Three Two One

I have been busy with a little home memorabilia project of scanning letters that my grandmother kept.  I want to write about it in more detail, and I will, but the few times I’ve tried to dash off a little informative post I get 4,903 words in without actually getting to the point.

You’re shocked, I know.

The thing is, there are a lot of ideas and feelings I have about reading these letters, and a lot of angles from which to look at them. There is also the fact that the, er, facts can take a bit of wordiness to explain.  (The letters are mostly between three people – my grandmother, my biological grandfather, and his best friend who also happens to be my grandmother’s second husband and the man I called, “Gpa”.)

So I will put writing about the letters on my Blogging “To Do” and give it enough time and space to write succinctly and sufficiently, perhaps devoting a series of posts to the project.

In the meantime, I have some more scanning to do.

In other news, it’s New Year’s Eve.  We have no plans and probably will not see midnight.  This has happened for years but this might be the first year I’m OK with it.  I get that herd mentality with holidays and events where I want to do something because you’re supposed to want to do something.  But the reality is I hate crowds and we don’t have any close friends up here who think flinging cat toys around the study is a fun time.

Also for the first year I gave in to my desire to get rid of the Christmas tree before New Year’s Day.  I am a Friday-After-Thanksgiving-Until-December-26ish tree person but I always feel weird not letting it stay up.  I also rarely get a tree the Friday after Thanksgiving so somehow I feel like I should elongate the tree end date.

It is the clutter and extra cleaning of Christmas day that gets me twitching to sweep away the pine needles and pack up the ornaments.  This year I did it the Sunday after Christmas and I am so happy I do not have to start 2014 with a major vacuuming.

I hope you don’t either.  Unless that’s your thing.  In that case, carry on.

Day 94

Start: Crampton Gap Shelter
End: Annapolis Rocks campsite
Miles: 14.1
Total Miles: 1043.5

Tom and I got up early and tried to beat the storm to the next shelter. (It never stormed the night before. Some light rain around 2AM was about it.)

About a third of the way there, it got pitch black. And windy. And thunder-y. It poured buckets on us. And there wasn’t much to do but keep hiking.

We arrived soaked to find the shelter beautiful and big and full of friends. (Hammer, Little Wing, Handstand! (whom we hadn’t seen since before Daleville), Apollo, and SkyPilot who we met at Bears Den.)

There wasn’t much for us to do but sit on the porch and try to get less wet. Finally the rain abated and I got too cold just sitting so we moved on.

In a little while we got to Dahlgren campground. It’s a free state-run place with lots of sites, picnic tables, and a brick building housing bathrooms with free hot showers and even some electric outlets.

We showered more for the hot water than anything else, and ate lunch at a picnic table. In a few more miles we reached Washington Monument State Park with more restrooms. These had hand dryers. Still damp from the morning rain, I unabashedly pulled the waistband out my pants out to get hot air circulating. I am going to need a reintroduction to polite society when this is done.

We saw the original George Washington monument then booked it for the next shelter. More rain was coming. There was a cooler of drinks and homemade cookies at I-70. We stowed drinks, scarfed cookies, and kept walking.

Puffy, who we met at Terrapin and stayed the previous night with us, was there contemplating what to do. We took an elongated break, watching my radar App. The big scary stuff went south of us. But we still waited out the light rain, not wanting to undo the drying that occurred throughout the day.

Several hikers came into the shelter while we waited, including the group from the previous shelter. We caught up a bit until Tom and I decided it was time to push on. There were two official campsites coming up (camping is illegal in Maryland except designated spots) and with the rain past, we wanted to tent.

We didn’t make it too far before we realized the flaw in our plan. Food. We should have eaten at the shelter. We felt tired and achey, especially Tom. We stopped at the campsite area just 1.6 miles. It was pretty and we rationalized we wanted to see the view from the rocks in the morning.

After we set up it even sprinkled a bit. Not enough to ruin tenting. Just enough to feel good about being done for the day.

Tom wasn’t kidding about being tired. He was fast asleep by 7:30.

As a small aside, today would have been my grandmother’s 92nd birthday. There isn’t a day I don’t think of her. I am still reconciling her last few years and months (especially the last month) with the memories of the vibrant active Gma I knew as a child. I am very…happy?…to have been a part of the end of her life, but it did come with a cost. I was her confidant and knew her pains and fears. She was ready to go and I cannot be sad she is gone. But I hope she knows where I am, isn’t worrying too much, and is happy for me.

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Washington Monument

A Difficult Day

After about the first week of posting (or trying) every day, I was hit with the fact that almost every day I mentioned how tired I was.

Crap, I thought, I’m depressed.

Not some deep, dark, suicidal, I need medication depression (although if I didn’t find the side effect of no orgasms so depressing, I’d consider some).

And not some oh me, oh my, the barrista got my order wrong and all the lights were red and the sky isn’t the shade of blue I was hoping for kind of depression that can be cured with a glass of wine with a best girlfriend.

Nope.  This is just plain old, sit back and relax because it’s going to stay awhile depressed.  It’ll never get so horrible you can’t go on, but you also will never feel quite right even in the happiest of moments.

Because I know I will survive and get through this, and I know my marriage and true friendships will remain in tact, I didn’t care that much.  Except that being this sort of depressed makes of dreadful writing.  DREADFUL.  I am too tired (from depression!) to think of a cute hyperbolic simile for how dreadful the writing can be under the influence of this particular malaise.

Great time to get back on the daily public blogging horse!

But, a deal is a deal.  And one thing I do know after nine years of blogging, depressed or not, you have to write some boring-ass stuff to come up with the goods.  So why not?

I thought about mentioning the depression a week or so ago, when I just really could not get into the holiday spirit.  Hi!  I had two Christmases with a dead dad that I didn’t have to process because I was too busy caring for his mother!  Now she’s dead too!  HAPPY FUCKING HOLIDAYS.

But…somehow I preserved.  Some lights went up.  Some cards got sent.  Not in a grit-my-teeth-I-WILL-HAVE-CHRISTMAS-DAMNIT attitude but more because I couldn’t summon the energy to NOT do the holidays.  Christmas is my favorite holiday and it’s almost an automatic reflex.

Then the cards got received.

Not the cards to me.  The cards to her.  Gma.

So today I have been composing letters to people, (some distant relatives that I attempted to contact earlier and got nowhere), letting them know that their holiday letter of yearly accomplishments and triumphs was read second-hand this year.  And oh by the way, she died in August.

It has been a difficult day.  Here’s to tomorrow being slight less so.

No Winners Here

Exhausting day driving to and from Gainesville with unexpected extra work even though I called the institution with which (whom?) I had business beforehand to ensure I had all the right paperwork.

Jokes on them because even though they were all “Form of ID and you’re all set!” I brought the Big Ass Folder Of Important Papers (BAFOIP?  Perhaps Batman has bitched slapped the Riddler.  Oh, if only it were that entertaining) and calmly produced all the extra things.

I also calmly wrote them the letter they requested discussing how I wanted the transactions handled.

I also calmly contacted my mother and brother for extra information that wasn’t in my BAFOIP.

Then the institution decided, after all of that, they could not handle the transactions as I requested anyway.

And when the gentleman told him he was sorry and understood my frustration, I calmly told him that he did not.  He did not care for my grandmother for two years and find driving to Gainesville a haunting and difficult task in of itself.  He did not understand that being the person closest to a relative makes it harder sometimes to fulfill their wishes and that was what I was here trying to do.

I might have also calmly cried a bit during that part.

In the end, they caved to my request.  But I had already contacted my mother to agree on handling it their way.  I was not about to change it again on her.

The frustrating/depressing/ironic thing is that this institution was a financial institution.  (Yeah…I’m sure you were all confused by my vagueness.)  And receiving money should be a happy thing, right?  Not a crying and stressed event?

Or maybe it is and I’ve just romanticized it from TV.

(Oh yeah, guess what was flashing in my car on the way home as the engine stuttered?  NOT MY BOOBS.)

Not A Good Year For Grandmas

A worrying outcome from last Monday has turned into this Monday’s sad news – Tom’s grandmother passed away at the hospital early this morning.

She has not been very healthy in general for a while and went in for gall bladder surgery the weekend before.  The updates following surgery were up and down and this outcome is not a surprise.  But that doesn’t make it less sad.  She was the last grandparent Tom or I had on either side of our families.

When the idea came to me to quit my job as IT manager of the sanctuary and work for my grandmother instead, Tom was very supportive.  I always joke that the little town he’s from is made up entirely of his relations and I’m not exactly wrong.  He grew up with a large close family and everyone helped take care of everyone else.  He never liked that my grandmother lived alone after my grandfather’s death and saw my solution as a good fit.

Because of his large family, we never needed to consider taking extra care for his grandmother.  But the last few times we visited, we did extra stuff that were in our areas of expertise – taking her out to dinner to one of her so-called favorite restaurants*, purchasing and setting up her new computer.

Not everyone can, or should, take off a few years of their career to spend more time with family.  But if you have a spare minute today, consider letting those around you know you care.  It is always too late too soon.

*I say so-called because this restaurant, one that Tom’s warehouse handles, is what she would ALWAYS talk about when we visited.  “When is a <insert national vaguely Italian restaurant name> going to open in Albany?”  I think she asked him that more times than she asked when we were going to have kids.  No lie.  Two years ago I convinced Tom we should take her to one an hour north for a special luncheon.  She was so flustered by the “big deal” we did for her.  And then at the end of the meal?  She said she thought she preferred another Italian restaurant better.  They have better bread.  I think Tom expected this outcome, but was still happy we went.

In Need Of…

My grandmother passed away Thursday, August 2nd.  I arranged for her to go to a Hospice care center the Monday prior, so she died in relative comfort (yay drugs!), away from people trying to make her continue to live, and also in her sleep and not in her own room which is how she told me she wanted to die.

The first few days after she died were blissful.  She was in a lot of pain, slept fitfully 24/7, and would not get out of bed before I had her moved to the care center.  It was so obvious that she was ready to go and needed to go and then she got to go and that seemed wonderful.

But the reality of someone passing away when you are pretty much the only next-of-kin sunk in.  Not to mention once I got over the euphoria that the person in that bed was no longer confused and in pain, I started to truly grieve and miss the woman that I had known as Gma.

I am way overburdened mentally with the i-dotting and t-crossing that accompanies someone passing away.  Physically, I don’t have much left to do but plan her memorial service.  A daunting task for someone who prefers to grieve in private, but not insurmountable.

As a say, the mental burden is much more troublesome.  Trying to remember who all needs to be contacted about what.  Checking her bank accounts to ensure SSA and her annuities deposit/withdraw appropriately as her death works into their systems.  Keeping a list of the things to do after the estate is finalized.

Trying to figure out what the heck to do with myself in the meantime.

A big thank you to the friends who have read the past few posts and reached out to me via text, email, or phone.  If I have not responded to you, I’m sorry.

I am in need of many things these days.  And a new voice here is one of them.  Mopey-Gma-navel-gazing is so 2011.

Heartbroken

I’m sitting here staring at the computer, head in hand wearing a glum frown.

I went to see Gma yesterday.  I am to the point I don’t even want to call her that anymore.  That lady is so fucking gone.

The good(?) news is she is going quickly.  I mean, if the inevitable is happening it’s probably best it’s not drawn out.  But she is so confused and tired and scared.  The time that she does have left is horrible for her to live and for me to watch.

She always, always, always was worried she’d lose her memory and her mind.  I thought it was ridiculous because 1) whatever you fret over most always seems to be the last thing to happen 2) she would use examples such as, “I couldn’t remember Chagall did the stained glass at the Art Institute!” to attempt to prove her failing memory.  Considering I said out loud to myself, “I forgot it was Monday!”  ON A  TUESDAY, she seemed safe in her failing-French-artists-names dementia.

But no.  I had to tell her three times yesterday she had no message on her phone.  I’d tell her that, she’d stare into space for a few seconds, look down at her phone, examine it in her hands like it was the first time she ever saw it, then hold it up and say, “But do I have a message?”  Sometimes she said it real slow like I am an idiot for not understanding her question and if I’d just listen up we’d be done with it.

Because she will never have messages on the phone, I wrote it down.  The next time she asked, I had her read the paper.  It’s tucked into her important papers by her chair.  It seemed to fix that particular loop we were in.   But I can only write so many notes.

(She never used voice mail, and I realized after one day that she could not have her regular answering machine any longer because she was taking so long to answer the phone the machine always picked up first.  She also never progressed to moving around again so she could never go over the machine and physically retrieve the messages even if she still had the mental fortitude to comprehend such a thing.  This gives me the freedom to let the phone ring twenty times when I call.)

I am particularly frustrated with the catch-22 that any little change is confusing and exhausting to her.  So if I think of something that might help, I then have to weigh the possible helpfulness with the hurt of change.

She also does not know the answer to questions like, would you like me to read you a story?  Would you like to look at family photos?  Shall we watch TV?  I feel like I am forcing entertainment onto an unwilling participant.  Make that two unwilling participants.  It’s making a new boyfriend attend my one-act play that I didn’t want to be in.

I am sad for myself at the toll this is taking on me.  I’m not sure if this is a pity-party or genuine warranted depression.   I feel like a horrible friend because I am so selfish these days – I need to vent and ramble and it’s not even about new stuff.  I’m getting scared to call people because I’m tired of dwelling on this situation yet it is ALL that comes out of my mouth.  I am so aware that you have important stuff going on in your life.  I swear.

I go to bed every night with a plan for the next day to be productive.  Full of do-right things like exercise and salads that I know are mood elevators.

Then I don’t sleep well.  And somehow the shiny new day looks beat to shit by 8:53 AM.

So here I am.  Another day.  I’m in gym clothes and I kind of stink but that’s because I never got around to showering yesterday.  Some laundry got done.  In between naps.

But writing is productive.  It is one of my mood elevator.  So here I am.

Yeesh

The biggest problem I have with not writing for so long is the that compulsory “I haven’t written in so long!” post that all bloggers feel responsible for.

I am finished with Gainesville in terms of getting  my grandmother’s life sorted out.  The old apartment is empty, she has phone service at her new place (not that she remembers how to use a phone), and all of her banking is now done by moi.

(If you hold POA for anyone, I highly suggest asking them to go ahead and put it on file with all important parties right now.  Before you need to use it.  Because when you need to use it, it’s more difficult to go in solo and demand access to someone’s money.)

Gma is declining quickly, both physically and mentally.  The mental aspects is hard to take.  She stayed sharp for so long.

I will attempt a biweekly visit structure for now.  I may need to go back to weekly visits as things progress.  She has little energy and while she is happy to see me, she drifts off to sleep almost immediately after my arrival.  I want to stay away a little so she learns to rely on the staff and hospice care takers versus me.  If I’m in the room, she looks to me to translate/speak louder/give her the answer.

If she didn’t have so many friends there, I’d move her to Tampa.  But she has at least one visitor a day-people who remind her of her old life and (hopefully) anchor her more in reality.

So now I’m doing some weird temp/part-time job search.  Luckily, I fell into a little groomer assistant position when I took Lady in for her yearly summer shave.  It’s not much, but while I’m there I keep active and up to my ears in animals.

Tom and I have planned our annual trip to the cabin in mid-August.  I’m very much looking forward to it, although it adds a complication to the whole job search thing.  Originally I had wanted to drive up-save some money, see some sights, get a taste of the freedom I had on the trail.  But with this part-time gig I can’t take too much time off.

(Although the amount of money we could have saved by me driving might have offset quitting the job.  Yeesh.)

It’s annoying to be worried about money when in reality we’ve survived on Tom’s paycheck for over a year quite easy.  Almost all of my previous paycheck went straight into savings.  But money’s about the only thing I’m conservative about and I miss making that huge transfer from checking to savings every month.

And…that’s about it.  I’m trying to find the new normal to our life.  I’m trying to happy and enjoy myself.  But this new rhythm will always have one off-beat.  Waiting for something more to happen.

Still Here

I came up to Gainesville late last Sunday night.  Gma moved into her new assisted living room that Monday.

She’s too tired to try and walk.  She doesn’t want to try and leave her room.  She’s barely eating.

And she’s starting to get confused.

She sits in her chair or lays in her bed.  She watches some TV.  She’s had every meal but one brought to her on a tray.

I thought I’d get a few days at home over the weekend, but AT&T screwed up royally and she will not have phone service until tomorrow.

I’m not even sure if she did have a dial tone, she’d call anyone.  But I still couldn’t leave her.

I’ve asked for her doctor to order her a wheelchair.  And to start the process for her re-enroll in hospice.

We’ve had a few nice moments together.  We watched a movie.  We shared some old photos.

We’ve had some horrible moments.  She’s asked me twice in the same day where her special pillow went.  It went nowhere.  A few times I’ve had to remind her she was not in rehab anymore.

It doesn’t help that she’s just sitting there.  She’s losing track of days and hours in part because she’s doing nothing to distinguish one part of the day from another.

It’s hard being here and having so many logistically things to focus on.  I wish she could be my only focus.  But there is so much left in her old apartment and we can’t just leave it here.  In this next week, I have an estate broker set up to take the nicer things to auction.  Two charities will come and (fingers crossed) take the rest.

Since I didn’t get to go home and grab my sleeping bag, this means I’ll be sleeping on the floor for the rest of the week.

Hopefully by the end of the week, I can go home for kinda sorta good.  Maybe have a week or so before I have to come back up.  Maybe I’ll get some time to just feel sad over the situation, instead of frustrated and overwhelmed.

Stomping to the Fray

I’ve been in Gainesville the whole week.  It’s not conducive to writing because there is more for me to do than mope about the condo.

Although I can mope about a geriatric apartment pretty well too.

In all seriousness, I am almost over my victim why-me shit.  I still really miss hiking.  My goal had been to write enough non-hiking posts that nothing on my front page was hiking related.  At this point, I think I’m better off re-designing my layout than coming up with non-hiking posts.

This was a really tough fucking week.  I am trying really hard not to blame other people because it does no good.  That has meant I blamed myself a lot.  Which does no good either.  But here I am.

It’s entirely possible I should blame my father a little bit and I mentioned to Tom I might stomp on him when we finally visit the cabin this year.

“That’s really not right.”

“I don’t think he’ll mind.”

The reason for the stomping is some legal mumbo-jumbo that got very much jumbo-ed between the time my grandfather died and my father died.  At that point (my father’s death) I stepped into the legal fray with the understanding nothing really had to be done.  Unfortunately, the understanding was wrong and much of what the lawyer assumed made an ass of him and me.

Whatever.  It has meant on top of throwing 70 years of my grandmother’s life into the garbage so I can move her into a 12’x’13’ box, I have a lot of financial items on my to-do list.

It’s scary.  Even though I have been prepared for my grandmother’s death emotionally for several years (she’s been begging to kick the bucket since Grandpa left), I had little understanding of how her passing might ripple through the courts and IRS and banks, etc.

Here I should stomp on my father’s grave (do you call it a grave when it’s an unmarked spot next to a rotting sailboat with ashes buried in a plastic rectangle?) because not only did I inherit this mess, I inherited the personality type that does not want to have a fucking thing to do with this mess.  Family money gives me the hives.  Can’t someone just die in peace and I drink a fifth of Jack and we call it good?

Nope.  I have to put my big girl panties on and deal with this.  So I have.  I have visited FIVE – that is 1, 2, 3, 4, FUCKING FIVE banks in the past month.  I have produced important documents and death certificates and played on my iPhone (very big girl behavior) as they copied and typed and faxed to their heart’s content.

I have made great progress.  But I am no where near where the family needs things to be.

So I will do a load of laundry, find some fresh undies, and once more enter the fray.