Where to start on a saga like this one? I think I'll begin with today and work backwards. First, though, I'll write a preface for people who don't know about my origins.
My parents have lived in the same house on Middle Bass Island since 1954, a year that will live in infamy because I was in kindergarten, having worked my ass off to become old enough to go to school like my siblings. I still remember Mother telling me I couldn't go to kindergarten when we moved. I said, "But I'm five." She explained there wasn't kindergarten where we were going to live.
I know. It's outrageous. I was broken-hearted for a year and continue to resent it. (My sister, Amy, remembered this story differently. She said I gloated every day when they came home from school about the special things Mommy and I did together that they'd missed. But she was making that up. In reality, I was a tragic figure.)
So. My parents have continued to live on the island. In 1995 my father was diagnosed with a blood disorder that required regular transfusions. He went to the doctor erratically, so there were a number of medical crises along the way. Seven or eight years ago, the doctor in Port Clinton said there was nothing further he could do and, as my dad put it, sent him home to die. He transferred to a hematologist in Wooster, Ohio, which required getting off the island to the mainland and then to one of my brother's houses in Seville to spend the night; a 30-minute drive to Wooster the next morning, and often a few more back-and-forth trips depending on whether he needed transfusions, infusions, hospitalized, etc.
For all of this time, my brothers have either driven or flown them every week or two.They were grateful, of course, but as my father told a social worker who expressed wonder at the boys' commitment, "Well, I'm the one who taught them to fly in the first place."
CALENDAR OF EVENTS, working backwards from today:
Saturday: Mother woke up in the nursing home in Seville for the first time today. My father is having a feeding tube installed because he can't swallow due to a stroke which paralyzed the left side of his body.
Friday: Mother went to the nursing home with Douglas without argument. He registered both her and my father, because the plan is that Daddy will go there in the near future. Mother was delighted to be served fish for lunch, because she loves fish and hadn't had any in several months. Also, she planned to go to a snowball party in the afternoon.
Thursday. Charlie took Mother to see Daddy, who immediately began -- and continued-- gesticulating and talking when they entered the room. What with him being paralyzed on the left side, they couldn't understand what he was saying, except for the word "cake" and, later, according to Mother, "I need some Tylenol because I have a headache." The doctor categorized the stroke as severe. I tracked down email addresses for Mother's cousins (she's an only child) from old e-mails my dad had sent and was able to let them know about developments.
Wednesday: Mother told Douglas she wants to go to the nursing home in Port Clinton (the mainland town nearest the island). A social worker screamed into Doug's voicemail that Mother can't be left alone in the hospital due to her dementia and blindness. I spoke at length with the admissions person at the nursing home in Port Clinton where Mother used to visit Jim Bretz (who was born and grew up on the island). Doug talked to the admissions person at the nursing home in Seville (the town where my brothers live).
Tuesday: Sometime between noon (when my brother was home for lunch) and eight-ish (when he got home from work), my father had a stroke. My mother wasn't aware of it. EMS took him to Akron Hospital.
And now for a giant leap backwards in time:
December: my parents stopped speaking to me because I told them we'd visited the Seville nursing home, which they scornfully referred to everafter as "Mary Jo's nursing home." They continued to live at Douglas's. We'd met with social services the day after Thanksgiving to line up home health assistance, which finally was achieved four days before Daddy's stroke.
November: When Charlie picked up my parents for a doctor visit, Daddy asked that he be taken straight to the emergency room in Wooster. Over the next three weeks, he received nine units of blood. The day after Thanksgiving, my brothers and I met with a social worker and also visited the nursing home in Seville, because our father said they needed to go to "an old folks' home" so he could be assured Mother would be taken care of if anything happened to him.
If you've been through medical crises, you'll guess that I've been half loopy since Tuesday, or maybe since November. I've been having flashbacks to Fred's long illness, especially when he was hospitalized and a nurse would tell me, "If your husband doesn't die tonight, he can go home tomorrow." (This statement felt so ludicrous that three years after Fred died, I asked a friend whose husband also had multiple myeloma whether I was remembering correctly. Yes. She'd had the same experience.)
One other important detail: because of his blood disorder, Daddy can't be given blood thinners. If more blood clots are floating around, they're just going to keep floating.
Otherwise, on the home front, last Friday I noticed a strange indentation under my right collarbone. A shadow. Examining the situation more closely, I realized my right collarbone was significantly larger than my left. I was totally sure that it was neither bone cancer or a sarcoma, because I'd never heard of collarbone cancer; but I woke up every morning thinking about the shadow. Finally on Thursday I went to my doctor, who said it's a thing and totally benign and did x-rays and looked some more and said it's a thing and totally benign and that the radiologist will also review the x-rays and I can have it removed but because it's a thing that's totally benign and currently small, insurance won't cover it. If it gets larger, they will. (How large, do you suppose? A Campbell's soup can? A canned ham?)
While there I scheduled my overdue mammogram, blood work, and another appointment with the doctor after my bloodwork results come back. I already had appointments scheduled for next week with the dentist and the psychiatrist, whom I see for my ADHD but is going to get to hear a whole lot more come Thursday.
I feel like a metronome on overdrive.