January 1, 2003
From Thanksgiving to New Year's Day! It's been a while since I wrote here. When I wait so long to make entries I lost the emotional feel of the event, but nevertheless I insist on a chronological report. It seems that my long waits between writing in here will always be. Perhaps I should make a New Year’s resolution? The only one I have so far is to finish Gibbon's Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire that I got last year. If I read ten pages a day it will be ended in 20 days, and I can go on to other works. I enjoy writing in this journal, but as always it's a matter of time — and priorities.
Shortly after Thanksgiving Lauren Leslie and her husband came to visit one morning, primarily with Bob. She has become a self-confident woman in her fifties now, thinking of retirement. That's a far cry from the time that she and Bob first met at Marquette, when she was shy and unsure, and Bob befriended her in many ways. She was full of news and gossip from the School of Education, and she and Bob spent much time reviewing all the happenings and the politics. He surely enjoyed it, and loves these old time memories of his favorite workplace. She brought a huge red poinsettia, which is still fully in bloom along with Walt’s later one at Christmas time. They will both probably last until spring.
In the first days of December I took my car over for an oil change, but that shortly turned into a major problem when Rick discovered the water pump was about to fall apart. So the car stayed there for most of two days, Bob missed his geriatric group, and we felt rather at sea without a car in the garage. That's twice in a matter of months that we have had big bills on this ten-year-old car, so maybe we should think of a new car later next year. Right now I'm just figuring out how to survive the month of January, after paying the property tax of $6798.81, a Visa bill of over $1300, a $1000 down payment on my sofa recovering, and the usual big Christmas bills. Income tax installments of over $2000 are also due on the 15th . Of course there is money in the Money Market account, but it always hurts me to take some of that out, especially as I’m managing the money.
Barbara Hussin asked me to come over for coffee on December 10, and we had the nicest visit. I like her very well, and we have many things in common. We had a good talk about the neighborhood, flowers, food, and husbands. She is always a very busy person with many projects and an incessant urge to play golf in the summers, so we don't get together very often, but it is always quite pleasant.
For years Bob has had a little bump on the back of his neck, and mid-month it began to get very red and much larger. When I called Dr. Roe he suggested that I make an appointment with a surgeon. Before we could get there the abscess had broken open, bleeding and leaking pus. When we got to Dr. Siverhus's office he hustled us down to Outpatient Surgery and drained it. Bob had big bandages that needed to be changed twice a day, but now it is all well. Throughout Bob was his usual phlegmatic self, saying that he didn't have any pain. It amused me how fast that doctor organized the whole process, with nurses and secretaries jumping here and there, and none of that take-your-time attitude that Columbia sometimes has … though they are much better now that they were years ago when we first began going there.
That night, though I was exhausted, I went to a kitchen party at Barbara's house. She has done so many things for me I felt I couldn't not go, but I came home quite early to give Bob his pills. There were only three other guests and me there to buy the cooking stuff, items low on my wish list. After pondering at home for several days I did buy three things, causing great happiness to Barbara and Trudy, who made the presentation. I used the thermometer for the Christmas turkey, the saute pan for preparing onions and peppers for the Christmas stuffing, and have washed the microwave pan for use as soon as I can think of something to do with it.
One of our big preoccupations during the month of December was Bob’s continuation in the geriatric therapy program. For several weeks the leaders have been complaining of how little Bob participates, usually with his head down and not saying a thing unless he asked a direct question. When pushed he would almost always say his only problem was that he couldn't sleep — a perpetual complaint he has had for years when confronted by a doctor or nurse. Judy, who is in charge of the program, approached me early in the month, saying that she and Dr. Houghton were thinking of dismissing him from the program, since he is not making any progress and Medicare won't continue to pay for him. When she told me I was quite upset, knowing how sad Bob would be not to be able to go. I asked her not to tell him yet, and for the next couple of weeks I began to nudge him about taking more part in the therapy discussions, giving him suggestions about how he could talk about his problems. He began to talk a little more, and I continued to discuss it with Judy each week. Then as Bob began to get into the swing of it a little more, the leaders began to notice. One morning Bob and I sat at the dining room table and I approached the subject, thinking if he had some subtle hints he might do better. He caught on immediately what was going on, and “cut to the chase,” as Peter says he often does. So for the next week or two he really tried. I told Judy I had told him, then she sort of backtracked, saying that he was doing so much better they may let him stay.
The next Tuesday when I came to pick him up from the group he said he had asked to see Judy, which he did alone while I waited in the hall. After they talked there seemed to be an agreement that he would go on, possibly on trial, though Bob wasn't sure of that. Now he is back on a regular basis, whether permanently or not we will see. Judy was pleased that he made that beginning complaint. All along, for years even, I think Bob has not recognized the cognitive disability he has, saying that he cannot do many things because he is too tired or just not interested. Whether it would help him to know that is a good question.
Christmas, as always turned into a headlong shopping search for gifts, and I barely got all of the things for out-of-town packages wrapped in time for mailing. Peter’s family is the biggest challenge, and I really had a stack of packages for the Express mailing. After that I bought a smaller Christmas tree, about six feet, and it went into the tree stand like a charm. For two days I decorated it with all our old favorite trimmings, and it looked just beautiful. A few strings of lights and a wreath added to the trimmings outdoors, and Johnnie's dad put up the mistletoe. It was the easiest Christmas decorating I had ever done, and I was proud of how fast and well it all went-in contrast to the gift buying.
Paul came on December 23, and left a week later on the 29th. It was in our usual Christmas tradition, and as usual I'll remember it by several little vignettes.
1) Driving down to the airport to pick up Paul at 9:00 p.m., a little apprehensive about the night driving on the expressway, but gaining confidence as it all went so well.
2) Having Paul tap me on the shoulder at the Midwest gate, after I missed him in the crowd streaming out. The driving went perfectly on the way back, except that in the dark I got a little lost on the darker roads of Fox Point, and missed my turn to Good Hope Road and even the turn into our house from Lake Drive.
3) Enjoying our meals together, including the lasagna that Barbara and I made on Sunday, and the Sea Shells casserole that Cathie brought. Paul always helped at the meals’ end, carrying and rinsing the dishes in the kitchen.
4) Opening the packages on Christmas morning after I came home from church, with piles of books as always, and questions about Paul's new overcoat allayed early on. Mykaila's pink gift of robe, gown and slippers was the surprise of the morning.
5) Having a full house with Jeanne’s visit on the day after Christmas for Bob’s birthday, along with Johnnie's unexpected appearance for his traditional Thursday time. I am always proud of Paul when our friends meet him.
6) Loving the lunch at the Lake Shore Bistro that Paul bought us on Friday while Jon stayed with Bob, with wonderful food and good talk, then going to the art show at Marquette's gallery. The unusual three-dimensional paintings with soft beautiful colors stay in my mind.
7) Stopping at the Athletic Shoe store on the way home to pick up Paul's gift of tennis shoes, then at the hardware store to get some glue to put Johnnie's T Rex dinosaur together more securely.
8) Putting together our jigsaw puzzle in the living room, a mountain scene with a lake and flowers, always fun with Paul and me looking for the pieces and complimenting each other on successes.
9) Talking, talking, talking, the highlight of Paul’s visit, about Dad, Paul's work and home, our house and yard, the Bush administration, and dozens of other topics. The pecans weren’t as popular as usual this year, a new kind and hard to crack well.
10 Organizing the legal papers on health and financial care, then copying them off at Kohl's so Paul could take his back with him.
11 Taking Paul back to the airport with Bob along this time, and feeling less bereft this time than last. Now Bob is more of a companion to me, and last year I was still reeling from his heart surgery recovery.
12 As Paul left he mentioned that leaving each other was less traumatic than usual this year because of our continuing e-mail contacts. He is right; I feel that too. He is my beloved son, and I treasure him in every way.