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As usual, having run through the week's scoring, I catch up on what we've been up to, because nothing could be more fascinating.
It's been quite a year. It feels like I've said that for the last five years or so. The defining story of this year was Karla's mom, Leona. Longtime Farside participants may recall (though honestly I'd be amazed if you did) that in December 2009 Leona slipped on some ice in her driveway while getting her mail and broke her leg. She was operated on and went into a nursing home to recover. In April, 2010, right after Easter, we moved her from Des Moines up to the Twin Cities into a really nice senior apartment complex about a mile from us, all furnished with her nicest stuff. That summer, a year ago July, we went down and cleaned out the rest of the house over a couple of weeks, put the house on the market, and around Week 1 of last season, sold it.
Leona settled in here. To start with, she wasn't completely enchanted with the idea of moving, but wasn't completely capable of living on her own, either. As time went on, she came to like the place she was living (Heritage Place, on County B in Roseville, for the deeply interested). It's pretty nice. Two bedroom apartment, her own kitchen, her nicest furniture, one room set up as a sewing and quilting room, her favorite books and DVDs and other stuff. They provided breakfast and lunch on an optional food plan. On the other hand, you have to be 55 to live there, most people were 70+, and it seemed like the lamest dorm ever. These folks had all moved to the same building, living together with people they had just met, dining together, in a hall much like Friley Hall at Iowa State University, 1975, only more tastefully painted and with fewer stereos blaring The Doobie Brothers or REO Speedwagon, no doors open and no Farah Fawcett Majors posters on the walls. Also no Playboy centerfold framed in the House Mother frame down in the den. After about 8:30 at night it got real quiet in the halls, though you could hear the tvs through the doors.
Anyway, she was making friends and getting along pretty well. On March 12, a Saturday, Leona decided to move the clocks forward an hour for Daylight Savngs Time. The clock above the fridge was not in reach, so she stood on a chair. Henry or I could reach this standing in bare feet, but that would mean calling us for help. She did it herself, then, getting down, she fell, and couldn't get up.
Heritage Place has these emergency buttons on lanyards. Leona pressed this. The operator asked if she wanted to call 911. No, she said, call my daughter. They called Karla here at home and we drove over. Leona was on the floor, one leg sticking out funny, unable to get up. We called 911.
Off to the ER. Broken hip. It's only late in life that I've begun to understand the mechanisms by which a broken hip in an older person can lead to such dire outcomes. Operation on hip, she crashes, resuscitated, a few days in ICU. Off to a nursing home for rehab. Chest pains. Back to hospital, blood pressure really low, like 70/35. Get stabilized, do angioplasty, no blockage, just weak cardiac function. Back to nursing home. Up to go to bathroom, it's the middle of the night, she doesn't want to bother anyone so she doesn't call for assistance, falls, fractures pelvis. Not much to be done for her now as organs are all stressing and failing. In nursing home, switch to hospice care as things start shutting down. May 9, the day after Mother's Day, Karla's mom died.
There's a real roller coaster ride to this sequence of events. At various times, Leona seemed like she might be around for five years/might not last the night. The constant back and forth to the nursing home/hospital was wearing on Karla, mostly, an only child, and on all of us to some extent. One day we'd think the end was nigh, the next we were wondering if she might manage to go back to Heritage Place. When the end came, it wasn't unexpected, but there's still something of a shock when the final parent dies. (My mom and Karla's dad both died in 1992, the same year Henry was born, that's quite a story, and my father Jim Cole, longtime Farside participant, died in July 2008).
We had a funeral here in the Cities that Friday, then a burial service in Des Moines the following Monday, in the cemetery where Karla's father is buried, and where Leona had many friends from her 1950s nursing school days. We tended to some affairs there, then came back. The rest of May had parallel story lines of emptying the Heritage Place apartment by the end of the month while getting ready for our daughter Geneva's graduation from high school, attended by (amongst others) my Auntie Margaret (88 years old) who came over from England for the event.
We sent Geneva back to England with Auntie Margaret, kind of a snap trip. The lucky girl was over in 2009 (with all of us), last year for 5+ weeks, then again, the third summer in a row!, for four weeks. I chose the seat from one of the few available, and it turned out that she and Margaret sat next to each other on the plane. She got passed around among various of my cousins and aunts for the whole time and had a marvelous trip. Meanwhile, back here, we were in something of the numb aftershock of the exceptionally busy spring.
On a parallel storyline, Karla started a new job a year ago July at Saint Christopher's Episcopal Church in Roseville, about 2 miles from us. One of the downsides of this position was how sucky their instruments are; the organ is a 1976 electronic unit, contemporaneous with CB radios and eight tracks and The Doobie Brothers and REO Speedwagon, and sounds like crap. The piano was a heavily-used upright that sounded pretty wretched. One irony in this is that Karla is such a good keyboardist (Masters in Piano Performance, work on Doctorate cut short by arrival of kids, partially my fault I guess) that she wrings decent music out of these things. We decided that what they needed was to hear what a good piano sounds like, and in our living room we have a Steinway Model M (5'9" grand). This, along with a 1984 Ford Tempo, was Karla's dowry. We made a deal with Saint Christopher's; we'd lend them the piano for a few months if they paid to move it twice, once to church, once back to our house. This wasn't totally magnanimous of us; we wanted to pull the carpet in the living room and downstairs hall and refinish the underlying hardwood floors. We'd have to pay to move the piano out anyway.
Church bit on this, the piano went over, and people loved it. The Model M, which is huge for our living room, is a bit small for church, but sounded much much better than the wretched upright. To our surprise, Saint Christophers stepped up and bought a 7'2" grand in July. Oh crap! That was quick! We thought we'd have until October!
We contacted a flooring company. We'd refinished most of the upstairs floors a few years ago on our own and it's a lot of messy work. This time around we hired it out. We still had to empty most of the downstairs into the rest of the house. For about a week, our living room furniture was out on the front porch under a tarp. The pros came in, pulled the carpet, patched a couple of spots, marveled at the heavy wax buildup that clogged their sanding machines (impressive units-part of the contract was that we could provide 240V 30A service-they ended up wiring an extremely heavy-duty extension cord directly into a disused dryer circuit), and did a wonderful job.
They got done, the piano showed back up, and I got to work on redoing quarter-round trim. I've got wiring to do, trim to fit and paint, an office to paint, a seemingly endless set of tasks awaiting me when I get home each night. Clearing out for the floor work took a week; moving back in may take us a couple of months (although we did get all the furniture back in off the front porch). As the football season looms, we're occupied with working on these rooms and slowly moving back in. We're taking the opportunity to pare things down as well, and much of the early fall is likely to be occupied with this work.
Meanwhile, Geneva's gone off to college. She's a freshman at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, and just loving it. She likes her roommates, she's adding Facebook friends by the dozen, and is finding the joy that can reside in college. Her dorm isn't lame like Heritage Place, despite a lack of Doobie Brothers, REO Speedwagon and Farah Fawcett Majors posters. Her room is Party Central early on, but that may settle down now that classes have started, deadlines start to loom, and rehearsals begin (Geneva has a music scholarship, even though that's not her major, and is in the elite freshmen women's choir, Aurora). It all sounds very exciting, and brings back memories of my years at ISU, generally a marvelous time.
And here we are. We went from being the sandwich generation to being the open-faced sandwich generation. One of the dramatic contrasts in all this was 84-year-old Leona and my 88-year-old Auntie Margaret. Leona hardly travelled; we came across two passports in her things, neither one of which had any stamps in them. This doesn't seem quite right, as she went to Germany in 1994 on a tour, but that was about it. She could have travelled for nearly free, as Karla's Dad was an American Airlines pilot and Leona still had travel privileges. (Karla and I used to as well, and when first married and living in Des Moines would sometimes fly to Chicago for the day for $9.72 each, round trip). She never really travelled, she didn't do any real exercise, and when things started going badly, her poor cardio-vascular condition stunted her recovery and send her down a bad path. Margaret, meanwhile, traveled here for the fifth time in six years (in 2009 we went to England, so she didn't come over), mixing it in with her trips to Belgium and St. Lucia and Costa Rica and Viet Nam. While here, she walked around Como Lake a couple of times, about 2 miles. She stops to rest a couple of times, which she didn't used to do, but she does walk it. Played nine holes of golf with Henry. She's engaged and active, reading and travelling, walking, golfing, a model to us all. Leona, sadly, was a model of what not to do; few interests, no exercise, no travel.
Created on ... August 16, 2012