My goodness! After traveling for 5+ weeks it takes a bit of time to catch my breath, catch up on sleep and daily tasks…like bills, laundry and groceries.
At 91, Jerry is the same as he has always been; independent and stubborn. It’s amazing to me that he has been able to continue to live as independently as he has up to now.
I arrived in Santa Barbara on Saturday evening after being routed through Phoenix. What usually is about a 2.5 hour trip turned into all day excursions both coming and going.
When I arrived, he was too weary for me to come over (and so was I) and we decided that first thing in the morning would be best.
After morning coffee and the drive to his community, I knocked on the door and entered after I heard his familiar “Come in!”.
He was sitting on the couch in his study looking smaller and more frail than I had ever seen him. We exchanged pleasantries and then he shared with me how limited he is at this point. His feet and legs, which have worked marginally for the past decade, have no more strength in them. Getting up and down and walking, even with his walker, to do ANYTHING is epic for him.
Bless his heart, I know this must be very hard as his life has become more and more limited.
I saw areas where I could help and started right in. Laundry, dishes, light cleaning, a meal.
He has a scooter that he rides to the door of the dinning hall at his retirement community but when supper time came, he felt that it was going to be too much to do the trek from the door of the hall to the table and back using his walker after he got off the scooter. Oh dear!
So, I trotted over to the hall and the kind staff there sent me back with all his dinner plus a few favorite treats. When I got back to his apartment, I laid out the table with his china, crystal and cutlery and served what turned out to be the last meal that he will probably have in his own independent unit. We chatted and ate. It was very sad and alarming to see how just the simple act of eating tired him so.
After I did the dishes and he got settled for the night, we parted with plans for me to come back in the morning to change his sheets and do his linens plus a few errands.
When I arrived, I came right in but instead of the usual, “Come in!”, I heard “Kate, I’m in the bathroom.” I wasn’t sure exactly what to do so I waited a few moments and then I heard him call my name again. Heading down the hallway and turning the corner, I found him down in the bathroom. He had tripped over a throw-rug and was down on the floor. Try as I might, I could not right him and get him up so I pushed the emergency call button that is in every room of his unit.
Two members of the staff arrived within moments and it took all three of us to get him up. This was not easy, not too mention, exhausting for Jerry. The center had called 911 and four big guys with equipment entered next. Lots of questions for him and what made it more heartbreaking was the hard time he was having just hearing and processing the answers.
What’s your name?
Do you know where you are?
What’s your birthdate?
How did you fall?
All of these questions and more asked repeatedly. The poor man just wanted to rest.
It was decided that the best place for him at that moment was to get checked out at the local hospital. He was not happy about this but agreed and so we both were transported in the ambulance, he in the back and me in the front.
I’m not good at hospitals anymore after too many visits to the ER with men I’ve loved…many of them life threatening. While Jerry was being checked in, I was having flash backs and trying very hard to hold it together while dabbing at the tears that were starting to trickle down my checks. Finally I was called back to be with him in his ER room.
We spent the day there, getting test after test. After the results came in, his medication was adjusted and then the decision had to be made by him of what to do next. He no longer has the strength to care for himself and live independently. The doctor was kind but strong in his suggestion that Jerry’s level of care be “upped”. Jerry recognized this as well and fortunately there was an opening at the health care center of his community and he agreed. Another ride for him to be transferred there but I felt a feeling of great relief that he would now have ongoing care.
We were both exhausted from the day and after bidding each other a good night and leaving his new living situation, I was extremely glad to have the support of dear and loving friends that I joined that evening.
It’s very sad when one’s world is shrunk to a single hospital bed and how limited life becomes. Returning the next morning it was clear that Jerry knows that his life has changed forever. For the next few days, I was happy to visit with him, do his errands and try to make him as comfortable as possible with the very simple things he requested. A magnifying glass, crossword puzzles, the newspaper…
A few days later I returned (via Phoenix) to Seattle to begin a series of four classes.
I think of Jerry everyday and check in to make sure he is doing as well as can be expected.
And as I have been making pies this week, I’ve been thinking of some of his last words to me , “I know there is something else out there. I’m ready.”