not safe for anyone. 


I started with "I'm going to ask you a question and see if you remember what I'm talking about."  She put up an okay sign and nodded.  "Do you remember the story you told me years ago about being abducted by aliens?  You told Nephew about it too."

At first she looked puzzled and shook her head.  Not to be thwarted, I tried again.  "You said you were in your bedroom at the farm house..."

Then she says...hand to god..."Oh, I wasn't ABDUCTED. They just came to VISIT."

Okay, then. My bad.  lol

She speaks too quietly to record and she would haunt me for all my days if I videoed her.  I took out my phone and opened the notes app, even though I knew I was probably not going to forget any of this.

I asked "How did they appear or get in the house?"

"Well, I was in my bedroom, at night, and the window was open but just a little because..."  She was a fearful child, which makes this even more insane.  "They came through the window and jumped on my bed, around me."

"So, they opened the window? Or how did they get in?"

She gestured with a sweep of her hand, "They made themselves smaller and swooped right under the window."

"What did they look like?  Like Alien aliens or...?"

"Oh no, they were small.  Not very big"

"but what did they LOOK like?"

"Well, small. They looked like small people." She thought about it for a moment then continued  "Like dwarves. They were about this high" and she gestured about a foot in height.

(did you laugh? because it took EVERYTHING in me not to react)

"What did they say?  Did they say anything to you or just, like, hang out?"

"They said that they weren't here to hurt me, just to visit.  Then they just played on the bed and jumped around." and she bounced her hands around the blankets.  "I wasn't scared at all and normally I would have been."

"You didn't go with them anywhere?  Or they didn't ask?"

"No, they just played then they left just as they came."

"They just visited that one time then?"

"Oh no, they came a few times.  It got to where I looked forward to it. Then they stopped" and she was a little sad.

"Did anyone ELSE see them?"  (she shared a bedroom with a sister and there were two other sisters and a brother in other rooms)

"Oh, yes, my mom saw them too. But not in my bedroom."

This is new information so now I had to know more.  "Where did your mom see them?"  

"At the farmhouse but also at the cabin."

New information again. "What cabin? I don't think you've told us about that."

She told me about a cabin in the mountains down near one of the homesteads, two counties away. Rural now and more isolated then, for sure.

"My dad always teased Mom and me about the aliens. He didn't believe at all.  Then he saw them at the cabin and he never said A Word about it ever again."

(her dad = notorious assh*le. Hated by most of his children)

"What did they see that changed his mind?"

"They were walking in the woods, by the powerlines, and they swooped down and around them then went away.  He never mentioned them or teased us again."

Then she grew tired of talking about that so I changed the subject to GHOSTS.

But that will be a different post.

04 March 2023

Stack of Zen

 Third installment of Sharing my Insta photography.  March 2022

I wrote a post about how a photograph similar to this came about.  It included bleeding, as one would expect from me.  This one, however, no blood.

This is the desktop photo on my laptop because it pleases me so.

03 March 2023

The Missing Baby

 While the case worker was doing the intake for Hospice, she asked my mother-in-law how many children she had.  She thought about it and answered "two".  Perfectly acceptable answer, except I know there was another baby prior to these boys.  So, I waited, wondering.

I could see she was thinking/processing then she quietly said "And a baby boy. He didn't make it.  He was beautiful."  (sidenote: she told me she hadn't seen the baby so I find this interesting and more on this in a minute) 

So, the case worker repeated "You have two grown sons and a baby who didn't live, is that right?"

"Two babies" my mother-in-law replies. The room went QUIET.  

Then our cousin, who is like a daughter to the m-i-l said "No, Auntie, you had one.  Maybe you're thinking of your sisters."  The m-i-l looked puzzled and then agreed that there was only one baby. 

But now I have questions.  Because it wouldn't be unheard of for this to happen and no one knowing about it.  I know that Kevin was a high-risk pregnancy and that they both nearly didn't make it.  The thought of an unknown pregnancy wouldn't be shocking.

Years ago, she told me about the first born son.  He was a stillborn or imminent death baby, caused by Thalidomide exposure.  She told me that only her sister was there and that she didn't see the baby or they wouldn't let her see him, she wasn't sure.  She said his lower half had under-developed.  

So, because I am Suzy Ask All The Questions, I asked her "Did you give him a name?"

She looked sheepish and said "Well, yes, we were going to name him after Dad."  I had to fix my face and not react because she named the brother-in-law the Dead Baby's name.  Yikes.  (and it just occurred to me that there's a Number Three, Four, and Five also with that name)

It's my understanding that in cases like this in the olden times, if you will, it is not unusual to reuse baby names or alter them slightly.   But this explained a lot about how the b-i-l turned out as a person and now  I feel sad that the first baby remained unnamed.

During the big photo project years ago, I found the identification card for the baby from the cemetery.  All it reads is "Baby Boy Surname" and where he is buried, which is heartbreakingly called "Babyland".  I had phoned at the time to confirm he was buried there and if he had a marker and if they had any additional information.  They did not and he did not have a marker so I added that to my long-term to do list.

Now back to current time, she was having a moment of clarity and we were talking about things you talk about when someone is dying.  She has been wavering between denial and acceptance, depending on who she is talking to and what time of day it is. Mix in her dementia and we just never know what she's going to say or remember.

Because she's a believer and she's said multiple times that she can't wait to see her family again, I mentioned "Just think of everyone you are going to see.  Your mama, your sisters, your brother..."  She smiled, she liked thinking about that.  She mentioned her dad, who was NOT a good person but we just smooth over that. Then we laughed because I realized we forgot Uncle Don AND his daughter (who was my age) and wouldn't they be mad.  Then she kind of balled up her fist "When I see Niece, I am going to sock her."  This made me laugh out loud.  "Let me get this straight: You're up there, reunited with all your family and everyone is happy. Then you're going to chastise Niece and get thrown out? Is that your plan?"  She kind of laughed and said "No but I really just want to.." and she shook her fists.   The image of my little, sweet mother-in-law socking my cousin at the gates of her heaven will be something that will make me laugh for the rest of my life.

*sidenote: Niece wasn't known for making good choices her whole life. She had an addiction problem and while it wasn't an overdose, use was a factor in her death*

Then she mentioned the first baby.  She said he was beautiful and that he had long, jet black hair like Dad.  I very much wanted to ask her how she knew because she said she didn't see him. It could be that she did see him but her brain self-protected, or she was told about him, or she's seen him around - if you will.  She believes in angels...and in aliens.

Later Kevin and I talked about the baby and how sad it was that he's gone unacknowledged.  It really bothered Kevin that he didn't have a name, or that his brother had the baby's name, I don't think he's sure.  A mixture of both, probably.

I confirmed with the cemetery that indeed he does not have a name and he does not have a marker.  I let Kevin know and wondered if he would be interested in getting a marker for him. He was very much in support of getting one.  But what would we put on it?  "Baby Boy Surname" is just sad.  But using his intended name seems sketchy, even though he didn't survive.  Then we came up with the idea of changing the middle name to her maiden name, a name that works as a first name or surname.

I asked her the next day and she thought about it.  She wasn't as clear-headed this time and she whispered "But...I was married when I had him."  She misunderstood that it would be the middle name. I just leaned down and stage-whispered "I know, that's not scandalous, you don't have to whisper." and we laughed.

Then we put a pin in the name issue as she was fading.  Now we are waiting for word from the cemetery about that whole process.

Either way, we have a Missed baby.  Kevin asked if it was "weird" to feel connected to him and I told him absolutely not.  It's a loss, even if it happened before his arrival.  Add to it the complicated relationship he has with his brother and it makes sense to me.

Finally, did all y'all know you can get stones or markers from the shmamazon or etsy?  You can!  My plan is to use etsy so I know it's handmade.  I can't imagine how expensive it will be through the cemetery and while this is important, we have to remember that it's still "just" a gesture.

Chicken Soup with Rice - March


01 March 2023

Just One More Thing

 Contrary to the evidence that I'm writing this post, I have no internet.  It's snowing outside.  I'm jittery from my inhaler.  The contractors just cancelled for the parents house. I have two garbage bags of dry goods sitting on my kitchen floor.  And I decided that this morning was a good time to cut my hair.

How's your day going?  Oh, good.

(my response to your response works either way: Good = I'm happy you're having a good day or Good = I'm with you, friend. Life sucks right now.)

Let's just randomly start talking about all.the.things. that are happening.

The bags of dry goods on the floor is from the parents house.  I had to empty all of their food out because...ugh...a list:

a) we don't know when things are going to play out, if you will.  So most of the food will be expired

b) the house is so dirty that it feels like all of it should go, just on that principle. 

c) There was a water leak and the contractors have torn out the kitchen and bathroom.  This added urgency to the clean out the refrigerator, the freezer, the countertops (canisters, butter dish, bread box, spice rack) and the "pantry" cupboards.

So I have been playing "Expired, Not Expired or How Soon Expired?" for days now.  The oldest I had was 2018 canned goods yesterday morning until today's record of a packet of instant rice dated...2012.

I completely lost the game on Sunday when I brought over jarred goods from the refrigerator that had expired and needed recycling or nearly expired and we could use them.  One bite of a pickle that felt both hard and mushy and had a metallic taste had me spitting it into the garbage that smelled like TWO expired jars of minced garlic, just to add to the ambience.  

And now it's been snowing for two days.  We had only 1-2 inches yesterday on top of ice and a skiff of snow.  Now it's more like 3-4 inches and still snowing.  The contractors have cancelled for the day and I'm waiting for the same call for the internet repair.  Because who needs to work? Apparently not me.

I'm jittery from the inhaler because of aforementioned Parent's House.  What I had always attributed to Flowers that My M-i-l Buys in attempt to kill me, was actually dust, dirt, and mold.  I have gone months without needing my inhaler only to be a wheezing mess on the daily. #sosexy  Also, it took days to figure out that she uses scented garbage bags that my lungs also do not enjoy.

And I've been eating like an unsupervised child at a birthday party.  Coco Puffs for breakfast, Lotus drinks all the live-long day.  The sister-in-law has been cooking for everyone and they don't eat healthy at all ever. Plus we've been eating while we're in town for the ease and quick of it.

So of course my hair is bothering me. Like it does, in these instances.  It's way past time for a big girl haircut again but See All of The Above.  Now is just not the time.  I've nearly given myself bangs again because I can't deal with my hair in my face AND all of this. I have limits and shaving my head will cause me to have to move out. 

What else?  Oh paperwork.  I've rounded up all the parents paperwork finally.  I discovered a plastic basket under the free-standing jewelry box in their bedroom with their health info/medicare stuff for the past year.  Apparently, that's where we keep things now.  #letyourfriendsknow

I also found two big shoe boxes of important paperwork buried, unlabeled, in their closet.  Finally I have the actual life insurance policy and the title to one of their vehicles.  Yes, they have a lock box and imagine my surprise to not being able to find either of those in it. #rookie

Plus two photo albums...because she keeps hiding photos everywhere.  I think I'm done and then there's more. This has been going on FOR YEARS.  There is also a box (two, kinda) of sentimental items that I just don't have the strength to go through right now, as much as curiosity is killing me.

Finally, my father-in-law announced yesterday that he is NOT returning to their house after she passes. Not. He doesn't want to be there without her.  While I get that on an emotional level, I am at Panic Level 3000.  This means he lives with the siblings, which is apparently going to be a thing.  This also means that everything we packed up to get out of the way now needs packed up to GO Away.

Well, you just thought: isn't that the same thing? isn't that a good thing?  No, because we thought this was temporary - the water was shut off at their house - and we didn't WASH anything.  We had the intention of doing it while unpacking.

Now we have to re-sort and wash that stuff and now we may also have to start packing the rest of the house.  It's not like it's a lot of stuff but it's still just One More Thing.  (which has become a contender for my auto-biography title) As my sister-in-law is doing the lion's share of the care of the parents, it feels like TO ME that this is my and Kevin's thing. I don't see the f-i-l even coming back up to his house at this point and he is in the headspace of "Get rid of all of it, I'll buy new if I need something."

And if you wondered about Kevin's brother helping, the answer would be No.  He has hoarding tendencies, over-values stuff, and would just complicate matters SO MUCH.  His wife wondered at one point about him helping with a specific task.  I asked her "Are you ready for that stuff to come live at your house? Because that is what would happen."  She thought about it then shook her head.  So, no, he can't help.

Now it's the next day.  My internet is still broken but the tech is here right now.  The crew just left with a load for the dump and I'm hoping that will allow me to go start packing up/make a plan.  I still owe hours at work and there is still a box of sentimental items that I need to cull through.

Plus, it has to be said: I need to write the obituary and start printing photos for the memorial.  Better to do it now when I'm in Task Mode instead of In My Feelings.