Category Archives: Rob & Laura

The Oh Sh*t List!

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The Oh Sh*t List!

Hello friends, I haven’t posted because things have been kind of icky and who wants to read that mess. For those that have been following along my neck surgery is next week. I went for all the pre-op tests yesterday so it feels real at this point. I haven’t been stoic about this situation but I’ve tried to keep the public bitching to a minimum. I’m struggling a bit, I suspect some of my emotions are to be expected. I don’t know if I’ve learned anything through this process but I have made some observations along the way…

I have really good friends. I’m putting together an “Oh Sh*t List” – this will house the names and phone numbers of people that have offered to drive, feed and/or shelter my kids while I’m in the hospital and during recovery. These are people that mean what they say and say what they mean…they will show up if needed. Some of them will show up even if they don’t get a call. I hope you all have friends like this in your lives, I am profoundly grateful for mine.

It isn’t just about meal prep and Muber (Moms that Uber for free) some friends are just there when you need them. Last Saturday I texted a friend around 5pm and asked her if she wanted to go see a local production of Rocky Horror at 9pm. My daughter bailed and I didn’t push it because I thought it might be inappropriate (spoiler: it was COMPLETELY inappropriate).

Me: Any chance you want to go to Rocky Horror tonight?

Lisa: Daughter Bail?

Me: Yup

Lisa: Sure. What are we wearing? Sedate Janets or wild Rockys?

Me: I don’t think I have the wardrobe for either. I can probably put together a party goer outfit…black pants/jacket, shiny shirt (maybe) and an obscene amount of makeup. What have you got?

Lisa: Corset, high heel boots, red wig?

Me: Of course! I need a wig.

An hour goes by as I frantically search through the Halloween boxes looking for anything that will pass for Rocky Horror fabulous. What I find is Thing 1 & Thing 2 toddler costumes which makes me want to smile-cry and sends me to my bedroom closet which leads to…wardrobe disappointment. I did manage to find a cool jacket I purchased in Turino, Italy in 1996 and a hat I wore last year when I went to a party as Captain Obvious.

Me: I look more steampunk middle-aged hooker than Rocky Horror party-goer.

Lisa: Sends me a picture of herself looking fabulous in a zebra inspired pimp hat, gorgeous long deep purple velvet jacket, red wig, corset and boots for days. Too much?

Me: Hells no you look awesome! I put eye shadow on with a Q-tip. I’m not fit to be in your presence.

We had a great time at the show!

 

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Another observation…your family will squeeze every drop out of you until you make them stop.

Yesterday I had to drive to Philly for my pre-admission testing. The drive wasn’t bad and I managed to score street parking which is a bargain. I walked 4 blocks to the first appointment (Cardiologist) then had to get to the remainder of my appointments another 4 blocks away. Naturally it was raining and did I mention I woke up at 2:30 that morning just for giggles. So I was tired, cranky and in considerable pain. I find it ridiculous that people need to jump through these physical hoops for medical procedures to fix an orthopedic issue. The other patients I encountered yesterday were in tremendous pain and having to navigate city blocks and multiple buildings was a lot for their worn out broken bodies. Seemed like an unnecessary obstacle course – put it all in one building preferably on the same floor, oh and GET OFF MY LAWN (just threw that in because I sound like a grumpy old lady).

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Any way after 5 hours of that nonsense I was looking forward to a nap cuddled up with my heating pad. I just got my self nestled in when I hear footsteps approaching my bedroom door…next thing I know my mother is barging into my bedroom.

Mom: Your husband told me you were resting. How are you, are you OK?

Me: I’m in agony mom, I just want to nap. I’ve been up since 2:30 this morning, long day.

Mom: Oh so it hurts, huh.

Me: Yes, yes it does. Is there something you need?

She then rattles off two things that she needs which causes me to get out of bed and go downstairs. I gave my husband strict instructions to lock all the doors from now on and set the alarm.

Naturally Rob and Laura are concerned about me and wondered how they would manage while I’m out. Super woman friend, Vickie, saved the day. She met the family and shadowed me one day this week on outings. Rob & Laura will be well cared for in my absence.

So my – Oh Shit List – is filling me with gratitude. The people I encounter in real life and my cyber friends have been very supportive. Seriously, you need these types of friends in your life.

Pain in the Neck…

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Pain in the Neck…

What’s new my friends, lots happening here. I’ll give it to you in bite size pieces, it’s a lot to chew on.

Rob & Laura Update

My nonagenarian friends are still on this side of the dirt which is a good thing. Dear Rob has had two TIAs (min-strokes) in the past 7 weeks and he is starting to slip cognitively. Laura lost her hearing aid which caused her great frustration until she finally relented and posted bail to get a new one (just under a thousand dollars and that was with the discount, YIKES). There was a lot of shoulder shrugging, exasperated sighs and general annoyance until that got resolved.

Rob’s family is originally from Virginia, last week he told me that when his grandfather was about 8 years old his family had a special guest over for tea, Robert E Lee (yes that one). Then we had an interesting discussion about the confederate flag, Civil War statues and reparations. Oddly enough that afternoon he got a call from a member of his Quaker Community that was eager to change the name of one of their member organizations currently known as the “Overseers”. Rob was hesitant to change the name and he referred to himself as a curmudgeon which is not how I see him at all. He was brought up in a different era, in a geographic area which has a complicated history. A lot of things have changed in his 95 years on the planet and it is refreshing to see someone remain adaptable this late in life.

Caring for them when I’m in physical pain myself is getting exhausting. I know that if I saw one of them about to fall, I would hurl my body in their direction to mitigate the damage likely to my own demise. It would be a visceral reaction and I doubt I could control it. So I have to find them some additional help while I recover, it’s hard to find another me.

Medical Update

I saw a surgeon this past Monday to review my MRI and discuss the options. My options are do nothing and put myself at risk of falling off a metaphorical cliff at some point…potentially losing balance and control of (coughs) bowels and micturition (new Scrabble word). My issue is progressive and will not improve with physical therapy, vitamins, a Chiropractor, voodoo, acupuncture, lavender oil, your cousin Stephanie’s smoothie blend or CBD oil. So surgery it is folks, Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion in case you’re bored and want to Google that mess.  I “get her done” in early November.

I texted my twin brother to discuss it –

Me: Guess who has two thumbs and a new neck in her future – THIS gal.

Him: New neck???

Him: Get a giraffe one and freak people out

And this is one of a thousand reasons that I adore my brother. Then he immediately offered to drive twelve hours and care for me post op. Heart of gold that one.

Marital Bliss

The other night my husband hydroplaned on the way home from Newark, New Jersey Airport. He called me from a sketchy neighborhood to report the news. Bear in mind his car is a Tesla Model S with a Pennsylvania plate, he did not blend in. I told him I would get him so he could take all of his personal effects out of the car and wait to get it towed. It was an hour and a half for me to get there in windy conditions which caused me to have a death grip on the steering wheel for about 3 hours in the middle of the night.

Physically my husband was fine and I am incredibly grateful for that. That said, I’m going to blame his brazen stupidity on the way home on the the two 360’s he did on Route 78 which landed him facing the wrong way on a typically busy highway. He bitched about my driving on the way home at least three times. I was so pissed and in so much physical pain at the time all I could do was grunt, like a bull. Yes, I was in the left lane traveling at a safe speed. It was 1am with little traffic and a wind ban on the turnpike at the time.

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The next day I bitched to my brother about the situation, via text.

Me: Something off about fetching your man from a sketch neighborhood in the middle of the night because he had a car accident AND then listening to him bitch about your driving all the way home while you are in INTENSE pain.

Him: Yikes. How many cars has he messed up and how many have you?

Me: 3 him, me 0

Him: That’s a pretty solid data set to support your argument.

Did I mention that I adore my brother?

 

Kids

Told the kids about my surgery and downplayed it as to not panic them. One kid asks how I am the other takes a different approach…

Kid 2: UGH, my foot fell asleep! (hobbles into kitchen)

Me: Bummer, that’s how my arm feels all the time now.

Kid 2: We get it mom, your arm hurts.

Me: Went to bed so I wouldn’t do anything rash it was 8pm.

For some reason that little exchange reminded me of Erma Bombeck’s tombstone which has “I Told You I Was Sick” on it.

 

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Not sure whose tombstone this is but you get the point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Venus on the Half Shell

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Venus on the Half Shell

I had a wonderful outing with Rob and Laura today. When I arrived Rob presented me with some spoon bread that he made special just for me. When a 95 year old man puts himself through the effort to cook for you, it’s very humbling. Honestly anytime anyone cooks for me I’m thrilled, this was just extra sweet. Spoon bread tastes like cornbread and I marvel at how someone who eats this stuff on the regular hasn’t succumbed to heart disease. It’s filled with the artery clogging goodness of butter, milk with more butter for good measure, eggs and cornmeal. It’s tasty and lethal to mere mortals like myself. I took a few bites, proclaimed it delicious and took it home to savor later. Seriously this dish should come with a defibrillator.

As we were driving to the grocery store we had our usual carefree chatter. I was discussing travel because I’m leaving for a cruise this weekend. We got on the topic of paintings and I mentioned my all time favorite was Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli. Rob mentioned that his mother used to refer to that painting as Venus on the Half Shell and in that moment I felt such regret for having never met the woman. Now whenever the question of which person, living or deceased, would you like most to converse with, my answer will be Rob’s mother. Raise your hand if you agree….that’s a lot of hands in my imagination.

When we got to the grocery store, Laura asked Rob if he wanted his walker. He hesitated a moment and then agreed. I got the shopping cart and gave it to Laura as Rob went on his merry way. Here’s the interesting bit…Rob agreed to that for Laura’s sake. Laura has been struggling more with mobility and refuses to upgrade to a walker from her cane. The grocery cart is basically a socially acceptable walker in Laura’s mind. Rob figured this out in seconds and I pretended not to notice.

As I was getting them tucked back into their home after our outing, Rob took a moment to look me in the eye and tell me how much he appreciates me and that I am like a third daughter to him. I assured him the affection was mutual. Then two minutes later I threatened to brawl with Laura if she didn’t surrender the grocery bag that was half her body weight. She gave me a steely gaze as I took the bag from her.

Me: Let me get that Laura, it’s really heavy.

Laura: Grabs bag with determined look.

Me: Seriously, I will fight you on this.

Laura: Steely gaze.

Me: (Struggles to take bag, maintains eye contact and smile the entire time) Thank you.

 

Oh Fiddle!

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Oh Fiddle!

It’s been a while since I posted about Rob & Laura, they’re doing fine. They’ve had lots of visits with their children. One daughter asked me to check on a cut that Rob mysteriously acquired last week. She really wants Rob to put a bandage on it. When I mentioned this to Rob he informed me that it had a bandage on it already, it’s called a scab. Alright then.

Last week Laura was a bit miffed about the laundromat. She muttered about getting there late and how bad it is if you don’t get there early. I took the bait and showed up 20 minutes earlier today to see if that would alleviate the problem. She was pleased that I was early then in her exuberance she forgot to bring the laundry detergent. That set us back a bit and I got concerned when I heard her say “oh fiddle” from the back seat. “Oh fiddle” is the 92 year old version of Code Red, I acted with extreme caution. If I heard “Fudge!” I would have considered turning around and calling it a day.

While Laura was doing laundry, Rob and I went to the grocery store. We only needed two things and I asked Rob if he wanted to use a cart or his cane, he went with the cane. As we were crossing the parking lot I stated “And they’re off!” in my most announcer like voice. Rob didn’t miss a beat and added “Like a herd of turtles!”

Upon entering the store we heard, “cleanup in produce”. We both chuckled at that because it happens 100% of the time and we go twice a week. Then we looked for Marty, the useless grocery store robot. As we were making our way toward the check out, Marty approached, it got a little weird. At one point Marty got stuck between an older man in a wheel chair and me. George was on my right, Marty on my left and the wheelchair guy was left of Marty.

I could tell Marty was confused as he went back and forth in incremental choppy movements because he didn’t have a clear path out. I was hoping the circumstances would cause Marty extreme frustration resulting in fried wires, a mechanical meltdown of some sort.  For a moment I imagined the encounter would render him incapable of fulfilling his duties (which seem to be limited to aggravating customers with a precision focus on geriatric clients), no such luck.

On the way out Rob commented that the cart with four wheels was easier to navigate than his cane. I remarked that he has a walker which also has 4 wheels and that got me some side eye. I replied with “oh fiddle”.

Miracle…..Whaaaat?

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Miracle…..Whaaaat?

Some days I take my work home with me, not unusual most people do this on some level. I had an outing with Rob and Laura yesterday. We did our usual running around with a few add on stops to Miracle Ear and the Butcher. Only old people and Italians go to the butcher on a regular basis. As is the case wherever we go, my clients are greeted by name and with genuine smiles.

Miracle Ear was different because the appointment was for Laura. This is only the second time I’ve taken her to any type of medical appointment. Rob has an entire team of specialists that have him on their rotation – MD, Cardiologist, Podiatrist, Urologist and blood draws on the regular. I’ve taken him to the hospital for a chest x-ray and last minute doctor visits at least half a dozen times in as many months. Rob is 95, Laura is 92 so there isn’t a huge age difference. From my observation Laura is just a bit more stubborn and perhaps more resilient. I suspect if her arm fell off she’d scoop it up and be prepared to slug me with it if I suggested getting it checked out. She’s definitely the tougher of the two.

I almost felt bad for the technician at Miracle Ear, he was trying so hard to be endearing, telling us about his family weekend. After about 10 minutes and far too many details about his cousin’s two year old’s birthday party at Knoebels (details included the parking lot layout and traffic patterns) he got around to asking Laura how her hearing was doing.

Tech: Well Laura, how is your hearing?

Laura: Whaaaaat?

Tech: Your hearing can you hear me?

Laura (aggravated): Yes, and now it’s my turn. I’m returning this (tosses a hearing aid on the desk), I don’t want it!

Tech: This is a hearing aid for your left ear. Model IDK2017

Laura: Yes, I don’t want it. It gave me an infection. You keep it!

Tech (sensing the hostility, made a wise choice): Alright then.

The rest of the errands went on without much drama until we got back to their house. Halfway up the walkway to the front door, Rob’s legs quit working. He was reduced to incremental strides which could be measured in centimeters instead of inches. Rob is over six feet tall and weighs 190 pounds. I’m 5′ 4″ and weigh significantly less (that’s as close to my weight as you’ll get from me), it took a Herculean effort to get him over the threshold. Once we got into the house, Laura appeared with a walker to replace his cane. That helped and we were able to get him into his favorite chair.

Once Rob was seated, I got him some water and fetched him lunch. I stayed an additional forty minutes to observe him, it was quite a scare. As soon as I left I texted his children to let them know what happened and suggested that someone check on him later that night. I also called a few hours later to check in and he bragged to me about making it to the bathroom without his cane (I may have gasped).

And this is the hardest part of my job….I become attached to these people and I know our time is limited. I realize we all have limited time, it just seems more pronounced when you are dealing with people in their 90’s. I worry about them. I worry what will happen if one dies before the other which is, statistically likely to happen. I ponder which one would be better able to live without the other. They will be married 69 years in August. I wonder how much time we will have together before it all changes, their vulnerability is palpable.

 

HaPpY BiRtHdAy!!!

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HaPpY BiRtHdAy!!!

It’s been a while since I’ve written about Rob and Laura, my spunky nonagenarian clients. Last week Rob turned 95 and I gave him these socks –

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The birthday card I selected had two Shih Tzus on the cover (featured photo). The inside read – If it were anyone else’s birthday I wouldn’t give two Shih Tzu. I had a twinge of concern that this card might be too racy but I gambled and won. I stopped by the afternoon of Rob’s birthday to drop off his gift and say hello in person. One of his daughters was there with her husband, they all approved. The socks were such a hit that Rob decided to wear them to his birthday dinner, truly an honor.

Last week I asked Rob if he only wore the white diabetic socks that I see him in. He confided that on Sundays he wears brown socks to attend meeting. Meeting is the Quaker version of a worship service. It is a quiet gathering unless a member has a desire to share something. I’ll be honest I don’t know much about it, they seem like a very chill group.

If you watch the show Catastrophe, the main character, Rob (coincidence?), becomes a Quaker for about 3 minutes and the portrayal seems fairly accurate to me. Rob & Laura have mentioned the firm wooden pews at meeting and how they are likely designed to discourage people from getting too long winded. They noted that all of the meetings they have attended feature firm uncomfortable seating except for England where they had fancy upholstered chairs. By the way Catastrophe is an excellent show if you’re in the market for viewing something with razor edge humor which embraces the messier aspects of modern parenting and couple-hood.

Happy Birthday Rob – 95 looks great on you!

 

Johnnie Walker Red

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Johnnie Walker Red

There was a mouse in the house and no Johnnie Walker Red. I may need to back up a bit for this to make sense. Today featured an outing with Rob and Laura, my nonagenarian clients. We hit the usual spots including the grocery store where we were supposed to get three things and left with six.

The official list included bread, milk and peanut butter. The unofficial additions added frozen peas, cheddar cheese and white wine. The dairy aisle is approximately 2,789 miles from the packaged goods area (wine & beer). During our trek from one end of the store to the other, we passed a gentlemen wearing this shirt –

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We decided that was a sign from the Universe. Since I thought the Universe might be listening I quickly asked for world peace and anyone but Trump in 2020

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Laura waited by the register while Rob and I went to fetch her wine. When we were checking out the cashier was interacting with Rob and I, Laura always provides the laugh track.

Cashier: OK, almost done you just need to respond to the questions….(jokes) your mother’s maiden name, blood type, name of your first kid.

Rob: OK, Wilbur (that is NOT the name of his oldest child)

Me: The name of the street you lived on when you were five.

Cashier: The fake name of your first dog.

Me: My first pet had an unusual name. When I was seven we had a cat named Johnnie Walker Red. Mom always told us it was because that was the box the cat picked out but I had my suspicions…

We all chuckled and went on our way. Rob interacts with everyone and we had a conversation about Marty, the useless robot that is usually summoned to produce when we frequent the store. Then we speculated about what Marty did on his/her/their time off.

Me: Rob, I didn’t hear an announcement for Marty to clean up in Produce today.

Rob: Me either, I wonder if Marty has the day off.

Me: What do you think Marty does on his day off? Perhaps the beach, a museum visit, the movies…

Rob: I don’t know maybe Marty likes to hang out around garbage, always cleaning something up. I see you have assigned a male gender to Marty. I think of Marty as female because there was a cute girl named Marty in one of my classes…

Laura: Clears throat.

After a few more errands we went back to the house. I went into the basement to get birdseed so I could fill the feeders. They use large old pretzel tins as bird seed containers. The tops are difficult to get off and I struggle with them. I noticed that one of the tins was running low so I lugged the large container toward the old refrigerator which is now dedicated to housing excess bird seed.

As I was getting ready to pour seed into the tin something caught my eye. At first I thought it was just a clump of gray seeds, perhaps black oil sunflower seeds, shifting.  When the gray “seeds” moved, I knew it was a mouse of some sort.

I quickly came up with a plan for capture which, involved a scoop funnel (with the funnel end closed) and a coffee tin. Several attempts were made with me jumping in unison with my new furry friend in a staccato rhythm. My plan was catch and release to the great outdoors. Perhaps I should have explained this to the mouse before attempting the catch end of it. The mouse managed to escape to corners of the 60 year old unfinished basement that I was not willing to attempt. Mouse: 1 Me: 0

I thought about suggesting that they get a cat and then I realized I would likely get stuck changing the litter box so I kept that idea to myself. I told my mouse tale to Rob and Laura when I got upstairs. They found it amusing and were not alarmed in any way. Rob explained that they worked out a deal with the rodents. They are welcome to stay as long as they confine their activities to the basement. His house, his rules. I filled the bird feeders and wished them a good afternoon.

 

Friend of the Family

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Friend of the Family

The other day I was assisting clients at the grocery store. We are a slow moving parade when we navigate the aisles. The shopping cart transforms into a makeshift walker for Rob while Laura has her permanent downward head tilt and a cane. This does not go unnoticed by the fellow shoppers or staff. Rob greets each store employee by name with a genuine smile, he’s the real deal. I reach for the items that are too high, too low or too far away. Then I get out the way so they can do what they can, I am mindful of their need to participate as much as possible.

Shopper: It’s so nice that you help them. Are they your parents?

Me: No, I’m a friend of the family.

Laura will refer to me as their driver or nurse depending on who asks (psst…I’m not their nurse or a nurse of any kind, this has been mentioned). Rob refers to me by my name.

That’s really how I see myself. Yes, I get paid to help but I am so much more than paid help. I am an advocate at doctor appointments, a reminder to take medication and I bring yummy meals. I represent freedom with the prolonged ability to live home independently.  I am contact with the outside world when the walls feel like they are closing in. I am a listener, a friend, a caregiver. I am the triage between family members. It is so much more than errands and tasks around the house, it is mutual respect, genuine concern and affection. I am indeed, a friend of the family.

Lie To Me

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Lie To Me

Yesterday I went to work for Rob & Laura, my nonagenarian clients. If you follow my blog you already know that I adore them and we have fun doing mundane errands. Yesterday did not disappoint. Laura was getting a hair cut at a nearby salon while Rob and I did some food shopping.

We were in the frozen food aisle at the intersection of peas and dried beef (in Pennsylvania you must be age 75 or greater to purchase dried beef) when we bumped into Marty. You might think, how lovely is Marty a personal friend, acquaintance or helpful employee? Those are all really good guesses so don’t berate yourself for being wrong. Nay, nay friends, Marty is a robot who wanders the grocery store scaring the sh*t out of small children, robophobics (robophobia is real, I Googled it) and customers with a touch of dementia.

In fairness to Rob, Marty showed up out of nowhere. Just appeared at the end of an aisle. Marty and Rob starred at each other for a solid two minutes. Rob watched in a trance as Marty did that awkward oh-shit-where-do-I-go-now robot dance. I’ve only ever seen it before when the Roomba ricochets down the hallway like some modern day version of pinball or drunk staggering down an alley after last call. The worst part is that Marty doesn’t seem overly useful. He’s supposed to clean up spills or something but he’s no Rosie from the Jetsons that’s for sure.

After the grocery store we collected Laura and made our way to Miracle Ear and then a meat store. Rob has a special fondness for the meat store and he purchased several items. When we got back to the house I noticed that the meat drawer in their fridge was overflowing. I date everything and I noticed somethings from mid February. I pointed this out to Laura who assured me that an exhaustive sniff test would be performed before they consumed anything. Then I emailed their adult children to alert them of the rotting meat in the fridge.

After my outing with Rob and Laura I went home. I got home early and offered to make lunch for my husband. I made him a sandwich, it was a fine sandwich by any standard. Later I asked him how he liked it and he replied with a “meh, needed more seasoning”. Then I threw a heavy object in his general direction. Through keen observation he was able to recognize that this response did not please me. Then he said (in a heavy Brooklyn accent) “whadda ya want me to lie?” To which I replied, “yes, yes I do….unless it is in regard to fidelity or finances, lie to me.”

First Bird of the Day

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First Bird of the Day

I had another visit with Rob and Laura today. For those that aren’t familiar, Rob and Laura are a couple in their 90s. I take them out for errands and shenanigans twice a week. The usual stops are the laundromat, grocery store and the post office.

Today’s visit included a feed store which is a happy place for my friend Rob. I checked the stash last week and knew we were running out of everything. We left the feed store with 55 pounds of bird seed which included: black-oil sunflower seed, Nyjer thistle and striped sunflower.

My knowledge of birds and bird feed is microscopic as this is all new to me. I have been filling their various feeders for the past three months and I can vouch for the popularity of the chosen seeds. This morning I found a little bird (perhaps a finch?) that managed to get inside the globe shaped feeder. He was having a feast in there. I did a quick search online to see if I could find a picture that was similar to what I witnessed, no luck. I did however find a bird feeder which can be attached to the window (Featured photo Bird Feeder) in such a way as to taunt your indoor cat. Seems like a a pretty miserable thing to do but cats give as well as they get so game on Tiger.

While we were driving Rob told me lots of bird stories. One was about how he and a group of bird nerds (my term not his) counted the hawks that were migrating to Mexico. He told me his group counted twenty-five thousand hawks. Which caused me to have a bunch of internal questions that I did not voice – mostly things like how can you be sure you didn’t count the same bird twice? Did you ever lose count and have to start over? What part of Mexico? Were they staying at an all inclusive? So. Many. Questions.

Then we talked about Maine. Every September a bird watching group would go stay in New Hampshire and then drive over to Maine to bird watch. His oldest daughter joined the group on several occasions. One time they were driving from New Hampshire to Maine and they were cut off – at which point his adult daughter gave the aggressive driver the middle finger. She then proclaimed that everyone had seen their first bird of the day.